Ilm VS Paramount/ Jeager battles eaves over the “E” escape pods

Here is episode #2 in the battle of the “ST, First Contact” art departments. The great Herman Zimmerman came to me and said we need to work out what these escape pods do and how they are launched for the VFX sequence. So I started drawing pods and and working out the mechanics of the launch system. the first sketch was of a grenade style pod that I passed on, and went for a more faceted look. from there a color rendering was done and a quick launch scene with an explosive hatch that would add some visual excitement when the pods ejected,,,, Meanwhile up at ILM Alex Jeager was doing the same thing for his boss Jeff Mann. The stuff Alex did went to the producers, got approved and a model was ordered to be built. the next day Herman took our stuff over and came back and said these are now considered art exercises, so back to the Vulcan ships for you. He laughed and told me the story!! We both laughed and and I was going up to ILM in a week or two and couldn’t wait to see what Alex had come up with,,,, Once there the model was pretty far along and was being constructed mainly from Vacu-formed pieces. wow this is looking cool and then saw the drawings Alex had done hanging on the wall. loved the cool simplicity he had designed and especially how he merged the exterior of the “E” to be a functional part of the pod!!! As always the amazing amount of fun on this film especially getting to work with my ILM heros will always be amongst my favorite Star Trek memories. here are the pod concepts and one shot of the finished ILM model!


grenade pass

grenade pass




color pass, 227 is my dad's HP badge #

color pass, 227 is my dad's HP badge #

3-2-1, blast-off!!!!

3-2-1, blast-off!!!!


awww!!! the brilliance of Alex Jeager

awww!!! the brilliance of Alex Jeager


one of Bill George's and John Goodson's handywork!

one of Bill George's and John Goodson's handywork!

wow what a shot and loved the Goldsmith theme that played out this scene!

wow what a shot and loved the Goldsmith theme that played out this scene!

31 Responses to “Ilm VS Paramount/ Jeager battles eaves over the “E” escape pods”

  1. June 2, 2009 at 7:38 am

    John, your design looks very simlar in style to the pods used in DS9 and Voyager, was your design handed over to the guys producing those shows?

    Lifepod 227, I have all my ships with atleast 1 lifebaot with that number 😛

    • 2 johneaves
      June 2, 2009 at 7:43 am

      wow thats cool!!! Rick Sternbach worked on both FC and Voyager, so I am sure his own design influence just carried from one show to the other!!! One thing About Rick is his constant attention to carrying architectures from Point A to Point B, and tying them together in a thoughtful and logical fashion.

      • 3 Jonathan Burke
        June 2, 2009 at 8:47 am

        John, isn’t ‘227’ to honor your Dad? Wasn’t that his badge number, if my TNG sketchbook reading is remembered right?

        I believe Data’s scout in “Insurrection” was NCC-75227. Perhaps the fandom should get together and decide to call her (or her mothership) the “Eaves,” in honor of you and your pop? 🙂

  2. 4 Buckaroohawk
    June 2, 2009 at 7:49 am

    The escape pods launching is an amazing sequence in the film, with Jerry Goldsmith’s score perfectly accentuating its importance. The crew are abandoning ship. They are leaving, believing the Enterprise is doomed. They did all they could to try and save her, but it just wasn’t enough, and it was time to cut and run. I remember sitting in the theater wondering if I would have to endure the heartbreak of seeing yet another Enterprise destroyed before her time.

    The choreography of that seen is wonderful, as the pods launch away from the ship and fall into formation as they head toward Earth. Which reminds me: Are there any closer shots of the Enterpise after the pods have left showing the empty bays? I honestly don’t remember.

  3. 6 DeanneM
    June 2, 2009 at 8:04 am

    It was a very cool moment watching the little kinda triangular shapes actually turn into escape pods for once! It wasn’t easy watching Enterprise be abandoned, though. I’ll be watching this with my daughter this weekend, so I’ll be paying more attention to the score throughout the movie. 🙂

    The effect of the look of the lifeboats twisting and heading away with the “top” facing forward threw me for a loop, and I thought it was pretty cool. Looking at the images closeup and still, I like the way Alex’s fits in the bay, but I feel like they are able to fly and land by instrument only. I’d like to see a combination of your very utilitarian design, John, with his flight concept and hull as heat shield design.

    • 7 johneaves
      June 2, 2009 at 8:09 am

      Alex nailed these and your right with thinking about the remote landing, The models had parachutes on them via the model shop and that would have been a great sequence to see

  4. 8 deg
    June 2, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Awesome! I love “normal” utilitarian and/or industrial-based and/or auxiliary sci-fi designs like this. Same reason I love space-truck/freighter designs. Seems to make the whole idea more “real” to me.

    Thanks John! 🙂

  5. 9 evil_genius_180
    June 2, 2009 at 8:20 am

    I remember this great stuff from your Movies Sketchbook. (very inspiring book, BTW) I absolutely love that escape pod launch scene in First Contact. I know the FX team that did TNG really wanted to do one of those but it just wasn’t in the cards. But you guys finally got to do it for FC and it turned out beautifully. I remember sitting in the theater back in the day and thinking how friggin’ sweet it was. 😀

    I like your cool sketches but I gotta admit, Alex Jeager’s somewhat more simple pod works better. Sometimes simplicity is the way to go. 🙂

  6. 10 Richard Knapp
    June 2, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Very nice – definitely getting a “Ron Cobb” vibe from you design. Thanks again

  7. 11 Jonathan Burke
    June 2, 2009 at 8:49 am

    I think it is interesting from an in-universe perspective that these pods have those blast/heat shields. I guess whoever designed them decided that those ships needed tougher pods? They do seem to be on all the tougher ships we saw in FC… not the Defiant, though! :p

    I could see your design, John, as the “non-combat” version of the triangle pod. Also, I’d bet the capsule pods from the first sketch are what the 1701-nil’s pods would have looked like, being round and all. 😀

  8. June 2, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Wow – radically cool! Thanks so much for posting all of this

  9. 13 Matt Wright
    June 2, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Always liked the updated “E” design of these lifeboats. Once again I see you and Alex were on the same path as you both have the same general shape and basic design to the pods.

  10. 14 8of12
    June 2, 2009 at 11:09 am

    This is so cool! I have to agree with you John. Goldsmith’s theme WAS the icing on the cake with this already-moving scene. Love it!!

    • 15 johneaves
      June 2, 2009 at 12:14 pm

      man was that a heavy scene and your right the score added a lot of weight to the emotions and elements of the moment

  11. June 2, 2009 at 11:53 am

    I love the final design and the scene in the movie, but one thing I like more about your design for the pod and the bay is that it’s really clear how people get on and off, with the obvious indent for the door on both. On the final design it’s not so easy to see the connection between the crew walking up those ramps in the film and then getting aboard the pod. Maybe those are doors on the corners, but then they wouldn’t follow the curvature of the corridor like the hatches did in the movie. That or the crew go up a ladder through the triangular window hatch, but that seems a little awkward for emergencies.

    By the way, the “grenade” design looks kind of similar to the escape pod in the new movie, did you design that?

  12. 19 Jonathan Burke
    June 2, 2009 at 12:16 pm


  13. 20 Scott
    June 2, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I too liked the lifeboat scene. It’s completely different from escape pods of the past. And seeing them visually on the exterior of the Enterprise-E and later ships really give character to the starship.

  14. 21 Melak
    June 2, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I was just looking at tiny images of these a day ago, wishing I could read your handwriting on them. And here you are posting them, thanks!!

  15. 22 Razor
    June 2, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Such a shame we couldn’t have a new Art of Star Trek book to put all this in.

  16. June 2, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    The work you and Doug contribute to your blogs is simply killer, as well as the design work you guys come up with just some kicks major ass!


  17. June 2, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    John, your drawings show a clearly-recognisable door on the side of the pod, but there’s nothing visible on the model or in Jaeger’s pass on the design (unless it’s that area on the bottom of the pod, which looks more like a thruster than a door. What’s up with that?

  18. 25 Lt. Washburn
    June 3, 2009 at 5:12 am

    I liked Alex’s idea of the hatch covers just being the top of the pods, but from that part down, I like a lot of your ideas because it’s more relatable. You can see a door, and the body is bulkier with more obvious windows. It’s easier to imagine how it relates to a person and how they’d enter, and what it might be like inside, looking out the windows, the scale of it, etc.

  19. 26 FSL
    June 3, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Really love the door details on the drawings!

  20. June 3, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Oh snap! Hey John! Good to see you’re still blogging! Thanks for the kuddos too! I personally like the depth and detail in your version, I wasn’t thinking too much of giving the people much room to move, just enough space for a couple of seats ala apollo capsule. Part of the idea of using the outer ‘door’ as the heat shield came from the look of the exterior panels which you had already done nicely and just for the speed of exit. You don’t want to get stuck if the extrior door panel on your pod doesn’t work! Also out of VFX simplicity, we didn’t want hundreds of door panels flying around banging into the pods etc… Therefore the simple solution of using that outer panel as the heat shield. Also I just loved the idea that even though you’ve left the E behind, you still bring a piece of her with you 🙂
    And yes indeed John’s grenade version lives on in the new Trek movie! Not only as a visual effect, but also as a cool life size prop! sweet!
    now about that borg queen……. 🙂

    • 28 johneaves
      June 3, 2009 at 9:39 am

      WOW!! it’s you!!! thanks for coming over and sharing!!!

    • June 3, 2009 at 10:17 am

      Hey Alex! I dont know if you’ve seen it or not, but I’ve been pestering John about about one of your projects, the Norway class. Any chance you could do write up on her or dig up any concept sketches? I know the buzz around the net is that the model got lost or something, I know the model in the film had the Defiantsupper texture applied to the underside. Would love to know more about it 🙂

      I think its really cool that the 2 concepts you guys came up with were so close together in appearance, even down the the ‘fins’ at the bottom 🙂

  21. 30 Freak
    June 3, 2009 at 10:59 am

    While I like the version that was used I perefer, John desgin.

    though for the points alex mentioned, a mixure of the two desgins could be intresting.

  22. September 4, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I just had to call the Other Half up to look at these sketches – we both love this movie so much. I always think of this as “The Grand Piano Scene” as the pods look like a flock of Baby Grands taking flight. Thank you so much for sharing your design work on this, John – and I’m a little choked as the music’s playing itself right now.

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June 2009

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