Warp Factor Trek

The Star Trek Fan Website

For many of us in the movie and television industry, there was some event that motivated us to become filmmakers, a spark that made something in our little brains think, “Wow, that’s what I want to do.” For me, it was seeing Star Wars on the big screen in 1977. But wait, Dave Blass — I thought you were a big Star Trek guy! This is true. But while I grew up on Star Trek and was obsessed with it, there was an odd thing — it was fantasy for me, almost like I thought it was the real world. After Star Wars hit and I saw this amazing “Making of” documentary on TV, I went back to the theater and re-watched the film with new eyes. Now I knew that there were real people who made it, that it was models and composites and sets. This was when it truly clicked in my head – “That’s what I want to do with my life!” The documentary had begun with a shot of the Star Wars world premiere at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. And now, after decades of work, I was heading there to see the third season premiere of Star Trek: Picard on the same screen. Not only Star Trek, but the Star Trek that I had designed. So, it was going to be an epic night… if only I could get there.

As luck would have it, the premiere coincided with a family vacation to Jamaica. We had escaped the minus-twenty-degree winter for a bit of sun and relaxation. I had to jet out on the day of the event. An hour-and-a-half bus ride to a plane to Miami, then a mad dash through customs to make a connection to LA, with just an hour between flights. If everything clicked, I would get to LA at 5:30 pm for the 7:00 pm event.

Well, everything didn’t click. The flight was delayed! My friend Brian Kemm grabbed me at the airport with less than an hour to go before the event. Clearly, he had played Grand Theft Auto, as he wove like a madman through the 405-traffic, getting me to the event just past 7 pm. I missed the red carpet and getting to hang with some fans, but at least I got there. I ran to the venue but was stopped by a woman who said it was full and that I needed to go to the “overflow” theater. I was about to say, “Do you know who I am?” but I caught myself and blazed past her. My Art Director, Liz Kloczkowski, had saved my seat, and I plopped down just as Patrick Stewart stood to give a speech about how amazing it was for the team to come together both in front of and behind the camera. Terry Matalas and Alex Kurtzman had just given their speeches, which I had sadly missed.

The opening statement…

The lights dimmed and suddenly there it was: “In the 25th Century…” just like the opening of the classic TOS-era film The Wrath of Khan. And unlike previous Picard seasons, there is no front credits sequence. It launches right into the episode. Now, I won’t spoil anything from the two episodes that were screened. But I will say that it was a mind-blowing thrill to be surrounded by so many people cheering, laughing, and being thrilled by the work we created. The first two episodes had been edited together to create a real two-hour movie, and it truly felt like one. Everything held up on the big screen beyond what I could have imagined.

After the screening, some of us had the luxury of going to the after-party. Wristbands had been provided in the envelope with the ticket. Wait! Where’s my wrist band? Oh, no! Another trip to another gatekeeper with a “Do you know who I am?” on my lips, but luckily Liz did it for me. She left no room for the guy at the door to complain, and we were in. Once there, we had some fun tequila drinks — Snail… somethings, I think they were called. Surrounding the event were glass cases displaying wardrobes of various cast members. A photo-op area allowed folks to get their pictures taken in the Titan captain’s chair, which drove me crazy as no one on the show, except the actors, had ever been allowed to sit there. I was triggered! LOL. The cast and crew were milling around, and I made the rounds, re-connecting with co-workers who had endured over two years of Covid-impacted production. I was seeing many of them for the first time without face masks. I chatted briefly with the cast members. Each one was glowing with excitement from the evening.

Joe Martinez, Todd Marks, Doug Aarniokoski, Liz Kloczkowski, and myself

Jonathan Frakes is one of my favorite people in the world. He is filled with warmth and knowledge, and it was such a joy to work with him in front of and behind the camera. Getting to spend all that time with him was a tremendous gift. We chatted a bit about some fun memories.

I then chatted with LeVar Burton, who had greeted me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek when I first met him over a year before. He had noticed a little detail we put on the set for his first day of shooting, and he was so thrilled that we “got it” and were so into all the history that he wanted to meet me.

Chang and Vadic in their chairs

The highlight of the evening was chatting with Amanda Plummer, who played Vadic. She had reached out when she started, saying that she wanted her captain’s chair to have a thread of a callback to the chair used by her father, Christopher Plummer, who played Klingon commander Chang in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. We worked together on the design, making sure it did what she wanted it to do and how she wanted to lounge on it. To see it on the big screen was amazing. She spoke about how important it had been to her. To have the opportunity to give something back to this iconic actor, and see how appreciative she was, almost brought me to tears.

I shared a brief moment with each actor, thanking them for the experience, while in the back of my mind, I hoped this would not be the last time. The event was the cherry on the top of an amazing Star Trek adventure that, for me, began a lifetime ago.

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