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Real world article
(written from a Production point of view)

"Mike Okuda is, and always will be, an extraordinary individual. It has been an honor to know him (and the beautiful Denise) for many years now. They are both exceptional hu-mans. Thanks, Mike and Neezee!"
– Dorothy Duder, Food Stylist, 28 February 2009 (DrexFiles(X))

Michael Okuda, on occasion affectionately called Mikey O by his close co-workers, is known for his work on the scenic art of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek Nemesis. The fourth Star Trek film was Okuda's first recorded motion picture industry credit, where he followed in the footsteps of Lee Cole, who as graphics designer had performed the same duties for the first two Star Trek films. As the art supervisor, heading Star Trek's Scenic Art Department during the entire run of the franchise from Star Trek: The Next Generation onward, he has been responsible for such things as the look of alien languages, computer screens, graphic detailing and perhaps even the look of the exotic artifacts Jean-Luc Picard has collected.

TNG Behind the Scenes card 04

...honored by Skybox with an individual trading card entry

Okuda was honored by SkyBox International with an individual card entry, no. 04, in their 1993 specialty Star Trek: The Next Generation - Behind the Scenes trading card set.

Together with Rick Sternbach, he served as a technical consultant to the script staff, maintaining technical and chronological continuity and inventing scientific terms and technobabble, resulting in a number of internal "technical manuals". He is a co-author of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, which resulted from the internal documents, the Star Trek Chronology, and the Star Trek Encyclopedia. Though never having taken a class in calculus in his life (being a graduate of the University of Hawaii-Manoa notwithstanding), Okuda is responsible for designing the logarithmic warp scale used in Star Trek: The Next Generation. All his computer graphics and designs are done on a Macintosh.

Aside from being an avid Original Series fan, Okuda was also a big fan of M*A*S*H, Gilligan's Island and the 1984 cult science fiction movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, and has often placed references to these productions in his designs. His most recognizable achievement is the creation of okudagrams, the futuristic glass-covered control panels first seen in The Voyage Home . He was a graphic designer at that time.

In the Star Trek franchise, it was customary from the very beginning (starting with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier), when more than one production was in development at any given time, to avoid cross-over work being done by staffers on different productions, though there, "(...) was no good reason for this that we could perceive", a slightly chagrined Doug Drexler – aside from having been a co-worker, also close collaborator on the Chronology/Encyclopedia and family friend – once noted. [1](X) To this end studio staffers, excepting the very highest management echelons, when assigned to, and contracted for one production, were legally forbidden to work on any of the others. This legal prerequisite however, did not extend to Mike Okuda's Scenic Art Department, which was exempt from the proviso for the obvious reason to maintain visual consistency within the franchise. However, the exemption was originally only extended to the senior staff (meaning Okuda himself), resulting in the somewhat cumbersome, and ultimately untenable, situation in 1994 of him heading a department whose staffers were officially only allowed to work on either one Star Trek production (Deep Space Nine), or the other (Voyager).

Married to fellow Star Trek scenic artist Denise Okuda, with whom he co-authored The Encyclopedia and the Chronology, Mike Okuda and his wife have, unsurprisingly, been commissioned by the franchise to create the text commentaries on the Star Trek DVD home media releases. "Inside DS9 with Michael Okuda" is a special feature on the DS9 Season 5 DVD in which Okuda himself takes center stage in his official production capacity. After having written several text commentaries for the various Star Trek DVD releases, the Okuda couple recorded their first, own audio commentary for the 2010 DVD/Blu-ray releases of Nemesis. This was followed by several co-audio commentaries for the 2012-2014 remastered The Next Generation and Enterprise Blu-ray Disc releases.

The Okuda couple was assigned in 2006 to serve as consultants to auction house Christie's, supporting them with the sale of the contents of Paramount's Star Trek warehouses. They helped cataloging the production assets and picking the choice items that were ultimately auctioned off in the highly publicized about 40 Years of Star Trek: The Collection auction of October that year. Mike Okuda also wrote the item background annotations for the accompanying two-tome auction catalog. Both Okudas were prominently featured in the documentary that was made of the occasion.

Together, they were the visual effects producers, as part of the CBS Digital team, for the 2006 remastered Original series, both appearing as a Starfleet officers on a new matte painting in the remastered version of "The Menagerie, Part I", he as a science officer. Due to the extensive research he had performed for his reference book writings – and the derivative text commentaries – , Okuda is, at least in the Star Trek community, considered one of the foremost authorities on Star Trek lore, and from 2012 onward the couple served as consultants on the 2012 follow-up The Next Generation remastering project.

Mike Okuda has the distinction of becoming one of the very few Star Trek staffers in any function (the exclusive assembly encompassing among others Rick Berman, Peter Lauritson, Ronald B. Moore and David Takemura), to have officially served uninterrupted for the full eighteen years on the entire production run in the "Berman-era" of the modern television franchise, having worked on all series at one time or another. Adding to this his official involvement with all prime universe Star Trek movies produced in this era (a record he as officially credited studio production staffer held until 2015, when he became tied/surpassed by friend and former co-worker John Eaves), as well as his official participation in the remastered projects, has made his tenure on the franchise all the more remarkable.

STO (Perpetual) development team stage

Mike Okuda and members of the Perpetual Entertainment development team on a Star Trek Online panel, August 2015

Outside the live-action franchise, Mike Okuda was part of the development staff for the ultimately unrealized Star Trek Online game variant by Perpetual Entertainment, in addition to his work supervising the remastering of the Original Series, while having also designed the new Star Trek: Deep Space Nine title logo for the Deep Space Nine relaunch series. Okuda also worked as graphics artist on James Cawley's fan-made internet series Star Trek: New Voyages, episode "World Enough and Time" (2007) and received special thanks in the end credits. This episode features fellow Star Trek alumni George Takei, Grace Lee Whitney, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, John Carrigan, Jeffery Quinn, writer and director Marc Scott Zicree, writer Michael Reaves, Doug Drexler, Iain McCaig, James Van Over, Dan Curry, Daren Dochterman, Pierre Drolet, Sam Mendoza, Ronald B. Moore, Lee Stringer, Gregory Jein, Philip Kim, Leslie Hoffman, and Tom Morga.

In November 2014 Okuda again returned to the Star Trek franchise when he was invited to become a part as consultant of a team of experts – including a host of former Star Trek alumni, including his wife – to oversee a new restoration of the original eleven-foot Enterprise studio model, residing at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, for its 50th anniversary. [2] Having accepted the prestigious assignment, Okuda was flown in in May 2015 for the team's first work meeting on 13 May. [3]

2016, the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, turned out to be another fruitful Star Trek year for the Okuda couple as it not only saw the release of the Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault three-disc Blu-ray Disc production, on which the couple had served as co-producers, but also the vastly updated fourth print edition of their Encyclopedia, the commissioning of which by the franchise having been as much as a surprise to them as it had been to fans. (introduction)

On 22 November 2021 it was announced that Mike Okuda, together with his wife, had been awarded the 2022 "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Art Director's Guild, predominently for their work on Star Trek. [4] In this, they followed in the footsteps of their former co-workers Herman Zimmerman and John Eaves, who had already been bestowed the honor, the latter as recently as the year previously.

Earlier that year, it was announced by the showrunners of Star Trek: Picard that the Okuda couple was to return to the live-action franchise in their old functions starting with Picard's second season, reuniting them with their old co-worker friends John Eaves and Doug Drexler, though none of them were to receive official credits for their contributions. Showrunner Terry Matalas made it known that as far as he was concerned that Star Trek was "not a Trek without Mike and Denise Okuda". [5]

Career outside Star Trek[]

After his tenure on the Star Trek franchise, Mike Okuda has worked in pretty much in the same capacity for NASA, ultimately awarded by that organization with an "Exceptional Public Service Medal" for his emblem designs in 2009. [6]

In 2007, Michael and Denise Okuda were hired as scenic designer and video supervisor, respectively, for a planned zombie series co-created by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens entitled Alive. John Billingsley and Gary Graham were set to star in the series, which would've debuted in the summer or fall of 2008. However, the series was never made. [7]

His steady employment at firstly the Star Trek franchise and subsequently NASA notwithstanding, has not deterred Okuda occasionally lending his talents to other motion picture productions as well. Mostly credited as graphic designer, he has contributed such imagery to movie productions like, Flight of the Intruder (1991 albeit uncredited), The Informant! (2009) and The Bourne Legacy (2012 albeit again uncredited). Television series credits, Okuda has to his name included, The Flash (1990, pilot episode), Maggie (1998 one episode), Threshold (2005 one episode) and Lie to Me (2012 one episode)

In 2019, the Okuda couple joined the Apple TV+ production of the alternate historyseries For All Mankind as graphics and technical consultants, which reunited them with showrunner Ronald D. Moore and his Deep Space Nine and Battlestar Galactica writer/co-producer team Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, alongside Next Generation co-worker Naren Shankar and David Gautreaux. Mike Okuda's position on the NASA-heavy production was a natural one, considering the work he had done for the agency in the decades following his tenure on Star Trek.

Star Trek credits[]

(This list is currently incomplete.)

Emmy Award nominations[]

Okuda received the following Emmy Award nominations for his work on Star Trek in the category Outstanding Achievement in Special Visual Effects:


Star Trek interviews[]

External links[]