I first asked John about the work differences between himself as a senior illustrator and Doug Drexler’s position as junior illustrator. John said “The only time I’ve ever seen (the distinction between the two) is when I started Deep Space (Nine) with Rick Sternbach as senior (illustrator) but he never drew on the show*. I think that was because he was the establishing artist. I know (the difference between) junior and senior is experience time wise being in the union, but I’ve never seen it announced the way it was like on Deep Space (Nine). So our capacities as illustrators I’d say are equal but they are different because he renders on the computer.”John said the series takes place about 100 years after first contact with the Vulcans and 100 years before Kirk’s first five-year mission. “From where I’m at work on the show, the story is brilliant. I think the series is going to be really good. The cast is great, they got Scott Bakula – they hired him on Friday and he started on Monday, so they suited him up on the weekend. But he seems to be really good.”The look of the show is, I think, is Star Trek, but it’s not. The stories I think are a lot more along the lines of what the old show and TNG used to be. More high adventure as opposed to, like a political theme that is turned into a sci-fi show, which a lot of the Deep Space (Nine) would be, kind of current events turned into a show for sake of vested interest. And this is more definitely a high adventure show, where it’s going to go. It’s going to be probably the introductory ground for what we know as Captain Kirk’s Star Trek and I think everything from his time will be discovered or planned through out the length of the series. It seems that’s what they want to do with it.”When asked about the retro-Kirk design of the show, John said “It was really hard because we had done that with (Zefram) Cochrane’s ship, and we went kind of high style. You still had the buttons and the toggle switches but the gages and scanners were retro’ed up. And so, to go above that and yet not repeat the sixties look of the way things were. It was challenging in the fact that, we had an idea of where we wanted to go and Mr. Berman had an idea of where he wanted to go, and marrying the two wasn’t that bad, set wise. Mike and Denise (Okuda) did a fabulous job with the graphics, Mr. Berman loved what they had done with that. You kind of get the sense they’re not gages but they read as such, so he is brilliant, Mike is, at doing such work.”It’s mostly exteriors that we’re having trouble with. Interiors went pretty well, the bridge through went quick, the corridors, all that look in turn all the look of the Enterprise is definitely retro before Kirk, but to today’s standard of what good design would be.” John went on to say he was then assigned to work on alien ships and uniform designs.
John went on to say the Klingons will have their cranial ridges and that the uniforms are not what we saw in Kirk’s era, they will look more like the evolutional ancestor of what we are used to seeing, as on Deep Space Nine. He went on to say he was unsure about whether or not the Klingons will have there bat’leths. He continued “Bob Blackman is doing the uniforms, which he always has. Mike Westmore is doing the makeup. And both their magic is shining like it always does. They have no trouble coming up with what’s going to be perfect for that time, yet pull to what Star Trek is supposed to be. Mr Berman was very concious of what the designs and story were going to be and he gave us a lot of feed back.When asked if we would see any other familiar aliens, John said it was too early to say, and that “I don’t know what they are going to do next.”I also asked John about the level of technology present in the new series, and John said there are no transporters and that the crew are going to be taking a shuttle everywhere instead, “Yeah, they are going to try and keep that lineage alive.”When asked about the design of the new (old?) Enterprise, John said it was smaller then Kirk’s, but that they’re still working on it, so the exact size hasn’t been established. He also said he did pitch the idea of using the Enterprise as seen on the rec-dec scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but that it was turned down.And speaking of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, John said he has seen the DVD version (due out at Christmas) and he thought that everyone involved had done an excellent job with it. And although John prefers the use of models as opposed to just CGI, thinking the marriage of them works best, but he did say on the Enterprise in the DVD was the first time he had seen a CGI ship and thought it was undistinguishable from a model.John has also read the script for the first regular episode, saying that sometimes the first episode after the pilot is a let down, but not in this instance – it’s just as good as the pilot.
John also let me in on some of the inside jokes that we, as an audience, would see on screen, including the police tape outline of a corpse and a full garden within the windows of the Enterprise E (in First Contact). The model makers at ILM included many inside jokes and John pointed out there were jokes everywhere, but not where we could, or would, ever see them.While I was with John, I got to meet his wife and asked her if John had prepared her for this aspect of his life, the fans, conventions, etc. She said that no, he didn’t. But from what I saw, she was having a really good time with it.On a side note, John also read the script of the next Star Trek movie and said it is really great and that writer John Logan (Gladiator) did an outstanding job with it and that full production of the movie will start in July.Last, but not least, I’d like to thank Lee Stanton and the rest of the WonderFest crew for putting on a great show and for allowing me to meet up with John. And I’ll be there next year for sure!
INTERVIEW FROM JUNE 6/7, 2003There is nothing like going to a good sci-fi/modeling convention to let me catch up with one of the production crewmembers for Enterprise. And like two years ago, it was at the WonderFest convention where John Eaves was a guest speaker. Again, I was given the opportunity to chat with him about his work, this time though, on both Star Trek: Nemesis and Enterprise.
One of John’s major contributions to Star Trek: Nemesis, although he considers them somewhat minor, were several redesigns he gave to the USS Enterprise. But let’s be honest here – any change to the Enterprise is a big deal. Luckily I was standing over a diagram of the Enterprise-E when I asked him about the changes.
“The biggest change was the sweep came back in, it was missing on the model – the sweep on the bottom of the belly, and so it has more of a curve on the model, it went flat and so this brought a little more curve to it.”
“This section … where the shuttlebay is for the saucer and the and the body had a flat cut so I extended the saucer into these tapers here which kind of brought the curve back in. And also on the side view of the miniature these were dropped where (the nacelles were) actually making contact – there was no air between the two, so it brought those out and pulled them forward a little bit to get the overall balance to the ship again.”
“And as far as weaponry go, right there we have a new single torpedo launcher,” he says as he points to the area just in front of the bridge. “We’ve got a double launcher … in the back of the back module, (another) single launcher (on the aft section), and we’ve got phaser strips on the top and the bottom of the struts.”
John also points out that the color has changed a bit on the saucer section. “It’s got darker rim detail” on several places on the saucer.
“I think that’s it with the modifications on it – they are very very subtle, and of course that was just personal finesse that I wanted to change on it. No one ever sees the profile stuff, but we get all information at work so until you go “oh, if only I could just sweeten those again” and Nemesis allowed that to happen.”
John considers the changes to be a refit to the ship that took place between Insurrection and Nemesis. “It was basically a retro for future missions, that was how I was trying to explain it off – that it goes back for service every once in a while for modifications.”
Now to jump back several centuries, I asked John about the Starfleet ships and the Xindi, last seen in Enterprise’s The Expanse, and what’s been established. “The Starfleet ships were just shapes we came up with – the script just asked for some backup Starfleet vessels so it was just a bunch of shapes we kind of conglomerated together that kind of looked pre-NX-01. And so Rick Berman just picked two out of the five. There’s no names, no numbers, or really anything on them.”
And for the Xindi, “The rolling ball is the only thing we have designed so far. Part two is what we are going to start working on, I’d imagine, Wednesday (June 11). But the first thing was a ball with rolling devices on it so that was the only direction we had. So as far as that goes, there’s a lot more coming up but for right now, that’s all there is.”
I also asked John what was something from the future of Trek he would like to retro for Enterprise? “We did the Tholians, the Romulans, the Klingons – we always wanted to do the D-7 (battlecruiser), so we did drawings of it, it just has never made it to the screen. And it’s actually been modeled, but that was my favorite of all the ones we’ve done.”
Lastly, I asked what was something about Enterprise we don’t know, be it about the show, the cast, or whatever. “The actors are outstanding, caring people, which you usually don’t see with actors on a show. But Scott Bakula is like the biggest contributor to charity. He’s just constantly conscience of everyone around him, makes everyone feel welcome and I’d just say behind the scenes the actors on the show are phenomenal, accepting to everybody, just very very sweet people.”
I would like to thank John Eaves for the opportunity to ask him a few questions and Lee Staton and the rest of the gang for putting on another great WonderFest Convention – see you next year!