Bill Krause: The Model Maker for the “Star Trek Universe”

Bill Krause

Courtesy photo Bill Krause

When “Star Trek” first hit the airwaves in 1966, most everything viewers saw on the screen was done with practical effects. There were very few effects added later — the beams of a phaser and the transporter effect are two good examples of screen “magic” that the effects wizards added to enhance the realism of the show.

One of the most significant props on the show was the U.S.S. Enterprise itself. That model, now at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., gave fans a look at a design unlike anything else before — or since. Matt Jefferies, following Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s guidelines, created the Enterprise, which is now a cultural artifact.

The 1984 film “The Last Starfighter” demonstrated that computers were up to the challenge of depicting spacecraft in action. Later, the effects team at “Babylon 5” solely used computers to create their ships and space stations. In contrast “Star Trek” still used models and other practical effects to build their stories. According to Memory Alpha, “Star Trek” switched over gradually to computer-generated ships and effects. Today, all of the vessels on “Discovery,” “Picard.” and “Strange New Worlds” are created with computer graphics.

That is, all except for the ships created for “Picard” Season 2 by the model maker, Bill Krause.

Krause, who lives in Ohio, ran a successful video and photography production company for years. Model making was just a side hustle. Working on models was something he did as a child, and in 2014, he got back into it.

The U.S.S. Endurance

One of Bill Krause’s original designs, the U.S.S. Endurance

Courtesy of Bill KrauseOne of Bill Krause’s original designs, the U.S.S. Endurance

“Everyone was building their own Enterprise,” said Krause in a recent interview with Heavy. “It always bugged me that I didn’t have time to do anything. There was a pent-up creative passion to start designing stuff that I really wanted to see, which I never got to see in ‘Star Trek.’” 

“We all saw the Enterprise, the Reliant, and the Excelsior,” said Krause. “But I assumed that there were probably many other ships out there that existed. We just didn’t see them.”

Krause started creating his ship designs, making the Shangri La and the Wasp based on ship designs from the “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” era. At first, he used the off-the-shelf model kits but is now working with CAD-like software to build the ships part-by-part. He works with a few friends who help refine the designs, which are ultimately printed with a 3D printer. Krause creates all the internal electronics from scratch and adds custom paint and decals.

His original designs would evolve into the “TYCHO Starship Yards.” These designs represented types of ships that certainly looked like they were a part of the “Star Trek Universe” but were “a little off the beaten path.” Often times, that includes ship designs in between the TOS and TMP era. Krause challenges himself to create ships which were never included in the on-screen canon. He uses cues from Andy Probert and other Trek designers who came after Jefferies to guide the looks of these new ships.  

The U.S.S. Reliant

The U.S.S. Reliant, which was Khan’s ship of choice.

Courtesy of Bill KrauseThe U.S.S. Reliant, which was Khan’s ship of choice.

“But introducing new geometry and design language into my TYCHO [ships] was how I wanted to skirt a little bit of ‘Star Trek,’ but have a little bit of my own thing into it,” said Krause. “So, I’ll pick up and steal design cues from “2001,” other sci-fi genres, or even aerospace and automotive that I think are cool. All of that fit the era of the 2260s, or ‘The Motion Picture’ era.”

A friend talked Krause into entering the “WonderFest” model competition. The “WonderFest” model show is held each May in Louisville, Ky. He entered the Shangri La and the Wasp. He caught the eye of the legendary “Star Trek” producer, writer, scenic artist, effects wizard, and makeup artist Doug Drexler

“Doug asked me to submit something for the ‘Ships of the Line’ calendar, which I think started for me in 2015,” said Krause. “I used the Wasp for that, which was the first [ship] used which was actually a physical model composited into a scene — rather than all computer generated stuff, which it had been for many years. I still think, to this day, I think I’m the only guy who’s still compositing stuff in the calendar with real physical models, not 3D models.”

Krause submitted photos of his ships to the “Ships of the Line” calendar each year and began sharing his ship photos on social media — FacebookInstagram, and later on Twitter. “Star Trek” production artist and designer John Eaves encouraged Krause to create a portfolio in case anything came up on “Star Trek: Picard,” which Eaves was working on at the time. 

The Golden Stargazers

Krause’s Stargazers, as seen in “Star Trek: Picard,” Season 2

Courtesy of Bill KrauseKrause’s Stargazers, as seen in “Star Trek: Picard,” Season 2

“John was trying to push, at least for ‘Star Trek’ design in the Picard era, a look that was reminiscent of what I was doing with some of my ships,” said Krause. “I had these self-illuminated registries. They wanted to get away from this kind of spotlight look that was very prevalent in Federation design.”

Through Eaves, Krause’s name was in the conversation when “Picard” production designer Dave Blass decided the show needed a few gold-plated models. These would be much like the model of the U.S.S. Stargazer that Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) had in his Ready Room in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Krause agreed to create these models for the show.

“They asked me to build the TNG era, Constellation-class Stargazer, and also build the new one they had designed, the Sagan class,” said Krause. “But then they said, ‘While you’re doing that, go ahead and design a third one since there’s room in the niche for this legacy wall for a predecessor.’ That would be the very first to bear the name Stargazer from the TOS era.”

Krause designed the TOS Stargazer, and along with the newest one, designed by Blass, Eaves and Drexler had them printed while scratchbuilding Rick Sternbach’s original lines for the TNG version. 

“After I was done, they were shipped off to California where they got gold plated and hung on the wall,” said Krause. “That was last April.”

A TYCHO Shuttlecraft

A Krause-designed shuttlecraft from the U.S.S. Shackleton

Courtesy of Bill KrauseA Krause-designed shuttlecraft from the U.S.S. Shackleton

“You only see it for one second in one shot and one episode behind Jeri Ryan’s head in the dark, from about 50 feet away,” Krause said with a laugh. “We spent all this time and money to do this!”

Krause said he’s involved in “Picard” Season 3 but cannot give any details on what exactly he did. Fans might think Krause’s home is packed with Enterprises, Reliants, Shangri Las, and Wasps, but that is not the case. Nearly all of his models have been purchased by fans. This was a must after Krause retired and shuttered his video business, as the offices for his company was where the models were on display. 

“Now I’m just building by commission, basically on demand,” said Krause. “I really have nothing here at home. It’s all by commission now. And I’ve got a backlog of projects for next year, so it’s keeping me really busy.”

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