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  • Conspiracy bugs (revised)

    Posted on May 25th, 2009 Managed WordPress Migration User 7 comments

    startrek-conspiracypic2

    “Conspiracy” was season-1, episode 25, of  Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Enterprise crew must overcome Starfleet Command officers who are infected by an alien parasite. This episode has the dubious honor of having one or more shots censored as “violent images” by the BBC in England.  It is reported that the episode required a warning before airing in Canada.

    The story required that the parasite climb the leg of an officer then later climb out of the mouth of another fallen human host and attempt to escape.

    Animating the parasite bugs for the episode was my first work on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Visual Effects Supervisor, Dan Curry, brought the job to David Stipes Productions, Inc. in April of 1988.

    The property master, Alan Sims, had commissioned another company to create the bug.  They had done a fine sculpting job but I realized we would have to re-build it for the stop motion animation.

    The creature was cast in a dense silicone material and was very stiff. The legs were small nubs that were not long enough to reach the floor to propel the creature along.  We set about re-sculpting the creature and giving it longer legs and defining the body segments a bit more.  A plaster mold was made and fitted with a simple wire armature and the creature was cast in rubber.

    We scheduled the animation time then were told by Dan Curry that the date we were to animate was actually the date they needed the work finished. We scrambled to get the animation set up. Dan had provided frames of the woman opening her mouth so we could line up the parasite’s animation with the actor’s performance. I asked Dan if we could have a bloody slime trail from the woman’s mouth but he didn’t think the producers would like it. I thought it would help sell the horror of the situation but, disappointed, we moved on.

    Dan has also provided a 4ft x 8ft piece of hard Formica flooring to match the set.  It was so big I had to place it on a sheet of Celotex board on my studio concrete floor and animate on my hands and knees.

    The surface was tough so I could not directly pin the model to the floor for the animation process.

    I had to drill through the hard Formica then drive a pin through the parasite’s foot into the Celotex insulation board below. This prevented the feet from sliding around as I animated the body.

    I animated the creature along by twisting the parasite’s body segments in sequence with the legs.

    After a couple of scenes were done, the armature wires broke and the body segment with the last two legs fell off the puppet!  I finished the shot by animating the now two body sections along and making them appear as one creature.

    As I worked, on another stage my assistant, Stephen Lebed, animated the parasite climbing the leg of the main host, Lt. Commander Remick. Stephen faced his own challenges as the creature was difficult to attach and animate effectively on the pants cloth.

    It was a challenge but it was fun and it continues to get comments. This episode is often included on lists of The Next Generation‘s greatest moments.

    Article updated Dec 31, 2018

    Credit: Frame blow-up are from a video by Greg Stone.

     

    7 responses to “Conspiracy bugs (revised)”

    1. Not familiar with this episode but it looks like it borrows from the mind control creatures in TWOK.

      Who decides how quick the creature should move?

    2. Hello RKW,

      I was the animator so …it was me.

      I understand that Dan Curry did play with the speed when he saw the shots as they worked in the edit.

    3. Cute lil’ buggy. 🙂

      Why do you think the wires broke, David? Were you twisting it a lot at the leg/hip joints?

      I mean, wire armatures are an old SM staple, for simpler stuff anywho, and tend to hold up OK. I have to say though, the sec I read “wire armature,” I felt a pang of “Ut oh,” and sure enough…

      The bug they dropped into Pike in Trek 2.0 reminded me of this bug, eh.

      Thanks for sharin’!

      LLP,
      deg

    4. Wires were multiple stranded but I animated the heck out of it …..

      Yes, it was an uh-oh but I had no time and no money. I quickly learned that while it was “Star Trek” they had relatively little budgets to do things.

      It was a gamble and I “lost” but …. it made for a good war story for this post! 🙂

    5. Yeah, that’s the thing about wires, they do have a shelf-life. Bend ’em back and forth enough, and…

      But like a true pro, you adapted, improvised and made it work. Lemonade from lemons, eh. 🙂

      LLP,
      deg

    6. I love how TNG had the basic ideas for Stargate SG1

      Conspiracy Bugs = Goa’uld
      Iconian Gate = Stargate

    7. Conspiracy Bugs article updated

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