You may have heard that the reason why the USS Enterprise looked the way it did in the finale of Star Trek: Discovery was because of legal complications involving the rights to the Star Trek films versus the various Star Trek TV series. On Sunday, several outlets reported that concept artists John Eaves and Scott Schneider elucidated that they were required by the “legal” department at CBS to make the USS Enterprise “25 percent different” than previous incarnations. But, this only tells part of the story of what fans saw on screen, and Trekkies shouldn’t get too worked up about it. Here’s why.
The source of all of these recent comments about the redesign of the starship Enterprise mostly come from Facebook posts by artist John Eaves. As of Monday, these posts have now all been removed, presumably by Eaves himself. So, if you’re curious as to what exactly was said during Enterprise-gate, you’ll have to go off of what others have written. However, no matter what you read, there’s one thing that is 100 percent true: Eaves and Schneider created concept art for the new Enterprise, which is now featured on the Star Trek: Ships of the Line 2019 Calendar, published by Universe Publishing. And while this concept art is obviously similar to what was seen on screen, the final version of the new Enterprise wasn’t created by Eaves and Schneider alone.
Who Created the New Enterprise?
The new USS Enterprise, seen in the final it moments of “Will You Take My Hand?” was created by the visual effects team at Pixomondo, as well as several other parts of the production staff of the show. When Inverse spoke to Discovery showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg on February 11, 2018 right before the finale aired, they explained that several people we involved in the design process of the new version of what is, essentially, the classic version of the Enterprise.
“What people need to realize is that we’ve got artists, visual artists, production designers, our visual effects people at Pixomondo, who take this stuff very seriously,” Harberts said, implying a huge group effort that went into the final design. At no point did Harberts or Berg indicate that any design choices were made because of legal reasons. This doesn’t of course, invalidate what Eaves and Schneider said about the what they were told about making concept art in 2017, but it should certainly mean fans should take these statements about “the legal reasons” for the redesign of the Enterprise with a starship-sized grain of salt. Whatever happened with that concept art in the spring of 2017 might not have all that much to do with what we saw on screen in 2018.
Are the Trek TV and Movie Canons Really All that Separate?
Another thing mixed up in this new kerfuffle is the notion that Paramount owning the rights to Star Trek films, while CBS has all the Star Trek TV series is somehow crucially connected to the Enterprise redesign. However, while it’s clear there were some guidelines in place to keep Trek movies and Trek TV separate in the marketplace, the nitty gritty creative stuff seems to be overstated by fans and pundits. Sarek exists in both Trek TV and Trek films. As does the USS Enterprise. Captain Pike was played by Bruce Greenwood in the 2009 and 2013 films Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, and now will be played by Anson Mount on Discovery. In other words, IP from the films and TV shows crossover all the time.
As of this writing, and based on what Inverse learned from the people who make Discovery, the movie/TV trek split played no part in why the Enterprise looks the way it does in Discovery. According to our sources, CBS has always owned the rights to the original starship Enterprise, which makes this recent dust-up about its redesign straight-up bizarre.
Star Trek: Discovery starts filming season 2 tomorrow. A release date has yet to be confirmed.
This story is developing.