Star Trek’s sprawling history is an artistic playground for Michael and Denise Okuda, who spent years helping to shape the franchise’s art direction.
Serving as a graphic designer, art supervisor and technical consultant, Michael built a television career spanning four series from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” to “Star Trek: Enterprise,” and he worked on seven of the franchise’s feature films.
Denise, his wife, served as a scenic artist and computer/video supervisor on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Enterprise”; her feature film credits include “Star Trek: Generations” and “Star Trek: Insurrection.”
Their work frequently demonstrates the power of design. In fact, during Michael’s time on “The Next Generation,” he created the iconic computer interface screens used by Starfleet.
“When I came on the show, no one really thought graphics were important,” Michael told 1701News during the Star Trek Las Vegas Convention earlier this month. “And that was a great thing because I was free to come in and say: ‘Hey, let’s approach it differently than it had been done before. Let’s approach it as a part of the look and feel of the show — and not as an afterthought. Let’s approach it in a way that is economical to produce.’
“I was very lucky that Gene (Roddenberry) and the other producers recognized that this was an interesting approach, and they pretty much let me run with it. To me, that was a whole lot of fun.”
The work eventually lead him to pen the “Star Trek: The Next Generation: Technical Manual,” a detailed reference guide on the Enterprise-D that was originally used as a bible by writers on the show. Denise later joined him to write two other books, “The Star Trek Encyclopedia” and “Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future.”
More recently, they assisted with the high-definition transfers for the original “Star Trek” and “The Next Generation.”
With resumes that brim with Star Trek experiences, the Okudas have advice for how the franchise’s future productions can succeed.
“When you do a new Star Trek, on one hand you want it to be fresh, and on the other hand you want it to honor what’s been done before it,” Michael explained. “It has to have that familiarity, but it has to surprise you. … What we are very fond of saying is, ‘Make it completely different, but exactly the same.’”
For the Okudas, Season 4 of “Enterprise” is an example of that very idea. Spearheaded by executive producer Manny Coto (“24,” “Dexter”), the season frequently looked to the original series to place a unique spin on its stories. And it included such classic nods as the Mirror Universe, genetically engineered super-humans and Orion Slave Girls.
“‘Enterprise’s fourth season, in my opinion, was by far the best,” Denise said. “It was just getting going. … And we wish it could have gone on.”
Get a look at more of the Okuda’s interview with 1701News — including their thoughts on “Star Trek: Into Darkness” — by clicking here.
About the Author
Bryant L. Griffin is managing editor for Airlock Alpha, 1701News and Rabid Doll, and a writer for the entire GenreNexus network. He works at a major-metro newspaper and served as a journalist in the U.S. Army. In 2002, he joined Nexus Media Group Inc., contributing to many early design concepts before shifting his focus back to writing. His childhood dream is serving as a security guard aboard a Constitution-class starship. Bryant hails from Tampa, Fla.