June 18 2024


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Sternbach: Designing Trek

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Rick Sternbach created starships, weapons, props and more during his years with Star Trek, in a timeframe ranging from Star Trek: The Motion Picture through Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Nemesis.

Sternbach’s interest in Star Trek dates back to 1974, and a meeting with Gene Roddenberry after a showing of The Cage at Yale University. “We spent a couple of hours talking about everything from Star Trek to the real space program to the future of humans in the galaxy,” said Sternbach. A 1977 move to California meant Sternbach was in the right place when it was time for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Seeing a completed model was “goose-bump time,” for Sternbach. “Standing inside a finished set with the lights on, with no stage walls visible, was always exciting,” he said.

Favorite designs over the years for Sternbach include: “The USS Voyager, USS Equinox and the Klingon Vor’cHa attack Cruiser…followed closely behind by Deep Space Nine, the Starfleet Runabout…the Delta Flyer, the TNG Type II hand phaser” and more. “It’s hard to choose,” said Sternbach.

Over the years, technology and special effects improved, which changed how Sternbach did his job. “There’s no doubt that the improvements made in desktop computers, and 2-D and 3-D graphics software, helped us do our art department jobs better and faster,” he said. “On ST:TMP, most of the work I did involved India ink, rapidograph technical pens, and photocopy machines, as well as color markers and airbrush paintings. Computers were nowhere in sight, except at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who assisted us with some techy-looking animation…By the time we got deep into Voyager, I was able to build rough 3-D models of ships and props and email the files out.”

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