The Future of Trek
With the recent announcement that “Star Trek Enterprise” has been canceled has come the typical speculation about the future of all things Trek. For years there has been talk about a television series focused on the Klingons, or on Starfleet Academy. However among the speculators has come a curious voice of suggestion, from none other than J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Trek’s biggest sci-fi rival, “Babylon 5”.
The following is taken verbatim from a post JMS made to the moderated Babylon 5 usenet group:
I'm trying this via google to see if I can access the groups, since I've been offline since AOL stopped carrying newsgroups.
I don't normally do this...in fact, I don't think I've ever done this in any group before, because I've always kind of waited to make sure it was worth doing, and that it would make a difference.
I'm sending this to both the B5 folks reading this and any Trek fans looking on.
Bryce Zabel (recently the head of the Television Academy and creator/executive producer of Dark Skies) and I share one thing in common. We are both long-time Trek fans, from the earliest days, who felt that the later iterations were not up to the standards set by the original series. (I'm exempting TNG because that one worked nicely, and was in many ways the truest to the original series because Gene was still around to shepherd its creation and execution.)
Over time, Trek was treated like a porsche that's kept in the garage all the time, for fear of scratching the finish. The stories were, for the most part, safe, more about technology than what William Faulkner described as "the human heart in conflict with itself." Yes, there were always exceptions, but in general that trend became more and more apparent with the passage of years. Which was why so often I came down on the later stories, which I did openly, because I didn't feel they lined up with what Trek was created to be. I don't apologize for it, because that was what I felt as a fan of Trek. That's why I had Majel appear on B5, to send a message: that I believe in what Gene created.
Because left to its own devices, allowed to go as far as it could, telling the same kind of challenging stories Trek was always known for, it could blow the doors off science fiction television. Think of it for a moment, a series with a forty year solid name, guaranteed markets...can you think of a better time when you take chances and can tell daring, imaginative, challenging stories? Why play it safe?
When Enterprise went down, those involved shrugged and wrote it off to "franchise fatigue," their phrase, not mine.
I don't believe that for a second. Neither does Bryce. There's a tremendous hunger for Trek out there. It just has to be Trek done *right*.
Last year, Bryce and I sat down and, on our own, out of a sheer love of Trek as it was and should be, wrote a series bible/treatment for a return to the roots of Trek. To re-boot the Trek universe. Understand: writer/producers in TV just don't do that sort of thing on their own, everybody always insists on doing it for vast sums of money. We did it entirely on our own, setting aside other, paying deadlines out of our passion for the series. We set out a full five-year arc.
But when it came time to bring it to Paramount, despite my track record and Bryce's enormous and skillful record as a writer/producer, the effort stalled out because of "political considerations," which was explained to us as not wishing to offend the powers that be.
So on behalf of myself and Bryce, I'm taking the unusual step of going right to the source...right to you guys, fueled in part by a number of recent articles and polls, including one at www.scifi.com/scifiwire in which nearly 18,000 fans voted their preference for a new Trek series, and 48% of that figure called for a jms take on Trek. (The other choices polled at about 18% or thereabouts.)
See, if somebody doesn't like a story, doesn't want to buy it, that's all well and good, that's terrific, that's the way it's supposed to be. But when "political considerations" are the basis...that just doesn't parse.
So here's the deal, folks. If you want to see a new Trek series that's true to Gene's original creation, helmed by myself and Bryce, with challenging stories, contemporary themes, solid extrapolation, and the infusion of some of our best and brightest SF prose writers, then you need to let the folks at Paramount know that. If the 48% of the 18,000 folks who voted at scifi.com sent those sentiments to Paramount...there'd be a new series in the works tomorrow.
I don't need the work, I have plenty of stuff on my plate through 2007 in TV, film and comics, so that's not an issue. But I'd set it all aside for one shot at doing Trek right, and I know Bryce feels the same.
If you want this to happen...it's up to the Trek and B5 fans to make it so.
The rest I leave to the quiet turning of your considered conscience.
J. Michael Straczynski
I’ve always said what Paramount most needed to do was give the Trek franchise a break. With each subsequent show, Trek has gone under fire for weakening. There was a twenty year break between the original series and the “Next Generation” whetting people’s appetites for more. By continually cramming new incarnations of Trek down people’s throats, well... you aren’t giving them a chance to get hungry again.
But damn if that doesn’t sound like a spectacular idea - a Trek incarnation in the hands of two of sci-fi’s most creative people, and people who want to see Trek done right. Personally I’m all for that, and I’ll be letting Paramount know of my interest for certain. How about you?
Apparently in the time the internet takes to send news around, the situation has changed. Again, letting JMS explain in his own words:
Actually...belay everything I just said.
In the 24 hours between the time I composed the prior note, and sent it, and it made its way through the moderation software, two things happened:
1) I heard from a trusted source that Paramount is giving the Trek TV world a rest for maybe one to two years, depending on circumstances, no matter who would come along to run it. So it's not right to have folks putting in time doing something that ultimately would be pointless, I don't think that's a proper use of anybody's time.
2) At the same time as the above, an offer came in to run a new TV series for fall of '06, and since there's no way anything Trek can happen in the interim, I've said yes (now we have to negotiate the deal, but that should be fairly straightforward).
So on two counts, the whole thing is kind of moot.
We can reconvene a year or two down the road to see where this takes us, but in the interim...my apologies for waking everybody up in the middle of the night.
As you were.
Thanks and with great chagrinedness --
Well, I still say it's a good idea, but when "The Great Maker" says nevermind, you learn to nevermind - years of following him through one potential project to another. Now I'll be curious to see what else is on his plate, and official word on that "Babylon 5" movie we keep hearing about still hasn't come from JMS himself, so who knows what the future brings.
In the meantime, a two year break could be just what the EMH program ordered for Star Trek. Wait and see.
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