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Primitive Culture: A Star Trek History and Culture Podcast

Dec 4, 2019

Rick Sternbach on designing Star Trek’s future.

As senior illustrator on The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, Rick Sternbach shaped the look of Star Trek’s 24th century. He contributed to the design of the titular Cardassian space station, was responsible for the USS Voyager’s smooth cetacean styling, and worked on alien vessels such as the Borg Cube. With his iconic design for the PADD, he helped inspire real-world devices such as Apple’s iPad, which owes a lot to the futuristic tablets shown on screen throughout the 1990s. And in his work with Michael Okuda—including on the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, published in 1991—he laid the groundwork for much of the science of Starfleet ships, developing concepts such as inertial dampeners and structural integrity fields, as well as that fan-favorite department that was, sadly, never glimpsed on screen: Cetacean Ops.

In this episode of Primitive Culture, recorded at the Destination Star Trek convention in Birmingham, England, host Duncan Barrett speaks to Sternbach as part of a roundtable press panel. They discuss what influenced him as a designer and how he started as a Hollywood illustrator, his work on Star Trek, and his thoughts on the future look of the franchise. He also answers a question that has been lingering for almost a quarter century: What happened to the whales when the Enterprise-D saucer crashed?

Intro (00:00:00)
First Steps (00:04:05)
Artistic Influences (00:09:25)
Designing the Future (00:14:25)
Cetacean Ops (00:20:15)
Worlds Elsewhere (00:25:05)

Duncan Barrett

Rick Sternbach

Duncan Barrett (Editor and Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Tony Black (Associate Producer) Clara Cook (Associate Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager)