This is the funniest episode of “Star Trek” ever made.
Oh my God. Jacob, stop.
I’ve seen all the classics, all the comedy episode from the ’60s to the ’90s, and this one pulls off the balance the best.
Since you do have a fair amount of TV comedy on your resume, were you a “Trek” fan first, or did they come to you because they knew you could pull off TV comedy?
Well, I think in terms of them approaching me to do an episode, I think they approached me not knowing that I loved “Star Trek: The Next Generation” when I was a kid. But I think they approached me because of my comedy background. But yeah, I like to say it’s how me and my parents bonded when I was a kid was every night after dinner, we would watch “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
So that show in particular, and also the movie, “The Voyage Home,” those were the beacons of “Star Trek” in my childhood and what I loved very much. I don’t know every single episode and I didn’t watch every single show, but I’ve always loved it. I feel like now I should just go back and watch everything. I’ve watched all the movies leading up to this. They’re so good. Why didn’t I ever watch these?
I want to talk about how you direct comedy, how you use the frame, because it’s not just a point and shoot thing here. The amount of business happening, the staging, the blocking, what Anson Mount is doing in the background of various shots … I want to know how you as a director use the frame to emphasize the joke instead of letting the joke play out.
This was such an awesome exercise in exactly what you just said in terms of finding visual ways to find more humor, either in terms of reactions or little moments of blocking that weren’t necessarily scripted, and also in terms of the comedic framing. One of the many things that’s so great about “Strange New Worlds” is that they really do give their directors a lot of freedom to play within the stylistic world of the tone of the episode.
So you can switch up the kind of shooting style based on it being a comedy, or a horror, or a musical, or whatever it’s going to be. We, the director of photography, Glenn Keenan and I, I had storyboarded all the VFX sequences and had shot-listed, but as we started shooting, this really nice motif started to form of behind the head of Spock, this really nice symmetrical framing, centering Spock over to other characters looking back at him. So really putting you in the headspace of Spock, in the point of view of Spock, but also in a really fun Coen Brothers-type framing. And so as we started doing that a few times, I was like, “Oh, great. This is now becoming a visual theme throughout.”
So we continued to do that and we kept finding ways to make that work. There are so many montages in this episode. It’s a real montage-heavy episode, which I love because a montage really gives you an opportunity to visually plan something out, plan the transitions, plan ways of mirroring the two Spock montages in the beginning when he’s Vulcan Spock versus human Spock.
All of those shots are mirrored so that you can really feel the change in him from sitting there very rigidly, to laughing uproariously and chugging his drink, or freaking out at Sam Kirk. We really lean into that. And it’s fun when you — I didn’t go into it planning all of that out. I knew I wanted the montages to be mirrored and things like that, but that sort of comedic framing really came about organically as we were shooting it, which that’s so much fun. You can plan everything to death, and then there’s always fun surprises on set that inspire you and get to follow those threads.