“The ‘Picard’ finale might be the largest episode we’ve done for visual effects in terms of shot count,” remembers visual effects supervisor Jason Zimmerman about the months of work that went into just the season ender of “Star Trek: Picard,” which aired this spring on CBS All Access. Watch our exclusive video interview with Zimmerman above.
That finale episode, “Et in Arcadia Ego,” featured a dramatic standoff between the Romulan fleet and “giant bio-mechanical orchids” that were designed to defend the surface of a planet of synthetic life forms. “There’s never enough time for that,” Zimmerman explains. “When I read that in the script at first I kind of smirked and laughed because I knew it was going to be something we’d need to collaborate and go back and forth with.”
But that wasn’t the only “daunting” challenge the visual effects team faced over the course of the season. They also had to create a Borg cube, which is “one of the most beloved pieces of ‘Trek’ canon.” In “Picard,” the cube has gone from a fearsome threat to the setting of a scientific reclamation project intended to study, understand and rehabilitate innocent victims who were assimilated by the Borg; the Romulans, who revile synthetic life forms, have ulterior motives of course.
At first Zimmerman considers such tasks from a practical standpoint, but “then the first time you see it in the shot, the fan comes out in me — oh my God, it’s the Borg cube, how cool is that! … How cool to have something you grew up on and to be able to play with that with the modern tools that we have.” However, “Trek” fans are a passionate lot, so “you have to pay attention to everything down to the most minute detail because somebody’s going to freeze every frame.”
But along with the pride that comes with the work that goes into a “Star Trek” series, “I think I have a little bit of PTSD” after working on the most effects-intensive scenes. “It’s so many months of sitting there in a dark room reviewing shots, giving notes, speaking with vendors, but there’s definitely something that’s cool when you go back and watch it … I actually sat down and went through it with my wife. We watched the entire season in two days or something like that, and it felt fantastic.”
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