Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrection

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Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrection

Postby LMSx » 2010-09-23 11:40am

Link

So, uh, I haven't read the whole thing yet (271 pages!) but if you're like me and have a general interest in the development process, Michael Piller's draft memoir of writing the Star Trek: Insurrection script has apparently been released. Enjoy? Apparently it was supposed to be published earlier this decade but by the time he died in 2005 the project had been packed up and put in storage. AICN has a link to a .doc file containing the book, which they appear to treat as totally legit and not some illegal copyright thing.

Intro wrote:Now that it’s all behind me, I can smile (finally) about what we went through... all the stories we threw away, the drafts that didn’t work. I invite you now to walk a couple years in my shoes. Look at the development process from the writer’s point of view. Second-guess me. If you’d been writing the script would you have made the same decisions I made? Would your movie be about the girl who broke our hero’s heart and the best friend he’s sent to kill, the rag-tag army of space mariners, the mysterious society of alien children, the treacherous Romulans, the mutes, the android squad, the holographic stand-up comedian, the lecherous three hundred year old munchkin, the masked race of Generation ‘X’ aliens...

...none of whom made my final draft.

But maybe they would have made yours. Maybe your script would have been entirely different from mine. Let’s find out.

With two notable exceptions, the development process of Star Trek: Insurrection wasn’t much different from the development process of any motion picture script. Exception number one: everyone knew from the start this picture would actually get made. Most scripts are written without that knowledge. This was to be the ninth installment of the franchise. It was not only scheduled for production before the script was written; it was scheduled for release before the script was written. December, 1998. So, from the moment I was hired, I heard the clock ticking.
Exception number two: I was the writer from start to finish. Many of the movies you see have been written by several writers even though their names may not appear on the screen. Writers are often brought in like tag-teams, the original writer followed by an “action” writer followed by a “character” writer followed by a “dialogue” writer and on and on. (In one major action movie last summer, after a half-dozen or so top-notch writers had worked on the screenplay, the producers brought in the entire staff of a popular television sitcom to make the dialogue funnier.) The difference here was my history with Star Trek as head writer for the television shows and a long working relationship with producer Rick Berman. Had it been any other circumstance, there’s no question in my mind that, before the final draft was completed, I most certainly would have been fired.


Chapter 1 wrote:That fraction of a second between nightmare and waking. Except it isn’t a fraction of a second anymore, it’s been days, weeks and I’m still in a free-fall, trying to snatch bits and pieces of a script that are falling with me, desperately trying to assemble them in some coherent manner before I crash.
How could I have been so wrong? Where had my instinct failed me? How do I fix it? Is it even fixable? In three months, this movie will be going into pre-production and I don’t have a clue what to do.
There’s no point in trying to sleep. Once I wake up to pee in the middle of the night (the curse of middle-age), my mind goes back to work. I tell it not to. Whatever you do, don’t think about the script. But as I lay in the dark staring at the ceiling, my eyeballs move back and forth looking for the metaphorical daylight. There’s got to be a way to make this script work.
The guards on the overnight shift at the front gate are used to seeing me arrive at dawn. They greet me by name and ask how the script’s going - everyone on the lot knows I’m doing the next Star Trek movie - and I smile and say, fine and ask one of the guards about his new baby and I drive in under the famous Paramount arch and park in the first space in the empty producer’s parking lot. I know Rick Berman will walk by that space on the way to his office and will see that I was the first one in the lot. As though that’ll earn me an ‘A’ for effort if everything else fails.

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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Uraniun235 » 2010-09-23 11:17pm

I'm reading it and oh my god, Patrick Stewart just totally super-slammed Rick Berman and Michael Pillar by deriding their notion of emphasizing "family" as "retrograde", "sentimental and uninteresting and [b]eventually leads to space heroes sitting round a camp fire singing 'Row, row, row your boat...'"
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Stofsk » 2010-09-23 11:42pm

Its been pulled. Just tried the link now.
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Uraniun235 » 2010-09-24 12:11am

oh my god, look at this

When testing was done on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the results told us that audiences were unhappy that the characters on board the space station didn’t always get along. And they complained that the “station doesn’t go anywhere.” In other words, they were asking for more of Star Trek: The Next Generation. We made a few adjustments to Deep Space Nine, but the real impact of that research was on the creation of Star Trek: Voyager. It was decided early on that it would be a ship-based show and there were to be no serious conflicts between the characters because that’s what the fans wanted.

(emphasis Pillar's)
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Uraniun235 » 2010-09-24 12:12am

Wait, I just re-tried the link and it still works for me.

EDIT: Never mind, it must be cached for me.
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Uraniun235 » 2010-09-24 12:44am

Wait wait wait wait...

The manuscript of about the writing of Star Trek Insurrection we posted a few days ago has been removed at the request of Michael Piller's family.


What? Why? I was expecting some kind of copyright claim from a publisher or something. I read through it, it's not like he talked about his family in the book or anything, and I really doubt this would ever make a significant amount of money for them.
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Stofsk » 2010-09-24 01:03am

The initial idea for it - that Picard is tasked with hunting down an old academy friend - sounds so much better than what we ended up getting.

Man I'm only up to page 22 but this is so far a good read.

EDIT: also lol at the Roddenberry Box. :lol:
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Bob the Gunslinger » 2010-09-24 01:27am

What is the Roddenberry Box? I take it that the book survives elsewhere on the internet?
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Uraniun235 » 2010-09-24 01:48am

Bob the Gunslinger wrote:What is the Roddenberry Box? I take it that the book survives elsewhere on the internet?

The Roddenberry Box is Pillar's term for the restrictive rules that Gene put around TNG:

My first time in Roddenberry’s Box was during the very first episode I worked on as head writer. We were already in production of season three, four shows were finished, twenty-two still to do. There were no scripts and no stories to shoot the following week. Desperate, I bought a spec script that had been sent in from an amateur writer named Ron Moore who was about to enlist in the U.S. Navy. It was a rough teleplay called “The Bonding” and would require a lot of reworking but I liked the idea. A female Starfleet officer is killed in an accident and her child, overcome with grief, bonds with a holographic recreation of his mother rather than accept her death.

I sent a short description of the story to Rick and Gene. Minutes later, I was called to an urgent meeting in Gene’s office. “This doesn’t work” he said. “In the Twenty-Fourth Century, no one grieves. Death is accepted as part of life.”

As I shared the dilemma with the other staff writers, they took a bit of pleasure from my loss of virginity, all of them having already been badly bruised by rejections from Gene. Roddenberry was adamant that Twenty-Fourth Century man would evolve past the petty emotional turmoil that gets in the way of our happiness today. Well, as any writer will tell you, ‘emotional turmoil’, petty and otherwise, is at the core of any good drama. It creates conflict between characters. But Gene didn’t want conflict between our characters. “All the problems of mankind have been solved,” he said. “Earth is a paradise.”

Now, go write drama.

His demands seemed impossible at first glance. Even self-destructive.

And yet, I couldn’t escape one huge reality. Star Trek worked. Or it had for thirty years. Gene must be doing something right.

I accepted it as a challenge. Okay, I told the writers, I’m here to execute Roddenberry’s vision of the future, not mine. Let’s stop fighting what we can’t change. These are his rules. How do we do this story without breaking those rules?

A day later, I asked for another meeting with Gene and Rick. And here’s how I re-pitched the story:
“When the boy’s mother dies, he doesn’t grieve. He acts like he’s been taught to act -- to accept death as a part of life. He buries whatever pain he may be feeling under this Twenty-Fourth Century layer of advanced civilization. The alien race responsible for the accidental death of his mother tries to correct their error by providing a replacement version of her. The boy wants to believe his mother isn’t dead, but our Captain knows she isn’t real and must convince the boy to reject the illusion. In order to do so, the boy must cut through everything he’s been taught about death and get to his true emotions. He must learn to grieve.

The new approach respected Roddenberry’s rules and by doing so, became a more complex story. He gave his blessing. And I began to learn how Roddenberry’s Box forced us as writers to come up with new and interesting ways to tell stories instead of falling back into easier, familiar devices.

The rules of behavior in Roddenberry’s universe have filled books. There are more books dedicated to the personal histories of Star Trek characters as well as detailed cultural histories of the alien races of the Twenty-Fourth Century. And even more books written about Star Trek’s science and technology. Gene and his colleagues over the years have created a tapestry that is not easy for new writers to penetrate. My experience has been that our most successful new writers grew up as dedicated fans and already know the Star Trek world inside and out. With the notable exceptions of Ira Steven Behr, Jeri Taylor and Joe Menosky, three writers in a decade, I rarely had luck hiring experienced writers who could come in and understand the franchise.

I can’t speak for the studio or for Rick but I can guess why they wouldn’t take a chance on a brand new writer on a major motion picture.


An epilogue.

There was a writers’ rebellion of sorts on my last year as head writer at Star Trek, four years after Roddenberry’s death. Some of the writers at Voyager went to Rick to say they wouldn’t return if I came back. It was nothing personal, Rick told me. We were all friends. But my rules were holding them back. My creative demands were suffocating them. They wanted to be free to do the things I wouldn’t let them do as writers.

I had completed a cycle. Somehow, I’d become the alien replacement for Roddenberry. It had become Piller’s Box.

It was time to leave. I opened the box and let them, and myself, out.

And now, three years later, here I was about to climb back in again.
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Vympel » 2010-09-24 02:01am

I don't remember that episode "The Bonding" at all. I mean, I looked it up and it exists, but I don't remember it.

God Gene Rodenberry was full of crap. No grief in the 24th century, someone get me a bucket for all the bullshit.

EDIT: one of the best things Ron Moore did in DS9 was to have Sisko say "yeah, Earth's a paradise. But most people don't live there. Out here, shit sucks. Its easy to be a saint in paradise."
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Stofsk » 2010-09-24 02:01am

Bob the Gunslinger wrote:I take it that the book survives elsewhere on the internet?

:mrgreen:

Gene Roddenberry had really stupid ideas on how to write drama. I've know that for years but it's funny to hear it phrased as his 'box' which you can't get out of, especially when you have common phrases like 'think outside the box' being the key to innovation. It's obvious that Roddenberry directly forced Star Trek's stagnation, and people like Rick Berman - most here despise him - literally only carried on Roddenberry's true vision.
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Tsyroc » 2010-09-24 02:22am

Uraniun235 wrote:oh my god, look at this

When testing was done on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the results told us that audiences were unhappy that the characters on board the space station didn’t always get along. And they complained that the “station doesn’t go anywhere.” In other words, they were asking for more of Star Trek: The Next Generation. We made a few adjustments to Deep Space Nine, but the real impact of that research was on the creation of Star Trek: Voyager. It was decided early on that it would be a ship-based show and there were to be no serious conflicts between the characters because that’s what the fans wanted.

(emphasis Pillar's)


Interesting. I guess I'm not surprised that's the feedback they got but when DS9 came out I loved it because it wasn't the same old stuff we'd been getting for years from TNG. I liked the conflict between the main characters, the complications caused by the politics of the region and the religion of the Bajorans. Adding the Defiant later on was a good idea so the location could be mixed up a little but otherwise the "distant outpost" of a run down station was fine.


As for the Roddenberry box. I had know idea it was that ridiculously crazy. No grieving? So human nature changes so much in 300 years that we're a completely different species than we are now?


God, did Voyager suck balls. I actually find it shocking when I come across people who were/are fans of the show or of some of the characters.
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Steve » 2010-09-24 07:02am

I wonder if that test audience was a real sample of the population or a limited sample of confirmed Trek fans, including the infamous "Federation cultist" stereotypes who believe Roddenberry's is the One True Vision of the Future and they can't fathom Star Trek done differently.
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby RedImperator » 2010-09-24 08:51am

Destructionator XIII wrote:The Roddenberry box is brilliant. He wanted to do something fresh, and you don't get a unique view of the future without laying down the law. Limits are what drive creativity - without them, you just fall back on the old, simple way.

"The new approach respected Roddenberry’s rules and by doing so, became a more complex story. He gave his blessing. And I began to learn how Roddenberry’s Box forced us as writers to come up with new and interesting ways to tell stories instead of falling back into easier, familiar devices."
On the one hand, he deserves credit for trying to make something genuinely different.

On the other, "people don't grieve in the 24th century" is either a terrifying dystopia or completely stupid.
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Chris OFarrell » 2010-09-24 09:02am

Vympel wrote:I don't remember that episode "The Bonding" at all. I mean, I looked it up and it exists, but I don't remember it.

God Gene Rodenberry was full of crap. No grief in the 24th century, someone get me a bucket for all the bullshit.

EDIT: one of the best things Ron Moore did in DS9 was to have Sisko say "yeah, Earth's a paradise. But most people don't live there. Out here, shit sucks. Its easy to be a saint in paradise."


Hell, that whole speach almost reads like a refutation of the whole 'Rodenberry box';

"On Earth there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window at Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it's easy to be a saint in paradise. But the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there, in the Demilitarized Zone, all problems have not been solved yet. There are no saints, just people; angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive, whether it meets with the Federation approval or not."


Say what you will about DS9, they had no problems snapping right past the 'we're all perfect in the 24th century' crap on more then one occasion, even drawing a distinct line between the 'Humans = perfection' and 'yeah, the Federation border is a loonnnng way away from Earth...'
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Metahive » 2010-09-24 09:14am

When testing was done on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the results told us that audiences were unhappy that the characters on board the space station didn’t always get along.
I really wish to know for the love of Space Jesus what sort of test audiences they're employing. It's really telling that the characters of TNG and VOY lacking internal conflict didn't develop all that much during their respective runs while the cast of DS9 did. Heck even ENT managed to get to the embryonic stages of character developement from season 3 on because they decided to drop the Stepford Wives angle.
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Uraniun235 » 2010-09-24 10:58am

Chris OFarrell wrote:
"On Earth there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window at Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it's easy to be a saint in paradise. But the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there, in the Demilitarized Zone, all problems have not been solved yet. There are no saints, just people; angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive, whether it meets with the Federation approval or not."


Say what you will about DS9, they had no problems snapping right past the 'we're all perfect in the 24th century' crap on more then one occasion, even drawing a distinct line between the 'Humans = perfection' and 'yeah, the Federation border is a loonnnng way away from Earth...'

I still don't have much sympathy for the Maquis. Their whole shtick is based on the lunatic notion that borders should never ever change. How dare the Federation ever cede territory!


Looks to me like those ivory tower Earth elites got it right again. Image


Tsyroc wrote:As for the Roddenberry box. I had know idea it was that ridiculously crazy. No grieving? So human nature changes so much in 300 years that we're a completely different species than we are now?

Have you never watched TNG before? Here's some other ways those god damn commie pinkos are different from us good red-blooded 21st century humans:

- marriage is supposed to be way rarer, "people don't possess each other like that any more"
- people don't lust for wealth
- people are not vengeful


Steve wrote:I wonder if that test audience was a real sample of the population or a limited sample of confirmed Trek fans, including the infamous "Federation cultist" stereotypes who believe Roddenberry's is the One True Vision of the Future and they can't fathom Star Trek done differently.

I doubt that Paramount would have rigged the test like that, they had to know that there was more to the TV audience than just die-hard fans. Besides, they probably contracted out to another agency to do the testing.

Here's the preceding paragraph from Piller's book:
Testing can be valuable. It helps answer questions you’ve been asking yourself. But test audiences aren’t always sure what to make of something that’s unique or different - it’s simply not as comfortable as something they’re used to. TV shows that risk being different often test lower than those that are familiar.

Seven years of TNG - which itself also draws upon familiarity with six ship-based feature films and three years of the old ship-based TOS which had been running relentlessly in reruns for 25 years - is going to seem much more familiar than Deep Space Nine, which wasn't yet done when Voyager started its run. Hell, when they did the testing, DS9 was probably only in its second season!
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Stofsk » 2010-09-24 11:32am

Destructionator XIII wrote:
RedImperator wrote:On the other, "people don't grieve in the 24th century" is either a terrifying dystopia or completely stupid.

He might have purposefully went to the extreme to make the writers fight him, with the intention to land in the middle with something interesting. (of course, this is pure speculation)

I doubt it. A lot of writers in the first two seasons left the show because of the sort of work environment that was around. David Gerrold left in a bitter way when his script was illegally read by Roddenberry's attack dog lawyer (Gene never even read it, or at least that's what Gerrold believes, even though it was Gene's job to read scripts).

Roddenberry's ideas were unique, no doubt about that, but at the same time flawed and poorly thought out. The ideas and execution thereof in TOS were a lot better. McCoy and Spock continually sparred but you still got the impression they were friends. Was there anything like that in TNG? Occasionally there was, but nothing like that frequency. Things like Lieutenant Bailey having a breakdown on the bridge in 'The Corbomite Maneuver' was also interesting - wow, people responding to stress in sub-optimal ways! Guess 23rd century man isn't perfect. Lieutenant Stiles' bigotry also came to the surface in 'Balance of Terror', and even the character of Kirk wrestled with tough decisions throughout the whole show. Everything in TNG seems milder in comparison.
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Mayabird » 2010-09-24 06:34pm

Uraniun235 wrote:
Tsyroc wrote:As for the Roddenberry box. I had know idea it was that ridiculously crazy. No grieving? So human nature changes so much in 300 years that we're a completely different species than we are now?

Have you never watched TNG before? Here's some other ways those god damn commie pinkos are different from us good red-blooded 21st century humans:

- marriage is supposed to be way rarer, "people don't possess each other like that any more"
- people don't lust for wealth
- people are not vengeful


This makes me think of the Culture. Yeah, they're all peaceful unselfish free-loving hippies and Banks himself thinks it's about as close to a utopia as can be achieved, but he fully admits that it's mostly a result of their post scarcity society - there's no need to compete and people can do pretty much whatever they want. However, the moment something is rare, valuable, and coveted, they will turn just as nasty and mean as anybody ever was. Piss them off and they can be downright cruel. The Minds are very, very intelligent and are rarely wrong, but sometimes they do screw up.

And now the bio geek in me has to say the obligatory, "THAT IS NOT EVOLUTION!"
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Marcus Aurelius » 2010-09-24 06:48pm

Mayabird wrote:This makes me think of the Culture. Yeah, they're all peaceful unselfish free-loving hippies and Banks himself thinks it's about as close to a utopia as can be achieved, but he fully admits that it's mostly a result of their post scarcity society - there's no need to compete and people can do pretty much whatever they want. However, the moment something is rare, valuable, and coveted, they will turn just as nasty and mean as anybody ever was. Piss them off and they can be downright cruel. The Minds are very, very intelligent and are rarely wrong, but sometimes they do screw up.

And now the bio geek in me has to say the obligatory, "THAT IS NOT EVOLUTION!"

The Culture biological citizens are also typically vastly improved by direct bioengineering over naturally evolved species. They don't get sick, they live as long as they want, all have a large selection of internally secreted recreational drugs with little or no side effects available, everybody is pretty (or ugly/strange looking if that's the current fashion), they can change sex at will and generally have no sexual dysfunctions etc. If I had all those I would probably be even willing to suffer a little hunger every now and then and still remain fairly happy :mrgreen:

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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Tsyroc » 2010-09-24 09:28pm

Uraniun235 wrote:
Tsyroc wrote:As for the Roddenberry box. I had know idea it was that ridiculously crazy. No grieving? So human nature changes so much in 300 years that we're a completely different species than we are now?


Have you never watched TNG before? Here's some other ways those god damn commie pinkos are different from us good red-blooded 21st century humans:

- marriage is supposed to be way rarer, "people don't possess each other like that any more"
- people don't lust for wealth
- people are not vengeful


It's been a long time since I've watched a significant number of TNG episodes. Pretty much since the show went off the air.

I must have missed the bit about marriage. I did catch the wealth thing. As for the vengeful bit. I think they weren't supposed to be vengeful but that isn't different from the attitude lots of people currently have.

Not grieving just seems pretty cold blooded in a society that primarily appears to not believe in any religion or after life. I suppose it could be something that came out of the aftermath of WWIII. Society was just more stoic about death after going through all of that and it continued that way even after the recovery.
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Stofsk » 2010-09-25 01:15am

No, in TOS people grieved. This is just a bullshit Roddenberry idea that gained traction when he was put in charge of TNG. Rationalising it in-universe is fruitless because TOS completely ignored it and it was before TNG (so much closer to WW3 per your hypothesis).
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Uraniun235 » 2010-09-25 01:19am

I just remembered something: "No one grieves" is totally inconsistent with Skin of Evil. Troi is pretty stricken by Yar's death, Beverly's choked up, and even Picard gets misty-eyed. Picard explicitly says "we will all find time to grieve for her in the days ahead". It's possible that it "slipped by" Roddenberry, but it seems unlikely when it was the only episode to date to kill a major character and when Roddenberry was much more active in the production of the show than nearly any other time in TNG.

So two possibilities:

- Roddenberry changed his mind about that aspect of humanity, or perhaps even just didn't like the story as submitted and made some bullshit up to shoot it down. Or was even just getting senile - I wouldn't rule that out.

- Piller mis-remembered what Roddenberry had actually said - the objection might not have been to the boy grieving, but to the boy being unable to accept his mother's death and refusing to face it by hiding in the holodeck.

I think it could go either way, but if forced to take a side I'd probably go with Roddenberry being crazy.
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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby LMSx » 2010-09-25 04:15am

Using the plan he hatched up with the mariners’ help, Picard pilots the impressive scout ship into the Patch, accompanied by Geordi, Worf, Troi and Joss. The Enterprise follows at a safe distance, using a steady flow of technical data from the scout ship to chart the course. A tractor beam is ready in case Picard’s ship gets into trouble. The Away Team is mesmerized by the beautiful but dangerous space phenomena they encounter. A close call is narrowly averted as Picard brilliantly dodges the hazard.


It strikes me as darkly amusing that even the early treatments, effectively unlimited in imagining what could be, seem stuck in the same boring Star Trek default that has Picard piloting the ship. Because he's the MAIN CHARACTER.

I'm cringing reading the Michael Piller and Patrick Stewart exchange of letters.

Patrick Stewart:

I think there is real danger in the mindset that “there are certain things that our audience come to expect...” We have seen Worf defend his honor so many times and exactly in the way your story plays out. Worf’s ‘honor’ is in his every thought and gesture. He is anyway by now too big a man to rise to a jerk like Joss. But to see Worf telling his Captain he is wrong and threatening to tear him apart, there is his honor.

I have reread the story several times since your last communication and - with some exceptions - my feelings remain unchanged. The story seems bogged down in details, dialogue and back story. For me it plods along until Act 3 (on page 20 of your 25 page story) when the Guerilla training begins. Before, the ‘events’ have been a hand to hand fight, two ship conflicts and the delusions sequence. The first three are very familiar territory but the latter I have come to like more and more.

It is dangerous, I believe, these days to rely on tech stuff for excitement but I can see how there could be a lot of fun and danger in this sequence but it all goes very flat again after that.

Yes, the Romulan question does mean a lot to me. I think it is a deadly idea to have even an ‘overhauled’ Romulan villain. After the Borg Queen it will look as if we just couldn’t come up with any new bad guys. But we must. Could they be the Federation Executive Council? (Gene, stop spinning.) Or a cadre inside the Council? The bad guys are right there in the heart of the Federation. That is certainly contemporary and, God knows, depressingly relevant. [He called out the Romulans as boring earlier]

A few story details.

Isn’t it improbable that the Council would choose Picard as the man to terminate Data? Not smart, surely.

Data’s mission was ‘to make first contact with a newly discovered race of aliens.’ Just like that! Isn’t this a bit premature given the [Prime Directive], etc.

Picard has argued the value of one life against millions of lives at least twice before, I believe.

And lastly - though far from leastly - sex and comedy. Two elements of life that I have come to think as critical in the TNG movies. I tell you I think our stories have got to be sexy. I don’t mean ‘sex scenes,’ God forbid, but a certain eroticism, a certain sexiness about our characters and situations is really helpful and fun. Let’s be honest, there is an inclination to stuffiness about our crew. For the same reason humor is vital and again I don’t mean set-piece scenes - though as I have said, Picard with the mariners could be a great sequence. I think our crew are adorable when they are witty, ironic, self deprecating, teasing, cheeky.

One of the great strengths of First Contact was the creation of three marvelous guest roles - and three terrific performances. James Cromwell was perfect but what really appealed to audiences and critics were the Borg Queen and Lily. Both of them sexy, provocative, dangerous, funny. There is no female role like that, or really of any significance in this story. I think that is a mistake. Lily and the Queen - yes, and even Cochran - challenged our people, challenged their actions, their beliefs - their virtue. Isn’t that good?


More Piller:

I’d write all the technical dialogue as well as I could. The secret, I always told writers, was not to depend on the technobabble to explain anything. It’s there for decoration. Make sure the audience can understand what’s going on despite the technobabble. I knew the actors hated technical dialogue (on the TV show, they used to call it “Piller filler”). And I knew as sure as I sat there that when the picture was done that Rick would come out of the screening room, as he always did, and glare at me and say, “There’s too much technobabble in this film!” And we’d try to cut some out. But at this point in the process, he always insisted that I close every techno-hole in the script. And I did.


I'm always surprised that conceptually Star Trek seems so bent on tying one hand behind their back, forcing themselves to write bizarre compromises to make sure that the otherwise omniscient sensors are crippled and that teleporters don't blast holes in the plot.

Reading all this (it's actually a pretty breezy read) does emphasize though how difficult it can be for a single vision to survive the studio process, and how a property like Star Trek could be hampered with so many eyes watching it. Does anyone else want to read it? I can email the .doc out to interested parties.

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Re: Fade In: Michael Piller's BTS look at writing Insurrecti

Postby Ryushikaze » 2010-09-26 04:58pm

I'm quite curious to see the memoir. if my Email isn't visible, it's my SN @gmail.com


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