Review by C.J. Bunce
We previewed Dan Curry’s new look back at his work on Star Trek in September. The nicely designed full color hardcover, Star Trek: The Artistry of Dan Curry is designed and reads like a true sequel to Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens landmark 1995 book The Art of Star Trek, once the only definitive look at the artwork behind the franchise (we’ve covered nearly all the Star Trek art books since then here at borg). Like any professional in the art and design fields for a television or feature film crew, Dan Curry had a variety of projects he handled. This book digs into Curry’s work from 1987 to 2005, basically Star Trek: The Next Generation through Enterprise, where he served as visual effects supervisor/producer, second-unit director, title designer, and concept designer, winning seven Emmys for his effort.
Along with the hundreds of concept artists and designers that have created the look of Star Trek over the years, including Matt Jeffries, Andrew Probert, Richard Delgado, Ken Adams, Rick Sternbach, Mike Okuda, Greg Jein, Neville Page, Syd Mead, Ralph McQuarrie, and John Eaves (whose book we reviewed here at borg), you need to include Dan Curry. From The Next Generation to Enterprise, Dan’s variety of Star Trek work has resulted in some of the series’ most memorable moments. Anyone who has followed the exploits of the franchise knows the key challenge through the Enterprise series was resources. The crew was tasked with a tight budget and short window to produce episodes expected to push the boundaries of visual effects and storytelling, more so than your typical TV program.
Curry’s contributions have ranged from directing, title design and concept art to practical on-set visual effects and weapon design. He created the popular image of the visible Klingon body, now sold as a poster. He also created the art of Klingon combat for TNG and beyond, and many of its weapons, like the bat’leth, the mek’leth, and kut’luch dagger, Jem’Hadar kar’takin and cleavers, and Xindi weapons. In photographs and interviews, this deluxe hardcover coffee table-style book reveals the artist’s techniques and secrets, highlighting some of his personal favorite creations.
High points of The Art of Dan Curry are many: Curry walks readers through his process to create stock shots of the Enterprise-D model in the age of video, bringing in Greg Jein for the second season of TNG to create a four-foot Enterprise-D model and Tony Meininger to build the six-foot Deep Space 9 model, all for better visual details. Readers will find more than 20 pages focused on his team’s model creations, from rebuilt previously used models to the Borg cube, Voyager, and Vidiian and Kazon ships.
Curry chronicles both old and then-new technologies he helped develop and improve for the series. Curry worked on visual effects–shots using elements photographed separately or created on a computer, as opposed to practical, on-stage effects known as special effects. Subjects covered include video compositing, matte and oil painting, animation, blue/green screen, motion control, using found items and kit-bashing, using foam mock-ups, creating lava, fire, and explosions, and digital image creation resulting in modern CGI effects. One chapter briefs readers on the bizarre projects Curry was tasked to imagine on the screen, from planet landscapes to a single Vulcan teardrop, and another on directing the great Klingon-Romulan mash-up episode Birthright, Part 2.
Curry recalls the process to create Star Trek’s trademark transporter effect and star fields, as they appeared in the 1980s and 1990s iterations of the franchise. The book also fills in details of the transition to the Enterprise series’ new CGI look, something not covered in Star Trek non-fiction before, plus it provides a good overview of all Curry’s title sequence work, covering TNG to Voyager, and some Star Trek movie work.
I am a fan of behind-the-scenes details of episodes. Star Trek is often challenged for its struggle to get episodes from that building block stage to beloved and memorable status in early seasons of its spin-off series. But Curry provides insight into the effects of some of the memorable and less memorable episodes. With respect to the episode The Dauphin (one of my first season TNG favorites), the episode was one of the best Wesley episodes and it featured memorable performances and characters from Jaime Hubbard and a young Madchen Amick. Visual effects from The Dauphin episode pop up multiple times in Curry’s review of his work.
Frequent partner of Curry was visual effects supervisor Ron B. Moore, who gets plenty of credit for his work over his 18 years working on the franchise, as do other members of his crews.
A must for Star Trek fans who like to look behind the curtain at the magic of bringing the shows to life, Star Trek: The Artistry of Dan Curry is available now here at Amazon, published by Titan Books.