The Drex Files: DS9 -- A Day In The Life, Part I
By Doug Drexler - January 04, 2013
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine holds an extra-special place in my heart. It's where I went from being a makeup artist to becoming a member of the legendary Star Trek art department. It all started while doing makeup on TNG. I lived on those beautiful Enterprise D sets. I ate, slept and worked there. To say I was blown away by them would be an understatement. They came out of the rarefied air of that art department. I knew that's where I belonged. I could feel it in my DNA.
You had to be able to stretch to be art department. When I was a makeup artist, no one was going to tell me to make a translite for that wall over there, or that we needed to build a space station model by 6 tonight, or create backlit graphics for an entire Starfleet bridge by the end of the week. Working in the DS9 art department meant absolute unpredictability. Even more than makeup. It was crazy, and it was fun, and I made lifelong friends with people that were crazy, and fun.
I was scanning my notes, and found what amounts to a diary of a day’s highlights while working on DS9, and I thought you guys would get a kick out of them. It seems extraordinarily fitting on this milestone celebration of Deep Space Nine... 20 years!
March 24 1993. Nothing crazy going on at the moment. I wander down to Stage 18 where Herman is supervising the setting up of Bajoran farmer Mullibok’s home, on the Bajoran M-class moon of Jerrado. Stage is just plain magical. It’s a place where worlds of imagination can spring into existence over night. I never fail to get butterflies every time I pull open the heavy soundstage door. Stepping into darkness I’m hit with the usual blast of over-air conditioned air. It’s all a part of the transition into a world of make-believe that can often be all too real if things aren’t going right. I make my way through the dark, toward the sound of the crew at work. Pushing aside the heavy black muslin curtain I step into the bright stage lighting of Jerrado. A large painted scenic background stretches for miles, as the greens men hand-truck exotic looking flora. Herman spots me coming on to stage and smiles. “Good morning, Herman!” I say, as he breaks into a grin and laughs out his trademarked hello: ”I’ll be the judge of that!”
Image 01 - Mullibok’s Bajoran style domicile, set into a rock face that would eventually become our cave network. The caves will come in mighty handy for what we call ”Get Well Shows.” For instance if we spend a lot of money on a few heavy episodes, we’ll pull out a story that takes place in a cave. Cave shows are cheap. That's Herman in the green jacket.
Image 02 - Herman, Art Director Randy, and Dick Bayard, first season construction coordinator looking pleased with the night’s progress. Uh-oh… I’m going into squishy mode – Ah, Herman… beloved Herman Zimmerman. What a fantastic working environment we had in the Trek art department. The environ comes from the head, and Herman was charming, funny, sweet, clever, affectionate… not to mention brilliant. Do you think we could pull some of the stunts\pranks without a good-natured boss like Herman? A boss can make your life hell. Our boss made it heaven.
Image 03 - Brian Keith as Mullibok. Mullibok’s house had a storybook, almost Hobbit quality to it. You may recall that Mullibok was played by Brian Keith, who many of you remember from the 60′s TV show Family Affair. I recall him very fondly in The Russians are Coming! Keith was anything but Hobbit-like, and it was fairly well known by all that he was ferried to work each morning by John Barleycorn. A dear friend of mine by the name of Nick Kane was a gunner in a Navy torpedo plane during WWII. Keith was his crew chief. Nick finished his life as a trainer at the famous and infamous Vince’s Gym in Studio City, where I met him. Vince’s had been there for 50 years, and at one time it was the only gym in the Valley. The studios sent their stars there, and Vince and Nick would whip them into shape. Alumnus included Clint Eastwood, Robert Blake, Clint Walker, Doug McClure and Brian Keith. I ran into Brian one day during shooting at the dark craft service table. Just me and Keith. “Hi, Mr. Keith… Doug Drexler from the art department… Vince Gironda sends his regards!” He looked at the floor, took a deep breath, hawked up a huge loogie, and spat it onto the cold concrete. Brian Keith regarded it thoughtfully for a second or two, and then with the sole of his boot ground it into the concrete, sand, cat pee and flea mixture below. He then grunted, and without looking up said in a voice that sounded like 40 miles of gravel road, “He still dying his hair with that shoe polish?”
Image 04 - A better look at the painted scenic background stage left of the house.
Image 05 - I’m heading to the front of Stage 18 to check out the Runabout, as it is on hot standby for later in the day. The DS9 airlock set is on the same stage, and I pass by the folded Ferengi airlock facade.
Image 06 - There is Dave, our DS9 painter, touching up the runabout interior. Hey Dougie, I tried not to mess up your exquisite tape job in here, but you may have to fix a few of my mistakes! Did you know that in the first season they built this set on hydraulics to bounce it around? OMG, that was an ever-lovin’ disaster. The thing almost shook itself apart. The runabout set stands approximately where the NX-01 bridge eventually would be constructed.
Image 07 - Runabout flight deck. Hmmmm… missing some stuff. Come back with the tape caddy later. There are never enough capsule labels. Rule of thumb: for every three labels you place, only one will be seen. Ok… well, I’d better cruise Stage 17 and check out the promenade while I’m here.
Read part two here.
About Doug Drexler
A lifelong Star Trek fan, Doug Drexler made a variety of marks on the franchise as makeup artist, graphic designer, illustrator, and visual effects artist. Over his 32-year-career in Hollywood, science fiction, fantasy, and especially Star Trek, have defined Doug's career. A protege of makeup legend Dick Smith, Doug went on to become a creative mainstay on Trek for 17 years, designing such shows as TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise. His Trek career culminated as the primary designer of the Enterprise NX. Drex, as everyone calls him, has written Trek books, made cameo appearances on TNG and Enterprise, and has even had a Trek character named after him: on DS9, the Klingon son of Martok and Sirella was named... Drex. Post-Trek, Doug has worked as CG supervisor on several iterations of Battlestar Galactica, including Blood and Chrome and Defiance. Click HERE to visit Drexler's office blog, Drex Files. Drex is an American and British Academy Award winner, two-time Emmy winner (seven nominations), Saturn Award winner, Peabody Award recipient, and Visual Effects Society Award winner.
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