Interview with Trekyards’ Stuart Foley and Samuel Cockings

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been aching for new Star Trek on TV for something like a decade now. Craving it, even. If you’re a lot like me, you’ve been going to a lot of less-than reputable sources for a fix. Fan films, podcasts, Star Trek Online, poring over Ex Astris Scientia and Memory Alpha and the Starfleet Museum, all to try and throw back to that heady, indulgent mid-90s deluge of new Star Trek content. None of it really did much for me.

And then I found Trekyards, and suddenly my cravings were sated.

Trekyards banner

via Trekyards.com.

I was skeptical when I discovered it. How enjoyable could a weekly web series about the vessels and hardware of the shows possibly be? Sure, I’m that kind of nerd that should enjoy it, but like I said, overall I haven’t had a lot of luck becoming a true devotee to any of these fan productions.

But yet, here I am, considering myself a fan of Trekyards, and wondering about how exactly that happened. Fortunately, I had a chance to sit down with Stuart Foley and Samuel Cockings, the hosts of the show, to talk about the series, special guests, their Indiegogo campaign, and the future of the show.

Love Make Share: Everyone has a genesis moment or a history with their fandom… what was the origin of yours? How did you end up so into Trek as to get to the point where you’re doing this series?

Stuart Foley: My brothers were very into Star Trek before I was born, so I grew up with it. I have always been fascinated by the ships. Whenever we went to conventions or anything, I always gravitated to the shirts, posters, or magazines that focused on the ships.

Stuart parleyed that love of the ships into some truly impressive modelmaking, no doubt inspired by his brothers, who he told me lighted their models before that became fashionable.

Captain Foley TOS Enterprise

Stuart’s 1:350 Enterprise is a wonderful example of committed modelmaking.

Samuel Cockings: I was first shown Star Trek at the age of three, and these stories and characters stayed with me my entire life. A genesis moment… well, for me, that would be getting my first costume, a Stargate Atlantis Marine costume, which, when I put it on, let me enter – in some small way – the Stargate universe. Through this shared interests with my father has led me to own a large array of accurate costumes.

Samuel created the most watched Stargate fan film on YouTube, called Distant Hope, some three years ago. He went on to create a film in the Star Trek universe, called Temporal Anomaly. He began teaching himself CGI to create the visual effects for the film, and through this met Stuart.

Distant-Hope-screengrab

SC: This and a spark of inspiration led me to meet Stuart. It was through our chatting, shared passion, and desire to make something of quality that we decided to make the show.

The format of the show is fairly straightforward. The hosts appear alongside renders, drawings, sketches, and other info about the ship or tech that they’re discussing. There’s information, roundtable discussion, critical debate, and even some “What if” gaming. I’ve tried a couple of times to figure out what, if anything, I’d do differently if it was my show, but came up empty. There were just too many possibilities.

Trekyards miranda class

From Trekyards, episode 3: Miranda Class. Click to watch the episode.

LMS: I’ve been wondering how you guys settled on the format. Why this show and not another? Like, there are an infinite number of possible Trek commentary shows. Why specifically the topics (ships, tech) you’ve chosen?

SC: The format was actually something we basically knew we wanted straight from the get-go. I think one reason we work so well together as a team is that we have always been on the same page, and I think Trekyards works all the better for it!

SF: We are both fans of the ships. We wanted to show the tech of Trek some love. So many great ships you only see glimpses of.

LMS: Was that the impetus for getting the greats on the show? To flesh out some of these ships that never really got their due? The Enterprise-J episode with Drexler was phenomenal on that front.

I’m incredibly jealous of their guest roster of Star Trek alumni. Doug Drexler, Academy Award-winner, makeup artist, and designer of the Enterprise NX-01; Andrew Probert, concept artist and designer of the refit USS Enterprise for The Motion Picture and the Enterprise-D for Star Trek: The Next Generation; John Eaves, illustrator and designer of the Enterprise-E from Star Trek: First Contact; and Rick Sternbach, designer of some of the most important props of the 90s-era TV series and the starship Voyager, amongst others.

Doug Drexler Trekyards

Via Trekyards.com. Click to see all of the Trekyards episode featuring Drex!

That’s not all, though. They’ve also had on Alec Peters, producer and star of Axanar; Tobias Richter of The Lightworks, VFX artist for Star Trek: Phase 2 and Axanar; and Josh Spencer, who worked on the tabletop games Starfleet Battles and FASA. Most recently, makeup artistand modelmaker Steve Neill, another Star Trek alum, has begun to appear on the show.

So. Jealous.

But back to why they decided to reach out to this impressive rogues’ gallery:

SF: We just wanted to see if we could! Doug [Drexler] had commented on one or two of our posts, so we approached him about the show. And then it snowballed from there. We just approach people who we, as fans, would like to hear from.

SC: We loved making the show as it was but we were getting some notive from Doug, Alec, and several others with the occasional Facebook like, comment, et cetera, and this emboldened us to approach them. We had several episodes under our belt and a large backlog [of filmed episodes] so we were confident, and I think that paid off.

SF: By the way, Doug is totally awesome. All the designers are the nicest people. They love sharing their stories with people. The world needs more Drexlers.

LMS: I know there are a couple of unannounced special guests, so I won’t ask about those in particular, but is there anyone you haven’t had yet that you’d really like to have on?

SF: We would love to have Michael and Denise Okuda on. We have approached them a few times, but so far no response. Although they do like many of the videos we post on their Facebook page, so…

At this point, my journalistic integrity gave way to some giddiness.

LMS: Man, an LCARS episode with the Okudas would be amazing.

SF: Tell me about it. I spoke with them in Vegas two years ago. Super nice people. But that was pre-Trekyards.

LMS: Star Trek Online. Do you play or have you played? What do you think of the ships? And is there room for STO in Trekyards?

SF: Oh, absolutely on all points. We intend to do ships from all Star Trek games.

LMS: What’s next for the show? What would constitute the next step up for you?

SF: Well, right now with the Indiegogo campaign, we are looking to just upgrade our software and hardware so that we can cut our render times and be able to put out more product.

SC: It’s always limited by the hardware. We would love to buy better cameras, proper sound equipment, to make a show which is as close to TV-quality as possible. In terms of the show, just to keep getting designers, tackle some of the big ships, get lots of never-before-seen information and keep gathering an audience. We work very hard on these shows and we really want as many fans to see them as possible! I do hope that we reach our funding goal so we can keep Trekyards going.

LMS: Is there a concern about it stopping, or just not growing?

SC: Not stopping. If we don’t reach [the crowdfunding goal], we will most likely simplify it to make it more practical. We really do want to get this stuff out. We just can’t always justify spending what amounts to a full-time job on these episodes sometimes [without proving that the audience is there.]

Trekyards Indiegogo campaign

Click to see the Indiegogo campaign.

With two weeks to go in their crowdfunding campaign at time of writing, they’ve reached a little over $1000 of a $4000 goal. Not a bad result for a little upstart, but it doesn’t yet represent the kind of upgrade that they’re hoping to reach. Clearly, though, they’re committed to continuing the project, and I’m glad of that. Anything that keeps Trek in the public eye is valuable, in my opinion, and my last question tried to get at why the guys felt that way too.

LMS: I’d like to get a sense of why you feel the show is important – what you hope people will take away from it, or what you hope they’ll do after they watch it.

SF: I think the show is important because it’s currently the only weekly-released Star Trek program out there. That’s something Samuel and I are both very proud of. Plus, people can learn a lot about the ships that they might not have known, and I love sharing the knowledge that I’ve gathered over the years. We want to be the go-to place for all of these facts and become the definitive source for your Star Trek technical information online. Everyone can access Memory Alpha, but we have so much more knowledge at our disposal with books, technical manuals, and plus, now we have the inside scoop from the designers.

LMS: Okay, folks. Any last thoughts? Last message for fans, potential donors?

SC: Just that we have some more surprises and goodies to come for all donors. We intend to give our donors and the designers a real sense of community as our fans will be able to ask questions and get real answers from the people behind all the famous ships. We really love the show and want to keep going as the only weekly Trek video web show. So if people can donate, then please do as everything will go straight into production and getting us closer to that 50th anniversary (which we’ve already started talking about plans for)!

I spent more time talking to Captain Foley and Commander Cockings about the production pipeline, visual effects, and hardware, but I’m going to save that for another day. It’s truly impressive how they’ve put together such relatively polished shows with the shoestring budget and whatever equipment they have on hand, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Until next time, folks.

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