Interview with Stargazer Set Designer Sean Hargreaves
Firstly, congratulations on getting the gig to work on Star Trek: Picard. How did the opportunity to contribute to the show in its second season come about?
I was told by a friend they were hiring and I contacted Dave Blass, the Production Designer, who oversees the entire look of the show. He hired me immediately, and we got to work.
How was the creative environment on Star Trek: Picard?
John Eaves and Doug Drexler did the ships for the most part. The Okudas are involved in logos and graphics, and they work together with our graphics designer and props. There were about twelve different concept designers, including John and Doug (both good friends of mine), who didn’t get onscreen credit, to our chagrin.
I think people see John and Doug and they think they design everything, and it’s just not the case. It’s all divvied up amongst the team. I’m sensitive to it, due to not getting the onscreen credit and seeing in a ton of Picard-related stuff comments that this looks great or that looks great because Doug and John and the Okudas were involved in everything, and that’s just not the case. As they say, it takes a village. I just want everyone to get credit where credit is due. It’s only fair.
If you like the exterior of the Stargazer, that’s John Eaves through and through, with Doug finessing. If you like the Excelsior, that is John Eaves, with me finessing. If you like the Stargazer Bridge, that is my overall design, with a few other designers finessing certain areas.
How long did the process take to design the Stargazer Bridge, and who designed what parts of that area?
The initial design took three days, then weeks of finessing. I established the overall look with the pillars, entry, and ceiling in those three days. There had already been a design pass done on the bridge, but Dave wanted another go. He asked us to do what we wanted in those three days. We could redesign the entire bridge, or elements of the bridge, such as the side stations, or panels, doors, consoles, etc. I felt I had a chance here to make an interesting design, and I went for it.
Meanwhile, Igor Knezevic designed the side workstations. James Chung designed the beautiful forward consoles and worked on the chair designs for a while (which I had nothing to do with personally). Karl Martin designed the very central part of the ceiling, where there’s a little dome and some tech around it. There were the main areas, then it’s given to set designers who draw up the set for construction, and I’m sure there was some finessing done there as well.
How much freedom were you given to design the Stargazer Bridge? Were there particular criteria that either the studio, the production designer or anyone else was really keen on asking to be included?
The main criteria were that they wanted a raised area where the captain’s chair was, and that on either side of that there were ramps as opposed to stairs. I also made the view window/screen extremely wide. I wanted us to be able to really feel like we’re in outer space. So, from one view, you see faces and tech, and the reverse view looking forward is this wide view outside.
Do you consider the Stargazer‘s viewscreen to be more a window or a screen?
Haha! The big question!
I view it as a window. It’s better cinematically. Personally seeing the crew from outside the window is ideal. What if, in the future, a show has some stuff outside, attached, trying to drill inside? It makes it dynamic cinematically.
If you’re talking about the interior, there weren’t any inspirations. As I’m a designer, I design from my head. I’m sufficiently aware of the Star Trek world to be able to design a lot of this stuff. We did talk about color, values, lighting, and we wanted a deep overall feel in tone. We talked about reflections and specularity.
There’s been discussion on some of the online threads about whether there should have been carpet. I disagree wholeheartedly. This isn’t a cruise ship, nor a living room! When it gets down to carpet, no carpet, how shiny the floors are, etc., it’s missing the point.
I have the same issue with a lot of film fans, and especially Star Trek and Star Wars fans. We are in the business of entertainment. If you only want a story, then there are books and you can imagine the stuff in your head. A lot of comments I hear from Trek fans are all about things that onscreen would be boring and not entertaining. As artists, you take license. That goes through the writing to the visuals. Obviously, no-one on the production wants to upset the fans (trust me – we listen to the fans a ton), but a lot of things that the fans are commenting on doesn’t move anything forward. They are just picky, and art is subjective, so some will love and some will hate. For twenty who love, there are ten who hate.
I’m happy in what I’ve been involved with and what I see here in Episode 1. We all work very hard, we all have very long discussions on things, and nothing is just dashed out without a thought. It takes a ton of work and time, and everyone is very passionate up to the producers and directors and writers.
As designers, we have to find somewhere between logic and reasoning, and entertainment and cinema. Some things will be gained, some things will be lost. And I’m not talking story; I’m talking pure design. So, I can’t please everyone, there will always be something, but I do my best, as do the others.
Is there an element of the Stargazer Bridge you’re most proud of designing?
Not really. I’m proud of the entire thing, and all our team did a great job bringing it all together.
I will say I work in a minimalist manner, which is why I’m able to design very quickly, so I think it has a good overall minimal, and to the point, feel. Everything in there has purpose – there isn’t any visual fat.
There’s nothing at all I’d change about the Stargazer Bridge. I’m happy with it and stand by it.
Did you help design any of the other rooms we see aboard the Stargazer, and if so, how did you find that process?
I worked on some other rooms, yes, but at this time I can only mention the observation room behind the bridge. That was another set that had a previous iteration that I redesigned using the same dimensions. I kept a few things there, but mostly it was a ground-up design. The view out of the windows is fantastic!
We certainly thank you, Sean Hargreaves, for shedding some light on your work on the current season of Star Trek: Picard.
Webmaster of WarpFactorTrek, Dan is an avid Star Trek fan who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. Dan has loved Star Trek ever since discovering it in his childhood. He worked as an administrator, for six years, on the encyclopedic Star Trek website Memory Alpha, which involved studying the making of the various series and films. He has been mentioned in the official Star Trek Magazine, has qualified from a Star Trek course taught at Glasgow Clyde College, and coordinated the SubSpace Chatter (formerly The Scotch Trekker) YouTube channel, which regularly featured live interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek.