What were some of those conversations like? Were there any things you learned about “Trek” canon, either story-wise or photographically, that you’ve learned since taking the job?
Specific instances? Gosh, there’s so much. Little things, like in the doorways of the bridge in the original series, there was a lighting effect where they shot light through a sort of metal grate and it created a shadow pattern around the doorways. And I don’t know if that was actually … I guess it was intentional, because they were creating a sort of visual interest. But the way it was done was using sort of antiquated lighting techniques. And a lot of effort was spent recreating that exact shadow pattern on the wall through the grate.
But we didn’t want it to just splash all over the actor’s face because that kind of looks like an old way of lighting, very shadowy and kind of rough. So they blocked out the center of the doorway so it wouldn’t hit the people. But it was hitting the doorways. And that was a canon lighting effect on the doorway because if you look at this bridge, it needs to transition into the original series bridge. There’s things like that that they wanted to maintain in honor.
Older “Trek” shows were blasted with a lot of light, making for bright, even lighting. The newer “Trek” shows, though, all seem to be dark and shadowy. Can you speak to that trend toward darkness in sci-fi TV, or is that something a little too oblique?
No, absolutely. So, I was recently asked the question: What we are doing in “Strange New Worlds?” Are we conscious of it, of trying to make it stand the test of time, aesthetically? And my answer to that is “no.” Because I don’t think it will. Every decade aesthetics are changing, and that’s why we feel things feel contemporary or not. And I’m not worried about someone saying, “That looks dated,” because that’s really a mark of the industry in general; the zeitgeist of the world in a way, creatively. But we are very concerned and put a lot of energy into the story holding up and standing the test of time. So when I’ve gone through a few decades of watching “Star Trek,” they all do have a morphing aesthetic that’s trying to mimic what audiences are engaged in at the time.
And I would say that the blasted-with-light aesthetic was a mark of just the low sensitivity of film of the day, and also the lenses that they used being, what we call slower — not being able to accept more light.