Author: Anna L. Kaplan
Dated 10001.18 through 10002.02
PART I: MOORE JOINS VOYAGER, THEN LEAVES UNDER A CLOUD
Time has gone by, and Moore now feels ready to share more of his thoughts, and talk about what happened to him. Sitting down at his home to begin what will be a long conversation, he says, "Iíve thought about it a lot, and thereís a lot of ground. I am pretty open to discussing any or all of it."
First, to place this in context. Ron Moore, a fan of the original series, came on board the writing staff of THE NEXT GENERATION when he managed to get a spec script into the hands of [then co-executive producer] Michael Piller. The script, which became "The Bonding," was quickly followed by a script assignment and then a staff position. Moore rose through the ranks to become story editor, executive story editor, co-producer, and producer of THE NEXT GENERATION. He penned many key scripts for TNG, including "Relics," "Tapestry" and "Sins of the Father," which introduced the audience to the Klingon homeworld. He would go on to create much of what fans now know of the Klingon people. He often co-wrote with close friend Brannon Braga. Together they scripted the finale of TNG, "All Good Things..." as well as the first two TNG feature films, GENERATIONS and FIRST CONTACT. After THE NEXT GENERATION finished its run, Moore moved over to DEEP SPACE NINE, where he flourished, ending up as co-executive
producer. As DS9 ended, he could not resist the siren call of VOYAGER; he agreed to join the staff as co-executive producer. Things went terribly wrong with executive producer Rick Berman and most especially with executive producer Brannon Braga. Moore explains his use of the term "they," which comes up in much of the conversation. "My use of Ďtheyí here is pretty wide. I`m essentially referring to VOYAGER as a creative whole, but the responsibility for the show and its choices ultimately falls on the Executive Producers [Braga and Berman]."
Moore says, "I regret going to the show. I think that was my mistake. I should have known better. I should have been smart enough to know. He and I had been partners and friends for so long; Ďwe can work it out.í You get into that kind of situation, and things change. Things changed, and it was a slap of cold water. I think all the other writers on DS9 knew better. None of them flat out said it. None of them said, ĎYou are making a mistake,í and I am not saying that they should. I wouldnít have listened to it if they did. But I knew at the time that they all thought this was a mistake. I should have left on DEEP SPACE NINE because that was a high point. I could have left the stage with the audience still applauding and feeling good about the performance. You take your curtain call and you get off . Thatís why I didnít do the next movie, for just that reason. Rick asked Brannon and me to make the next movie, and I said no because I was happy to leave FIRST CONTACT as my swan song to the TREK features. I should have been smart enough to do that and not take the VOYAGER gig. But I just didnít want to leave. I loved it so much and I just didnít want to go away from the franchise, and I just really enjoyed it. I was afraid to leave the nest on a certain level. They made it very easy for me. They gave me a lot of money. They let me stay in my own office, just change the business card on the front of the desk.. Then it just turned into this other thing, and it was this bad trip, and it was a bad place to work, and it was an unhappy experience. I was surrounded by people that were unhappy working there, and didnít like their own show, and werenít pleased with the people they were working with. Itís a bad thing to work through. Part of me is hurt, and a bit angry at Brannon on a personal level, as my friend, not as my boss. As my friend, I felt pretty pissed off. I am not angry any more. I am just grateful that I donít have to be there. I am just happy that I am not working on that show every day. I know it hasnít gotten any easier."
Moore laughs, "I know that life hasnít gotten better. It hasnít had this epiphany and turned the corner. Itís not a happy ship, the good ship Voyager. If I had not gone there, I think I would have always wondered, ĎMaybe I should have gone. Maybe it would have worked out. Maybe I would have been involved in the new series. Maybe that was a missed opportunity.í Now I know that none of that is true, that I didnít miss out on any opportunities. It wasnít going to be fun."
What did exactly push Moore out? Others have said that story meetings were held without Mooreís knowledge, and that things were done behind his back. Most of this he still keeps to himself and to those nearest to him. He will say, "I have very hurt feelings about Brannon. What happened between he and I is just between he and I. It was a breakdown of trust. I would have quit any show where I was not allowed to participate in the process like that. I wasnít allowed to participate in the process, and I wasnít part of the show. I felt like I was freelancing my own show. That was the feeling I had. I wasnít involved in it enough. Part of me said, ĎSo what? Youíve got a baby. You are making a lot of money. Shut up, enjoy it; go home early; go in late; relax. Youíve had a long ten years; take a break.í But I couldnít. It just ate at me. It was an integrity issue. I took a lot of pride in the work. The work matters to me. I took a lot of pride in what I did on TNG and DS9 and the movies. I
just couldnít work that way."
He adds, "It was happening with Brannon, with a writing partner. You have such a fundamental bedrock trust, that you must have between the two of you. Iíve said this for many years. You have to sit in a room with somebody, and you both have to slug away at a script and say to the other one, ĎThatís stupid; that sucks,í without it being personal. Itís about the work. Neither one of you is trying to get your words in, and neither one of you is trying to put the other one down. Itís a very emotional thing. Itís a very intense experience, and it only works if you trust each other just completely. For many years, we trusted each other. When that trust is broken in such a fundamental way, you just canít go back. I just couldnít go back. You just leave. There are things you can forgive but you canít forget. I couldnít go there any more. I realized what was happening: ĎIím not going to do this.í I donít care how much money was involved. It just wasnít worth it. Once I made my decision I
never looked back. It was going to be over, and it was over, and I walked away. I was very disappointed that my long-time friend and writing partner acted in that manner, that crossed lines to the point where I felt like I had to walk away from STAR TREK, which was something that meant a lot to me for a very long time, from my childhood right through my entire professional career. But I absolutely was not going to work like that. Coming from him, it carried even more of a weight that just forced my hand. I said, ĎFuck this.í Iím just not going to do it. I wonít do it, and I have no regrets about that. None whatsoever. I feel like I made the right decision. I wish it hadnít happened. I wish that things had not turned out that way. I could have handled it a little differently myself. I donít think it would have changed much. I think I could have, tactically, gone in and been confrontational early and said, ĎThis is bullshit. Letís clean this up.í I think it would have turned out the way it turned out
regardless of what I did. It just had to happen. Itís a Hollywood ending to a Cinderella story. I did see the entire chain of events from Hollywood. From the way I got on the show, with the kid tucking the script under the arm and going to the set, and the whole fan dream come true, to leaving with hurt feelings, because of disproportionate power in the relationships. Ira Behr [executive producer, DS9] did say that to me. He said, ĎNow your education is complete. Now you have learned all there is to know about Hollywood from your experiences at STAR TREK."
PART II: MOORE TALKS ABOUT HIS BEGINNINGS AT TREK AND THE SWITCH TO VOYAGER
Letís go back to the beginning for Moore, to get a history lesson as well as an idea about what about VOYAGER upset him so much. He remembers, "When I came aboard in the third season, NEXT GEN was very much the new kid on the block. There was a lot of static from the fans about the old series. ĎYou can never replace Kirk [William Shatner] and Spock [Leonard Nimoy]; itís not the real Enterprise, and this isnít STAR TREK.í People forget that. Now NEXT GEN, everybody holds it up as the greatest thing. But nobody was giving us those plaudits at the beginning. We felt a bit under siege when I was there. There wasnít a lot of support out in the fan community. At conventions people were still selling bumper stickers that said ĎKirk and Spock forever, Picard [Patrick Stewart] and the bunch, to hell with them,í and that kind of stuff. But what we really had was an esprit. We really cared about the show, and we were very proud about what we were doing. We were determined to try to make
something good happen. That third season was very difficult for everybody, as I have recounted many times. Michael Piller came aboard; there was warring with the writing staff; [TREK creator] Gene Roddenberry was still around. The politics of the show were still churning a little bit. What Michael brought to the process was this determination to make the show about the characters, about these people that were on the Enterprise, and not just about the alien of the week or the situation of the week. It was that determination on his part that really informed the rest of that series, and consequently DEEP SPACE NINE, and to a large extent, the movies. I think Michael has become the forgotten player in all of this. People now argue about Rickís contribution to the show, and where Rick has taken the show since Gene died, and what is Rickís legacy, and the Gene-versus-Rick thing--whether he has been the good guardian of the franchise ever since Gene passed away. In truth, it was Michael. Michael is the guy who came in and said, ĎThis is the show we are going to do,í and forced the series in that direction. In doing so, what he really did was validate the central premise of STAR TREK, which was always about the characters. It was always about Kirk and Spock and McCoy [DeForest Kelley] in the original series, and how those adventures affected those men, and the relationship between those people. People tend to get caught up in the plot and stories, and what kind of story telling STAR TREK is doing. But at its heart itís a human show about human beings in the future, and using that as a canvas to tell stories about the human experience. I think people mistake the campy-ness of the original series for its appealóthat it has a sort of kitchy value. I have heard Rick say things like, ĎKirk is the prototypical sixties hero. He had a babe in one arm and a phaser in the other.í Thatís kind of his popularized image of Captain Kirk and what that whole series was about. But really it was about Kirk as a man, as a character, as a human being, and what he experienced out in the galaxy, and the way he led that ship. What people remember about that show are not those plot lines. I think the true hard-core fans will recite chapter and verse of the episodes that mean a lot to them, why ĎMirror, Mirror,í was a great show, what ĎCity on the Edge of Forever,í really meant. But in truth, itís really because they fell in love with those people. People ran around dressing up like Kirk and putting on Spock ears. They didnít run around waving signs about the politics the show espoused, or what the sociopolitical commentary of the show was. That was all interesting, good stuff, but it was the people that they were seeing on the screen each week that they cared about. When Michael really forced NEXT GEN to go in that direction, he was really being truer I think to the spirit of what the original series was about. It was about those three men, and less so the supporting characters, because that show really wasnít an ensemble show. It was about those three principles every week, week in and week out, and mostly Kirk, almost entirely Kirk. As NEXT GEN started to really go in those directions, and the writing staff kept changing over the years, we had a sense that we were getting traction, and the show was starting to work for us. The characters were starting to come together. We started enjoying it more. It started being a fun place to work."
Moore continues,"TNG was just a happy place to be. It was the kind of place where there were no bad ideas in the room. Michael created an atmosphere where you really felt free to voice your opinions. You could argue with the boss. I argued with Mike a lot, right to the point I thought I should be fired, but he never even came close to that. Thatís a tribute to him. What he really fostered was this sense of, ĎWeíre all in this together, and itís just about the work. Itís just about making the best show that you possibly can.í That was always everybodyís top priority. The last season of TNG was not as much fun as the others had been. Everybody was getting really tired. I think the quality of the show suffered in that last year. I bear some of the responsibility for that, because I think I underestimated the impact that GENERATIONS was going to have on the series. So TNG didnít leave with the best taste in the mouth, as I look back on it. I regret the way the series went off the air, even though, miracle of miracles, the final episode turned out really well. Somehow, someway, it was just one of those nice little pieces of magic that happens. You happen to write a good script, and it happened to be really memorable, and it happened to all click together in ĎAll Good Things...í"
Then Moore moved over to DS9. He recalls, "DEEP SPACE NINE took that to another level. We were so tight as a writing staff, we loved the show so much, that we could sit in that room and literally scream at each other. Hans Beimler and I could just go at it, hammer and tongs, yelling and really getting upset. We would just sit there and yell about story points, and then, ĎWhere are we going to lunch today?í We would all go out, and really enjoy each otherís company and have a good time. What I found on VOYAGER was suddenly it wasnít about the work anymore. It wasnít about making the best show that we possibly could; it was about all these other extraneous issues. It was about the politics of the show, and the strange sort of competition of egos within the writing staff and the producing staff and the management of the show. ĎCompetitioní is probably a misleading term. The politics of the show were such that the egos of the people in charge of the series were threatened by the people who worked for them. To be blunt, [writers] Bryan Fuller and Mike Taylor were treated very shabbily, and it pissed me off. They took a lot of crap, and the only reason it was done was to keep the guys on the top of the pyramid feeling good about themselves. It also had the effect of keeping the writing staff from working in concert as a group. The DS9 staff by contrast was very tight.
"The fun factor dropped precipitously, and I think that shows on the screen," Moore continues. "I think that the product that you are getting now is also a reflection of the way the show is produced. Certainly the spirit of DEEP SPACE NINE, and what we were trying to do, and what we believed in, informed what we put out. You could say that DEEP SPACE NINE was too inside, and it was too complex. It got too much inside of its own head to be accessible to people who just approached the show for the first time, but that is a reflection of deep passion and commitment to the show. Whereas VOYAGER is so scattered internally, the way itís put together, that in a large measure, the product is very scattered, and doesnít have cohesiveness. In terms of the arc of the relationships and the working environments, it was just like a parabola. It started tense, difficult, but, ĎWe are all in this. Letís just keep the show going somehow, and it does matter. It doesnít matter if Gene likes us or not, it doesnít matter if Michael is mad at us today; we are going to get the show on the air, so come on.í TNG was about learning the craft. We were all trying to do the best thing, and sensing that it was getting better, and watching the ratings go up, and watching more public acclaim, and watching it become its own piece of Americana, and eventually eclipsing the original series to a large extent in the popular imagination. DEEP SPACE NINE was this real sense of, ĎWeíre here. Letís do the best show we possibly can, and letís push the concept as far as we possibly can.í I was hearing stuff about VOYAGER all along. Then to go to VOYAGER and just to find out that on a personal level that the environment was not conducive to doing good work. The environment was chaotic and fraught with other issues that just didnít have anything to do with the work. It just became another job. Thatís never what I had experienced, and it was very disappointing. Weíre talking just about the work environment. Thatís aside from all the reasons that I left."
Moore went over to VOYAGER expecting to do his job as a writer and co-executive producer. He studied the episodes of VOYAGER, asked questions, and tried to familiarize himself with the showís characters. This did little to allay his underlying doubts about the show. He says, "I can only criticize VOYAGER so much. I only worked on it for a given amount of time, but I do have a lot of experience at STAR TREK. I did work on it for a couple of months, and I did study it intensely for a few months leading up to that, trying to get my head inside of it. Writing an episode forces you to kind of get your hands dirty and see where the flaws in the show are."
In fact, Moore is very qualified to comment on VOYAGER, knowing TREK inside out and having worked on all of the last three incarnations of TREK. Moore knows TREK as well as anyone can. He recalls early impressions. "I would see things from the outside, and I would just pick up things from talking with Brannon, and his frustration. He wasnít happy a good chunk of the time either. I think VOYAGER has always had a certain rocky, internal structure. Thatís not to say you canít produce a quality product out of that. If you can put it on the screen and make it work, the internal politics donít matter. But when whatís on the screen isnít working, then the whole equation gets thrown into question."
Who judges if VOYAGER is working? Moore answers, "The audience is still watching VOYAGER. The ratings are down, but the ratings are down across television, in every category, on every network, and every program. As long as the studio believes that the franchise can make money, and that there is an audience there, they will continue to produce it. If they believe that it is seriously in great difficulty, Paramount will make changes. But each of us has to make our own judgement on what is good and bad. I know what I like in the series, and what I donít like in the series. I donít really care for where the franchise is now, where itís going. Itís not about anything. It feels to me that it is a very content-free show. Itís not really speaking to the audience on any real level anymore. Whatís happening is that itís very superficial. It talks a good game. It talks about how itís about deep social problems, and how itís about sociological issues, and that itís very relevant. Itís about exploration, and itís about the unknown, and all these cute catch phrases, but scratch the surface of that and there is really not much underneath it all. VOYAGER doesnít really believe in anything. The show doesnít have a point of view that I can discern. It doesnít have anything really to say. I truly believe it simply is just wandering around the galaxy. It doesnít even really believe in its own central premise, which is to me its greatest flaw."
Moore notes, "Iíve said this to Brannon for years, because he and I would talk about the show when it was first invented. I just donít understand why it doesnít even believe in itself. Examine the fundamental premise of VOYAGER. A starship chases a bunch of renegades. Both ships are flung to the opposite side of the galaxy. The renegades are forced to come aboard Voyager. They all have to live together on their way home, which is going to take a century or whatever they set up in the beginning. I thought, This is a good premise. Thatís interesting. Get them away from all the familiar STAR TREK aliens, throw them out into a whole new section of space where anything can happen. Lots of situations for conflict among the crew. The premise has a lot of possibilities. Before it aired, I was at a convention in Pasadena, and [scenic illustrator, technical consultant Rick] Sternbach and [scenic art supervisor, technical consultant Michael] Okuda were on stage, and they were answering questions from the audience about the new ship. It was all very technical, and they were talking about the fact that in the premise this ship was going to have problems. It wasnít going to have unlimited sources of energy. It wasnít going to have all the doodads of the Enterprise. It was going to be rougher, fending for themselves more, having to trade to get supplies that they want. That didnít happen. It doesnít happen at all, and itís a lie to the audience. I think the audience intuitively knows when something is true and something is not true. VOYAGER is not true. If it were true, the ship would not look spick-and-span every week, after all these battles it goes through. How many times has the bridge been destroyed? How many shuttlecrafts have vanished, and another one just comes out of the oven? That kind of bullshitting the audience I think takes its toll. At some point the audience stops taking it seriously, because they know that this is not really the way this would happen. These people wouldnít act like this."
PART III: MOORE DISCUSSES THE FAILURE OF THE VOYAGER PREMISE
Moore says that he recognized VOYAGERís biggest problem by the end of the first episode. "By the end of the pilot, you have the Maquis in those Starfleet uniforms, andó boomóweíve begun the grand homogenization. Now they are any other ship. I donít know what the difference is between Voyager and the Defiant or the Saratoga or the Enterprise or any other ship sitting around the Alpha Quadrant doing its Starfleet gig. That to me is appalling, because if anything, Voyagerócoming home, over this journey, with that crewóby the time they got back to Earth, they should be their own subculture. They should be so different from the people who left, that Starfleet wonít even recognize them any more. What are the things that would truly come up on a ship lost like that? Wouldnít they have to start not only bending Starfleet protocols, but throwing some of them right out the window? If you think about it in somewhat realistic terms: youíre on Voyager; you are on the other side of the galaxy; for all you know, it is really going to take another century to get home, and there is every chance that you are not going to make it, but maybe your children or grandchildren will. Are you really going let Captain Janeway [Kate Mulgrew] rule the ship for the next century. It seems like, in that kind of situation, the ship would eventually evolve its own sort of society. It would have to function in some way, other than just this military protocol that we repeat over and over again because itís the only thing we know. Youíve got the Maquis onboard. From the get-go they are supposed to be the anti-Starfleet people. They behave exactly like the Starfleet people with the occasional nod towards BíElanna [Roxann Dawson] making a snide remark about Starfleet protocols, or Chakotay [Robert Beltran] getting a little quasi-spiritual. But in essence, they are no different than any other ship in the fleet. The episodes that you watch week after week are so easily translatable to NEXT GEN that itís almost a cookie-cutter kind of thing. Itís a waste of the premise. Thatís not to say they donít have any good episodes. There are some good episodes in the mix, and I have seen a couple. The show can work.
"But the ship wouldnít look like that,"
Moore continues. "Itís not truthful. On DEEP SPACE NINE, that was the watchword. We wanted it to be true. There was a lot of truth in DEEP SPACE NINE, a lot of difficult questions that we tried to answer, and some difficult questions that we couldnít answer. DS9 was a real place, a truthful place; it was a place where we explored things on a real level. But VOYAGER doesnít go there. It just will not go there. You are trying to tell the audience on the one hand, ĎWeíre so far from home, and itís going to take us so long, and we really wish we could get home. Itís rough out here.í Janeway wrings her hands about all the things that she has sent the crew through. Then, itís off to the holodeck. You canít talk with any kind of a straight face about food rations and energy conservation, and having a real kitchen in the mess hall, when at the same time youíve got the holodeck going. Itís such a facade, and no matter what kind of technobabble bullshit you come up with, the audience intuitively knows, again, thatís not truthful. There is no reality there. That would not happen. Even on GILLIGANíS ISLAND, they didnít have the Skipper and Gilligan sitting in the Minnow, watching color television. But on VOYAGER, who cares? We want the holodeck to run so we can go do period pieces, and we can do dress up and we can do fun adventures on the holodeck, and we donít want to give that up. Okay, but donít try telling me at the same time that you are really out scraping by and barely making it out there on the frontier, when none of their hair is out of place, and their uniforms are pristine, and the bridge is clean every week."
Moore laughs, "What is the difference really between Voyager and the rest of the fleet? When that ship comes home, it will blend right in. You wonít even know the difference. They havenít personalized the ship in any way. Itís still the same kind of bare metal, military look that it had at the beginning. If you were trapped on that ship and making your way home, for years on end, wouldnít you put something up on the walls? Would you put a plant or two somewhere in a corridor? Wouldnít you try to make it a little more livable? That is the challenge that I think they have really dropped. They just wonít deal with the reality of the situation that ship is in. They look for stylistic twists, and ways to make the show interesting visually, and up the action quotient, and up the sex quotient. But thatís not the problem. If you canít believe in your own premise, you then certainly canít take the next step and try to have a point of view about life, about what it means to be human: what is the nature of the human heart, and good and evil, all of the great questions that STAR TREK is famous for trying to grapple with in a science fiction context. When VOYAGER tries to go there it is so completely superficial that it doesnít mean anything. Even when they are trying to really mine something, itís undercut by the fact that nothing else surrounding it is real, and that you canít accept these people in the positions and what they are doing. Kirk and company had a point of view. Kirk was a man of opinions. He was a man who had his own take on right versus wrong, when to take action, and when not to. I think he is respected for that. People that looked up to that character, looked up to him because he was a leader who said, ĎWe are going this way, and this is the right thing to do.í Picard is a different kind of leader. Picard was a more thoughtful guy who saw there was a little more gray in the world, but still had a very high sense of ethics, such a high sense of ethics that I think it bound us a little too much; it bound the character a little too tightly. Sisko [Avery Brooks] was a man who saw the world in shades of gray, who was always thrust into ambiguous situations, who was always having to grapple with questions of faith and reason and right and wrong, and had to do it in an interesting in compelling way. The people around him supported that premise. They were all flawed characters on a flawed station dealing with a flawed situation. It gave them permission to explore that ground. I donít know what VOYAGER is about. It just doesnít seem to speak to me. I watch the show; I try to understand what it is saying to me, what itís trying to explore. But it doesnít seem to explore the human condition. It doesnít have a point of view on the subject. It falls back on STAR TREK boilerplate; it falls back on the Prime Directive. The Prime Directive has now become this cop out for doing anything in an episode, for having any point of view."
In addition, Moore is bothered by the showís lack of continuity. "The continuity of the show is completely haphazard. Itís haphazard by design. Itís not like they are trying desperately to maintain continuity of the show. They donít care, and theyíll tell you flat out that they donít care. Well, that is misreading the core audience. The STAR TREK, hardcore audience loves continuity; they love accumulating data on these ships. They love knitting together all the little pieces, and compiling lists, and doing trivia. Thatís been a staple of the STAR TREK culture from the get-go. People really love the details. They love the fact that the details all add up and make one mosaic, and that the universe holds together. When you donít give a shit, youíre telling the audience: donít bother. Donít bother to really learn this stuff, because itís not going to matter next week, anything that happened this week."
The writer-producers of VOYAGER maintain that they donít want continuity, so people can watch the shows out of order, for example, now in five-nights-a-week syndication. Says Moore, "Iíve just never believed that argument, because it seems to me that youíre just underestimating the intelligence of the audience. Youíre just saying the audience is a bunch of idiots. Who is going to be watching the show in strip syndication five nights a week? People that like that show, and presumably have watched more than one show. Got forbid the stations have to run them in order. Itís an excuse that sounds plausible but is basically a way for them not to have to care about maintaining continuity, because it is tough to maintain continuity. Itís very hard to write in continuity, because of the nature of television. You are writing ahead, and you are writing at the moment, and you are changing things in post. Itís really hard to keep all the ducks in a row, which we found at DEEP SPACE NINE. In that last ten-episode run, where it was almost completely serialized, thatís a tough act to carry off. But itís also worth the effort, because the payoff is the world has more validity. The audience can sense there is truth in it. Itís a better show, and it will last longer as a result. If you are really just so concerned that this weekís episode wonít make sense because you didnít see that episode three years ago, why canít STAR TREK do like ALLY MCBEAL, or THE PRACTICE, or ER, all the big successful shows do. Put a little recap at the top of the show: ĎPreviously, on STAR TREK: VOYAGER...íóeven if itís an episode from two years ago. You just quickly get the audience up to speed, because the audience is not stupid. The audience has watched television for a long time. They understand that they have missed some things, that perhaps this is a reference to a show that they didnít see. They arenít just going to throw up their hands and move on. If you are pre-supposing that, you are aiming towards the person that is grabbing a beer, and isnít really paying attention, and is walking out of the room every ten minutes and coming back and sitting down; all you are going to do is dumb down the show. You are reducing it to its lowest common denominator, and whatís the point of that? What do you get out of that? You just get a so-so kind of television experience."
Moore asks, "How many space anomalies of the week can you really stomach? How many time paradoxes can you do? When I was studying the show, getting ready to work on it, I was watching the episodes, and the technobabble was just enervating; it was just soul sapping. Vast chunks of scenes would go by, and I had no idea what was going on. I write this stuff; I live this stuff. I do know the difference between the shields and the deflectors, and the ODN conduits and plasma tubes. If I canít tell whatís going on, I know the audience has no idea whatís going on. Everyone will say the same thing. From the top down, you bring up this point, and everybody will say, ĎI am the biggest opponent of techno-babble. I hate technobabble. I am the one who is always saying, less technobabble.í They all say that. None of them do it. Iíve always felt that you never impress the audience. The audience doesnít sit there and go, ĎGod damn, they know science. That is really cool. Look how they figured that out. Hey Edna! Come here. You want to see how Chakotay is going to figure this out. Heís onto this thing with the quantum tech particles; itís really interesting. I donít know how he is going to do it, but he is going to reroute something. Oh my God, he found the anti-protons!í Who cares? Nobody watches STAR TREK for those scenes. The actors hate those scenes; the directors hate those scenes; and the writers hate those scenes. But itís the easiest card to go to. Itís a lot easier to tech your way out of a situation than to really think your way out of a situation, or make it dramatic, or make the characters go through some kind of decision or crisis. Itís a lot easier if you can just plant one of them at a console and start banging on the thing, and flash some Okudagrams, and then come up with the magic solution that is going to make all this weekís problems go away."
Moore ran straight into these problems when he started working on VOYAGER. While writing notes on drafts of the scripts, as is customary, he was immediately being assaulted by techno-babble. He says, "When we were working on ĎEquinox Part II,í I remember the pages coming in, and I would take notes, and send the notes back. There were just pages of it that I have no idea whatís going on. It was just page after page of, ĎReroute the so-and-so, and engage the blankety-such, and the subspace dewop is doing its other thing.í Just pages would go by, and in reading the script Iím flipping through it to find something of substance. It just fell on deaf ears. To be honest I havenít even sat down and watched ĎSurvival Instinctí or ĎBarge of the Dead.í I have them; I just havenít watched them. They sent me the final drafts of the scripts, and I glanced through the script of ĎSurvival Instinct,í and I knew that they had done some extra shooting after the show was over. The show was a little short, so they had to add some pages, which was nothing unusual. But they added the pages with all this techno-crap in sickbay! I hate it so much. It is so off-putting. It doesnít add anything to the drama."
He continues, "I read Bryanís first draft [of ĎBarge of the Dead], and I was giving him notes, and I liked things about it. I was looking forward to helping him through the rewrite, but it was right exactly at that point that the whole thing came down, and I left. The last week on the show, I was just waiting for the legal things to get straightened out, contractual issues here and there. The distancing had begun. Dailies were coming in on my own show, and I couldnít even watch the dailies. It was becoming too painful. I just stepped away. I havenít sat down and watched those two shows."
PART IV: RON MOORE WORKS ON STAR TREK: VOYAGER
Although Moore did not watch "Survival Instinct" or "Barge of the Dead," he laughs and says, "I watched ĎEquinoxí because I was involved with that. When we started the season, they had done ĎEquinox I,í but they had no idea what ĎEquinox IIí was supposed to be about, which on one level is somewhat appalling, but itís not the first time thatís happened. That had happened a couple of times on NEXT GEN, and Michael was actually kind of proud of it on NEXT GENERATION, that he left ĎBest of Both Worldsí hanging without any idea how to wrap it up. I donít like to work that way, because it is really working without a net. We sat down and approached ĎEquinox IIí and tried to find what the show was about. What was the point of meeting this ship and this crew and this captain, and what did it mean? We finally landed on this idea that the two captains were going to go in opposite directions. Janeway was going to really feel the same kind of pressures and stresses that Ransom [John Savage] felt, and watch how it could turn a good, by-the-book Starfleet captain into what he had become. At the same time, his interaction with the Doctor [Robert Picardo] and Seven of Nine would rekindle his humanity. It was this nice, double track approach, but it just got lost in the translation. It has no coherence. Youíre not sure whatís really going on. Youíve got some potentially good scenes. The scenes between Janeway and Chakotay had some real fire to them, and you kind of felt like she is going off the deep end, a bit. Then she relieves him of duty, and there is this crisis of command between the two of them. But at the end of the episode, itís just a shrug and a smile and off to the next. I just hit the ceiling. I remember writing in the margins, ĎThis is a total betrayal of the audience. This is wrong. You canít end the show like this. If you are going to do all this other stuff, you canít end the show like this, because itís not fair, because itís not true, and it just wouldnít happen.í
"But the show is what the show is. It just became about action sequences. Brannon is very proud of the fact that the show is more action-oriented than the others, and itís faster; itís stylistically a little more daring than the other STAR TREK shows. All thatís great. I give him a lot of credit for changing the look and feel of the show. When he came aboard VOYAGER, the show started to look and feel different; it has a different sensibility stylistically. Even in the storytelling, it was starting to become a little more edgy. Thatís great, because STAR TREK needs that breath of fresh air to keep it vital. But it canít all be flash and sizzle. It has to be about something at some level. The things that Janeway does in ĎEquinoxí donít work, because itís not about anything. Sheís not really grappling with her inner demons. Sheís not truly under the gun and suffering to the point where you can understand the decisions that sheís made. She just gets kind of cranky and bitchy. Sheís having a bad day; these things keep popping around on the bridge, and we just keep cutting to shots of people grabbing phaser rifles and shooting, and hitting the red alert sign, over and over again. It doesnít signify anything. Itís kind of emblematic of the show. There is a lot of potential, and there is a lot of surface sizzle going on in a lot of episodes, but to what end? What are we trying to do? What are we trying to touch in the audience? What are we trying to say? What are the things we are trying to explore? Why are we doing this episode? That was my fundamental question. When I would say, ĎWhat was the point of doing the first part?í there was never a good answer for that. As a consequence, it was hard to come up with the ending to the show that has no beginning. You just start throwing things around. ĎTwo captains on different coursesí at least sounds like an episode. At least there is something in it. Janeway will take something away from that experience, but not in the current version. What does she learn from that experience? I donít know how itís affected her. Chakotay, for all his trouble, he just goes back to work. There is no lingering problem with Janeway; there is no deeper issue coming to the fore."
Taking this idea further, Moore relates a story about one of his suggestions. "When we were talking story before the season began, I thought, ĎOne of the shows you should do is the trial of Captain Janeway. You should have the crew, one day, put her on trial.í That would be a real major thing in life of the ship, if the crew can do that, if they really have the power to take command away from her at any moment. If they are really willing to put her under that kind of microscope, it calls into question the entire structure of the show, the entire social fabric, the command structure. Why are we behaving in this way? Why do we hew to these rules anymore? Do the rules still apply to us? What do we find within the rules that work? What do we find that doesnít work? What does it say about Janeway? I thought that there is ground to play there. Nobody wants to go there. On the one hand, you hear them say, ĎWe donít want the Captain to look weak.í They donít want to make Janeway look foolish. But then the things that you do make her look weak and foolish anyway. Itís this strange, schizophrenic attitude about their lead character. I like Kate Mulgrew. I found her a charming, funny, very personable woman sitting on the set next to her. I think if they could let her do more of her own thing in the character, not straight jacket her so much, it would be a more interesting dynamic."
He continues, "My one episode is a Seven of Nine episode. I wanted to do it because that was the most VOYAGER-esque character. I wanted to jump in with both feet. I didnít want to do a Klingon show the first time out. I wanted to play around with her. I have a lot of respect for Jeri Ryan as an actress. I think she does a remarkable job, for a character that could come off very one-note. There is a lot going on in those eyes. There is a lot that she can convey with just a look. All that said, that outfit has to go! I just donít know how else to put it. How can you really take her seriously in this getup? If you want to posit a future where we wear our sexuality on our sleeves, where itís very open, and no one is put off by people being very sexual, thatís great. Thatís very much in tune with how Gene saw the future. The rest of Voyager is not like that. Nobody walks around with an outfit like that on the ship. You donít go down the corridor and see some woman strolling by in a bikini on her way to the holodeck, which would be perfectly plausible. If you are really going to have the holodeck, and you are going to have beach parties down there, every once in awhile you should see somebody just strolling to the beach, doing their thing, guys in Speedoís, or whatever. If you want to play that, play it, but to just have Jeri Ryan do it because Jeri Ryan is voluptuous and gorgeous and appeals to a certain demographic, is ludicrous! Nobody really wants to touch that. You bring it up in a meeting, ĎSheís a beautiful woman; weíll let her look beautiful.í Yes, she is a beautiful woman. I donít object to that. But walk her onto the bridge, and tell me that the audienceís eyes arenít watching her walk onto the bridge. The original series did it all the time, but that was of a piece; it was of its time; it made sense in context. Uhura [Nichelle Nichols] could walk around the bridge in a miniskirt, and in the Ď60s nobody thought that was completely insane. That was just part of the era that show was produced, and people accepted it. Seven of Nine, what are you thinking? It kills me, and it was always just vaguely embarrassing when you would have to do serious scenes with her in the room. You are just sitting there thinking, ĎWell, you essentially have this naked woman at the table.í Everybody is just supposed to pretend like that is okay, but you donít play anyone else like that. Why doesnít Janeway come to the bridge in a halter-top one day. Seriously, why doesnít Tom [Robert Duncan McNeill] where hot pants periodically. The characters donít act that way. They donít were their sexuality on their sleeve except her. Iíll even go one more. Letís say that given all that, you still say: sheís a Borg; sheís expressing herself in a different way than the rest of the crew. She is shaking them up a little bit, and she is not afraid of her sexuality, or her impact, or the way she looks. Why isnít she sleeping with the crew? Why isnít she like jumping into bed with Chakotay, or jumping into bed with Tom, with anyone? If you are going to do it, do it. Otherwise, itís just eye candy with no content. It doesnít mean anything. Itís just a way to watch her walk around the bridge. Itís a disservice to Jeri, because she gets the brunt of it. Sheís the one that has to answer the questions about the costume, and has to defend it, and has to talk about that it doesnít really bother her. It may not bother her, and thatís fine, but I think it does a disservice to her, and to her character, because itís the primary characteristic of her character, and thatís unfortunate. Itís the primary characteristic in the audienceís mind, I feel. I just think itís completely unnecessary. The character is a good enough character, and she is a good enough actress, that you donít need to do it, at least not every week. Even if Ďthis is my preferred uniform,í it doesnít mean she has to wear it 24 hours a day, and wear nothing else. If you are going to go there, go there with everyone. Take them all along. Itís an opportunity VOYAGER wonít seize. Why arenít they developing their own social customs and morays? Why arenít they doing their own thing out there? They are a long way from home. Develop your own habits and your own ways of dressing. People probably would pad through the corridors barefoot periodically, and treat the ship more like itís an apartment building where they all live, and are stuck together for a very, very long time, and would stop being so straight-laced. In that kind of context, her outfit wouldnít stand out so much, because you would see people letting their hair down a lot more, and being more individualistic, and walking around with earrings, and growing beards occasionally. Doing things to stand out from the crowd, instead of just being this homogenized cookie-cutter thing, where she jumps out at you, because, why isnít everybody else like that?"
What about the relationships should have developed during this long trip? Notes Moore, "Do the characters really believe they are not getting home for seventy years? They donít act like it. They all believe they are getting home in a couple of hours. There is no big deal for them, because otherwise wouldnít Janeway at some point have said, ĎRealistically, this is becoming a generation ship. Time to start having kids, because somebody is going to have to man this ship 60 years from now, and it ainít going to be me. It ainít going to be Chakotay, and probably nobody on this bridge. So letís start making babies.í Thatís a realistic thing that they would really do, and they are nowhere near that. The Tom and BíElanna thing, when we were breaking ĎBarge of the Dead,í I just remember having these arguments. This should have big impact on their relationship. Her thing with Klingons, her mother, and her spirituality, how does that reflect to them? It was, ĎYeah, itís a relationship, but we donít want to do a show about the relationship. Itís not that interesting, and it doesnít really matter anyway.í If the character is in a relationship, if it actually matters to BíElanna, and it actually matters to Tom, then something like this that happens to her is going to have an impact on the relationship. Itís going to get worked out in the context of that relationship. But STAR TREK: VOYAGER is afraid of any of the characters getting hooked, on any kind of real, steady, permanent basis. ĎNo, no, no. No relationships between the characters. We donít like it. It didnít work with Kes and Neelix. And the Tom and BíElanna thing itís--well, we donít really care.í Itís a weird attitude."
Moore adds, "VOYAGER wonít accept itself. It wonít believe itís really in this situation in this area of the galaxy and that these are really the prospects in front of them. They just wonít embrace it. They fight against it. There have been more episodes that have taken place on Earth, or alternate Earth, or past Earth than I think the original series did in its whole run, and the original series was set over in the Alpha Quadrant. Kirk and company never went to present day 23rd century Earth, their contemporaneous Earth, ever. Gene wouldnít do it. Voyager is on the other side of the galaxy, and they have already run into some alien race recreating Starfleet Academy. Theyíve run into Ferengi, the Romulans. It doesnít feel like they are that far away from home. It just doesnít feel like they are in that much trouble out there. At its heart, VOYAGER secretly wishes it was NEXT GENERATION. If you really get down to it, VOYAGER on some level just wishes it was NEXT GEN. It really wants to be back in the Alpha Quadrant: ĎJust let us be normal STAR TREK.í"
A good example of the yearning for THE NEXT GENERATION was obvious in "Pathfinder," an episode so much like TNG that Marina Sirtis [Deanna Troi] felt like she was doing her old show. It also may have started the process of getting the ship home. Comments Moore, "Brannon goes back and forth on whether they should come home or not. They have been talking about it for a long time. I said this years ago: itís giving up on the show. If you bring that ship home before the series is over, you have given up. Youíve rolled over and said, ĎWe canít make it work. Letís just go back and do TNG all over again.í It comes back home, goes to Earth, thereís like a two-part episode as they go down to Earth and revisit their old lives. Whatís going to happen at the end of that two-parter? All the characters are going to re-up and say, ĎI love Voyager. It was such a family. I learned so much from you. Letís not break up. Letís stay here.í All the Maquis people will take regular commissions in Starfleet. Chakotay will chose to be second in command to Janeway. BíElanna will embrace those warp engines. Now Starfleet has given you a mission, and off you go. Essentially what was the point of this entire series? Itís a wasted opportunity. Thatís what pisses me off. You are not really taking advantage of this golden opportunity that you are handed as writers and as producers. You can do so much with STAR TREK. It is such a broad, flexible canvas. If DEEP SPACE NINE proved nothing else, it proves just how far you can take this series, and how far you can take the franchise. It can look totally different. It can be serialized, and it can be a war show, and it can do stuff about religion and politics, and it can be interesting and engrossing, and gray and ambiguous. You donít have to turn VOYAGER into DEEP SPACE NINE to take advantage of the fact that those opportunities exist. You just have to have the courage to do it. They are not speaking to me. They donít have anything to say anymore."
PART V: MOORE TALKS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF TELEVISION TREK
Ronald D. Moore asks pointedly, "What is STAR TREK exploring? What are the things itís trying to make the audience think about? What relevance does it have to you and me? If it doesnít have a relevance to you and me, in our lives, whatís the point? Why am I watching this, as opposed to ER? ER will touch me on a human level. There are episodes of NEXT GENERATION that are very relevant, that make me think, that give me pause, that touch me as a person. ĎInner Lightí is a fantastic show about the span of one manís life, and the span of a whole civilization, and what they gave to Picard to hold special in his memory. Itís a beautiful, moving episode. But VOYAGER is not doing that. Itís not taking advantage of it. Itís an enormous opportunity. It gives you a chance to really say something, to explore things with the audience, to challenge your audienceís expectations, to make them think about life and who they are, because itís surrounded in this nice wrapper. Itís only science fiction. It doesnít exist. These aliens arenít real, so they donít threaten you. You can put things into that context because they donít threaten the audience the way it does if you set it in contemporary Los Angeles. Wrap it in science fiction, wrap it in STAR TREK and you can do just about anything you want. You can have flat out racism on television. You can have real thoughtful discussions on racism and what are at its roots. But you have to choose to do it. You have to want to talk about those things. You have to have a point of view. You have to have something to say. Are you telling me STAR TREK canít afford to fall on its face periodically because it is trying too hard? Iíd rather have the show try too hard, and fail, then just not try at all and just kind of settle for more of the same. I think that is where we are. We are settling for more of the same. Itís just very safe story telling. There is a cynicism about it that truly troubles me. We loved DEEP SPACE NINE. We loved the show. We loved all the characters. There are actors that always give you trouble, and there are always times when the producers and actors are sometimes at each other, because, ĎYou donít understand my character.í ĎNo, you donít understand the character I am writing.í Thatís fair game. On VOYAGER, there are characters they have given up on. They will just say that to you, flat out. I started asking questions about BíElanna, who she is. I was saying, ĎIím having a little trouble watching episodes and getting a handle on her, and what she is about.í The response was, ĎWe donít have an idea. The past doesnít matter. Just do whatever you want.í What are you talking about? How can you give up on your own show? How do you give up on your characters? There is such a cynicism about the show within the people that do the show. Iím not just talking about the writing staff. It permeates the production. The craft people and the artists down on the set, making the wardrobes and doing the sets, and the art department and visual effects take a tremendous amount of pride in their work, and delivering top quality product week after week. They are truly amazing. I canít emphasize that enough. But even they donít believe in what those sets, costumes and visual effects are being put to work, how they are being used. They are being wasted on this; it just isnít going anywhere. I didnít intend this to be a giant VOYAGER bashing session, but it is the only STAR TREK around. That is STAR TREK. If you are going to be the flagship, this is what itís about."
Moore does have praise for some things about VOYAGER, however. "STAR TREK looks fantastic. It is one of the best-produced shows on television, and it is certainly the cream of the crop when it comes to science fiction. Nothing looks like it; nothing comes close to sounding like it. The visual effects are just stellar, top-notch. The sets look fabulous. The costumes are always lush and big and beautiful. You can make arguments on creative decisions, but technically, the way the show is actually produced and put on the air is stellar. Itís a big, beautiful show that isnít doing anything with all this beauty. It goes for the actors as well. Iíve maintained from day one that the VOYAGER cast overall was probably the best cast of all of them. You really had a strong group of players that could really take the show someplace. I loved the other two casts that I worked with, but I looked at the VOYAGER cast and thought, ĎThese group of players all really like each other, and they are all going to have fun together on the set. They are all willing to try anything that you give to them.í I found that in the brief time I was working with them, too; they will do anything for you. They work very hard; they take a lot of pride in their craft. Do something with them! Itís just such a wasted opportunity. It angers me because of the waste of it all. Here is this golden franchise; here is this series that has stood the test of time, and you are given seven years by the grace of God. Unlike any other show, you are going to get seven years out of the series. You can say anything you want with it. Youíve got a core audience thatís going to tune in every week. Itís the flagship show of UPN. Do something! Go somewhere with it!
"Now," says Ron Moore about STAR TREK, "you do another series or another movie, the attitude is, ĎOh God, another one?í That is wrong. Why feed into that public perception? I just donít know any reason to do it. It doesnít even serve Paramountís long-term financial goals, in my opinion. If the studio really wants this thing to last for another thirty or forty years, they should look down the line further than just next yearís profits. They should take a longer term view and say, ĎWe should let this rest for awhile. Let it go away; let it percolate down through the popular culture, and let it find its way to a whole new crop of fans.í People are going to watch these shows in syndication forever. They are going watch the movies on video forever, and they are going to watch them on the Internet soon. Eventually they are going to be saying, ĎDamn. When are they going to put out one of those STAR TREKs?í Theyíll start a letter writing campaigns, and theyíll get nostalgic for DEEP SPACE NINE eventually; theyíll get nostalgic for VOYAGER. Youíll get this, ĎRemember when there were two STAR TREK series on the air?í People will forget, and they will want to see it again. All they have to do is wait, and then start fresh, and then take advantage of the opportunities, and reinvent the series."
Moore says candidly, "Reinventing it now, I canít see where you go right this minute. I donít have an idea for the next series. I know that they [Braga and Berman] are struggling to have an idea for the new series. They are casting about to really spin it on its head and try to do something different, which I salute them for. Without a break, without a rest, without really recharging and stepping back, and letting the whole thing kind of sit for awhile, I donít know how you can. Itís just too much."
At one time, Moore considered the idea that he might be at Paramount to work on the next TREK television show, but things did not work out that way (see Part I). Now he is looking at TREK from the outside for the first time in many years. Moore says, "Iím not there, so I donít know really what the situation is between Paramount and Rick and Brannon, or how far apart they are, or what the proposals are. What they shouldnít be afraid to do, is to step away from all the STAR TREK that there is. A new series should not take place in the same time period as THE NEXT GENERATION. It should not revisit any of the current plot lines. It shouldnít deal with the Klingons, and the Cardassians, or the Romulans and their current state. It should either go forward in the future, or back in the past.
"The STAR TREK pastóitís challenging; it sounds like itís fun on one level, and I thought that was an interesting way to go for a long time. But it has a lot of pitfalls to it. You have a very complex future mapped out. If you are going to go into STAR TREKís past, say, pre-Kirk, you better have an iron-clad commitment to maintaining the continuity thatís been established, or I think you are just going to lose everybody. Because if you go back before Kirk, and you start screwing around, and you just donít care what NEXT GEN or DS9 or VOYAGER established, or the movies, or even the original series, you just try to make it up as you go along, I think you just lost everyone. The whole franchise will just collapse, because it will have no validity whatsoever. If you are going to go there, you really better be prepared to truly put on the STAR TREK mantle and be the keeper of the flame. I think that is really hard for Rick and Brannon. Itís hard for them to do that, because they donít like the original show. Letís not mince words. They donít like the original show. They have never liked the original show. Theyíll bob and weave a bit here and there in public. But they donít like it; they donít want to have anything to do with it. If you are going to go before the original series and do something, you better have a change of attitude. You better have an epiphany about how much you love the original series. Itís all going to be about leading up to that."
He continues, "The trouble with saying, ĎI think the new series should be this...í is that there is no clear answer to that. Thereís not an obvious next step to take the franchise as a whole. Itís unique. The other big franchises are nothing like this. The closest one, I think, is the Bond franchise, because Bond goes way back, longer than STAR TREK. Itís lived in the popular imagination for quite some time. It continues to make money. The trick with the Bond franchise is they made a decision that you could recast Bond. When Sean Connery left that series, they could go to George Lazenby. They bring Connery back; they go to Roger Moore; they go to Timothy Dalton, and they go to Pierce Brosnan. That puts it in its own weird little space. There is no real continuity they need to maintain between the movies. Bond is a larger-than-life character, and he is not really pinned down to any of this. As a consequence, you never have to deal with things like aging, death. Bond is ageless. He never dies; he is never going to. Thatís not going to happen, and that works for that franchise. STAR TREK made a decision when they made the first movie. You could have either just gone back on the Enterprise, to try to pretend that no time has passed, and just go do another mission. Or you can go the way they went. Kirk is an admiral; time has passed, and the characters are getting olderótime to grapple with these issues. In the second film, even more so. That propels everything else. That means, you are not going back. You are not going to recast Kirk and Spock. We canít even think about it. So that option is off the table, and itís not off the table for any of these other sort of fantasy, hero-type things. Superman has been played by how many actors? Batman has been played by how many actors? Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, all the mythic characters of the culture that you are used to dealing with have been played by many actors. The roles were larger than the actors. But here, the actors are so identified with the roles. I think it would be virtually impossible to get people to accept anyone but Leonard Nimoy as Spock. Because you canít just keep regenerating the same stories over and over again, you have no choice but to go forward.
"Going forward means making creative decisions that are continually interesting and surprising to the audience. When they made DEEP SPACE NINE, you were forced to do something completely different. You couldnít do it on the Enterprise, had to do another kind of show, had to keep it interesting. When they went to VOYAGER they took another step backwards. They did another ship-based show, in the TNG format, with a different premise. But then they backed off on the premise, rapidly. There is a sense of standing still in the franchise, and itís going to take a creative leap to take it somewhere else. You have to be unafraid of where that direction is going to take you. You have to just shake up the formula, because it is becoming a formula. You canít have them sitting in those chairs, on that ship, falling out of their seats and looking up at big viewscreens, and say, ĎYouíve got to have all those elements, because thatís STAR TREK.í Well, thatís hardening of the arteries. You just canít keep feeding the audience the same thing over and over again, while at the same time, talking out of the other side of your mouth, saying, ĎBut itís all completely different; itís a STAR TREK youíve never seen before. Itís so different; we are doing things with STAR TREK that no one has ever done.í Itís still guys in pajamas looking at viewscreens and sitting in chairs. It can be more than that. DEEP SPACE NINE proved that. You can be bigger than the box; you can do things that have more ambition, and are bolder, and that truly do advance the medium. You need some new ideas. I wonít even say that Rick and Brannon are not the people to come up with those ideas. But, I find it hard to believe that they can come up with those ideas in the thick of it, when you are in the trenches, when you are doing VOYAGER. VOYAGER is running its creative course so quickly. Then to think that you are, somehow, from that experience, going to come up with something greatóI canít even imagine how you could do it. What they are doing now, and where they are doesnít seem like itís fertile ground for something spectacular to grow from. Maybe I am wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope they come up with something that is amazing, that blows everybody away. But I just donít know how you get there from here.
"How do you get there from where VOYAGER is? VOYAGER is given carte blanche by Paramount. Thatís one of the great things about Paramount. Paramount left us alone. They always left us alone. They let NEXT GEN do whatever it wanted. God knows it let DEEP SPACE NINE do whatever we wanted. It lets VOYAGER do whatever it wants. The studio is not the problem here. The studio is going to let you go wherever you want to go, as long as they believe that this is quality, as long as they believe itís good work. Youíve just got to come up with something good. But if VOYAGER is the example of what you think is good, and you are telling yourself, ĎThis is a good product, and we are going to do something even better than this,í you are just already speaking a different language than me. I donít accept this as good product. This could be so much better than it is. This could go so much further. This could be such a better series and such a better representation of TREK and what it means. It could be just as beloved as the other series. There is nothing to keep VOYAGER from being as beloved in the hearts of its fans as all the other series, but it just is not going there. It does not give me a lot of hope that the next one is going to be beloved and itís going to be fresh, and interesting, must-see TV. You want to tune in, tell your friends, ĎHey, youíll never guess, you will never guess what the new STAR TREK series is about! Good God! It doesnít even look like STAR TREK. You should turn it on.í Thatís what you want people saying."
PART VI: MOORE LOOKS AT TREK FEARTUE FILMS
When it comes to THE NEXT GENERATION feature films, Ronald D. Moore is candid about his successes and failures. He co-wrote the first two with Brannon Braga; Michael Piller wrote the third. Moore says, "I am more than willing to accept at this late date that our reach exceeded our grasp, on GENERATIONS. When we did the film, it was a very difficult time. The end of the series was a big psychological thing hanging over everyoneís head. The transition to films was not easy for anyone. It wasnít easy for me and Brannon to write it. It wasnít easy for Rick to produce it. I think it was hard on the actors going directly from the series to the features. The last three movies, THE NEXT GEN films, have gone on this little journey. When we did GENERATIONS, we were trying desperately to say something about mortality, about life and death, about getting older, about what it means to be human, about the death that lies out there for all of us, and that lies out their for our STAR TREK heroes. As heroic as they may be, they are all mortal. This will come to visit all of us. It was a big topic. It was probably something too big for us to grapple with, in our first feature film, right out of the gateóo put the original cast in it, and to make the transition, and to make them come out of the theater just really feeling something. I still like the film, but I know what the intent of the movie is. So lines that donít work for you have some relevance to me. I know what we were trying to do, Brannon and Iótrying to say something, trying to give it meaning, and trying to really touch and move the audience in an unexpected way in what could have been just strictly escapism and just flash.
"After that, FIRST CONTACT became just a good picture. It works as a structural piece of filmmaking. It works technically. It hits all the right beats; it has more humor; itís a good little story. But what does it really say? Does it really challenge you as a viewer? Does it really make any comment at all, any sort of larger sense? Is there any theme that resonates when you walk out of the theater? You walk out feeling like you had a good ride, a good little roller coaster ride. Itís fun; itís adventure; letís go do it againónothing wrong with that. Now it feels like after the success of that, thatís all itís become.
"I donít know what INSURRECTION is about. INSURRECTION is a film that is telling you, ĎThis is about something.í ĎWe are exploring an important topic,í they keep saying. But what that important topic is, is a little unclear. Fountain of youth, immortality, something about these people that left and came back, children and parents, bureaucracy, and conspiracies. I think Michael was forced to continually keep dumbing down the script as it went on. Michael has a great passion for what he does. Michael believes in his writing a great deal. He really tries to give it meaning. When Michael writes a script, he really sets out to say something; he really wants to explore something. I know Michael had a great deal of passion at the beginning of that process. He really wanted this to be an important film. He really wanted to move the audience, and surprise them, and make them come out of the theater, like we did in GENERATIONS, thinking, ĎWow. I hadnít expected that from a STAR TREK movie.í But little by little, you die the death of a thousand cuts. Michael was forced to continually rewrite, and pull it back, and take out elements to the point that Picard doesnít even kiss the girl. Thereís an emptiness to that film, and there is a certain emptiness to FIRST CONTACT, in that itís a popcorn movie. Thatís what we shot to do. I wanted to do a good one, and I wanted it to be well received, and I wanted it to make money. I wanted to be proud of it, and I am proud of it. But it is popcorn. And I think you canít subsist on a diet of popcorn. Especially STAR TREK needs to be about more than that."
Moore recalls, "That trilogy they did with the original series, STAR TREK II, STAR TREK III, STAR TREK IV, are about something, about these characters getting old, about the characters accepting change and death, even though Spock comes back to life, moving on. They give up their ship to go get their friend; then they go back in time to save the whales. There were messages there. There were themes about environmentalism, themes about the human condition. We are all getting older. Kirk has to wear glasses. That was a stroke of genius. Youíve really made a decision to go somewhere with that character. To watch it play out over that three, it was really about something. Then V was just another episode. It doesnít have any grander ambitions really than to be an episode and to try to do something about God. Itís so muddled, itís just another episode. Then VI tries to be about the end of the Cold War, so VI shoots a little higher. Now there is no sense of them trying to shoot for those goals. They are not trying to go out there and push, and try and do something really interesting, and something that challenges their audience. Now itís all about hanging on to an audience, about not letting go of the audience, and about being safe with the audience. Donít confuse them. Donít refer to old episodes, because they may not have seen them. Hang on to the audience, instead of being kind of bold and taking risks. Sometimes you are going to fall on your face, and sometimes you are going to do a story that is just out of your reach, like GENERATIONS probably was, but thatís the risk you take. You are storytellers. If you canít take a risk with STAR TREK which is the biggest, safest franchise in all of science fiction with the exception of STAR WARS, what can you take a risk with?"
What about the future wonders Moore? "The movies have to go back to being something significant. There has to be a reason to do these movies. When you did STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, it was the first one. Thatís a reason alone to do it. The second one decides to take a different direction. It gambles. It makes the characters not only look old, they are getting old. You kill off Spock. The next one, you blow up the Enterprise, you take their ship away from them. They were taking risks; they were doing things, and they werenít just grinding out another episode with a bigger budget. Now it feels like thatís where the movie series is. GENERATIONS, we took the Enterprise away from them, and you could have sent the series in a different direction with the following film. We all decided not to go that way, because we felt like we needed a solid adventure piece. At that time, I believed it. Itís hard to say that was a wrong decision. I think you did need to give them a ship, prove that the film franchise is viable, that it can be fun, that youíll get an audience with you, and it worked. But then the choice of INSURRECTION is harder to swallow. Now itís just another episode. FIRST CONTACT is just another episode, a show that we could have done on the series but for the lack of dollars. Nothing about that movie precluded it from ever having been done as just another episode of THE NEXT GENERATION. Itís just a big time travel story with the Borg as the big villain and Picard facing demons from the past. Itís a good episode; itís a big episode and it works on the big screen, thank God. INSURRECTION is just an episode. STAR TREK II, STAR TREK III, and STAR TREK IV are not just episodes. Even STAR TREK I takes Kirk, and he is an Admiral, and heís given up the ship. Spock is off there; McCoy is growing a beard, and time has passed. Even that movie isnít an episode. You are watching something that you couldnít have done on the series. Now thereís just this lower bar; thereís just this unwillingness to do anything that truly challenges the audiencesí expectation."
Moore laughs, "Why do they all stay on the same ship for crying out loud? Other than budgetary reasons, why are these people all still on the same ship? Riker [Jonathan Frakes] can only keep saying, ĎI want to be the best second-in-command,í for so long, before it gets a little ridiculous. Worf went to DEEP SPACE NINE, so he went off and did something different. But Troi and Riker and Geordi [LeVar Burton] and Data [Brent Spiner]óthey are all really going to sit on that bridge forever and not do anything else? The films should be shooting higher, because they can shoot higher, because they have more money to shoot higher, because they can really try to say something different. Youíve got a lot of episodes already in the can. You want to watch THE NEXT GENERATION? You can watch it anywhere in the country at almost any time of the day or night. You donít have to keep doing it on the big screen."
What about making a feature film with a mixture of some of the current casts, something Berman is fond of mentioning? Paramount executives have also said that the cost of placing someone like Patrick Stewart in the next movie may be coming prohibitive. Moore says, "Thatís a problem that all of Hollywood shares. Any of these franchise pictures that depend on the other actors have this budgetary crunch. Thatís just something you have to work out. The actors are going to try to get as much as they can, and I canít really say that I blame them. If Patrick thinks that he is worth that much money, and Paramount is willing to give it to him, more power to Patrick. The actors have not shared in the riches to the point that they feel that they should. All of the actors feel like they were not given a big enough piece of the pie. All of them feel that they were slighted by Paramount. How true that is, is anybodyís guess, because God knows the accounting on these things is a history unto itself. But I canít blame them for going and saying, ĎWell, you want Data in this picture, itís going to cost you. You want Picard in this picture, itís going to cost you.í Shatner and Nimoy did the same thing. They certainly said, ĎYou want us to do THE MOTION PICTURE? Itís going to cost you.í They all did it. And the pictures all got made. If Paramount financially canít make the movie because the actorsí salaries are too high, then donít make the movie. You donít try to then make some other movie, and pretend that this is just as good. Thatís not what you to do. Thatís not STAR TREK."
Moore adds, "I donít know what changing casts gets you. I donít know that mixing actors from the different casts gets you any great Ďwant to seeí factor. I donít know that people are going to say, ĎDamn, you should go see the next STAR TREK movie. Itís actually got actors from all the series.í I donít know why that matters to anyone. Itís either a good show, or a good movie, or itís not. It will have to live and die on its own merits. [Robert] Picardo cropped up in FIRST CONTACT in a cameo, which is cute, and fine, but I think a good chunk of the audience doesnít even know that Picardo wasnít in NEXT GENERATION. In their minds, all the characters kind of blend together, and I think they assume that they show up on each othersí episodes more than they actually do. They just did the episode with Deanna and Barclay on VOYAGER. Does that mean that doing a movie with Deanna, Barclay [Dwight Schultz], Janeway and Kira [Nana Visitor] has some innate appeal? You can make that movie and if itís a great STAR TREK story it will be a hit. But just mixing the casts together doesnít mean anything. Okay, so they are from different series and they are all on the screen together. Now tell me why I should go see it. Itís just not the answer to anything."
In a perfect world, what should they do? At the current time, "they" refers to Rick Berman in terms of the movie franchise, and Berman and Braga as executive producers of VOYAGER. Says Moore, "They should take a break and reassess. In my perfect world, they would let the entire franchise lie fallow for five, eight years, a long time. Let it really go away overall. Let VOYAGER run its course. Donít do another series; donít do another movie; just let it go quietly away. What you want, more than anything else, I think, is for people to start saying, ĎWhen are they going to do another STAR TREK? When are we going to get another series? When are they going to do another movie?í You want people saying that, like they said with STAR WARS. Take a lesson from Lucas, who is a very smart man. Say what you will about PHANTOM MENACE, he waited a long time; he refused to do other movies; he sat on the franchise. He knew that the longer you sit on it, the more Ďwant to seeí factor you get. When it came back, he could have run a test pattern and called it PHANTOM MENACE and he was going to get people lined around the block for that opening weekend. Thatís what STAR TREK needs. It needs that kind of want-to-see, which is what they had in 1979. STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE came out. People ran to see the movie, this long, lugubrious movie that was bloated with special effects, and silly looking uniforms. People just couldnít get enough of it. It was a huge hit, because people were so desperate to see it. It had been ten years since the original series went off."
He adds, "There has just been too much STAR TREK for a while. I remember the moment the franchise peaked. The moment, to me, was when Kirk and Picard were on the cover of TIME Magazine. I literally walked in the next day to the office and said, ĎWe have peaked. Itís down hill for quite a while from here.í You reached this kind of critical mass in popular imagination. You were now on the cover of TIME, and all the old stuff about the Trekkies was kind of gone by the wayside. It had gone from being a subculture of a subculture, to now this legitimate nationwide phenomenon. It was Americana. Kirk and Picard are big heroes, and everyone loves them. You canít sustain that, so it just started falling off. Because in that same little window, when that cover hit, NEXT GEN had been off the air for only four months, five months, and GENERATIONS was premiering. DEEP SPACE NINE was on the air, and VOYAGER was going to premiere in January. It was just overkill, and you just had this massive amount of TREK. The public can only swallow so much. Even hard-core fans, I think, only watch so much TREK. When you had both series on the air at the same time, how many people really watched both shows every week? The hard-core audience does, but not the general audience, and STAR TREK has lived and died because of the general audience, because it has appealed beyond the cult phenomenon. You canít get the public to watch two hours of STAR TREK every week, and a movie on the side, and the reruns from the old show."
FINAL PART VII: RON MOORE SPECULATES ABOUT THE FUTURE AND THE PAST OF TREK (COMING SOON)
"Tell me why there are no gay characters in STAR TREK," says Ron Moore. "This is one of those uncomfortable questions I hate getting when I was working on the show, because there is no good answer for it. There is no answer for it other than people in charge donít want gay characters in STAR TREK, period. This stuff about, ĎHow would you know? Maybe there are lots of people walking through those corridors that are actually gay. What would you have us do? Show them holding hands? That would be ridiculous. Our regulars donít hold hands,í which its own kind of a sad commentary on the state of human relations, that they canít even hold hands. Just think about what it would say to have a gay Starfleet captain. It would mean something in STAR TREK. It would mean something in science fiction. It would mean something in television. Why isnít STAR TREK leading the way anymore, in the social, political front? Gene always said, whether this is true or not, that he saw STAR TREK as a way to explore social issues, without the networks catching on. Because it was all couched in space aliens, and ray guns, and space opera type stuff, it gave him a chance to explore these other issues."
Ron Moore does not believe that STAR TREK is dead. He asks, "Whatís the worst that could happen to it? In some ways, the worst would be the best. It would just get taken off the air, and they wonít make movies for a long time. They wonít do anything for a long time. But it will definitely come back. I mean, we are kidding ourselves if we really think that Paramount is every going to stick it in a dustbin some place and never open up that can. They are going to mine it forever. Itís Paramountís baby. Itís their property to do with, as they will. I know for a fact that the high level executives at Paramount, right up to the high level executives at Viacom, regard STAR TREK as one of the crown jewels of the entire company. They have said they want this to go for another thirty or forty years. They want STAR TREK around, which is marked contrast to the way Paramount was in the Ď70s when they just couldnít be bothered, and never saw the potential of STAR TREK, no matter what the fans said. Now, all they see is potential. They are always going to own it. Letís say the next movie comes out and itís a colossal flop, and the next series doesnít make it out of year one, which is unimaginable. That is truly the Titanic situation. Okay, Paramount cuts their losses and fires everybody. They clean out the soundstages; they give up the production offices, and they sit on it for ten years. Then some executive will come in, and say, ĎWe still own the rights to that STAR TREK franchise. Letís get that going again.í Theyíll bring in some people, and they will start it all up again, because that is the nature of a studio. Itís a given that it is going to keep coming back.
"Time away can really only help. Itís becoming irrelevant. Itís not part of the national conversation anymore. Itís not cropping up in jokes on LETTERMAN. Itís not part of pop culture in the way that it really was dominating pop culture for awhile. It should permeate the national consciousness if itís really working, if itís hitting on all cylinders. Itís not. Itís like, VOYAGER, so what? Thatís the attitude. The next movie is going to be a big Ďso whatí unless they can really deliver something that is different. The reviewers that begin their reviews with, ĎPretty to look at, but just another episode up on the big screen,í is death. That is just writing the epitaph of the movie. They wrote that on INSURRECTION, and some of them even wrote it on FIRST CONTACT. There is nowhere to go from that, because people can see it on television all they want."
Moore also wonders why Paramount doesnít make better use of its TREK collection of movies. He says, "Iíve never quite understood why they donít exploit their library of STAR TREK better. They have yet to release any of the movies with commentary tracks, or deleted footage, or behind the scenes stuff like everybody else is. You would think they would be on a big project, licking their chops, and going, ĎLook at all this stuff we have in the archives.í On STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE alone thereís God knows how many hours of footage that was never seen by the public. Robert Wise is still alive, and he should do a commentary track on the film. Right now DVD is still a niche market thatís going to break out, but itís going to break out. You have one of the richest franchises in history; youíve got this fanatical following that will buy almost anything and loves the behind the scenes stuff. Put out GENERATIONS on laser disc and donít even show the sequences that we cut? Put them on. People want to see them. Iím not saying, re-cut the film. Just stick it at the end. You let the audience watch the deleted scenes, and yeah theyíll probably go, ĎI see why they cut them, but it was interesting. It was kind of fun to watch that. I would pay extra to see that. Itís just kind of basic business sense."
Rick Berman has said repeatedly that the audience should not see the cut scenes from his movies. Explains Moore, "On something like that, itís pretty much his say, because he was the producer of those movies. If he doesnít want to go there, they are not going to shove that down his throat. But as far as the older movies, we are [still] really close to the 20th anniversary of THE MOTION PICTURE. They could have done something. You donít have to re-release it in theaters. Why couldnít you issue a collectorís DVD edition of THE MOTION PICTURE with tons of other doodads and charge people for it? Theyíd lap it up; people would just grab it. Wise could talk about it. Iím sure Nimoy would be happy to talk about the films he directed, and Shatner, God knows, loves to talk."
Speaking of the originals, Kirk and Spock, Moore notes, "I know thereís this whole school of thought [that] they should bring back Kirk; they should bring back the original series characters and do them in another movie. I donít think you can bring back the original series characters unless you are going to recast them. Can you really imagine doing another series, calling it STAR TREK, and doing the adventures of Kirk, Spock and McCoy with other actors? Not really. If you want to recast the original series and do STAR TREK, put Kirk back on the Enterprise and heís young and studly and there is Spock, and McCoy. You redo the uniforms and make them more hip, but begin with the five-year mission. That would be a kick. It would be a kick, but can you honestly recast William Shatner? I think people would burn the studio down and probably rightly so. If you are not going to do that, you are just indulging in nostalgia. Itís strictly nostalgia to bring those actors and put them in the uniforms and send them through their paces one more time. Itís just nostalgia, people trying to recapture something."
Moore laughs, "The only way you can do it is if you let go of those actors. You really say, ĎTake a deep breath. We are going to revisit the old show, but we are going to do it with a whole new cast, and we are going to try it all again.í Itís sort of like Bond: Roger Moore is gone; Sean Connery is gone; this is Bond and you just accept it. But I just canít see that working. I just canít."
Wouldnít Shatner and Nimoy pitch a fit? Says Moore, "Oh my God, I just canít even imagine. They would have, like, one shot of each of them shaking their heads: ĎI canít believe they are doing this.í It would just be this media thing, and the fans would picket, and it would be a nightmare. Majel [Roddenberry] would lead that charge, too. I donít think you can go there now, because now you are just too far down the line. You could do it thirty years from now, when they are all dead, when people are really looking and saying, ĎWouldnít it be really great to do an old series. Now we could recast it.í You could try it in twenty, thirty years, because then they would kind of become Sherlock Holmes and Batman and Superman and all the rest that arenít tied to just one actor."
Moore reveals his true roots as a fan, talking about casting rumors in the past. He recalls, "They did talk about that back in the Ď70s. There was a brief blip where and it probably was never true, but there was a rumor I remember where they were going to cast Robert Redford, and I want to say Paul Newman, as Kirk and Spock. It was a big rumor in the mid-Ď70s that they would recast the roles with them and do it as a movie. It probably had no basis in reality. But people were just foaming at the mouth in fan circles. It was just madness, madness! ĎYOU CANíT DO THAT!í If they had done that, everything would have been different. It might have worked, but weíll never know."
At this point, Moore is enjoying life at home with his wife and baby, fielding offers and working on his own projects. He just finished writing a script for GvsE, and says, "I`ve signed up as an executive consultant on the cable show GvsE for the second half of their season. It`s a wacky little show that`s going to be migrating from USA to Sci-Fi Channel in March. It`s a fairly limited gig, mostly giving notes, helping them to break stories, that sort of thing. There`s something about it that I like."
He adds, "Itís been nice that people have called and offered me projects, and have said surprising things, [like] ĎIíve followed your work for yearsí from people that I have never met, that are in the business. It just flummoxes me. I just donít even understand that there are people who even know who I am outside the Hart Building [at Paramount]. I always felt like I was writing the show for me and my buddies and my friends, and that it was our little thing. I am always surprised that people know who I am. I was just a writer on a TV show, and STAR TREK is just this different kind of an animal where people actually know who the writers are, which is shocking. It has been gratifying and nice that people did watch the show, and did like the work I did."
Moore has been following the Internet chatter about this series of interviews. In answer to the question, "Why have you spoken out and why now?" he says, "At first, I was very reluctant to talk about any of this. Like I said in my farewell posting, I felt like my personal trek had come to an end and it was time to move on. But I had this nagging sense of unfinished business that kept gnawing at me, and so after several months went by I decided to give my opinion on the current state of the TREK. I`ve spent a great deal of my life thinking about this odd little franchise in one way or another, first as a fan and then as a writer-producer, and it`s hard to watch it go in a direction that I believe is fundamentally flawed without saying something. I`m sure some people will think I`m just out to grind an axe or to exact my revenge. If they want to believe that, fine. But I happen to think that there`s virtue in speaking honestly and critically about STAR TREK if it`s going to continue to survive or at least if it`s going to survive in a form that`s thought-provoking and meaningful. I love STAR TREK. And to coin a phrase, I want it to Ďlive long and prosper.í All I ask is that it tries harder to live up to its own reputation for quality drama and storytelling."