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reeks too much of "space pirate" or similar bad science fiction
May 14, 2013 1:38 PM   Subscribe

How do you solicit freelance scripts for a science fiction television series that breaks the mold? You create a comprehensive guide to writing an episode of Star Trek.

Harvard's Houghton Library recently acquired the 31-page document, which has not (yet?) been completely digitized. But what has been released provides a glimpse into a world before the conventions of TV sci-fi that Trek cemented into place.

No pockets.

No space suits.

No, we are not on LSD.

In other "incomplete smidges of weird Star Trek ephemera" news, wikia is working with Roddenberry Entertainment to start releasing materials from the archives of Gene Roddenberry via their new Trek fan portal, Trek Initiative.
posted by Sara C. (189 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
Kirk would NOT hug Yeoman on the bridge, also kinda the space pirate thing but you'd have to read the rest to see if it worked.

(makes check mark)
posted by The Whelk at 1:43 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


DIGITIZE IT.

(breaks bottle of Romulan Ale on table, brandishes a sharp piece menacingly)

NOW.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:45 PM on May 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


Is there no young intern at the Houghton Library who has 20 minutes to feed this thing through the scanner? I mean really.
posted by Sara C. at 1:47 PM on May 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh apparently the correct answer is concept weak - well fine I guess I care more about military protocol then the TOS series does.
posted by The Whelk at 1:48 PM on May 14, 2013


Is there no young intern at the Houghton Library who has 20 minutes to feed this thing through the scanner? I mean really.

MeFi's own Horace Rumpole works there. I'm sure he'd be very open to bribes.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:52 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am going with "Inaccurate terminology." Because honestly, the aliens are LOOSENING BOLTS? Are they being attacked by BOB THE BUILDER? Does he have a DOOMSDAY SPANNER and shit?
posted by Mister_A at 1:53 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I had problems with all of it except for maybe the techy thing because who cares.

But I get that this is a WRITING guide to Trek, and that the point they're trying to get across is what kinds of stories they want to see.

It doesn't really matter if a freelancer thinks USS stands for United States Ship or that Kirk would hug the Yeoman, since those things either aren't on the page or can be easily changed without even having to do a script revision. What you DON'T want is a bunch of story ideas you can't use for somewhat arcane stylistic/tone reasons that are tough to get across in a document like this.
posted by Sara C. at 1:54 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: lovely but highly efficient
posted by theodolite at 1:56 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that some of the 'tech' things would actually be useful for quickly culling the spec scripts.
posted by Mister_A at 1:56 PM on May 14, 2013


I love the LSD crack though.
posted by Mister_A at 1:58 PM on May 14, 2013


except for maybe the techy thing because who cares.

I thought the techy stuff was good. "Stardates are a mathematical formula which varies depending on location in the galaxy, velocity of travel and other factors." In a handwavy way they were taking relativity into account, and doing it in the background in a way that no viewer would likely notice. For once, it's Trek doing actual science well.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:58 PM on May 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I love the LSD crack though.

Isn't it LDS?
posted by Melismata at 1:59 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


"avoid long philosophical exchanges..."

If only...
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:01 PM on May 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Pocket technology was lost during the Eugenics Wars. The effect of the technology lost during the 1990s was still felt hundreds of years later. It was only near the end of the fast paced technical development of the Dominion War that Starfleet successfully recreated backpack technology.
posted by BeeDo at 2:04 PM on May 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


When I say "all of it", justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow, I mean the multiple choice "what's wrong with this storyline" part. The WHOLE sample story sounds bad, along ALL of the lines they gave as choices in the "why wouldn't we want this, of these possible reasons" section.

The guide itself is good, and I agree that their thoughts about the technology stuff are smart in general.

I just don't think "durrrrr, energy-plasma bolts could not be photon in nature!" is a good reason not to use an otherwise perfectly good script. Which is good, because it sounds like that's not really what they're worried about here.

As we all can see on the actual TV show.
posted by Sara C. at 2:04 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]



"avoid long philosophical exchanges..."

If only...


That's more of a Solaris thing.
posted by edgeways at 2:05 PM on May 14, 2013


Y'know, I remember when Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out, and the fact that they used space suits bothered me at the time. It just didn't seem trek.
posted by baf at 2:05 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


(yeah I wanted to write an extra box "all of it, and here's why" except for maybe that first one, as Sarah C. mentions, cause that's such a minor change, but the hokey teaser isn't ....teasing me so that's the bigger problem (I mean I think you can overcome a tired premise but I'm not the one reading 50 spec scripts a day.)
posted by The Whelk at 2:07 PM on May 14, 2013


Right now I'd say any guide to writing an episode of a new SF TV show should contain the warning that it should not, under any circumstances, resemble a warmed over episode of ST:TNG because that shit is done to death now.
posted by Artw at 2:07 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


David Gerold talked about this guide in his book about The Trouble with Tribbles. It seems like TV writing is all about keeping the audience from changing the channel during the commercial break.
posted by octothorpe at 2:08 PM on May 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Every act end should end on a plot point! (unless you're Mad Men and people having a series of complex emotions while wordlessly riding an elevator ARE your plot points).
posted by The Whelk at 2:10 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


David Gerold talked about this guide in his book about The Trouble with Tribbles. It seems like TV writing is all about keeping the audience from changing the channel during the commercial break.

Gerrold mentioned that each act had to end with a bang* -- a sort of climax to keep viewers sticking around through he Tide and Buick jingles to see what would happen next. If you are a Star Trek viewer, you can hear that mounting horn piece from the soundtrack of so many end-of-act revelations.

*Actually, he wrote something to the effect that TV screenwriters were "whores, banging and climaxing every fifteen minutes," which I found scandalous when I read that age six. Yes, sf books were so few in those days and my love for Star Trek so great that in first grade I was reading an inside baseball book about the scripting and production of a single television episode. What of it?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:20 PM on May 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Writing comics in 5 or 10 page episodes I try and make each episode operate as a unit with some kind of a hook at the end and most of the pages within that act as their own little units, with the idea that each page should have something cool to justify it's existance. Of course, I probably lean towards making things too dense and would probably want to decompress a little if I were doing longer stuff, like the 22 page US monthlies.
posted by Artw at 2:25 PM on May 14, 2013


THIS


is what the Internet is for.
posted by wittgenstein at 2:28 PM on May 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't it LDS?

You're thinking of Battlestar Galactica
posted by The Tensor at 2:31 PM on May 14, 2013 [14 favorites]


Why does everything always happen in an EPS conduit? What exactly is an Encapsulated PostScript conduit?
posted by cccorlew at 2:32 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Y'know, I remember when Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out, and the fact that they used space suits bothered me at the time. It just didn't seem trek.

Aww. That was an awesome scene. Besides, V'ger made them a breathable atmosphere once they got close enough.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:34 PM on May 14, 2013


Every act end should end on a plot point! (unless you're Mad Men and people having a series of complex emotions while wordlessly riding an elevator ARE your plot points).

For a while I was trying to write a spec episode of Mad Men as a portfolio piece, but I could never figure out where the act breaks were so I basically just gave up in disgust.

I'm a lot happier now that I've stopped guilting myself about speccing Mad Men. That said, I am now guilting myself over speccing Girls, so homework still sucks whether it's long division or TV writing.

I am seriously considering writing a fake episode of Trek according to the rules of this writers' guide. If only someone would scan the whole thing...
posted by Sara C. at 2:34 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


(utterly self-centered reaction entirely on preview:)

...y'know, I wrote a novel about space pirates last year.
It paid off all my credit card debt, covered my appendectomy and all my bills for two months. And it's still going.

Just sayin', there's nothing wrong with space pirates if you do it right.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:35 PM on May 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


I am seriously considering writing a fake episode of Trek according to the rules of this writers' guide. If only someone would scan the whole thing...

Just don't call it The Negron Complex.
posted by The Whelk at 2:36 PM on May 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


TV screenwriters were "whores, banging and climaxing every fifteen minutes," which I found scandalous when I read that age six.

And this, my friends, is probably why he got fired off TNG.

(What was UP with the TNG teasers that didn't tease anything, and their habit in the first season or two of wasting the first 15 minutes of screen time doing fuck all, storywise? My god people act like it was some big tragedy when they replaced half the writing staff but NO DUH.)
posted by Sara C. at 2:37 PM on May 14, 2013


This Star Trek writing guide would integrate nicely into a Paul Kinsey episode.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:37 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also read David Gerrold's Trouble with Tribbles book at a too-young age. I knew I'd read about this Trek writing guide somewhere; that was it, and thanks for that reminder. My favorite memory of that book was the set of "before" and "after" photos that showed what working as a TV script writer did to young David, who transformed from fresh-scrubbed All-American Scholar to Electric Hollywood Freak0naut in 18 months. Star Trek may have had rules for the scripts; less so the script writers.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 2:39 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just rewatched some first season stuff and noticed him riffing on The Twilight Zone. I also think he was the one who came up with the astronaut themed Right Guard ad that Don panned.

I had no idea the first two seasons that Sci Fi was supposed to be such a big part of his character.

It also makes me sad that Harry wouldn't get his Star Trek script into the right hands, or that it was so execrable that doing so was out of the question. Because Paul always seemed like a good enough writer to me, and there were certainly some stinker episodes of Star Trek. Apparently they were really hurting for scripts for most of the show's run.
posted by Sara C. at 2:40 PM on May 14, 2013


Apparently they were really hurting for scripts for most of the show's run.

Why was that? Was it hard to find the right fit or did people not want to be associated with a middling show or what?
posted by The Whelk at 2:47 PM on May 14, 2013


I recall this whole document being in The Making of Star Trek. I have a copy somewhere. Now I have to find it.
posted by Splunge at 2:52 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Umm, guys, you don't really need to wait for someone to scan this. Copies of this have been floating around for a long, long time -- I probably still have the copy of it that I ordered from Lincoln Enterprises back in the 80's stuck in a box in a closet somewhere.

A quick Google search for "reeks too much of 'space pirate' or similar bad science fiction" led me to this:

http://captainrobertapril.angelfire.com/Star_Trek_Writers_Guide.pdf

All 31 pages. Enjoy!
posted by webmutant at 2:59 PM on May 14, 2013 [26 favorites]


A big part of it was the way TV shows were written at the time. These big sprawling science fiction series were really new, so there just weren't a lot of seasoned TV writers who could crank them out in the way that you could crank out a western or a cop show. And yet Roddenberry wasn't terribly interested in writing every episode himself. For a while they had another producer, Gene Coon, who was a story machine. But then he had a nervous breakdown and left the show. And then they tried to get writers from the sci fi world, but those guys mostly didn't grok the rhythms of TV writing at all.

So in a lot of ways there was a dearth of people who could nail the style in a way that (fictional) Paul Kinsey probably could have. A shame, really.

There were also budget aspects to it, too, IIRC.
posted by Sara C. at 3:00 PM on May 14, 2013


Is there no young intern at the Houghton Library who has 20 minutes to feed this thing through the scanner? I mean really.

We'd be delighted, but it's Paramount's intellectual property even if we own the physical object. I have the luxury of working with 17th and 18th century books where this generally isn't an issue, but my colleague Leslie, who's the Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, has to deal with copyright issues for her collections on a daily basis.

MeFi's own Horace Rumpole works there. I'm sure he'd be very open to bribes.

Not to do that, I'm afraid, but literally anybody reading this can register as a reader and use Houghton's collections. Please don't all come at once though. The reading room can't hold more than 40 people. I will also mention that I love giving tours to visiting MeFites, and I'll be holding a meetup for a tour of our new acquisitions exhibition when it opens this fall. (No idea if Modern is including this in their display cases though.)
posted by Horace Rumpole at 3:01 PM on May 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


OK FUCK THIS I AM WRITING A STAR TREK

LETS DO THIS SHIT
posted by Sara C. at 3:01 PM on May 14, 2013 [14 favorites]


Wait my first answer was correct - I am well suited to write spec scripts for long cancelled shows
posted by The Whelk at 3:02 PM on May 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


DO IT DO IT DO IT
posted by The Whelk at 3:02 PM on May 14, 2013


(reading further, yes it would be hilarious if cop shows had to explain how a gun worked every single time they used one. In fact I kinda want an entire cop show written like it was bad science fiction)
posted by The Whelk at 3:04 PM on May 14, 2013 [16 favorites]


Oh man the full document is so fucking good.
posted by Sara C. at 3:05 PM on May 14, 2013


No, we are not on LSD.

everything that has always been wrong with the Star Trek universe. Just not weird enough.
posted by philip-random at 3:08 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Artw: "Right now I'd say any guide to writing an episode of a new SF TV show should contain the warning that it should not, under any circumstances, resemble a warmed over episode of ST:TNG because that shit is done to death now."

You mean like Ronald Moore's guide for Battlestar Galactica?
Our goal is nothing less than the reinvention of the science fiction television series.
We take as a given the idea that the traditional space opera with its stock characters, techno-double-talk,bumpy-headed aliens, thespian histrionics, and empty heroics has run its course and a new approach is required. That approach is to introduce realism into what has heretofore been an aggressively unrealistic genre
posted by octothorpe at 3:09 PM on May 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


"played by a succession of young actresses, always lovely."

Why HELLO 1967 Nice to see you again.
posted by The Whelk at 3:09 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having thought a lot about what the next iteration of TV sci fi is going to look like, actually, I would like to see a guide to writing any new SF TV show to contain a warning that it should not, under any circumstances, be a warmed over episode of BSG.

(I also feel like "No zombies" and "No post-apocalyptic scenarios" are the new "No space pirates".)
posted by Sara C. at 3:11 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I may bitch like hell about the end of BSG, but Moore was right about rejecting TNGisms. If anything all the hippy crap of the last episide backtracked on that.
posted by Artw at 3:12 PM on May 14, 2013


The progression of stardates in your script should remain constant but don't worry about whether or not there is a progression from other scripts.

The Star Trek Wiki editor pours some extra bourbon into his glass and sighs mournfully
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:13 PM on May 14, 2013 [15 favorites]


I don't want TNG-isms back.

I want something NEW.

Darker/grittier isn't new anymore.

Frankly, I would love a return to optimistic Roddenberry-style sci fi, I just don't know how to do that.
posted by Sara C. at 3:14 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Huh, for a year or two I'd been thinking that a police procedural in space would be new ground but when I got around to googling it I learned about Space Precinct, a short-lived British production. I'll have to check it out. (bah, not on netflix dvd—even as unavailable—despite its 2010 release according to wikipedia)
posted by jepler at 3:15 PM on May 14, 2013


/mostly writes in the genre of futuristic face-shooting.
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've thought a lot about a medical show in space, but then I think the medical show's moment is over.

Maybe I just think that because I worked on an unpopular medical show a couple years ago that was unceremoniously cancelled.

Still, I don't think the problem with current sci fi is the format, I think it's the tone. But I just don't know how to envision the tone I would want to see. I actually think the slightly humorous, good-natured, optimistic tone of 60's Trek is great.

I feel like Jane Espenson probably has the answer.
posted by Sara C. at 3:20 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd love to see a science fiction series set in the colonized worlds of our solar system, maybe two hundred years from now. Maybe with people living on the earth, moon, mars, a few space colonies and a few moons of jupiter. But with no aliens, time travel, FTL drives, super ESP powers, extra dimensions, etc. I guess something like Red/Green/Blue Mars but with more emphasis on the space travel element.
posted by octothorpe at 3:22 PM on May 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


2000ad did a space medical series, Mercy Heights, which was pretty neat IMHO but a big flop with readers. I could really see it working as a show though.

TBH something like Grey's Anatomy is so weird and disconnected from reality that you don't even need to add a genre element.
posted by Artw at 3:25 PM on May 14, 2013


I thought all of the Star Trek series were written by Benny Russell?
posted by lord_wolf at 3:27 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would be really interested in something somewhere between Firefly, Cowboy Bebop and the Bruce Sterling Shaper/Mechanist stories... If no one else does it I'll have to write the fucker.
posted by Artw at 3:29 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


The main thing with the planet-of-the-week format is that the visit to another planet is the story engine driving each episode. Sort of like the crime on a procedural, the illness on a medical show, etc. Even on a series like Mad Men, you've got your client/product/pitch for most episodes.

If you had a series set mostly on the moon and Mars, you wouldn't have an easy story engine for each episode.

On the other hand, TV drama is becoming more serialized these days, and BSG didn't really work on the planet-of-the-week format and did great. So maybe you could have a series about a bunch of people on a freighter to Phobos. But you would have to work really hard to find the drama there, week after week.
posted by Sara C. at 3:31 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought all of the Star Trek series were written by Benny Russell?

For a second, as I hit page down to get to the end, I read this as Bertrand Russell and imagined a much different Star Trek than the one we ended up getting in this universe. Thank you for that.
posted by gauche at 3:32 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


The shows for which I have the most enduring affection certainly all hit "humorous, good-natured, optimistic." Even though it was just one and a half series (BSG and SGU) I'm so tired of "people stuck inside a spaceship are out to betray each other, and the universe wants to kill all of them".

Space doctors and space police both seem like interesting concepts to try, but if there are aliens it's all to easy for the big reveal to be some made-up element that the audience couldn't anticipate even in theory. You know, like how the Mercaptans turn out to be unique among known species for the way the parent's body relies on the beating heart of its gestating offspring, or whatever.

(either that or these facts would have to be upfront in the first act, before anything interesting started happening, where they stick out like sore thumbs because if the fact shown isn't critical to the story it's just a waste of screen time)
posted by jepler at 3:32 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've thought a lot about a medical show in space, but then I think the medical show's moment is over.

We talked about this, I'm still on team SPACE DOCTORS WITHOUT SPACE BORDERS, the tone could be worked through.

I have a half finished script for TEENAGE ROCKBAND IN SPAAAACE wherein I along with my co creator try for an alt-indie comic late 80s kinda vibe.
posted by The Whelk at 3:37 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mostly cause I want a human inhabited universe that's just werid and alien and SUPER FUN and overstuffed with background that never gets fleshed out.

Okay basically I want Farscape but they're in a retro 20th century cover band not fleeing prisoners.
posted by The Whelk at 3:40 PM on May 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Culture novels as HBO series.
posted by Artw at 3:41 PM on May 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


I don't want TNG-isms back. ... I want something NEW.

Darker/grittier isn't new anymore. ... Frankly, I would love a return to optimistic Roddenberry-style sci fi, I just don't know how to do that.


My longstanding Trek idea is a prototype ship that goes sentient and pulls a Skynet immediately realizes it'll be killed/mindwiped and runs away. At least a half-season where Our Heroes are the crew assigned to follow it and bring it to heel, then Starfleet stop being their usual human-racist-Puritan-no-fun-brigade and commit to allowing it to live, at which point it joins starfleet and is its own captain, the crew that chased it become its (unnecessary) crew*, and the usual gallivanting around the galaxy ensues.

*Golly, does that sound like a GCU? What a co-eenkydeenk.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:41 PM on May 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


The Culture Novels

Wait, suggesting that authortian militarism isn't the way of the future? NEVER.
posted by The Whelk at 3:43 PM on May 14, 2013


Kickstarted Metafilter Space anthology comic.
posted by Artw at 3:45 PM on May 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd actually love to see a three-season, 36-episode run of the Mars trilogy--probably on HBO but SciFi could do it if they decide they want to be taken seriously again--but I'm not sure if it's actually filmable. If you could figure out a way around the technical problems (namely trying to show some semblance of what 1/3g would look like), you would have a great plot in a fairly realistic universe, 500-year lifespans aside.
posted by thecaddy at 3:49 PM on May 14, 2013


At least a half-season where Our Heroes are the crew assigned to follow it and bring it to heel, then Starfleet stop being their usual human-racist-Puritan-no-fun-brigade and commit to allowing it to live, at which point it joins starfleet and is its own captain, the crew that chased it become its (unnecessary) crew*, and the usual gallivanting around the galaxy ensues.

I think it would be much more fun if Something Bad happened to the crew's original ship just as they were gaining on the rogue ship, so they had to go live in the rogue ship and have crazy adventures.

I also think it would be really fun if some Data-esque android were the captain of the recovery mission, with a super passionate OMG SKYRIM NO first officer. You get a little bit of Ahab, but also that brain vs. heart theme that has always been a major component of Trek.

Oh, and the passionate OMG SKYRIM NO "heart" character is a Vulcan. Probably.

Except I think we've had too many Vulcan first officers, so maybe not.
posted by Sara C. at 3:50 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


...if we had more artists ......

( seriously I am in love with this space teens concept but without a deadline or cash at the end I am having a hard time to overcome my newly found resistance to doing yet another comic)
posted by The Whelk at 3:50 PM on May 14, 2013


That or It's Always Sunny In Engineering look at life for the grunt workers on a Enterprise type ship ( wasn't this an actual series premise? At one point?)
posted by The Whelk at 3:51 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


In all seriousness, though, I would love TV sci fi that isn't centered around a military organization AT ALL.
posted by Sara C. at 3:53 PM on May 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


IIRC there was a Mars series in development recently but it was dumped for being "too Sci Fi" - one of the guests on the Nerdist Writers podcast mentioned it.
posted by Artw at 3:54 PM on May 14, 2013


(Google tells me AMC looked at it in 2008/2009)
posted by Artw at 3:58 PM on May 14, 2013


...if we had more artists ......

That's why we Kickstart it!
posted by Artw at 4:03 PM on May 14, 2013


Man-like creatures are the easiest, of course, some photos in the casting books notwithstanding.
posted by matthewr at 4:05 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another idea that deserves to be tried again: the TV series with a pre-planned endpoint (Babylon 5).

Assume future technology that allows a big spacecraft with a continuous ~1g acceleration, and subjective travel times to nearby stars are in the range of 3.6 years to 6.6 years (thanks The Relavistic Rocket). Problem: nothing that makes good TV would happen weekly on such a colony ship. So when the show gets canceled early, I guess you just have to cop out and kill everyone to wrap up the loose ends.

Want gritty and dark? Take the central gimmick of 24 (namely that episodes are approximately consecutive and that each minute of screen time is about one minute of time in the fictional setting) but set it on an alien artifact (rama / vger / ringworld: vast and apparently desserted) with a cast of presumably-doomed abductees with just the oxygen in their suits… when the show is canceled, kill them but reveal that the aliens will just resurrect them and perform the experiment again because they're assholes or something.
posted by jepler at 4:09 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Huh, for a year or two I'd been thinking that a police procedural in space would be new ground but when I got around to googling it I learned about Space Precinct, a short-lived British production.

Ooooh, yeah... you probably want to try Star Cops - a dark, cheap, horrible lo-fi British police show set in Earth orbit.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:15 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK I'm about halfway through the whole 31 page enchilada, and there have been typos mispelling Spock's name twice.

(Mr. Spook and Mr. Speck. Lol.)
posted by Sara C. at 4:22 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of seventies sci fi touched on some interesting concepts. Outland with Sean Connery was about a Marshall keeping the peace on a mining outpost. Going all blue collar with space miners, rough edged engineers, and burnt out medical staff would make a great show.

Pay revolts, drug abuse, and just the day to day of working in an environment we are not meant for. You could even have a story arc of the miners finding a 95% pure palladium asteroid or something, and how they try to cash in on it without the company taking their cut.

All of this could be set in the Oort cloud, or some other asteroid belt within the solar system.
posted by The Power Nap at 4:33 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Faux reality show style! Ice Moon Truckers. It writes itself.
posted by The Whelk at 4:38 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It seems like TV writing is all about keeping the audience from changing the channel during the commercial break.

This has led to some amazing moments, but few indeed can surpass this one.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:38 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do you know what I'd like to see die just as much as TNGisms? Character moments that are evidently "character moments", ie were going to halt the momentum of the show now and show you we're grounded and human and "not just SF" - because that clearly isn't possible while also carrying the plot forwards.
posted by Artw at 4:44 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ideally the character moments should incorporate into the plot points, like say, having said plot be the direct result of the character's uh ...character.
posted by The Whelk at 4:50 PM on May 14, 2013


( or you know an elephant comes out of nowhere and squishes people whatever)
posted by The Whelk at 4:50 PM on May 14, 2013


I would be really interested in something somewhere between Firefly, Cowboy Bebop

I get what you're saying but the culture clash would be unimaginable, like mixing bourbon and amphetamines.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:51 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Artw: "I would be really interested in something somewhere between Firefly, Cowboy Bebop and the Bruce Sterling Shaper/Mechanist stories... If no one else does it I'll have to write the fucker."

Yeah, I've always thought that Schismatrix would make a hell of a miniseries.
posted by brundlefly at 4:52 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


This has led to some amazing moments, but few indeed can surpass this one.

It's more the combination of show + commercial that keeps viewers glued, but there's this from near the end of BSG. [WARNING: EXTREME SPOILERS, RAMPART]
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:55 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It seems like TV writing is all about keeping the audience from changing the channel during the commercial break

Remember the time the Enterprise exploded before the first commercial break? "All hands abandon ship!"
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:57 PM on May 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Boy do I. I was slack jawed.
posted by brundlefly at 5:27 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


That captures the best and the worst of TNG - WTF is Troi doing on the bridge? Michael Dorn's terrible line reading to start the clip. The ridiculous explosion effect. The tech mumbo jumbo. And then everybody dies - which is pretty fantastic.
posted by wotsac at 5:36 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


( or you know an elephant comes out of nowhere and squishes people whatever)

The Whelk, I really wanted to link to SCTV's O. Henry sketch but I think anti-infringement action is keeping it off the web. A description in case you're not familiar with it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:39 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: "It seems like TV writing is all about keeping the audience from changing the channel during the commercial break

Remember the time the Enterprise exploded before the first commercial break? "All hands abandon ship! "
"

Hell yeah, I was riveted to that particular episode. One of my all time favorites. The "Going through a time loop a couple times before you break out" trope had been done before this, but rarely so well.

Sure, TNG had its flaws as mentioned above. But when they were on, they were spot fucking on.
posted by Sphinx at 5:41 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


2000ad did a space medical series, Mercy Heights, which was pretty neat IMHO but a big flop with readers. I could really see it working as a show though.

Perhaps Mercy Point would briefly scratch that itch? I have a vague recollection of answering (an? the?) editor at 200AD's question about it on USENET and thinking, Jeez - was that Tharg I just emailed?
posted by Sparx at 5:44 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who was trying like hell to read the bleed-through text? (Until webmutant linked the full doc, OMG THANK YOU WEBMUTANT!)
posted by blurker at 6:35 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


TNG had its flaws

It's the Trek White Album. A lot of it is mediocre material performed well. About a quarter of it is bizarre drek that should never have been recorded. Then you get some experiments which don't quite pan out but are fun in their own way. What's left is perfect.

For reference,
TOS = Help!
DS9 = Abbey Road
Voyager = Wings
Enterprise = the collaboration between Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson

posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:35 PM on May 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


Here's the series bible to Harlan Ellison's The Starlost.
posted by cazoo at 7:08 PM on May 14, 2013


Metafilter is making me so happy tonight.

Now if only I could go back in time and give this guide to JJ Abrams.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:17 PM on May 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Need guidance on where to put the decontamination gel scene.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:21 PM on May 14, 2013


Artw: "The Culture novels as HBO series."

Well, you just got an audible gasp of awe from me on that one!
posted by barnacles at 7:43 PM on May 14, 2013


While I can visualize pretty much every set in the PDF's set list, the list includes the ship's chapel (not Nurse Chapel!). Does anyone know if that made it into any of the episodes? A quick search on Memory Alpha doesn't reveal anything.
posted by barnacles at 7:47 PM on May 14, 2013


There's a wedding scene in, uh, "Balance of Terror", I think?

I think in the guide it's mentioned that the chapel is a re-dress of one of the other sets, so it might be that they did it once and kept the set dressing in storage on the off chance anyone wanted to use it in the future.
posted by Sara C. at 7:55 PM on May 14, 2013


Lovely parkland exists locally, so do unusual highly modern buildings, so do farms.

Class "M" planets are the one that most closely resemble either Griffith Park or Yucca Flats.
posted by The Whelk at 8:01 PM on May 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's interesting how they keep warning against writing it like a WW2 Naval story with rough and tumble "enlisted men" and the threat of mutiny and now I kinda wanna see that show.
posted by The Whelk at 8:06 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sara C.: "There's a wedding scene in, uh, "Balance of Terror", I think?"

That sounds promising. Not knowing was going to eat away at me all day, so thanks!
posted by barnacles at 8:08 PM on May 14, 2013


Here's another tidbit on the chapel from Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise:

"The vessel's chapel is found on this level [G Deck (Level 7)]. Weekly services are held here by the ship's chaplain, as are weddings, funerals, and other customary gatherings".

G Deck also holds the Armory, Auxiliary Controls, Gymnasium, Main Briefing Room, Main Brig, Rec Dec, Science Lab, Sickbay, as well as the Transporter Complex.
posted by Omon Ra at 8:17 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


An interstellar diplomatic corps goes from weird bumfuck planet to weird bumfuck planet securing the borders of their new Interplanetary Space Federation. That's the concept. The show is actually Party Down in space.
posted by furiousthought at 8:35 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's cruel to make someone long for the impossible.
posted by The Whelk at 8:51 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's interesting how they keep warning against writing it like a WW2 Naval story with rough and tumble "enlisted men" and the threat of mutiny and now I kinda wanna see that show.

Seconded. The dudes in the red shirts have to notice that they keep getting killed.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:56 PM on May 14, 2013


That is actually the plot to Scalzi's "Red Shirts"
posted by The Whelk at 8:59 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


To the library!

At 12:04 am!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:02 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


An interstellar diplomatic corps goes from weird bumfuck planet to weird bumfuck planet securing the borders of their new Interplanetary Space Federation. That's the concept. The show is actually Party Down in space.

Holy shit, there's some zeitgeist here because I was just returning to this thread to propose Party Down in space.

Medical procedurals in space are too hard, because what will medicine look like in x-hundred years? Too confusing. Law & Order is still wide open, though. My other idea is Nathan Fillion-esque Wild West Space Judge. Justice comes to you, baby.

Or possibly Future Night Court. In space.
posted by purpleclover at 9:12 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Lovely parkland exists locally, so do unusual highly modern buildings, so do farms.

Class "M" planets are the one that most closely resemble either Griffith Park or Yucca Flats."


Thanks to Canadian tax policy, now all scifi worlds all resemble British Columbia.
posted by Philofacts at 9:13 PM on May 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


I always thought a Red Squad series would be cool. It's about a crew of advanced star fleet cadets. I suppose it could run the risk of becoming Beverly Hills 90210 in Spaaaaaace!
posted by hot_monster at 9:28 PM on May 14, 2013


Party Down In Space is basically Space Janitors, no?
posted by Sara C. at 9:31 PM on May 14, 2013


We need The Wire in Spaaaace. That's what the new Trek series should be.
Ensign Scotty McNulty. The hard as nails, synthahol drinkin' badboy. He'll show that Captain Picard where to stick the prime directive.
posted by hot_monster at 9:33 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you think about it DS9 was basically either The Sopranos or The Wire in space, before either of those series actually aired.
posted by Sara C. at 9:35 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Boy will the viewers be thrown for a loop when in Season 2 the focus switches to the cesium refineries on Tau Ceti. But if they stick with it through Season 7 they'll figure out where it all fits in.
posted by furiousthought at 9:36 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Spoiler Alert]The romulan serial killer in season 4 is faaaaaake!
posted by hot_monster at 9:38 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hah, TOS uses space suits in at least The Naked Time and The Tholian Web, so they're hardly un-Trek.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:47 PM on May 14, 2013


Real space suits are sealed at the wrists and neck, not gaping wide open, leaving exposed skin. Those are cargo cult space suits.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:52 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think LOST in space would be pretty good. And I mean that as more than just a dumb pun! Alien cultures should be weird and confusing and mysterious, so a show about them should be narratively tangled and confusing and mysterious.

I'd also be pretty happy if they just made a show out of Saga.

Rumors hint that Marvel's gonna be making an Inhumans movie based on Game of Thrones. Five warring houses of aliens living on the moon. I'd rather that it be a TV show, because that sounds like an awesome concept but too much to pack into a movie.
posted by painquale at 10:03 PM on May 14, 2013


Space suits are so last century. Everybody's using life support belts now.
posted by bac at 10:06 PM on May 14, 2013


I would be happy to never see another "blah based on the blah from the author of blah" ever again, in any media. Ugh.

I mean, I'm glad Game Of Thrones is good (and I tend to tell people to watch the show rather than waste time with the books), but I don't want a bunch of other series based on huge sci fi properties.

I mean, except for another Star Trek series, of course. Doy.
posted by Sara C. at 10:16 PM on May 14, 2013


I would like a similar document for Law & Order SVU, or just Law & Order in general.

Then I can get down to finally writing out my SVU episode. They seem to be hurting.
posted by ejfox at 10:20 PM on May 14, 2013


The Whelk: "it would be hilarious if cop shows had to explain how a gun worked every single time they used one."

One great thing about David Byrne's persona is he is totally the guy who treats normal day to day life like something in a sci-fi novel that needs explained.
posted by idiopath at 10:26 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Future Night Court. In space.

Seconded.
posted by MoTLD at 10:27 PM on May 14, 2013


Someone was supposed to give me the Criminal Intent writer's guide at one point, but they never got around to it or I never got around to asking and it was all fine because I fucking hated that show anyway.
posted by Sara C. at 10:28 PM on May 14, 2013


So I'm finally reading the BSG bible and it really makes me want to quit this notion of being a mostly comedy-ish writer and just write super gritty drama all the time.

I don't know who wrote this thing but it is the most inspiring document EVER.
posted by Sara C. at 10:37 PM on May 14, 2013


First-generation terraformers, having overthrown most of their appointed leadership en route, try to keep shit together and progressing until the next (large colony) ship arrives: Deadwood in space.
posted by furiousthought at 10:43 PM on May 14, 2013


So You Think You Can Dance: Low Earth Orbit
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:47 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Space Doctors Without Space Borders could be all about the lower-profile, morally murky stuff that happens in the quadrant, they're itinerant but they have a strong sense of teamwork and unit cohesion and their work takes them to places where hands-on medicine is the only option- from isolated mining platforms to nasty little conflicts on terraformed moons the larger organizations are just waiting to die down. They can be the first responders tending wounds in an awful space station crash or the one-of-many groups doing checkups in a refugee camp for migrants off a failed colony. They could even have, as per the writing guide, a "home base" basic transport ship, basically a slapped together Space Bus with lots of medical equipment taped into it.
posted by The Whelk at 11:00 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not to mention straight up, on the front line Red-Cross war medicine stuff.
posted by The Whelk at 11:02 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


It also has the potential to be "Medical Ethics Futurism: The Series."
posted by The Whelk at 11:09 PM on May 14, 2013


Reading the BSG bible it's immediately apparent that Lee = Riker and Starbuck = Ro. Not sure about any other character correspondences, but for all its THIS IS TOTES NOT AT ALL LIKE TNG, the cast borrows heavily from the TNG bridge crew ensemble.
posted by Sara C. at 11:10 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Space Journalists. Every week they visit a new space colony to investigate. The episode usually ends with our hero typing up his column to transmit back to Earth.


Space Court I always thought would be more like Ally McBeal.
posted by RobotHero at 11:22 PM on May 14, 2013


So You Think You Can Dance: Low Earth Orbit

American Idol in Space (or as I like to call it, "Macross").
posted by The Tensor at 11:55 PM on May 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lancelot Link, Secret Space Chimp.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:03 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not only is the BSG bible borrowing a bit from TNG even as it rejects it; it's also echoing a whole lot of stuff that Ronald D Moore did on DS9 when he was one of the principle writers in the last seasons. In fact, DS9 was kind of a rebellion against TNG as far as the writers were concerned, from what I've heard. They say that one of Roddenberry's edicts was that TNG must never have any "interpersonal conflict" among the crew, as that was unbecoming in the future or some such nonsense. Supposedly the DS9 writers were very happy to be free from that yoke, and it shows. And a lot of the BSG themes are already there in Ronald D Moore's DS9 episodes: evil aliens who take our form and may be pretending to be our best friends; military pomp in space™ on a ship dedicated to a romantically hopeless war; religio-sexual conundrums; etc.

Or I'm just indulging my penchant for talking about DA9 again. Anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 12:21 AM on May 15, 2013


Was there conflict between the Starfleet crew in DS9 though? I mean Sisko and Dax were total besties, same with O'Brien and Bashir. Most of the conflict was between Starfleet ideals and the people with other ways of doing things - Odo, Kira, Garak, etc...
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:09 AM on May 15, 2013


Well, conflict between starfleet and non-starfleet was how the writers got around the no-conflict rule in the early seasons. Later you have Section 31 and a whole lot of other stuff that Gene would not have approved.

(Though let's face it we would have all been better off if Roddenberry was around to stave off the Pah-wraith plot line)
posted by thecaddy at 6:31 AM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Evidently Slate is on a Trek kick this week.

I really can't imagine having watched every episode of every Trek series. I re-watched TNG in 2003 or so, when Netflix started carrying it, and we skipped every Lwaxana Troi episode (I love you Majel, but really)... enduring those as well as the worst of the rest (and of Voyager and Enterprise) would have been torturous.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:51 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Space Private Eye, set in a golden age of sci fi universe within he Solar System, where the inner planets of Venus and Mars are inhabitable as-is along with an inhabited Luna (with domes and space suits) and several moons such as Io and Ganymede etc, and Pluto is still a planet. Inhabited large asteroids and space stations etc.

Think early Alfred Bester (The Stars My Destination), only with a more modern gender role mindset, crossed with perhaps a dash of John Varley and a little PKD (just to fuck with you). Throw in the look of Blade Runner, make it dark-ish but not gratuitous, dial down the obligatory romance stuck everywhere, make it smart, character driven rather than gadget techno babble driven, and I, someone who hardly turns on the television, would break sacred covenants to watch week after week.
posted by edgeways at 7:13 AM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


"So, this has nothing to do with the Olympus Mons movement, or Dr. Cranson's work on terraforming technology?"

"Of course not William, Martian independence is a red herring. The real thing at stake is the only thing that has ever been at stake - real estate."
posted by The Whelk at 7:23 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


furiousthought - An interstellar diplomatic corps goes from weird bumfuck planet to weird bumfuck planet securing the borders of their new Interplanetary Space Federation. That's the concept. The show is actually Party Down in space.

Hyperdrive was almost that. Closest thing I can think of.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:49 AM on May 15, 2013


No toast for you!

I thought Hyperdrive was pretty fun
posted by edgeways at 7:52 AM on May 15, 2013


Downton Abbey:TNG. (Or was that the episode before last of Who?)

Edited to add: +1 on Hyperdrive, which I didn't think would get a second series. it did, it got better, it got canned. Familiar story, huh.
posted by Devonian at 7:55 AM on May 15, 2013


I came here to describe my memory of David Gerrold mentioning the guide in his book about writing "The Trouble with Tribbles" (yes, when I was about seven) as was overjoyed to see no less than three of you beat me to it. MetaFilter, I love you.

Future Night Court. In space.

STERRRRNNN!
posted by Gelatin at 8:58 AM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


They say that one of Roddenberry's edicts was that TNG must never have any "interpersonal conflict" among the crew, as that was unbecoming in the future or some such nonsense.

Dammit, Gene! I'm a writer, not a kindergartener!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:14 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really can't imagine having watched every episode of every Trek series. I re-watched TNG in 2003 or so, when Netflix started carrying it, and we skipped every Lwaxana Troi episode (I love you Majel, but really)... enduring those as well as the worst of the rest (and of Voyager and Enterprise) would have been torturous.

So, I'm doing this.

The only TNG episode I skipped was the flashback one at the end of S2 where aliens are eating Riker's brain, so they show a bunch of flashbacks of stuff from previous episodes that is A) not good enough to want to remember, and B) too recent, anyway.

You kind of start to love the Lwaxana episodes. Or at least I did, because as I discovered, the ridiculous campy episodes go down a lot easier than the really dull ones where everybody sits around talking about some situation with some beige aliens nobody cares about.

The secret I discovered with TNG is that Season 7 is secretly THE WORST. The first two seasons have a lot of problems, but there's some shine to it and, again, there are enough silly campy ones that it's ultimately ok (and there are a lot of hidden gems in season 2). Season 7, though? There is NO EXCUSE for that shit.

Now I'm on TOS, and surprisingly, I like it better as a television show than TNG. I grew up with the TNG characters, so there'll always be a place in my heart for that series, but TOS is better written. I've also started cutting the "Roddenberry optimism" and "Roddenberry crew camaraderie" a lot of slack seeing it in action. I think maybe for 90's TV the TNG and DS9 writers needed a break, but seeing TOS you really get the vision and tone Roddenberry was going for, and it works really well.

My plan is to finish TOS, work my way through the movies, and then head over to DS9. I'm still trying to figure out what to do about Voyager and Enterprise.
posted by Sara C. at 9:14 AM on May 15, 2013


THE HIGHER, THE FEWER!
posted by blurker at 9:19 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dammit, Gene! I'm a writer, not a kindergartener!

From watching a bunch of TOS and all of TNG (and having seen DS9 when it aired), my take on all this is not so much that Roddenberry didn't ever want there to be conflict, but that he preferred the structure of Our Team of good guys working together, finding conflict in each planet-of-the-week episode. So the Good Guys go down to a planet to fight a monster together.

This structure was the bread and butter of 60's TV, and TBH it still exists today.

Unfortunately, the last 25 or so years of TV has been all about rebelling against that classic structure, which is why you get people like Ron Moore wanting to do Hill Street Blues In Space.

It's really nothing at all to do with Roddenberry, except to the extent that he did not pitch TNG to be Hill Street Blues In Space and ended up with a bunch of really great writers who thought that would be a really rad idea.
posted by Sara C. at 9:21 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: "I'm still trying to figure out what to do about Voyager and Enterprise."

I'm with Worf on the subject of those two: "We do not talk about them."
posted by barnacles at 9:26 AM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Enterprise isn't too bad, at least at certain moments; I like a lot of stuff in season 3, anyway, and they do kind of push hard on themes that the rest of the ST series didn't get to. You got the feeling near the end, though, that they'd milked that structure set out in TNG for so many years that they were really recycling ideas and plotlines.

I haven't gotten myself to watch Voyager, though – I can say I've seen every episode of every Trek except Voyager, but somehow I'd lost so much steam after watching the other ones that I couldn't bring myself to do it. cortex has watched them, and he claims they aren't ultimately as bad as people think at first glance. I generally take his word for it on that and leave them alone.
posted by koeselitz at 9:32 AM on May 15, 2013


Not that my axe needs any more grinding here, but DS9 really did completely flip around on a lot of Gene's ideas – he really didn't like the idea of Starfleet going to war, for one thing, and like the whole seventh season is Starfleet-at-war. But in other senses I sometimes feel like he might have seen the wisdom in it, particularly if he'd lived long enough to see 9/11 and the aftermath. I mean, in 1998 and 1999 they were airing episodes that had Starfleet responding to "terrorist attacks on our homeworld" by taking away the freedoms of citizens and even going up against the Federation itself to try to consolidate power in the name of "homeworld security." I know plenty of people who feel like that was weirdly prescient, and even if it wasn't Roddenberry's ideal for how he wanted the future to be, it was a set of themes that really said something worthwhile about the world we live in.

Oh, and the Lwaxana Troi / Odo episodes on DS9 are great. The only episodes I can't stand are mirror-universe episodes. Total waste of time. Dumb, nonsensical concept – an evil universe? Really? – and weird execution, apparently designed to give actors a chance to do silly things and step out of their characters a bit, which is fine but... meh. Although thinking about it now, I guess it kind of makes sense in this context. For Roddenberry Star Trek was supposed to be the ideal of the future; the mirror universe is the opposite of that ideal.
posted by koeselitz at 9:40 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


From watching a bunch of TOS and all of TNG (and having seen DS9 when it aired), my take on all this is not so much that Roddenberry didn't ever want there to be conflict, but that he preferred the structure of Our Team of good guys working together, finding conflict in each planet-of-the-week episode. So the Good Guys go down to a planet to fight a monster together.

This structure was the bread and butter of 60's TV, and TBH it still exists today.


There was a marked shift in the writing approach between TNG and TOS, though, where he specifically didn't want interpersonal conflict between crew members in TNG but wasn't necessarily opposed to it in TOS. After all, the conflicts between Kirk, Bones and Spock are pretty much what breathes life into a relatively romance-free original series. There are no "feuds" between TNG crewmembers, though, and the bits of strong characterization--in early Riker and the underlying romance between he and Troi, for example--are artifacts from Phase II and The Motion Picture.

Having read the full guide, I honestly think it's a shame that Trek got away from many of these storytelling ideals--that character realism and compelling stories about people are paramount, for example. This is what made DS9 so good, in my mind--each and every story is a vehicle for character development. You saw the shift around the time Brannon Braga took over the movies and it has largely been downhill from there, until we get to JJ Abrams who not only has people kissing right off the bridge but people inexplicably going into labor on starships during space battles because he thinks women won't watch without babies. These stories have other appeals--they're flashy and sexy and commercial--but they're much closer to corny space pirates than Star Trek.

(And I say this as someone who is totally down with corny space pirates now and then. But they're something else entirely.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:46 AM on May 15, 2013


Oh, and the Lwaxana Troi / Odo episodes on DS9 are great. The only episodes I can't stand are mirror-universe episodes. Total waste of time. Dumb, nonsensical concept – an evil universe? Really? – and weird execution, apparently designed to give actors a chance to do silly things and step out of their characters a bit, which is fine but... meh. Although thinking about it now, I guess it kind of makes sense in this context. For Roddenberry Star Trek was supposed to be the ideal of the future; the mirror universe is the opposite of that ideal.

Agree about the Lwaxana/Odo eps, and the mirror universe episodes, too. I think what grinded my goat the most about them was that some evil mirror universe characters are slutty bisexuals but Andrew Robinson was forced to de-gay Elim Garak in our universe.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:48 AM on May 15, 2013


These stories have other appeals--they're flashy and sexy and commercial--but they're much closer to corny space pirates than Star Trek.

I didn't see the reboot in the theater, but I watched it on TV and thought it was an okay sci-fi action movie, but certainly not Star Trek. I saw the trailer for the new one a few weeks ago and honestly ... would it even be recognizable without the giant Enterprise near the beginning?
posted by uncleozzy at 9:51 AM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


IIRC Voyager has a good stretch from Season 4 onwards and becomes worth watching for the Doctor and Seven of Nine stories, and the odd plot line where they kill everybody and destroy the ship (not that it ever lasts long). TBH I can't really say it has a worse ratio of good episodes to duds than TNG, though DS9 obviously does best.

Enterprise exists solely for that kickass Mirror World two parter.
posted by Artw at 10:24 AM on May 15, 2013


Artw: “Enterprise exists solely for that kickass Mirror World two parter.”

Seriously? Those are literally the only two episodes of Trek I've ever willfully skipped. I guess I might have to go back and watch 'em.
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 AM on May 15, 2013


PhoBWanKenobi: “... Andrew Robinson was forced to de-gay Elim Garak in our universe.”

That is intriguing and awesome and actually makes a lot of sense. Wow.
posted by koeselitz at 11:24 AM on May 15, 2013


(That the character was bi, I mean – not that he was forced to de-gay Garak, obviously.)
posted by koeselitz at 11:29 AM on May 15, 2013


I think what grinded my goat the most about them was that some evil mirror universe characters are slutty bisexuals but Andrew Robinson was forced to de-gay Elim Garak in our universe.

They should have bi-ed up Slutty Space Pirate Sisko.
posted by Artw at 11:36 AM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I saw the trailer for the new one a few weeks ago and honestly ... would it even be recognizable without the giant Enterprise near the beginning?

What I wouldn't give for a good Star Trek plot that wasn't based on terrorism or revenge and crucially relied on an interesting Science Fiction concept other than nonsensical time travel. Even the Animated Series managed that once in a while -- probably because they were able to sneak it in because the money people didn't give a shit what the scripts were about. Why don't they ever call on a real SF writer when coming up with these things? Can you imagine a Star Trek treatment by Peter Watts? Granted, nearly a third of the audience would probably commit suicide, but hey, it'd be SF.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:44 AM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


The new one at least doesn't seem to have time travel. I think. Ready to be proved wrong on that.

Also crashing the enterprise isn't shocking if it happens every other film.
posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on May 15, 2013


Why don't they ever call on a real SF writer when coming up with these things?

They tried in the 60's and largely failed. The "real" SF writers didn't really get writing for TV, and they couldn't turn things around fast enough, and were used to being able to get away with stuff like saying they'd write an episode and then changing their minds.

TV sci fi is its own genre somewhat separate from classic SF fiction writing.

I agree that it would be interesting to see some more traditional sci fi elements on TV and in films, but for TV at least it is vitally important to stick to the needs of the genre, and to the needs of a TV series, in general.

In particular I think the "story engine" concept is especially hard for sci fi.
posted by Sara C. at 12:01 PM on May 15, 2013


Yes. Also, the Star Trek future doesn't actually bear much examining, so a proper SF writer whose aim is to produce something that makes internal sense will run up against the fundamental problem that the framework is intrinsically an anti-internal-sense poison pill. Still, I can dream, can't I?

Someone here suggested a NuTrek variant of the Gary Mitchell / Elizabeth Dehner saga. That'd be great: one in which things happened very differently and got much more out of hand, as in Galactic Scale, fundamental reality damage out of hand.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:10 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh! It could have Scotty protesting "I cannae reinstate the laws of physics, Captain!"
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:13 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seemed to me that each successive ST show's theme music got more and more...er... weak and innocuous and unmemorable.
posted by edgeways at 12:14 PM on May 15, 2013


Can you imagine a Star Trek treatment by Peter Watts?

This might be more appropriate for MeTa, but why can't I favorite a comment more than once? ;)

Granted, nearly a third of the audience would probably commit suicide

Oh, yeah, there's that. Never mind.
posted by MoTLD at 12:59 PM on May 15, 2013


George_Spiggott: “Why don't they ever call on a real SF writer when coming up with these things?”

Sara C. is right; when they tried that in the 1960s, it kind of backfired, and for exactly the reasons you would imagine (and you give) – Harlan Ellison had a whole subplot where people were dealing drugs on the Enterprise (quel horreur!) and he was mightily enraged when Roddenberry mucked about with the script. To be fair, I really don't think most science fiction writers are as ridiculous as Harlan Ellison was and is. But in general, after all moaning and everything, it's understandable that they'd be hesitant to go with a big name in the genre again.

But if they ever are, Mr Ellison wants them to know that he's willing to step in. (Or at least he was four years ago.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:59 PM on May 15, 2013


The reason they got stuck with Harlan Ellison was that he was the easiest SF writer to work with.
posted by Sara C. at 1:02 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


All this talk of Harlan Ellison just makes me want to rewatch the episode of Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated (aka the actually good Scooby Doo) where he guest starred (playing himself) in a plot involving a thinly-veiled HP Lovecraft. It's pretty great, you guys.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:11 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ah Ellison.. how can I like and loath someone so much simultaneously, I just don't know.
posted by edgeways at 1:41 PM on May 15, 2013


Ellison published his side of the story quite some time ago. I actually own a copy. I find him very credible, generally, along with over the top and fun to read. And yes, there was a bad crewman peddling a futuristic drug-equivalent on the Enterprise. Easy to see how Roddenberry or the network wouldn't wear it back then, but crewmen have been rogue and evil in all the series so it wasn't such a stretch then and wouldn't have been at all in the later series.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:44 PM on May 15, 2013


I just decided that the Space Doctors Without Space Borders ship doesn't rate a real warp engine -- they are assigned to a particularly crowded sector and will not be traveling the distances or speeds of a ship like the Enterprise. They'll be towed to their assignment and have engine capabilities of maybe Warp 1, tops, in limited bursts.

In the first season there will be an episode where they make accidental first contact with some aliens who don't have warp capabilities yet, but THERE'S A PLAGUE. The hippocratic oath vs. the Prime Directive.

Also an episode where they encounter a species where the men get pregnant. No word yet on whether that means women of that species can impregnate human men.

There should be two alien cultures who've been warring for decades and have just made peace with each other. We'll spend an entire mini-arc with them, not just the requisite O Hai yall's both dumbasses kbai episode.

Otherwise, it's all yours, The Whelk.

(Why is it so easy to make up a pretend Star Trek spinoff, but I'm not getting any good ideas for my actual Star Trek script...?)

Also I need to make sure Voyager didn't do any of those episodes.
posted by Sara C. at 5:24 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Enterprise episode Unexpected has a human male impregnated by a female alien.
posted by RobotHero at 10:28 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


That said, there are certainly other stories that can be done with the premise of an alien race where the males get pregnant.
posted by RobotHero at 10:33 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


But only if some give birth to sandwiches, and others to sailboats.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:34 PM on May 15, 2013


Is that a callback to an episode of the Cosby Show?

If so, WELL PLAYED SIR
posted by Sara C. at 10:54 PM on May 15, 2013


I decided in my head that it would play out that a male character hooks up with an sexy local woman, and THEN the clinic gets its first pregnant male local. Said male regular has a pregnancy scare ("wh-wh-WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE DUDES GET PREGNANT HERE?!") but it turns out that he's not reproductively compatible with that particular alien species anyway.

I just love the idea of turning the Mystical Pregnancy trope on its head, also giving male characters a taste of the body horror that female characters on sci fi shows have to deal with all the time.
posted by Sara C. at 10:56 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmmm, like with Space Doctors Without Space Borders, Starfleet could come into contact with a Starfleet-tinged but not actually them organization, a charity of some sorts, and then find evidence that said charity is actually doing Bad Things (possibly for good reasons) - The Captain will get an earful from an Idealistic Member of said charity who insisted this is all a misunderstanding, until it's revealed said Charity is actually doing Bad Things for Bad Reasons and the idealistic member was actually behind it the whole time and using The Captain to figure out how much the outside world knew of their dire deeds.
posted by The Whelk at 5:13 PM on May 16, 2013


Space PETA!
posted by Artw at 5:30 PM on May 16, 2013


PETT

Ethnical treatment of tribbles.
posted by The Whelk at 5:33 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Followup post on another part of our Star Trek collection--costume designs.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:32 PM on May 17, 2013


From that post:

Wise feared that the old bright uniforms would crowd out everything else on the big screen. He wanted the 1979 motion picture to look more “science fact” than science fiction.

Oh man this explains so much of why Star Trek The Motion Picture sucks.
posted by Sara C. at 7:58 PM on May 17, 2013


Wasn't Star Trek/Paramount connected to RCA which held the patent on Color TVs so a lot of the production color choices where so there would be a BRIGHT COLORFUL show that people with BRAND NEW RCA COLOR SETS could tune into?
posted by The Whelk at 8:18 PM on May 17, 2013


Yes.

It was NBC, though.

NBC was billing itself as The First All-Color Network, and the color system they were using was the RCA system. (Though I don't know that there were any formal ties between NBC and RCA beyond the technology and marketing interests) For a while ads for RCA televisions featured Star Trek, even.

I have a strong hunch that the reason Star Trek was picked up in the first place, and possibly one factor in its continued renewal, was the potential for showing off what color TV could do.

Definitely, watching the show, it's obvious that the design of the show was optimized for color. I was just noticing this again last night, watching "City On The Edge Of Forever". There's a scene where Kirk and Spock rummage through a basement. The light strategically falls only on brightly colored pieces of furniture. So even when they leave the primary-colored Enterprise and time travel to a setting associated with drab browns and grays, the production designer still managed to fill the screen with color.
posted by Sara C. at 8:50 PM on May 17, 2013


There are too many three-letter acronyms in the history of television.
posted by The Whelk at 8:56 PM on May 17, 2013


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