Designing DS9’s Main Titles
Great title sequences are a symbiotic relationship between visuals and music. That’s what gives them emotional power. The title sequence for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, of which there were a few versions, was no exception.
The original versions
To create the original title sequence for DS9, I didn’t create any storyboards. The theme producers wanted to stress in the sequence was that we were “alone out there.”
I saw a clip of a documentary with a shot of a comet hurtling through space. It occurred to me that a similar shot would be a good image to open with, to communicate the remoteness of deep space.
I went over to Image G‘s motion control stage in Hollywood with visual effects associate Eddie Williams, to check out a six-foot-diameter plywood mockup of the station. Meanwhile, the great model maker Tony Meininger was finishing the hero model in his shop.
I decided that a ballet around the station, getting closer and closer to reveal different details, would make a good title sequence.
Using a hand-held home video camera, I then shot a crude version of the sequence, moving around the plywood mockup of the station and creating what would nowadays be called a “pre-vis”. Eddie moved little scale ships on a stick to represent some traffic. The wormhole for this animatic was white tape on a black rectangle.
We cut the sequence together for producer approval. When I showed the rough animatic to the producers, they liked the footage, approving it without giving any notes about it. They then sent it to composer Dennis McCarthy, to give him a sense of what the visuals were like.
At Image G, we recreated the hand-held shots that had been done with the plywood mock-up, now using the motion control rig and Tony Meininger’s brilliant six-foot model.
I hand airbrushed the main title card and wanted the Runabout to fly in front of it, as if the letters were floating in space. As for the actors’ names that appear in the sequence, Avery Brooks‘ name appears first, as he was the main star of the show, followed by the names of all the other principal actors, appearing in alphabetical order of their surnames.
Both the comet and the wormhole were CGI, achieved by Santa Barbara Studios and Rhythm & Hues respectively. However, the wormhole doesn’t appear in the title sequence at the start of DS9’s very first episode, “Emissary”. This was to maintain the surprise of its initial appearance until later in that episode, resulting in “Emissary” having its own slightly unique version of the DS9 title sequence.
The later-seasons version
For Season 4 of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (produced in 1996), Executive Producer Rick Berman asked me to redesign the title sequence to reflect the changes in how the station had evolved over the previous seasons. The original tone of “We are alone out there” was revised to be “Now DS9 is a hub of activity.” The producers still wanted the ballet around the station but with some revisions.
Whereas I’d created no storyboards for the show’s original title sequence, I did create a series of storyboards for the revised version. These were presented to the producers for approval.
I re-choreographed some of the camera moves, adding ships both docked and moving around the station. One of these, docked at one of the station’s upper pylons, was storyboarded to be a nondescript “Federation ship” but ended up as a Nebula-class starship. I also enlisted the aid of ILM’s John Knoll to create some spacemen welding, on one of the pylons.
The main title theme was also re-scored, by Composer Dennis McCarthy, to be faster and more driving.
The version of the DS9 title sequence introduced in the fourth season proceeded to appear in all subsequent seasons of the series.
Veteran of 118 feature films and numerous TV productions working with some of the industry’s most influential filmmakers, seven-time Emmy winner Dan Curry, VES, served as Visual Effects Supervisor/Producer and Director for Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. He also designed the title sequences for DS9 and Voyager, invented the iconic Klingon weapons the bat’leth and mek’leth, and the Klingon martial arts style Mok’Bara, as well as designing creatures, ships, and alien architecture.