Originally posted on SciFi.com June 10, 1997.
Okuda: Hello everyone! It’s good to see everyone.
Moderator: OK, any opening remarks?
Moderator: Can you hear me? Michael? Denise?
Okuda: Well, as you may know, we’re just starting up on the fourth season of Star Trek Voyager
Okuda: and we are about to start preproduction on the sixth season of
Okuda: Star Trek Deep Space Nine.
Moderator: OK, let’s go…
Moderator: <Pilot> to <Moderator>: Mike, is it true that there is a DS9 Tech manual in the works for the fans
Okuda: I understand that our friend, Rick Sternbach, has some thoughts about such a project, but
Okuda: we’re not sure exactly how far that has progressed at this point.
Moderator: <photeK> to <Moderator>: over the recent years in star trek ive noticied that the sets have gotten a lot better. is that because the artist evolved or because the budgets have gotten bigger? also did you goto an art school for set design or trained yourself
Okuda: As you may know, it takes quite a number of months, years sometimes, before a book project progresses from idea to print.
Okuda: D: The sets for Star Trek have gradually gotten a little bigger over the years, and they have also gotten a lot more sophisticated
Okuda: as we all have gained more experience in making the show.
Moderator: BTW, the “D” is for Denise, and the “M” is for Michael.
Moderator: They are sharing a computer…
Okuda: M: Neither of us attended art school, oddly enough.
Moderator: <OkudaRocks> to <Moderator>: How did you come up with the Klingon language??
Okuda: D: The written Klingon language was invented by artists at Apogee for the first Star Trek movie, based on Matt Jefferies’ lettering on the Klingon Battle Cruiser on the original show.
Okuda: The spoken Klingon language was invented by Marc Okrand, who is a professional linguist.
Okuda: Marc is also the author of The Klingon Dictionary.
Moderator: <Checkm8> to <Moderator>: Mike, will we be seeing any new starfleet ship designs in upcoming DS9 epsisodes ?
Okuda: M: There are some mysterious shapes to be seen in the background of the last shot of the last episode. Stay tuned!
Moderator: <Maverick> to <Moderator>: How do you get all of the information for the information books that you write about Star Trek?
Okuda: D: It may sound kind of silly, but we sit down and watch the shows, and we take LOTS of notes.
Okuda: We have several researchers who help us to do this, because the research is incredibly detail-oriented and time-consuming.
Moderator: <Pilot> to <Moderator>: Can you tell us about your plans for the Encyclopedia’s Future?
Okuda: M: This way, we can be sure that the info in the books actually comes from the shows themselves.
Okuda: D: We are currently finishing work on the updated edition of the Star Trek Encyclopedia for publication this November from Pocket Books.
Okuda: This new edition will be 800 pages long, with all illustrations and photos in full color.
Okuda: As you might imagine, it has been a LOT of work.
Okuda: M: The new Encyclopedia will go partway through the 5th season of DS9 and the 3rd season of VGR.
Okuda: D: Doug Drexler has done something like 400 illustrations for the book. He’s an amazing artist!
Moderator: <Capper-Deluxe> to <Moderator>: will there be an updated Omnipedia and interactive Tech Manual at any time?
Okuda: M: Simon and Schuster Interactive has announced plans to produce a CD-ROM project called “The Captain’s Chair”
Okuda: which is an Interactive Tech Manual-like overview of the bridges of several starships, including a digital re-creation of the Original Series Enterprise bridge.
Okuda: D: They’re also thinking about doing something called the Interactive Star Trek Encyclopedia, which will probably include all of our updated information.
Moderator: <Heptman> to <Moderator>: Are there any plans for another Star Trek interactive movie, like “Star Trek: Borg”?
Okuda: M: Not that we know of, although they always have more projects planned that we haven’t heard about yet.
Moderator: <CPTMIKE> to <Moderator>: Looking for better “SPECS” for the Enterprise E… Any chance something better thant the “First Contact Novelization” is coming out?
Okuda: D: Well, we’ll have a couple of fairly detailed drawings of the Sovereign-class ship in the updated Encyclopedia.
Okuda: And we’re hoping to have some other cool stuff in “The Captain’s Chair” CD-ROM. (Which we’re working on, by the way…)
Moderator: <Forty-Two> to <Moderator>: Have you done any work outside of Trek?
Okuda: M: Not lately. Both Denise and I worked on a CBS pilot called “The Osiris Chronicles” last year.
Okuda: D: And we have started work on a book that is NOT part of the Star Trek universe.
Moderator: <Fanatic> to <Moderator>: Hi Mike and Catnip as fan of Star Trek and other things I noticed a few mistakes in the omnipedia concering The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai tie ins to star trek and I’d also like to know what is with the water mellon in the chase sequence in Buckaroo Banzai?
Okuda: D: What mistakes concerning Buckaroo Banzai?
Moderator: <Codeboy> to <Moderator>: Mike, this has been driving me crazy for years, but… what font do you use to make the starfleet computer displays? 😛
Okuda: M: Mostly Helvetica Ultra Compressed for TNG-era displays. Eurostyle Bold Extended for TOS movie-era displays. Corporate Condensed for TOS-era graphics.
Moderator: <charlie> to <Moderator>: You both wear many hats – writers, designers, etc. Which one gives you the most pleasure? Which is the most challenging?
Okuda: D: One of the cool things about what we do is the fact that we DO wear so many hats. When you get burned out in one area, there’s always something in another.
Moderator: <Nikeseqis> to <Moderator>: I’d like to ask if being so involved with startrek, has it dulled their excitement for it, have they lost that excitement becuase they’re thrown behind the scenes so deeply?
Okuda: M: There is a definite sense of loss when you work on the show. You can’t watch it and say “oh no! how are they gonna make it out of THIS one?!” On the other hand, I must say that this is more than balanced by the fun of working on the show.
Okuda: D: On the third hand, that is why both Mike and I enjoy watching “Babylon 5.” We have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen on that show, so everything’s a surprise!
Moderator: <Codeboy> to <Moderator>: What’s the weirdest explanation you’ve ever made for all the high-tech stuff on Star Trek?
Okuda: M: That’s a tough one. Let me think.
Okuda: Probably devising the guidelines for what happens near Warp 10.
Okuda: We had to figure out how to account for a number of different things that Gene wanted, as well as we had to acknowledge a number of different things that several episodes had established.
Okuda: I don’t think it is a perfect solution, but I think it works reasonably well.
Moderator: <carlos> to <Moderator>: what cool stuff/in-jokes to you guys hide in the scenic design? clue us in, we wanna know!
Okuda: D: Hmm. I think everyone knows about the initials on the buttons.
Okuda: The problem is, that as much as we enjoy putting in the gags, we try VERY hard to make sure that they can’t be seen on camera.
Okuda: Obviously, if we do something that can be seen, then we have done Star Trek (and its viewers) a disservice, since we have worked against the drama of the story.
Okuda: As a result, we really don’t do a lot of gags.
Moderator: <critter> to <Moderator>: Mike, what is the usual process in coming up with a new starship design, from initial idea to building the model?
Okuda: M: Usually, if it is an entirely new design, then the production designer tells one of our illustrators, Rick Sternbach or John Eaves, what he has in mind for the ship.
Okuda: Rick or John will spend a couple of hours sketching up some concepts, at which point the show’s visual effects supervisor will get involved.
Okuda: Obviously, the design of the ship has to work with whatever visual effects shots are being planned for the ship.
Okuda: For example, if the ship has to be battle-damaged, we might need to have some areas on which battle-damage would be clearly visible.
Okuda: And there are specific considerations if the ship is being built as a filming miniature or being done as a rendered computer generated image.
Moderator: <preed> to <Moderator>: What do you think of all of Phil Farrand’s “Nitpickers Guide to Star Trek: [TOS, TNG, DS9]”? Do you find them annoying, or read them and say, “Yup, good point there…”
Okuda: D: Both of us found the “Nitpickers'” books to be very clever.
Okuda: We were kind of amused at the number of things that they DIDN’T catch, however!
Moderator: <preed> to <Moderator>: Speaking of several starships, do you have a favorite starship design?
Okuda: M: For me, it’d have to be the original Starship Enterprise from the first Star Trek series.
Okuda: D: Me, too.
Moderator: <CPTMIKE> to <Moderator>: Can you give us a VERY LOOSE “whats gonna’ happen next time one VOYAGER, after the BORG-BASHING Cliffhanger?!?!?’
Okuda: M: “Very loose”? No problem. It’ll be amazingly cool and a lot of fun!
Okuda: D: Actually, we just finished shooting the first episode of the season, and it WAS a lot of fun.
Moderator: <CptNguyen> to <Moderator>: Are the Chronology updates going to reflect what happens on Voyager, which is cut off from the rest of the Federation and Starfleet?
Okuda: M: The updated Star Trek Chronology (the version published late last year from Pocket Books) did include Voyager story material.
Okuda: We decided that it would be inappropriate to leave out such a large part of the Trek storyline.
Okuda: Even though, technically, the Federation (and therefore the Chronology) should have no knowledge of what happened to the Voyager in the Delta Quadrant.
Moderator: <Pilot> to <Moderator>: Why is it that you of all people chose yourself (or where chosen?) to be what fans call ‘The Ambassador’ or the person on the production staff who fans can deal with the most. Only rarely in the history of Star Trek, have members of the crew taken it upon themselves to say ‘I’m gonna make some of this stuff official and accessable to fans.”. DO you like to think of yourself as this AMBASSADOR or is it just a desire to set facts straight?
Okuda: D: There are many people on the Trek production staff who make a real effort to make stuff accessible to fans. After all, I think everyone is well aware that without the fans, we wouldn’t have jobs!
Okuda: However, the fact is that television and film production is an incredibly demanding grind. Frankly, at the end of a production day, someone working on a film crew rarely has much energy left over to do anything else, so if it seems that production people don’t reach out to fans, it is more likely due to exhaustion than to apathy.
Moderator: <WebBuildr> to <Moderator>: Michael, were you responsible for the reference to 2001 in ST: First Contact? (the antenna)
Okuda: M: You caught that one! Actually, I’d forgotten about that.
Okuda: I never thought that particular readout would be seen so closely, but it turned out that they did several tight closeups on it.
Moderator: <Maverick> to <Moderator>: In your next version of Star Trek Encyclopedia, would it be possible for you to include a pronunciation for the words?
Okuda: D: Not a bad idea, but it’ll have to wait for a third edition, since the text is already locked.
Okuda: Actually, for Klingon pronunciation, you can always refer to Marc Okrand’s books.
Moderator: <OkudaRocks> to <Moderator>: Mike and Denise, What is your favorite series to work on and why do you enjoy it so much?
Okuda: M: That is a very tough question. Each series has something special about it, and it is becomes very difficult to compare the specialness of each.
Okuda: D: We do, however, have a very warm spot in our hearts for the Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations.”
Okuda: I think that was one of the most remarkable, magical things we’ve done in the current era of Star Trek programs.
Moderator: <Dolphin1> to <Moderator>: About the episode of Voyager where the crew goes back in time to 1997, shouldn’t they have landed in the Eugenics Wars? I noticed no mention of it in the episode.
Okuda: M: I know our writers wrestled with that question quite a bit. I think they ultimately decided that dealing with the Eugenics Wars would have taken away too much from the focus of the episode, which was our Voyager heroes in the present day.
Moderator: <surak7> to <Moderator>: How much work went into Trials and Tribbulations?
Okuda: D: We started working on it, unofficially, a couple of months ahead of time. We started gathering reference materials and studying videotapes.
Okuda: By the time the episode had an official”go ahead” from the studio, every department had put an enormous amount of work into it.
Okuda: As you may know, 30 years has passed since the original series was filmed, and we had nothing left over from the original sets. We didn’t even have plans or drawings.
Okuda: Everything had to be researched from videotapes and photos, which was tremendously time consuming.
Okuda: The director, Jonathan West, was given the complex task of matching his work to the look-and-feel of the original series.
Okuda: And our visual effects department did some of the most ambitious work ever attempted for a regular television episode.
Moderator: <Spacemonk> to <Moderator>: Who are your influences?
Okuda: M: Gene Roddenberry. Dr. Seuss. Richard Feynman.
Okuda: Jim Henson. Ansel Adams. Syd Mead. Steve Jobs.
Okuda: Arthur Clarke. Robert Goddard. And Dr. Banzai.
Moderator: <BElanna> to <Moderator>: What are the actors from TNG/DS9/VOY like to be around?
Moderator: By the way, we’ve got about 10 minutes left so please send your final questions in…
Okuda: They are regular human beings, just like you and I. They are talented, skilled professionals, doing their best in a very demanding job. And Jonathan Frakes is known to break into horrible song at the slightest provocation!
Moderator: <Admiral> to <Moderator>: what computer platform is Trek CG work done on?
Okuda: M: A variety of different computer systems are used by different departments and vendors. The art department uses Macintosh computers for our graphics and computer readout work. Some post-production vendors use a variety of proprietary systems. Some recent work has been done by our friends at Foundation Imaging, who use Windows NT machines running Lightwave software. And some of our friends at ILM use Macs running Electric Image software.
Moderator: A few fans have asked questions about Viacom’s recent efforts to shut down fan websites. Any thoughts about that?
Okuda: D: That is a difficult question. It is hard to criticize Viacom’s legitimate efforts to protect its legitimate intellectual property rights. After all, Paramount has invested millions of dollars over the past decades to mold Star Trek into a valuable property. On the other hand, I think it is fair to say that Viacom could have acted with more sensitivity and appreciation to the fans, who are, after all, largely responsible for the ongoing commercial success of the program.
Moderator: <Forty-Two> to <Moderator>: Mike, how long does it take to design an “Okudagram”?
Okuda: M: It entirely depends on the complexity of the project and the deadline. I once planned a very ambitious graphic that I had thought would take three days to design. The phone rang, and it was a producer informing me that this scene would shoot the following morning, which meant that my work would have to be finished in fifteen minutes. I quickly simplified the design, and it was ready in fifteen minutes, because it had to be. And that’s the nature of episodic television production.
Moderator: <Checkm8> to <Moderator>: Mike/Denise Is there a listing of e-mail addresses we can use to get into contact with those involved with and in the Star Trek shows ?
Okuda: D: I don’t know of an e-mail directory. One of the problems is that many of us do some of our work on line, so we are often facing deadlines that prevent us from dealing with e-mail.
Moderator: Any place that fans can write to you? Is there an official Okuda fan club, website, etc.?
Okuda: M: The studio is pretty good about making sure that mail gets to us, the actors, and everyone else connected with the show. Unfortunately, I must admit that I frequently don’t get around to responding.
Moderator: <CptNguyen> to <Moderator>: It seems that technology is slowly starting to catch up with Star Trek. Nanoprobes are in the works, as are many other Federation technologies. How are these advances going to affect the technological aspects of Star Trek, as a science fiction series which should stay at least one step ahead of real life?
Okuda: M: Staying ahead of present-day technology is always a real challenge. Real technology moves so quickly that it is not unusual to find out that something that we thought was futuristic is already obsolete.
Moderator: Well, that’s all the time we have tonight.
Moderator: Thank you both for taking the time out to chat with us and answer a few questions.
Okuda: Thank you all for some very interesting questions.
Moderator: I hope we’ll find the opportunity to do this again sometime.
Moderator: And to everyone who’s question wasn’t asked…
Okuda: We appreciate your affection for Star Trek, and we want you to know that we share it.
Moderator: check the Star Trek Encyclopedia, Omnipedia, Tech Manual and Chronology…the answers are probably in there somewhere!
Moderator: we’re going to go unmoderated…
CPTMIKE: Thank you!!!
Checkm8: That was cool
WebBuildr: thank you!
AlexDTS: Thanks, Mike and Denise!
Trekkr: that was soooooooooooooooooooooooo awesome
OkudaRocks: can anyone tell me the address for the Paramount studios???
Vash: thanks very much.
Checkm8: Thanks !!!!!!
pazuzu: thank da bog for the star trek!
Fanatic: Arrigato Catnip!
Maverick: thanks if your still on there
Okuda: Bye. And thanks!
Pilot: 5555 Melrose Ave
BaronT: thank you for chatting with us!
BElanna: Thank you!!