Happy Birthday to Andrew “Andy” G. Probert (born 5 September 1946), the co-designer of the refit USS Enterprise-1701 and the USS Enterprise 1701-D.
Andrew has worked on many projects, including designing the DeLorean time machine from Back To The Future, but he is best known in our world for his work on Star Trek.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
He quickly moved to the big screen as a major contributor on Star Trek: Phase II and its successor Star Trek: The Motion Picture, being employed by Robert Abel & Associates (again, on recommendation by McQuarrie) as concept designer/illustrator, moving over to Future General Corporation in the same capacity, after the former was pulled from the project. [X]wbm
When Star Trek: Phase II (the proposed successor of the original Star Trek series) was canceled, in order to produce The Motion Picture, Joe Jennings (the Art Director) had already come up with his version of an upgraded Enterprise, and a model was in the process of being constructed. Brought in by Art Director Richard Taylor, Probert, amongst others, went on re-designing this version, plus he designed several of the Enterprise’s interiors, as well as those for the K’t’inga-class. For the movie he further designed amongst others the orbital office complex, drydock and the Work Bee.
Probert’s next-to-last project in Hollywood proved to be the one for which he is most well known. On 2 December 1986 Probert was hired as the fifth production staffer in the capacity of Senior Illustrator for Star Trek: The Next Generation, originally to design interiors sets, most notably the bridge. [X]wbm But a lucky circumstance, when a producer David Gerrold noticed a design sketch Probert made, based on a painting he did for his own amusement years earlier of a conjectural future design of the Enterprise, resulted in him also designing the Galaxy-class.
Paramount obtained several design patents based on Probert’s work on both Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He is listed as the “inventor” on those designs and is the sole person officially credited with the design for the USS Enterprise-D.
Probert was, and is a staunch supporter and defender of Gene Roddenberry’s creation and his vision thereof, and has been on record for his less than enthusiastic view on Rick Berman and his take on the franchise:
“Gene Roddenberry was initially in charge of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as he well should be, and something happened politically to change that. You know, I had no idea what caused that change. But while Gene was in charge, he and I got along very well. We understood each other. And I liked him because of his creation of Star Trek, and he fully understood exactly where he wanted his show to go. Yet he was fully open to any ideas that we threw at him, and he would talk about that, and he talked about it intelligently.
“When Rick Berman took over the show, half way through the first season, every time we showed him a design concept, his constant response was, “no, we can’t do that, because it reminds me of something that I’ve seen somewhere”, or “it looks like a shaver”, or “it looks like something I’ve seen in a furniture store”. The only thing of note that Rick Berman did before Star Trek was a show called “The Big Blue Marble”, a kid’s show. For some reason, Paramount led him into this. I don’t know. I’ve heard conflicted stories that Gene thought he was a great producer and wanted to bring him in. Whatever it is, Rick Berman did not, in that time, and, as far as I can see from what is being produced, does not understand science fiction. I’ve seen a lot of great concepts, by Doug Drexler and a few of the other illustrators that they have been working on, passed over in favor of much more controlled concepts. My experience with Rick Berman is, you know, he does not understand what he’s doing, he does not understand science fiction.(…)
“I think Star Trek died when Gene died. Well, as I said, Gene understood exactly what he wanted for his show, and his main focus was maintaining consistency in the show. And everybody who cared about Star Trek eventually left the show. Bill Theiss, the costumer, left, I left, Bob Justman left. So… I don’t know what to say, it was very frustrating working on that.(…)I think he [Berman] cares about it for the money. I think he cares about it because he is confident that, no matter what they produce, if it has the name “Star Trek” on it, people will go watch it. They’ll complain about it, but they will still make money from the viewers. But, you know, this is just my opinion.”[X]wbm
Although having only worked on the first season of The Next Generation, designing most of the ships, sets, and races, Andrew Probert’s design work very much defined the visual style of the series, and which was largely adhered to for the remainder of the series. In that respect, he was to that production what Walter M. “Matt” Jefferies had been to the original Star Trek television series.
In 2009, Probert was interviewed for the special feature “Next Generation Designer Flashback: Andrew Probert” for the Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection (DVD), especially for the newly released Star Trek Generations. He talks about his memories regarding his work on the first Star Trek film and early concepts for the saucer separation on the USS Enterprise.
Probert is, besides his design work, also an accomplished painter and work by his hand has adorned the TNG settings of the Captain’s ready room and sickbay as well as the covers of publications like The Making of the Trek Films and Cinefantastique, issue 51.