In Part one of our feature (Found Here) on Rick Sternbach, we really only scratched the surface of this man’s impressive contributions to the world of Star Trek. He has designed Dozens of ships and HUNDREDS of props for the venerable Sci-Fi franchise. In this installment, we take a look at how he was tapped to design the Cardassian ore processing station, known as Terok Nor, but after the Occupation of Bajor came to be known as Deep Space Nine!
Deep Space Nine was a complete departure from the Trek Series that preceded it. It was darker, grittier and was downright inhospitable at times. In, perhaps the biggest change, this series was set on a space station…it was stationary (pun intended) it didn’t move, which meant that the action had to come to them. Deep Space Nine was to be like a frontier town in space, an intergalactic trading post where alien species from all walks of life would come to trade, live, love, laugh, and sometimes die.
When it came time to design the station, the creator turned to Rick Sternbach, the Trek Veteran that had been a part of the Trek family for a while. When asked how he was brought onboard as designer, Rick has this to say:
“I was the senior illustrator for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and while the separate art department was being formed for Deep Space Nine, I was asked to help production designer Herman Zimmerman to work up designs. A lot of different stylistic elements were gathered up during the first few months, and I put them all together into a final design and drew up the construction blueprints.”
Bringing something of this nature to life requires many, many sketches and designs before a final version is approved, and Deep Space Nine was no exception. This station had to be like nothing Trek had featured before, but at the same time, had to be instantly recognizable for the form and function, as well cultural aesthetics belonging to Cardsassians. Sternbach describes what it took to approve a final design:
“Early on, we were scribbling sketches and more refined pen & ink drawings and rough 3D computer models, so there was a continuous stream of shapes, at least 30-40 of them before we homed in on the circular plan with the pylons.”
Every designer has a favorite feature of their designs, something that just works, something that survives in one form or another the various design evolutions. Rick has a favorite feature of Deep Space Nine, however, it did go through minor changes here and there throughout the design process.
“I suppose it (Favorite Feature) would have to be the complete core of the station, from Ops all the way down to the fusion reactors. Throughout most of the designs we did, the core somehow survived, even though a lot of individual small-scale bits changed over time.”
You can ask Rick if he has a favorite Trek series that he worked on, but he’s cryptic and fairly no-committal in his response. It makes sense one would suppose, as each series would have it’s ups and downs, good days and bad days. Rick has had an amazing ride with Star Trek, and likewise Trek wouldn’t be what it is without the contributions of Sternbach and others. When asked what his favorite series is, Rick has this to say:
“Hard to say. All three “modern Trek” shows had their individual great qualities and characteristics, and each presented terrific design challenges.”
Working so long together as a group would make a person grow close with his colleagues. When asked if he still keeps in touch with his former co-workers from the various Trek series, Rick tells us:
“I still keep in touch with a lot of folks from the art departments and visual effects teams, and most of them are on Facebook, which makes it easy. A lot of us appear at conventions together. This is a great groups of folks to have worked with over the years.”
With the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation re-mastered on HD Blu-Ray, just over the horizon might be the same treatment for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asking Rick about this and his possible involvement in the project, he weighs in saying this:
“Well, it would be nice to see it happen. I have no connection to any of that myself, but if CBS asks me to talk on camera as with TNG, I’d have no problem. I was with the series for the first three seasons, but I did design a number of ship and prop things, including the lead work on the station itself. CBS is probably mulling over the economics of doing a remaster, with all the model and CG and video FX that might need to be uprezzed or totally redone. Just have to wait and see.”
As a Trekkie, it is an amazing opportunity to get to correspond with the people who have designed the look and feel of the world of Star Trek. Rick Sternbach has had a massive influence on this beloved Sci-Fi world, and has been extremely gracious in giving time to answer all questions asked an elaborating in great detail. Many, many thanks to rick for taking time to give some of the back story to the design of Deep Space Nine!
In Part 3, our conclusion to our feature on Mr. Sternbach, we take a look at arguably his greatest contribution to the world of Star trek (well, right up there with DS9 anyway), The USS Voyager!
Part III: Coming in January 2015, Just in time for Star Trek: Voyager’s 20th Anniversary!