Written By Summer 2013 : Page 47
WrITTen By KeVIn oTT Beamed Up How Star Trek became Writers University Space: It’s really, really big. No, seriously. The universe—our galaxy alone, even—is actually more incompre-hensibly huge than you’ve probably imagined. Thick with suns and planets and exo-planets and nebulae and pulsars, the region beyond Earth’s exosphere is a vast unyield-ing, unanswered, unanswerable question. Statistically, more than 10,000 inhabited worlds hang inside the Milky Way’s bor-ders, which cover about 35 kiloparsecs from end to end. Ultra-deep-field telescopy reveals about a hundred billion more galaxies like ours. That’s a lot of story potential. “There’s always another planet,” says David Gerrold. “There’s probably half a bil-lion planets in our galaxy alone. So there’s no limit.” Gerrold is a Star Trek writer, among the original Trek writers, having written both “The Trouble With Tribbles” and “The Cloud Minders” episodes of the premiere series that ran from 1966 to 1969. He would go on to write for the short-lived Trek animated series and lay much of the groundwork for Star Trek: The Next Generation two decades later. At the time, Gerrold had no idea of the titanic fiction engine he was helping to build. “We didn’t realize we’d be a cultural archetype,” he says. “We just thought, eh, we’d be around a few years and then it would die away. That was what I figured. Because who knew from television phenomena lasting forever?” Forever is not quite 50 years yet, but since those early days, Star Trek has become an empire. Spawning six television series, twice as many movies (the most recent, Star Trek Into Darkness, released May 16, 2013), and countless novels, comic books, and related materials, Trek has arguably generated more job opportunities for writers than any other television franchise in history. The original 1966 series (referred to as The Original Series or TOS ) had about 20 writers, many of whom went on to write for the animated series in the early ’70s. The Next Generation ( TNG ) doubled that number in the late ’80s, owing in part to its unique open-door script submis-sion policy. More writers joined the staffs of the later series Deep Space Nine ( DS9 ), Voyager , and Enter-prise. Ultimately, throughout the years the franchise has provided shelter to more than 150 writers. For Gerrold and many other working scribes, Trek was sim-ply the first step in a long career. “Tribbles” became one of the most iconic episodes of the franchise, re-summer 20 13 WG A W Wr ITT en By • 47
How Star Trek became Writers University
Space: It’s really, really big.
No, seriously. The universe—our galaxy alone, even—is actually more incomprehensibly huge than you’ve probably imagined. Thick with suns and planets and exoplanets and nebulae and pulsars, the region beyond Earth’s exosphere is a vast unyielding, unanswered, unanswerable question.
Statistically, more than 10,000 inhabited worlds hang inside the Milky Way’s borders, which cover about 35 kiloparsecs from end to end. Ultra-deep-field telescopy reveals about a hundred billion more galaxies like ours.
That’s a lot of story potential.
“There’s always another planet,” says David Gerrold. “There’s probably half a billion planets in our galaxy alone. So there’s no limit.”
Gerrold is a Star Trek writer, among the original Trek writers, having written both “The Trouble With Tribbles” and “The Cloud Minders” episodes of the premiere series that ran from 1966 to 1969. He would go on to write for the short-lived Trek animated series and lay much of the groundwork for Star Trek: The Next Generation two decades later.
At the time, Gerrold had no idea of the titanic fiction engine he was helping to build.
“We didn’t realize we’d be a cultural archetype,” he says. “We just thought, eh, we’d be around a few years and then it would die away. That was what I figured. Because who knew from television phenomena lasting forever?”
Forever is not quite 50 years yet, but since those early days, Star Trek has become an empire. Spawning six television series, twice as many movies (the most recent, Star Trek Into Darkness, released May 16, 2013), and countless novels, comic books, and related materials, Trek has arguably generated more job opportunities for writers than any other television franchise in history.
The original 1966 series (referred to as The Original Series or TOS) had about 20 writers, many of whom went on to write for the animated series in the early ’70s. The Next Generation (TNG) doubled that number in the late ’80s, owing in part to its unique open-door script submission policy. More writers joined the staffs of the later series Deep Space Nine (DS9), Voyager, and Enterprise.
Ultimately, throughout the years the franchise has provided shelter to more than 150 writers.
For Gerrold and many other working scribes, Trek was simply the first step in a long career.“Tribbles” became one of the most iconic episodes of the franchise, re Verberating into the animated series, DS9, and beyond. (A tribble is visible in a cage in the 2009 movie, and another tribble plays an important role in Into Darkness.) And his work on Trek earned him the attention he needed to get hired on additional science-fiction shows throughout the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s—Land of the Lost, Tales From the Darkside, and Sliders, among others. Trek has begun careers (Gerrold’s, Battlestar Galactic creator Ron Moore), defined them (TOS maven D.C. Fontana; Nicholas Meyer, who co-scripted and directed movies II, IV, and VI), and even accented them (Hugo and Skyfall writer John Logan, who co-wrote 2002’s Nemesis).
None of it would have happened if not for a confluence of serendipity that began with—really—Lucille Ball. After the wild success of I Love Lucy, Ball’s production company, Desilu, was able to pitch The Lucy Show, a follow-up sitcom, to CBS. As part of the contract, Desilu had access to a $600,000 annual development fund. Without that money, Trek might have remained on the drawing board forever. No Enterprise.No Captain Kirk. No Captain Picard. No career starting points for countless writers throughout the following decades.
Ball not only accepted Roddenberry’s pitch after others rejected it, she championed it. When NBC rejected “The Cage”—Trek’s first pilot—as too cerebral, Ball pushed execs to accept a do-over: a second pilot in the form of “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” about a crew member who develops godlike powers. That second pilot reworked the show, introducing Mr. Spock’s trademark stoicism while deleting other characters, including a second officer played by Roddenberry’s future wife Majel Barrett.
There are a million parallel universes out there in the ether where Trek either doesn’t exist or is completely different. Before Pitching the series, Roddenberry had created and produced The Lieutenant, centering around a Marine (named William Tiberius Rice) living at Camp Pendelton. NBC cancelled the show because—according to Roddenberry—the Vietnam War made military dramas unpopular. Without that war, Roddenberry might never have switched from a more direct martial theme to the allegorical gunboat diplomacy of Trek. Even the details might have been different: Early drafts of the Trek pitch include Captain Robert April of the USS Yorktown, who patrols the stars with a red-skinned Burroughs-esque Martian named Spock. Even “The Cage” features neither Kirk nor April, instead starring Captain Chris Pike, whose appearance would be retconned in a later episode.
But it was the success or failure of those first few steps that meant all the difference to the history.
“Maybe I wouldn’t have had a career,” says Brannon Braga, who began his with a college internship on The Next Generation and stayed with the franchise through the early 2000s. “It’s hard to imagine, because I’m a decent writer, but I don’t think I’d be anywhere close to where I am had I not worked on a show that required so much attention and excellence from all of its writers.”
A severed head lurks on a shelf in Braga’s office. You notice it when you sit down on the sofa since, in its plastic box, the Head stares out at you.The head of a Borg, the hive-minded race of cyborgs that plagued the heroes of TNG. Think evangelists but with bionic implants and lots of black latex.
Braga started on TNG between the third and fourth seasons, when the Borg launched a major offensive on Starfleet and, in the show’s defining moments, assimilated Captain Picard as one of their own. He would stay until the end and go on to helm both Voyager and Enterprise.
Braga probably couldn’t have arrived at a more complicated time. He came on board not long after Michael Piller— who, along with Rick Berman, shepherded the franchise through the 1990s—started running the show. By the time Braga was hired, internal politics had decimated much of the staff. (Roddenberry, in declining health, was leaving most decisions to Berman and Piller.)
Some writers left the show with bad feelings. Gerrold, who’d been present since TNG’s inception, saw his relationship with Roddenberry almost irreparably damaged. But he stayed with Trek until the cancellation of Enterprise—the Last Trek show ever to appear on television.
“I came in as an intern, and I left Paramount 17 years later as the last person on [Enterprise],” Gerrold says. “I shut off the lights, which I never would have predicted.”
His work on TNG, Voyager, and Enterprise (as well as the movies Generations and First Contact) springboarded his television career; since then, he’s worked on 24 and is currently executive producing Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the continuation of the original Carl Sagan series.
But Gerrold admits to missing Trek terribly.
“I fell in love with Star Trek. I didn’t really get it completely until I started working on it. And then it became part of my daily existence for a long, long time. I think I’m credited with well over 100 episodes. I probably wrote closer to 300. It’s madness. And it never got old, and it never got boring, and it was never anything less than challenging, every single day.
It was extraordinary. I mean, it’s a great storytelling machine.”
D. C. Fontana
That machine has been in near-constant production throughout five decades. D.C. Fontana remembers joining as Gene Roddenberry’s secretary. She’d been pitching and selling TV episodes since 1960, when Samuel Peeples (who would go on to write the TOS episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”) bought a story outline she wrote for an episode of The Tall Man.
Though Trek was Gene Roddenberry’s baby, she says, a huge crowd of writers raised it because, unlike televised serial science fiction of the time, it was worth developing into something greater.
“[Roddenberry] created Star Trek by himself,” Fontana says. “Certainly over the first year of production, people added elements. And the characters. Other people contributed bits and pieces to hone those characters, to grow those characters…
A lot of people really, really went for it, simply because we were not playing down the science. We were not making kiddie stuff. This was hard science fiction. Nobody else was really doing the kind of science fiction we were.”
In the beginning, the show’s list of credited writers boasted the genre’s masters: Harlan Ellison. Richard Matheson.Robert Bloch. Theodore Sturgeon.
“We chose in the early months of Star Trek to go with strong science fiction names,” she says, “because we felt that would attract people to this show. Uh, it is science fiction.We’re not fooling around here. So we did use a lot of writers who [were experiencing] their first time in television. But mostly they came through, and if you had to do a rewrite, you did a rewrite.”
That strong foundation gave Trek powerful roots in science- fiction fandom, an audience that, until then, had been kept primarily on the edge of pop culture, mostly limited to pulp fiction and genre digests. The mutual attraction formed when writers who loved science fiction for its own sake began crafting stories in its purest form.
“[Producers] look at it as a vocabulary where you can just make shit up,” Gerrold says. “Real science fiction is about who we are as human beings. What’s it mean to be human? What’s our place in the world? What’s our place in the universe?”
That investment in hard science fiction is what attracted Ron Moore to Trek.
Although best known for creating 2004’s acclaimed Battlestar Galactica reboot, Moore got his start on TNG, later honing his skills further on DS9. Where Braga describes himself as having been “more of a Twilight Zone dude,” Moore was a Trek geek through and through. While a student at Cornell, he was notorious for an extensive collection of officially licensed Star Trek novels (even now, Star Trek “extended universe” novels are being written as quickly as fans can devour them).
Today, Moore occupies a small nautical-themed office in Pasadena—think Krakens and mizzen masts and topsail schooners—and is running a new show, Helix, for SyFy.
“I’m old enough to remember Neil Armstrong walking on the moon as an early childhood memory,” he says. “I loved the space program, and I wrote letters to NASA and had pictures of spaceships I wanted to make. And then I Discovered science-fiction shows on television. Lost in Space was my first love. Sometime around the third or fourth grade, I discovered Star Trek, and that was my show from then on.”
Though earlier writers like Fontana and Gerrold could submit script outlines and story ideas directly to Roddenberry (or Trek’s other big Gene, producer Gene L. Coon), by the mid-’80s that kind of submission practice was increasingly rare. When Moore learned about TNG from a trade magazine he’d purchased at a gas station near his apartment during the show’s third season, he managed to get staffed with one spec and a tour of the production offices. The spec in question later became “The Bonding,” the fifth episode of TNG’s third season.
Moore’s triumph heralded an unusual policy: During much of its run, TNG accepted pitches and spec scripts from just about anybody. The show had staff readers who did nothing but coverage, and Moore remembers devoting a day a week to meeting with potential freelancers. Throughout the years, they developed the Great Wall of Star Trek Cliches, a catalog of plot elements they saw repeated in specs: Time travel. Parallel universes. Data becomes a human.
Data becomes a god. Someone else becomes a god.
In her blog Jane in Progress, Jane Espenson (Once Upon a Time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) remembers noticing The Wall—essentially a big whiteboard—after an early pitch session with TNG producers. It was full of concepts like “The Egg” (a strange celestial object turns out to be . . .An egg!) And “Jack’s Back” (a mysterious visitor to the ship turns out to be . . . Dr. Beverly Crusher’s presumed-dead husband, Jack!).
“One hopeful writer had even combined these,” she writes. “The egg is taken into the ship and it hatches, revealing Jack Crusher.”
Ponder that: You work in a writers’ room that accepts pitches from outside the staff. And you meet regularly with potential freelancers. Oh, and the show in question has one Of the broadest fandoms in the history of American pop culture, spawning billions of terabytes worth of fan fiction.
Being there wasn’t easy, recalls Joe Menosky, who worked on staff for TNG, DS9, and Voyager.
“We spent too much of our time reading specs and taking pitch meetings,” Menosky writes in an email exchange.“Michael [Piller] would say, ‘Even if just one episode a season comes out of this process, that’s one less we have to come up with on our own.’ But he never considered the cost benefit of that process.”
A talent like Moore would have made it anyway, he believes: “Ron is such a superior writer that even without the open door, he would have been quickly discovered, and because of his own love for Trek would have found his way to the franchise.”
However, there are a billion stories in the naked galaxy, and as a franchise gets older producers look for any way to keep it fresh. Which never became simple, especially given the narrative restraints placed on the franchise by Roddenberry himself.In Fade In: From Idea to Final Draft, his book about the writing process behind Star Trek: Insurrection, Piller wrote about “Roddenberry’s Box,” a set of parameters that kept writers from straying too far from the central tenets of the Trek universe: Humankind had ascended. The worlds of the United Federation of Planets have evolved beyond poverty, illness, inequality, or even conflict. Everything is more or less perfect.
“Gene didn’t want conflict between our characters,” Piller wrote. “‘All the problems of the world have been solved,’ Gene said. ‘Earth is a paradise.’ Now, go write drama.”
That was the dark side of Gene Roddenberry’s utopian society.Think of it as the Law of Conservation of Conflict: Any conflict you keep out of your scripts has to go somewhere, and it usually ends up in the writers’ room. Piller goes on to say he appreciated having firm guidelines in place; he felt it made his writing stronger. But not everyone agreed.
“I didn’t have many direct conflicts with Gene, fortunately,” says Moore. “I did have one.”
In an episode scripted by Moore, Captain Picard visits his estranged brother on Earth. Over the course of the story, the bitterness between the Picards becomes more and more pronounced, until they end up wrestling on the ground of the family vineyard.
“Gene didn’t like it,” says Moore. “And we had this meeting, with Gene and Rick [Berman] and Mike and me. And Gene was saying, flat out, this would not happen in this 24th-century vision. These two brothers must have had terrible parents. He didn’t buy the fight, and he didn’t like the conflict, and he thought it said bad things about Picard, and he didn’t want it. And I was really kind of shellshocked. Because he was the Great Bird of the Galaxy, and I was the most junior member of the staff.” In the end, Berman and Piller persuaded Roddenberry to let the episode unfold as Moore had written it.
Braga, on the other hand, didn’t feel particularly constrained: “I’ve written on numerous other shows. And it’s been a blast, but I’m just telling you: Nothing ever compares to Star Trek. And I don’t think anything ever will, in terms of just being able to imagine anything you can possibly imagine and finding a way to do it. Anything. There’s no other show like it. I did 24 for a couple of seasons, and it was a blast. But it’s not Star Trek, man. We were working with some narrow story parameters. There are no parameters with Star Trek.”
Despite it all, Roddenberry couldn’t stop the changes that came to Trek. As the franchise evolved, it retained its strong science-fiction roots. There’s no shortage of episodes about unknowable alien intelligences, the impacts of advanced technology, the essence of who we are as humans—but conflicts among characters became more pronounced even as the ensemble crews grew into more cohesive units. Today, it’s hard to deny that TNG has one of the most iconic casts in television history, and episode after episode of every show proves that the success of humanity’s future rests largely on the ability of Federation citizens and Starfleet officers to conquer interpersonal and political conflicts—not simply avoid them entirely.
There’s probably no shortage of purist fans—and writers— but the commercial and dramatic longevity of Trek stems from its ability to adapt fluidly. TNG changed substantially in tone from its first season to its seventh—most drastically after Berman and Piller began running the show in earnest—and by the time DS9 entered its fifth season, it was exploring harsh notions like the horrors of war and the realpolitik of espionage, all from a more serialized approach.While prior iterations of Trek had been composed largely of syndication-friendly plot-of-the-week episodes (that could be played out of order if affiliates so chose), DS9 in its final seasons involved the kind of ongoing story arcs more common to modern cable dramas than to late-’90s syndicated SF. By the time Voyager and Enterprise rolled around, Braga had introduced hyperevolved extradimensional Lovecraftian aliens (Voyager’s clinically named Species 8472) and homages to John Carpenter’s The Thing (the Enterprise episode “Regeneration”).
But the changes started long before Trek returned to television.Though he didn’t accept a writing credit, Nicholas Meyer chose with the 1982 feature Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to keep many of the science-fiction elements from prior drafts (credited to Jack Sowards, Harve Bennett, and Sam Peeples), but focus more strongly on the adventurous aspects of the show, as well as on the bonds between the characters. When producer Harve Bennett approached him to work on the Trek films, Meyer wasn’t exactly an expert or a fan; his experience with TOS amounted to a college roommate who watched the show during acid trips. So he checked out a few episodes.
“This reminded me of something I do like,” he says. “And it took me a while to figure out what it was: It was a series of novels that I read when I was about 14.” The books in question were the Horatio Hornblower novels by C.S. Forester— Napoleonic-era swashbucklers set on the high seas. “And I thought, Well, this is Captain Hornblower in outerspace.And at that point I started to get really jazzed about this.
As Trek films go, Wrath of Khan is a fan favorite, along with the fourth and sixth movies (The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country, respectively). All three were directed, and scripted in part, by Meyer. And all three focus strongly on the long-term character relationships, particularly between Kirk and Spock.
“I was trying to translate Star Trek into something that I could understand,” Meyer says. “And I don’t believe that artists are the best or definitive judges of their own work… but it is my observation, for what it’s worth, that II, IV and VI— my Star Treks—are the most earthbound.”
It might have been Meyer, a self-admitted outsider, who shifted the tone of the franchise most dramatically. He bridled at the sterility of Roddenberry’s future, with its lack of bathrooms or cigarette breaks. He unsuccessfully tried to post a no smoking on the bridge sign in the Enterprise. He did Succeed in changing the crew’s uniforms from what he termed “Dr. Dentons” to a more nautical aesthetic. He is also responsible for Captain Kirk—the heraldic emblem of Starfleet, the Federation, and Roddenberry’s dream of a post-scarcity Eden—shouting the phrase “double dumbass on you!”
Today, Trek might be in the midst of its greatest period of change, with new actors playing old characters in 2009’s Star Trek and this year’s Star Trek Into Darkness.Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who wrote the 2009 feature, knew their greatest challenge would be to refresh the series in a way that would create new fans without alienating old ones and without cheapening Trek’s legacy. Along with Damon Lindelof (a producer on the 2009 film and a co-writer on Into Darkness) and director J.J. Abrams, the pair opted to use time travel to create a parallel timeline within the Trek universe—at once preserving the existing canon and creating a new sandbox to play in without fear of fan reprisal.
Initially, they weren’t even sure they wanted to do it, so terrified were they of screwing it up. But their greater fear was of someone else screwing it up.
“After eight months of sitting around looking at each other, we came up with an idea,” Orci says. “We thought, If you’re gonna do it, this is probably the only way we can imagine doing it. It would be irresponsible not to try and do it because we don’t want someone else to come in and do something worse. When we had the right idea, then it wasn’t daunting. It was like: It’s our duty to try, even if we die trying.”
Like Moore, Orci is a Trekker from way back. When he was young, he would watch episodes with an uncle on his mother’s side and has always associated Trek with “warm fuzzy things and Christmas.”
“The original series is very much a warm fire for me,” he acknowledges.
As far as many Trek writers are concerned, the series isn’t just fun tentpole entertainment; the genuine drama is that it has survived and even thrived in the face of harsh cultural criticism. After decades of mockery—hell, even Shatner told Trekkers to get a life—we now live in a world where The Big Bang Theory is as much about loving geekdom as it is about lampooning it. To the Trek writers who grew up as fans, it’s about time all those years of keeping up with the Cardassians paid off.
Visit Damon Lindelof’s office and you’ll wonder if there’s any Star Wars memorabilia he doesn’t have. Action figures, posters, and other memorabilia litter the place like Navajo blankets at a Route 66 rest stop. But despite the Wampa-skin rug and the Revenge of the Jedi poster, these days his stronger emotional connection is to Trek. (“I feel like Star Wars is my biological parent and Trek is my adoptive parent.”)
Regardless of hierarchy, Lindelof wears his geekdom all on his sleeve.
“I’ve written my share of fan fiction over the years,” Lindelof says. “Now I get to write fan fiction that’s actually going to get made. And I think that’s the way that Bob and Alex and I, and J.J. and [executive producer] Brian [Burk] all looked at Trek, which is: This is our fan fic, and everyone’s gonna get to watch it.”
But Lindelof too, thanks in part to Orci, understood the importance of preserving what came before.
“Bob, who is 10 times the Trek aficionado that I will ever be—just kind of chapter and verse, all the original series, all of Voyager, all of Enterprise, all the novels—just, you know, deep. He was like, the issue with the reboot is: We can’t say that none of that stuff ever happened. We can’t just erase it. But how do we thread that needle between making it accessible to someone who thinks that Star Trek is not for them, and also honor and not erase the 40 years of canon?”
It’s not as easy as with some other properties, he realizes; Trek started out in 1966 and, time loops and alternate universes notwithstanding, has been following roughly the same continuity ever since. So they weren’t adapting anything; they were continuing a story.
“Christopher Nolan can just say the Tim Burton Batman movies never happened—they never existed,” Lindelof says.
“We felt like we owed the Trek-verse and the fans better than a straight-up reboot. So that was the challenge.” (Going a step further, Orci and Kurtzman wrote a four-issue comic series that tied the 2009 movie to the existing universe.)
But unlike many of their predecessors, Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof weren’t new writers when they scored the Trek gigs. Orci and Kurtzman have multiple tentpole credits and have worked on several franchises that predate their professional Trek careers (Zorro, Transformers, The current Spider-Man film series), and Lindelof is best known for writing Lost. They had the unique challenge of dealing with public perceptions. Whereas guys like Gerrold, Braga, and Moore were cutting their teeth as baby drama writers with episodes about appeasing the Romulan Empire and deionizing the quantum flux inhibitors, Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof had to develop a whole other skill set: managing expectations in the face of a notoriously obsessive fanbase.
“If I were reading that I took over Star Trek, how would I feel about that?” Lindelof asks. “And I’m able to acknowledge that some people aren’t gonna be happy about it. Because there’s always this ‘who are you to do this?’ that you have to acknowledge. But at the end of the day, I guess what we felt was: Well, if we aren’t gonna do Trek, no one was gonna do it. It was gonna just sit in the closet, and there wasn’t gonna be any Trek. Because at that point, Enterprise had been cancelled. And I think it was the first time since TNG went on that there was no Trek on the airwaves—no new Trek being made, televisionwise or movie-wise.”
According to Kurtzman, each became their own fiercest watchdogs: “When you’re making these kinds of movies, we do feel a tremendous obligation to protect the things that were meaningful to us in our childhood and the experiences that we had. And certainly now as a parent I feel a responsibility to do that for my son as well, and for our kids in general. The world is a complicated place that they’re growing up in now, and sometimes these stories help keep these things simple, strangely. Trek has been born and reborn so many times because it speaks to such universal themes, and we certainly felt a tremendous responsibility. If we were gonna carry that torch, we’d need to really, really dig in and make it a success on every Level and make it as good as we knew how to make it. Because ultimately in 40 years someone else is gonna come along and do it too.”
Orci agrees: “We just feel it was a cultural treasure and that we were entrusted to watch it for a while.”
In 2016, Star Trek will be half a century old. It’ll be one of the oldest continuing narratives in American pop culture.It’s employed dozens and dozens of writers throughout the decades. And it’s left a mark on all of them.
“It’s a little like being one of the craftsmen on a medieval cathedral that takes generations to build,” says Menosky.“It’s humbling but also exalting. Sort of like: ‘I’m not the architect, and I didn’t even work on the altar piece—but see that gargoyle over there? That’s mine.’”
Braga often felt the same way during his Trek career, but one of his crowning moments came after being in a theater watching First Contact, the feature he co-wrote with Berman and Moore.
“I was proud to walk out and hear the girlfriend of some guy raving about the movie. And him saying, ‘See? I told you!’ Someone had discovered Star Trek. And that movie was partly created to say, ‘Here’s what it is; here’s what Star Trek means.’”
Despite the changes from those first episodes—despite the slam-bang nature of the more recent movies, the grit and brutality of DS9’s Dominion War, the interpersonal and internecine drama that characterized the shows after Roddenberry’s death—his dream still pulses along at warp nine.
“It’s still cool to hope for stuff,” Lindelof says. “I don’t always have to say the worst is ahead of me, to manage my expectation. So when I think of Trek at its best, I always connect it with endings of episodes where the Enterprise has literally defied death for the millionth time, and Picard is smiling like the cat who ate the canary, and he turns to Riker, cracks a joke, and says, ‘Engage.’ That idea of fundamental optimism—that’s pure Gene. That idea is what I think of when I think of Trek.”
Dramatically, who could ask for more fertile ground than a galaxy full of planets to explore?
“There was a lot of potential for story, always,” says D.C. Fontana. “Whether it was on a different planet, or one we already knew or thought we knew… Where are we in space? Where are we in this Federation of Planets?Do [our allies] still trust us? Do they still like us? Are they going to turn on us for some slight, perhaps?Or some injury that maybe we weren’t responsible for?
“So you always have a story,” she marvels.“You always have a story.”
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