Supplemental Log – Michael & Denise Okuda
Supplemental Log – Michael & Denise Okuda is now available to download. Check it out here. Nick, Terry, Mike, and Janet had the distinct honor of speaking with Michael and Denise Okuda about the Star Trek Encyclopedia and The Roddenberry Vault among other projects. Don’t miss out on this fascinating interview with Michael and Denise Okuda.
First of all, Nick starts off the Supplemental Log with their usual round of introductions before announcing our guests, Michael and Denise Okuda. They are very excited to have the Okudas with them. Terry already has the Encyclopedia. It’s on Mike’s wish list. They joke momentarily about the weight of the two volume set. It is currently available. And you can get it from Amazon.
Nick mentions talking to Michael Okuda at STLV a couple of years ago. Michael remembers visiting the booth and was impressed. The Okudas get excited to talk about the book with fans as opposed to talking to the mainstream media.
The Encyclopedia as a resource
Terry describes the Encyclopedia as a resource for the fans. She shares a story about how the Encyclopedia opened her up to other Star Trek series besides TNG. Terry digested the entire book. She compares the earlier revision to the current version and thinks new fans will have a similar experience in learning more about Star Trek through what they discover in its pages. Michael explains the book was intended to help people look things up. However, he thinks it is more than that. This wacky way of exploring Star Trek leads to looking up one thing after another. And then they learn even more about Trek.
Nick asks about the most surprising thing they discovered during the course of doing this book. The Okudas had stepped away from the Encyclopedia in 1999. And then they had to get up to speed and rewatch a lot of TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, and most of the movies. So they delighted in the universe’s richness and how much of it fit together. It was also very nostalgic for them, since they had worked on a lot of these series.
Denise explains their methodology for researching the book as well as preparing to write it. They returned to the shooting scripts and began marking them up. They wanted to ensure they reflected what ended up on the screen. While rewatching, they relived those episodes. For them it was a very unique experience making them miss their friends even more. While their work on the show helped, sometimes it created hurdles because they would remember things which never made it to the screen.
Terry asked how they selected what information made it into the book. They could not mention every single fact or episode featuring Riker. Michael offers an insight. The Okudas had to be selective and look at it from the perspective of the future historians looking back at Star Trek. What was the most important. Michael offers Rom as an example. Rom may have been known as Quark’s brother and helped at the bar. However, his real significance was as the Grand Nagus of the Ferengi Alliance. Then, they selected things to help understand the stories and the characters, while also figuring out what Star Trek fans would think is fun.
Helping fan fiction writers
So Mike explains they are all fan fiction writers. And he asks how it feels knowing fans are using the Okudas’ books in their writing. Because this is to help make their stories fit seamlessly into the Star Trek universe. Denise is gratified by it. She thinks Trek can go another 50 years if people are willing to keep it alive. Denise talks about the time between TOS and the first film. And it was the fans and their fan fiction who helped keep Star Trek alive.
Terry adds that a person may not realize they are writing fan fiction until they discover other fans writing their own fiction. And fan fiction aficionados are just as anal retentive to the facts and minutiae of fan fiction as they are in regards to Trek television and film. Terry used her copy of the Encyclopedia to fact check her own work. And she thanks the Okudas for it.
How they met
Terry asked about their fandom and how they met. Denise and Michael met when they were young. They had a passion for the Space Program. When Trek came along, it lit a spark and set a path in their lives. It continues to hold importance for them and provides unique experiences. They are grateful to have been a part of Trek. They have met many people through it, including people from NASA. There aren’t many shows which have changed people’s lives like Trek has.
The last revision came out in 1999. Michael explains it took them a full year working full time and another year working part time to complete this latest revision. And then they took another six months off and on going through the layout and formatting. All told, it took two solid years. Denise explains when the publisher requested a new Encyclopedia, they knew how much work it entailed and the kind of commitment required. They worked on it together until Mike got some work on the film Sully.
Michael clarifies what they mean by full time is seven days a week and a lot more than eight hours a day. Part time equals a 40 hour week. They were fortunate because it was fun and they work well together. It took time to get up to speed.
Denise describes what the process was like. First of all, Michael explains that after some initial calculating, they couldn’t finish by the publisher’s due date. While negotiations occurred, they had already begun working on the book. It took a month to organize the scripts. And it took a couple of months to merge the two existing releases and correct the mistakes. So then they were able to begin. Correcting scripts was such a time consuming process that they couldn’t do it and told CBS as much. CBS Licensing took home a lot of the scripts and helped them get it ready. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to complete the project by the publisher’s deadline.
A long and happy marriage
And then Nick asks the question he posed to Doug Drexler and his wife and to Terry Erdmann and Paula Block. What is the secret to the longevity of their marriage? Michael says they love and respect each other and Denise is tolerant. Denise replies it must be more than just love, it’s commonality, sharing the same values and goals, and respect. She talks about Doug. Nick recounts interviewing Doug at STLV. Denise sat across the desk from Doug for years.
Nick insults Klingons and wonders why Star Trek messes with the Romulans so much. Michael says Star Trek is an equal opportunity messer-arounder. Terry asks if either of them are working with Discovery. Michael says no. They were in talks but the logistics of filming in Canada made it much more difficult for them to be involved. Producers and others can more readily get involved. However, ultimately they didn’t want to leave their home. Now, they get to watch Discovery as fans with the rest of us.
The new films
Nick follows up by asking if they helped with the new films. Denise explains it is a different experience working on a feature than working on television. Furthermore, the new producers wanted their own people for it. This was since they wanted to create something vastly different from what had come before. Michael returns to a discussion of Discovery. He praises the people involved in the Art Department. Terry is heartened to hear it, not that she felt it wouldn’t be good even when they decided to delay the series release. Michael explains they try to get as much done before they begin shooting a pilot. If they pushed it, there was a good reason to do so.
Mike has one last question. The encyclopedia’s volume layout lends itself to future expansion. He asks if they foresee another volume in the future. After finishing the encyclopedia, they moved on to work on the Roddenberry Vault. They wrapped on it in early October. The Okudas worked full time for a while. This included the TNG Remastering and some other non-Star Trek projects. They like working without a deadline. They will never say never, but there must be enough material to justify another volume – at least a few years of Discovery.
Michael explains so much time elapsed between revisions of the Encyclopedia because the publishing industry has changed. They can’t afford to make this kind of book any more. Harper Collins approached them about a new Encyclopedia. However, after talking about all of the stuff they want to add, it was expanded to include a second volume. They are taking a risk doing it. Michael hopes it is successful, because they will be more likely to keep doing it. Terry describes the Encyclopedia as beautiful and outlines some of the quality features it includes.
Before jumping to the Lipton Questions, Nick mentions Kipleigh Brown. The Okudas send her a greeting.
First of all, their favorite Trek series is TOS. And after some consideration, Michael decides he would be a giant space amoeba, while Denise goes with an Orion. So if they could write an open ended series about a character in Trek, Denise goes with Doctor McCoy and Michael goes with Spock, especially during the time between TOS and TNG. Their starships would be named after their dogs. Denise hates the phrase “You Go Girl” and admits to saying okay a lot. Michael doesn’t have anything useful. They both are purists and go with the TOS crew as their bridge crew.
Michael believes the Star Trek you watched at 11 years old ends up as your favorite Star Trek. Nick doesn’t agree and shares the story of how he came back to Trek while stationed oversees and how DS9 became his favorite series. Michael talks about DS9 and how it had the most original storytelling. DS9 is Denise’s second favorite series. They had a lot of fun on that show and love it. Nick appreciates how DS9 had stories about their secondary and tertiary characters. Denise talks about DS9’s writing team and shares a story about the episodes The Visitor and Trials and Tribble-ations.
Which character would they kill off if they could?
And returning to the Lipton Questions, Michael would kill Kirk while Denise would kill Janeway. So this is our first Janeway. And Michael thinks it would be an amazing and powerful story. They share some of the highlights of previous answers. Because losing McCoy would deeply impact Kirk and Spock. Denise talks about Dorothy Fontana’s perspective on Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Take one of them away and they would not be the same. Denise mentions interviewing people who worked on TOS for the Roddenberry Vault. And they are amazed by how moving the series was. It affected many lives.
What are some of their takeaways from the fandom on this 50th Anniversary? Michael is amazed that Gene Roddenberry’s creation has been a part of their lives for so long and touched so many people and continues to inspire. The philosophy of Star Trek is hopeful and optimistic for the future of humanity. Denise reminds us we should be kind to each other. They held onto it this week, during these difficult times. We have to be nice to each other and be hopeful for the future. Because we are all part of the human family.
Roddenberry Vault Project
Terry tells everyone a little about the Roddenberry Vault project. They had first heard about it during STLV. It was a passion project for the Okudas. Rod Roddenberry approached them. They met with them at a nondescript building, and signed a non-disclosure agreement before they could enter. However, when they got inside, they saw rows and rows of film cans. Denise describes it as the holy grail. She knew there was footage from the cutting room floor, but could never find it. They saw photos of missing scenes, such as one from Operation Annihilate.
The film canisters were not full. Some of them were a minute long, others shorter. They transferred the film and synced the audio to video. CBS helped with that process. They spent three years going through the footage and taking stock of what was there. Afterwards, they had to figure out how to present it. They decided to pick 12 episodes representing the best available and used those episodes as a springboard. The Okudas interviewed people and wove it all together into a documentary. They wanted to share it with everyone for years but could not talk about it until now.
CBS brought in the filmmaker involved with the TNG and Enterprise Blu-rays and the films box sets. This provided the significance of the footage via contextual interviews.
Metamorphosis and Space Seed
They talk about Metamorphosis. The footage gives people the fly on the wall aspect as if you’re able to look through the camera. She calls it amazing. Michael says these are just moments, but they give you a glimpse of it. There are a couple of deleted scenes but most were snippets. It was a puzzle and they had to piece it together to give context. They provide some specific examples from Space Seed and other episodes. Michael says there are a lot of Easter eggs as well. They not only use the episodes as we know them but also some of the alternate takes or different angles, or other snippets from the found footage. A casual viewer may not pick up on the subtle, but die-hard fans will notice the differences. They were blown away. It will be released on December 13th.
They showed a little bit of the footage and the documentaries at STLV. Anyone planning to attend Creation’s Star Trek San Francisco convention will have a chance to view it. The Okudas will also be at Los Con on November 26th. They invite anyone to please come by and check it out. Terry explains that it’s a three disc set and will feature 12 episodes. It’s available for pre-order now and don’t forget to use our Amazon link. The Roddenberry Vault is also on Mike’s wish list.
Denise describes it as amazing. Michael adds that if you know the show, this is the kind of stuff to will make you go WOW! You have never seen it before. It was filmed over 50 years ago. Denise teases – some dialogue from City on the Edge of Forever will curl your toes because it’s so magical. Michael says some of the stuff that was cut was cut for time, not because it didn’t help the story and it included some of the stuff from The City On The Edge of Forever.
They start winding down the interview with Michael and Denise Okuda and thank them for joining them. Denise offered to return once the Roddenberry Vault is released. It has been an honor and a privilege to speak with them. Join them next time for the next G & T Show Supplemental Log.
Check out these links
Star Trek Encyclopedia on Amazon – http://amzn.to/2fBN1lD
The Roddenberry Vault – http://amzn.to/2eOATyN
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.