Friday, May 20, 2005


When Gene Roddenberry first pitched 'Star Trek' back in the 60s, he described it simply as "Wagon Train In Outer Space".

That's the sort of comparison that the franchise has held fast to since then, with the exception of 'Deep Space Nine'. That series broke the mold set by the original 'Star Trek' and as such I think it was the best of all.

Having such a fixed stage on which all of the galaxy had to now come to them, all sorts of stories were able to be told. And as it wasn't exactly a floating embassy under Starfleet control, the writers were able to explore characters who weren't exactly up to the high moral standards to which a Starfleet crew would be expected to adhere.

In the Talk-Back thread at Ain't-It-Cool?-News for 'Enterprise', a correspondent named "I Dunno" put it best regarding 'Deep Space Nine':

by I Dunno 2005-05-14 14:44:21
A Sulu or Riker show would be just the same "starship travels through the galaxy and solves some problem of the week" that we've seen with every other show other than DS9.

DS9 had the only really original concept. First it was a political story, then sort of a melodrama, then an all out war story. Which is why in many ways it was the best series, even if it didn't have the best characters.

If they can re-create that kind of originality then they might have a chance.

Sending a starship off to truly unexplored regions of space isn't going to be enough to inject new life into the franchise and remove the taint of "been there done that". That wasn't enough to help 'Voyager' rise above the average, and it was that type of thinking that nearly killed 'Enterprise' in the third season with that whole Xindi war premise.

It needs a break from the retread of "Wagon Train To The Stars". Such an analogy is really backward thinking nowadays, especially when Westerns no longer rule the airwaves, and most of your younger audience don't even know anything about the TV show 'Wagon Train'.

But how about if we chose a different TV show for an outer space comparison?

While watching the two-part penultimate episode of 'Enterprise', I was pleased to see the return of Eric Pierpoint as Malcolm's old boss in a shadowy Black Ops organization. They didn't beat you over the head with it, but it was obvious from a few clues in the script that he worked for the spy agency that would come to be known as "Section 31" nearly 200 years later on 'Deep Space Nine'.

To find out that Malcolm had once been involved with this organization only came in this final season of 'Enterprise' when it at last, but too late, found its footing and its voice. Had they only introduced this concept from the very beginning, so many opportunities could have been developed in the plotlines.

And during that scene, I thought to myself - "This is the way to go. A whole new direction. The next show should be 'I Spy in Outer Space'."

And I wasn't alone in that way of thinking either. Again, from Mr. I Dunno:

"I vote for a Section (shit, what's the number, 31?) show. Illegal covert black ops. Star Trek meets Alias. It would never be commercially successful but it would kick ass."

Okay, so he went with the more popular 'Alias', while I - as a classic old fart - went for 'I Spy'. And another show chosen for the comparison could be 'Mission: Impossible'. In Outer Space.

The reason I chose 'I Spy' would be to do something else radically different from all the past series: reduce the cast to less than a handful. And why not even just two main characters? Why does it always have to be a huge roster of bridge crew as found in not only the other 'Trek' series', but also 'Babylon 5', 'Andromeda', 'Farscape', 'Firefly', and all incarnations of 'Battlestar Galactica'?

I think 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy' always worked best when you brought it back round to just Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect.

Sure, you could do it with a larger cast and still be successful, a la 'Alias' and 'Mission: Impossible'. But why couldn't it just be a duo working undercover throughout the galaxy to protect the Federation (even if sometimes it puts them at cross-purposes with their employers, Section 31)?

But in each of those cases (and I won't name names), you always had at least one actor who just couldn't carry their weight; someone who might have been only cast to fill a type or occupation and were otherwise just too bland to develop any further. It might not have been the fault of the actors, but rather the writers, but even so, such characters eventually drag down the rest of the ensemble.

So why not just limit the cast to two people and infuse the guest cast with many a fantastic actor? Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott of 'I Spy' did just fine with their duo in carrying a whole show. So did John Steed and Emma Peel of 'The Avengers'. Mulder and Scully of 'The X-Files'. Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin or April Dancer and Mark Slate of the two 'U.N.C.L.E' programs.

Taking it outside our atmosphere, the Gallifreyan Time Lord known as The Doctor ('Doctor Who'?) never had more than a few companions along for the ride.

And then there's 'Homeboys In Outer Space' - ummm... on second thought.... erase that. Thank you.

I'd put the story back into the show's future, after the end of 'Voyager'. Because one of the biggest drawbacks to 'Enterprise' was that no matter what might have happened to the main characters, overall there was not much chance of any lasting damage to the main thrust of 'Trek' chronology.

Sure, there was the "Temporal Cold War" ("Time War" for short), but ultimately only the Gallifreyans and the Daleks were wiped out because of that. (OF COURSE, they're connected! Who do you think Future Guy was in those early episodes of 'Enterprise'? Why the Master, of course! LOL!)

And speaking of the Time War, the two Section 31 agents might also find themselves working with (and sometimes against) agents from the Federation Department of Temporal Investigations, such as Agents Dulmer and Lucsly, who made an appearance in one of the best 'DS9' episodes, "Trials And Tribble-ations".

Personally, I'd make it a male/female duo so that you could also play off the sexual dynamics of the pairing. And they don't both have to be human (although at least one of them should be to anchor initial audience involvement).
Human/Vulcan - we've been down that star path with Trip and T'Pol, and this would be an automatic strike against the premise with the more rabid members of the fanbase.

Klingons would lack the subtlety needed - unless we called a human/Klingon hybrid like B'elanna Torres back into service. And Andorians would be "out there" both in appearance and temperament. (Unless of course, the female member of the duo was the alien. I always found the Andorian women to be hot!)

And speaking of hot, why not make the female an Orion? We know now that with their command of pheromones, they are the true rulers of Orion society. Such a skill would come in quite handy during interrogations and tight situations where they needed to gain access to forbidden areas.

Yeah, and you can't beat the sexiness of verdant feminine pulchritude... unless it's with icy blue skin color and cute wiggly antennae.........

And by setting it post-'Voyager', you would have access to all of those many characters we've come to know through all of the sequels to the original 'Star Trek'. Perhaps save for 'Enterprise' of course, and the fact that they were set in the distant past should exclude them from every showing up.

It never stopped us from seeing McCoy, Kirk, Spock, Sarek, and Scotty again in connection with the cast of 'The Next Generation'. This is where the Temporal Cold War and that Federation Department of Temporal Investigations can come back into play.

Who knows? It might lead the way in bringing back not only Trip Tucker, but also T'Pol so that they could be together again.

So there you have it - my modest proposal for a future incarnation of the 'Star Trek' vision. And I'm laying it out there on the internet, free for the taking. Because I'm not into the televisiology scene for the credit or the bucks.
Televisiology is my personal mythology and I'm just following my bliss.


"Anyone not in Television to become a millionaire is a simpleton."
Robert Vaughn

1 comment:

WordsSayNothing said...

You must really be getting to love my comments by now...;)

First of all, I agree with the "Not Another Starship Show!" idea. Been there, done that, four times over. (Five if you count the Animated Series.)

Nevertheless, I do have to wonder about the wisdom of describing the premise for a new show as "[already existing TV show] to the Stars". I think I just desire the future of Star Trek to not be so simplistic. Then again, the morons working as network execs probably won't sign off on a show that can't be summed up in one sentence or phrase, so perhaps my standards are too high here.

In any case, I'm intrigued by your "I Spy to the Stars" premise. It's certainly not the first Section 31 idea I've heard, but I think it may be the first one I've heard that focuses on a mixed gender duo. The benefit of having just a duo as the cast is that at least this way, the show can't kid itself into thinking it's an ensemble show. Every Trek show except DS9 has always become about the "Big Three", with the others generally fading into the background. (I think this was Enterprise's worst mistake, in that I think Enterprise is more guilty of this sin than any other Trek show.) However, I want to mention one sci-fi show with just a duo as the cast that is important to mention--Quantum Leap.

You say that one of these two has to be human, and I'm afraid I'm forced to agree. We have yet to have a nonhuman captain (unless you count part-Prophet Sisko, but that's sort of a stretch), and I think there's a very good reason for that. In any case, if the cast is just two people, I think it's a bad idea to make one of them too inhuman-looking, so to speak. Spock was sort of controversial for the late '60s, but at the same time, if you just look at him, he's just a guy with pointy ears. I really don't think Trek would have caught on quite as well if there was a stranger-looking alien as Kirk's right-hand man and best friend. My idea for the duo is for a human male and a full Betazoid female. Betazoids look just like humans, so there's no expensive makeup necessary, meaning more budget can be spent on SFX, or better yet, roping in good writers. Obviously, having a full telepath on the team is going to be helpful to covert operations. Here's the kicker: the Betazoid female can't read the human male for some reason (years ago, I wrote a Trek character for an online RPG that had an implant in his brain that made it impossible to read him empathically or telepathically, and if the implant were removed, it would kill doesn't have to be this, though), meaning the sexual tension can go on with neither one having a leg up on the other (so to speak).

My big problem with your premise is the possible involvement of the Temporal Cold War. (Although the Master as Future Guy is hilarious.) I thought most Trek/Enterprise fans were in agreement that the worst part of the show was the involvement of the TCW story arc. (If they're not in agreement, I humbly submit that the TCW just plain sucked ass.) The TCW just never made sense, but I don't really want to go into that. Also, the Department of Temporal Investigations is funny and entertaining (and they must always be named anagrams of X-Files characters), but if you think about it, they're really reactive, not proactive, so our duo can't really take their marching orders from DTI. I think what I'm basically trying to say is that time travel stories should be done sporadically, if at all, or else they risk losing their appeal.

If anyone wants to use my ideas...I'm poor and I want some money. :-D