Rick Sternbach Senior Illustrator for Star Trek TNG, DS9 and Voyager Speaks to SebRT.com!

March 3, 2007

Rick SternbachI had the chance to catch up with another Star Trek / Paramount Pictures alumni, Rick Sternbach. I have admired Rick’s work for years as I have Dan Curry, who I interviewed a few months back. Rick Sternbach is the guy who designed the Klingon Vor’Cha class Attack Cruiser, the Delta Flyer, the Starfleet Phaser and Tricorder, the Dauntless from Voyager’s “Hope and Fear” and about a million other things we have come to know as normal in the Star Trek universe.

Rick it is truly a pleasure to have you for an interview, I had admired your work for as long as I can remember!

What exactly did you do as the Senior Illustrator and Technical Script Consultant for Star Trek TNG, DS9, Voyager?

The illustrator part was pretty straight forward. The Production designer would have specific requirements for the show. Since it’s science fiction, everything has to be designed. It wasn’t at all like doing a western or a police show…where you could rent something. There was something new every week. The script would say “a fabulous alien gadget” and you can’t just go and rent something. For the most part we had to invent everything, it started from the script. We would talk about it, modify for the budget and present the drawings, get estimates. Every 10th working day we had a new episode. We would establish all the hand props we would see form week to week, tricorders, phasers, hyposprays…etc.

You have been designing things for many years. It seems you favour objects that fly in space. Why is that?

I grew up in a time before there was anything in Earth orbit. As a kid growing up when the first satellites were being put up and rocket powered aircraft were breaking records left and right. It caught a lot of imaginations and mine was one of them. I knew a lot of people with the same interests, we would gravitate together and fly rockets and design rockets for science fictional things. As a career path it certainly has been different from my pals. I haven’t quite got anything in to space for real yet…

How much did you work on Star Trek Generations, First Contact and Insurrection?

I did little bits. I blueprinted the enterprise-e based on sketches provided by John Eaves. I simply made it easier for ILM to build the ten foot model. I did very little for Insurrection. I did little bits on the various on the feature.

Are you working on the next Star Trek feature film, Star Trek XI?

I wish! I have sent my resume in, with a few visual samples but so far it has been a one way conversation. I would welcome a call from them.

Cardassian ShipAre you a fan of the show(s) yourself? Do you watch it, see a Cardassian ship and say, I did that?

I’ve always considered myself a follower of the franchise, but not a complete fan. I like a lot of what the franchise has to offer in terms of design. I appreciate what the franchise has done over the last 40 or so years just in terms of how it has got into our social consciousness. I tune into the re-runs every so often, I have not seen every episode of Enterprise as it didn’t hold my interest as much as the other series did. I don’t need to say “I did that” because I know I did that!

A question I asked my last interviewee, If I wanted to vaporize my neighbor’s dog, what setting would I set this Phaser to?

Probably jam it all the way up to setting 8..I think that would do. Anything higher is overkill!

What was your favourite design for Star Trek?

These days I think it is a toss up between the Voyager and the Klingon Vor’cha Class Attack Cruiser. The Prometheus was a close third. With the Prometheus the important thing was to get these designs to evolve. It was a little further along than I would have wanted. I’m not sure how much more advanced that ship could have been.

Is drawing about the hand or the brain?

The two are tied together. Whatever tools are being used, whether it be pencil or the computer mouse. There has to be ways to get the ideas down on paper, into the computer, printed out..somehow conveyed. It of course starts with an idea in my head. I get a lot of pleasure out of sitting here with a very wet felt pen and drawing shapes.

Delta FlyerAre you recognized in public or can you lead an anonymous existence?

If I go to a con..people might know me from online pictures. No one knows me out and about! I have gone to space symposiums and given talks and in those situations, they all know me. At the grocery store or gas station I am just some Joe from the neighborhood!

How long does it take you to design a Starship or a Phaser?

It depends. For episodic stuff it might take as little as ten minutes. Show a few drawings at a production meeting and they would say, Love it! A ship like Voyager, the producers wanted to make sure it took 5 months! Not constant work mind you, but it takes a lot of time to get right!

Anything exciting on the horizon?

At the moment I am president of Space Model Systems Incorporated (SMS Inc) – We produce products for the space education and hobby market. We produce a lot of aftermarket decals for historical space models. Terrain models and the moons of Jupiter. Places that space probes have seen. There are some days where I will just sit and doodle.

Thank you so much for your time Rick, you are welcome to come back at any time!

It’s been great!

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If you have any questions for Rick Sternbach please send them to questions@sebrt.com – Please check out Rick Sternbach’s official website at www.RickSternbach.com

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2 Responses to “Rick Sternbach Senior Illustrator for Star Trek TNG, DS9 and Voyager Speaks to SebRT.com!”


  1. […] visual samples but so far it has been a one way conversation. I would welcome a call from them. Rick Sternbach Senior Illustrator for Star Trek TNG, DS9 and Voyager Speaks to SebRT.com! Seb&#821… Finde ich sehr schade. Deutet an, das man in Sachen Design weg vom Alten will. Indem man die alten […]


  2. […] Rick Sternbach – Senior Illustrator on Star Trek TNG, DS9, and Voyager […]


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