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Posts published in “Star Trek: Terran”

“Breaking Rules” — Speccing And Sharing Star Trek: Terran

Click Here For Part I – Presenting Star Trek: Terran

Click Here For Part II – “Why Star Trek?”: The State of an Enduring Franchise

We’ve already explored the reasons why Trek should come back on TV. But working on Star Trek: Terran was also about something beyond the beloved franchise.
From speccing an original pilot script based on an existing property, to publicly sharing it online, here’s a writer’s perspective on the experience.

Speccing a Franchise

One of the basic rules of writing specs is to never write a script around something you don’t own the rights to.
Shocker: I don’t own the rights to Star Trek.
In fact, as we saw yesterday, corporate ownership of the franchise is convoluted (at best), with CBS and Paramount both in the middle of the space pie. Given how “mainstream” the rebooted universe is, it would be pretty strange to get a new Star Trek TV show that is set in the original, prime universe. Yet, it’s CBS that is doing the TV side of things, and they have nothing to do with that version. There’s also been many articles written on theoretical Trek shows, from a Worf-centric spin-off to Bryan Singer’s 30th-century series.

All in all, it seemed very unlikely that Star Trek would come back to television anytime soon. So I said: the hell with it.
I decided to write my own proof of concept of what a new Trek show could be.
Going in, I knew speccing a copyrighted universe would be suicidal on a development level. It’s not as if the show is ever gonna get made.
As I’ve previously said, the primary reason was to offer an original take on the franchise. But beyond, this was about something beyond the script itself. I’m not trying to pitch something to make it happen, I’m pitching it for what it represents. Hope for a new series, and also a comment about something else…

Download the pilot script (.PDF)

Sharing the Craft

With Terran, I wanted to do something different. It is, after all, an experiment. Not just about Star Trek, but about script sharing.
Distributing an original pilot script online may raise a few eyebrows. However, when was the last time anyone was excited about a script? (Never.)
Granted, I don’t think that many people will care about my script specifically, although this is more about the other side of that coin.

I want to show to all my faithful readers and aspiring TV writers out there that it’s okay to share your work.
Television is a collaborative medium. We’re not writing novels, we’re making episodic scripts. And we should be learning from each other.

Sadly, besides produced scripts being traded in the shadows of Internet, there’s almost no TV writer, aspiring or pro, willing to openly share their work.
And I have to say: it’s weird.
I’m not talking about sharing projects currently in development/production or making the rounds. What I’m referring to is all the other stuff. The failed pitches, the finished projects, the canceled ventures.
This isn’t a question of getting/wanting validation from the outside. It’s obvious most writers already have a group, or an entourage whose opinion they care about. It’s about sharing the craft. The experience of TV writing.
That’s one of the reasons why I put Terran out there. Like any spec, it’s an ongoing work in progress, and I do welcome any feedback I get. Yet, I don’t expect it to be made (copyright issues notwithstanding). I put it out, in part, to share the process (good and bad).

When it comes to TV writing, there’s one example that comes to mind of someone actually “sharing his craft”: the awesome Javi Grillo-Marxuach.
Through his Squarespace site, he has been offering plenty of material, ranging from TV pitch documents, to pilots and episodic scripts. Talk about a resource.

Which makes you wonder: why isn’t anyone else doing it?

A Fear of Theft

There’s a lot to say about the rampant fear that some writers have about someone stealing their brilliant ideas, especially when it comes to specs.
For one thing, it’s unwarranted.
You should absolutely register your work at the Writers’ Guild, but that doesn’t mean you need to be paranoid about it.

Ultimately, what risks are you taking by sharing your work, scripts and pitches alike (especially if you’re a pro)? (Again, I’m not talking about projects in development/production or ones you don’t want online for similar reasons.)
If you answered “someone may steal my super sweet lines”, I’m sorry to say that syntax technology has reached the masses.
More importantly, if someone cares so much about your writing that they’re willing to copy parts of your style, what does that say about your talent?
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” may sound trite, but here it’s pretty much the truth.
Even thinking that someone is desperate enough to plagiarize your work is, well, a bit presumptuous to begin with. It’s doubtful someone will bother.

The same exact thing can be applied to spec scripts, both original pilots and based on existing shows. In fact, you should be less scared about sharing your work and “theft” if you’re an aspiring writer. Trust me, the writing staff of The Walking Dead isn’t going to steal your cool idea.
Why? If your idea is that amazing, then chances are pretty freaking high that the staff (the one that talks, thinks, breathes this show 24/7), has come up with a variation of said idea/script multiple times. And that’s before you even thought of it. Spoiler alert: they won’t need to be aware of your spec to do the brilliant idea.

As for original specs, well that’s part of why I posted Terran. To disprove the myths about everybody ripping you off. If anything, you’ll get constructive feedback from people reading the script. Speaking of, I want to thank all the people that have been interest in reading the script. Clearly, you guys have great taste.

Educational Purposes Only

We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.

– John Dewey

Perhaps another reason why people are reticent to share their work is because of the type of projects that would be online. Seeing as you can’t put scripts in development or in production, you’d end up with a lot of what some may consider creative “failures” (I don’t — they’re merely unrealized opportunities). For examples, pitches that didn’t really advance past a certain stage. Among other writings, that’s exactly what you’ll find on Javi’s (and John August’s) site(s).

On some level, sharing unproduced scripts is giving fans more of what they want. Both writers have unique writing styles, and it’s great to read what they do.
It’s also about sharing experience and knowledge. When you’re speccing an existing show, you’ll be reverse-engineering the process of breaking the story.
The same can be applied to reading other writers’ projects, regardless of where the projects ended up.
Every writer has a different approach to the craft, and it’s always a learning experience to read someone else’s work. Even “failed pitches” are not actually failures. “Those who cannot remember the past…”

Writing can be a personal affair, but TV is communal. It’s teamwork. We’re all in this together.

I wish writers were more willing to openly share their work, especially when it comes to television.
It’s high time we started learning from each other’s craft. Why not become a team writer yourself?

“Why Star Trek?” – The State of an Enduring Franchise

Click Here For Part I – Presenting Star Trek: Terran

One of the ideas behind Terran is to continue the ongoing discussion about the future of Star Trek.
Over the past few months, there has been a growing number of people clamoring for a new series. The sheer amount of articles on the subject is staggering. I can even link every word in this sentence to a different one. There is a need for it to come back to television.

It may seem self-evident to fans of the franchise that Star Trek should be brought back to TV, but I feel there are many more reasons for why (beyond being reactionary towards the reboot). There is a rationale to why having a new Trek series is important. Some of it even ties directly to why I wanted to make Terran in the first place. And it all boils down to one question: Why Star Trek?

The Need for Star Trek

It has been over eight years since the last original episode of a Star Trek series aired on television.
In that time, the TV landscape has evolved. A lot of dramas that have popped up, especially genre, aim for “dark and gritty” (I’ll get to that in a minute).

Yet, now more than ever, there is a dire need for Star Trek to come back to its true episodic roots. To come back as a series.
Terran is my vision for such a show, but beyond that, it is about what I think is currently missing on TV: science-fiction with a purpose.
One of the most interesting trait of the genre has always been that it could serve as an echo of reality. And the world desperately needs a reflection of itself.
You could make a pretty long list of contemporary issues that are begging to be explored (surveillance, social class, role of government, etc.). These are issues that would still be prevalent within the Trek-verse. In fact, the franchise has always been great at taking on societal and moral issues throughout its series (some more contemporary than others).

Even more importantly, Star Trek endures because it always has been forward-looking.
Star Trek stands for hope. Reaching for the sky and going where no one has gone before. It is sending a positive outlook about people. A better humanity, united, and equal. We need Star Trek on TV to inspire society, but also a new generation, people growing up to be explorers in their fields. This is about believing in a better future and striving to better ourselves.

We need a new Star Trek series, not for the fans of the franchise, but for everybody else. We need it for the bigger picture.

Realism in Star Trek

A popular trend nowadays is to do fiction that is “dark and gritty“.
Since those somber works are often concerned with keeping a realistic approach, the tone has wrongfully become synonymous with “realism”.
The truth is that this spectrum is closer to being a grid. Like this one:

Battlestar Galactica is a “realistic” science-fiction show that is also dark. But it starts off with a genocide.
Would gritty really suit a Star Trek series? I don’t think so. Star Trek is set in an idealistic future. Simply put, it isn’t in its DNA (at least from the outset).
Star Trek Renegades, as I previously put it, is an ‘awkwardly bleak’ web-series. It tries to stick the “dark & gritty” trend on the franchise, without it making much sense. The concept of Tuvok and Chekov going rogue seems out of place, especially given how honorable the characters were in their respective series.
Even Deep Space 9 was not actually that bleak. It was merely realistic about the world around it. It wasn’t meant to devalue the values and ideals of the series, it was meant to bring nuances to a previously “black and white” universe.

io9 recently put out an editorial asking that the new Trek movies do not “pull a DS9”, making it synonymous with having meaningless bleakness. Incorrectly so. DS9 is about bringing a sense of realism to the franchise.
In the Pale Moonlight is perhaps DS9’s, and Star Trek‘s darkest hour, but it is that way in spite of the world it is set in. Sisko didn’t reach “that point” for the sake of it (or because moral dilemmas are cool). We reached this dark moment out of necessity. (I won’t spoil what I’m exactly talking about for people who haven’t seen the episode yet.) In fact, DS9 is labeled as a much darker show than its counterpart, but I partly disagree with that assessment. The Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise all had their dark moments. The difference is that DS9 dealt with serious issues that sometimes led to morally ambiguous decisions that stayed with the show. Picard turning into a Borg, causing the deaths of countless people, had almost no real consequences in the long run of TNG. And let’s not even get started on Janeway (or Tuvix).
What made DS9 such a stark contrast in the Trek universe were the consequences for actions previously undertaken. There wasn’t a reset button. It was life (and death). A decade before BSG and Lost, and over fifteen years before Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.

All of this is to say that Star Trek has been grim, but dark & gritty isn’t the default. The characters are not amoral, and neither is the world.
Star Trek: Terran fits with the DS9 sensibility of realism, without trying to be “dark and gritty”. Hope and realism are not mutually exclusive.
The Original Series had a certain sense of naiveté about blissful hope that the latter series tried to shed (or at least address). Different sensibilities, different times.
One of the ideas behind Terran is to be realistic, but not depressing. Nobody is singing Kumbaya on Earth. The Federation, the United Earth and Starfleet are not perfect. And just because humanity has outgrown doesn’t mean that a post-scarcity world isn’t without issues (if only from outside). Yet Star Trek is still a hopeful future. It is people working to attain ideals greater than themselves.

Writing Star Trek

The current state of the franchise is simple: the Powers That Be have no plans to produce a new Star Trek series in the near future.
There are multiple issues at play, not the least of which is rights issues. Currently, CBS owns the production rights to any new Star Trek series, while Paramount Pictures owns the Star Trek films. Memory Alpha actually has a pretty decent history of corporate ownership.

With all that in mind, I decided to put my time where my mind was, and spec my own take of a new Trek series. Terran. Not because it could be produced, but because it needed to be proven. This is, after all, still a proof of concept.
The idea was to advance the conversation on why and how Star Trek can be brought back to TV. There are ways of creating a fresh, original, new take on this universe, while meeting current TV industry standards.
In the age of serialized storytelling, it seems unthinkable for a potential science-fiction series to revert to decade-old formulas of stand-alone adventures in space. This mold won’t work. I want Terran to be a return to the proper roots of the franchise (less mindless explosions, more story), with modern storytelling (I’ve already dissected the concept of the show in more details). All while still being accessible to people who may not know much about the franchise.

So, what exactly is in the future of Star Trek? I’ve just offered you my vision with Terran. Maybe you can tell me yours.
Together, we can rally around bringing the franchise back to television. We can share our views on why a show is needed, and discuss what exactly it can be.
The Star Trek franchise will endure as long as you want it to. Let it live on!

Download the pilot script (.PDF)

Click Here For Part III – “Breaking Rules”: Speccing and Sharing Star Trek: Terran

Star Trek: Terran

After a lot of teasing, the mystery script project is finally revealed. Enjoy!

Just to get that out of the way: this is not a Kickstarter, crowd-funding or other monetary “fan project”.

What is Star Trek: Terran all about?
There is, currently, an ever-growing discussion about Star Trek, and especially the future of the franchise.
As a fan, I thought it was finally time to advance that discussion.
Specifically, I wanted to bring to the table a realistic way Star Trek could be brought back to TV. Not a fan-fiction, and not a web-series (or combinations thereof).
I ended up writing a 1-hour original spec pilot off that idea, which I am now posting online. No strings attached.

Terran is what, I believe, a new Star Trek show HAS to be: a fresh take on the franchise.
This is not a generic “re-imagining” or general reboot/remake/sequel.
It is my version of a viable modern Star Trek series, trying to work within the realities of the mythology and television industry.

The show is also supposed (and meant) to be accessible to everyone, including non-Trekkies.
If you’re at least sci-fi curious, you’re more than welcomed to partake in the script reading. The more the merrier!

I don’t consider Terran to be a pitch, nor do I expect it to be actually made by anyone any time soon.
It’s an experiment. A proof of concept.

Over the next couple of days, I’ll delve even more into the project through two additional posts.
One about the state of the Star Trek franchise, and the other about the writing/spec side of this particular script (and why I chose to post it).

In the meantime, let me finally introduce to you the project.

Download the pilot script (.PDF)

Presenting Star Trek: Terran

Set in the mid-23rd century, Star Trek: Terran follows the most powerful people in the three most influential branches on Earth:
– The Federation, with the President and his close advisers.
– The United Earth government, via the Prime Minister.
Starfleet, mainly through the Academy and Intelligence, in various echelons.

The World

Terran is a show that aims to be real. It isn’t about the showy tech. It isn’t about the technobabble. It is about a reflection of reality.
Grand ideals and a hopeful outlook, like Star Trek always has been, but with stories closer to The West Wing or Game of Thrones than Stargate SG-1.

The series is grounded figuratively, but not literally. The title doesn’t reflect a location, it represents humanity’s attributes.
At its core, Terran is a story about the exploration of who we are as people. It is about a collection of characters, intertwined in 23rd-century realpolitik and futuristic institutions. Different goals and different values, but all striving towards a prosperous future.

The Characters

It’s always better to discover a character through their portrayal on the page, rather than a simplistic description (especially just off a pilot).
But here’s still a small introduction of each.

The main ensemble cast includes a wide range of people:
President David Kendrick: Commander in chief of the United Federations of Planet. A bold leader that wants to see the best in others.
Prime Minister Zora Guillory: Executive leader of the United Earth government. She wants to protect her people (and planet) as best she can.
Val: Chief of staff for President Kendrick. A Vulcan focused on being extremely proficient at helping the President.
Admiral Barros: The boss of Starfleet Intelligence. Under pressure.
The Deltan: Lieutenant at Starfleet Academy, in charge of Cadet Squadron 47. She also dabbles in extra-curricular activities.
Thelos: A one-antennad Andorian who enjoys telling stories and wearing all-black clothing.
Damien Ellis: Cadet at Starfleet Academy. He likes to think he’s always right (and is).
Kylli Moon: Reporter for the Federation News Network and married to Prime Minister Guillory.
Doctor Richard Daystrom: Works at Starfleet Advanced Technologies. He’s also an old friend of the President (and the only preexisting character on this list).

The Visuals

Since some people reading the Terran pilot won’t be familiar with a few Trek-related visuals (specifically alien races mentioned), I took the liberty of digging up pictures and concept art to better illustrate the Star Trek world. A couple are from the shows, the others are concepts for the two latest Star Trek movies.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Time to answer a few (soon-to-be) common questions about Terran.

Is this yet another “dark and gritty” attempt at a beloved franchise?
Short answer: no. There’s a difference between being realistic, and being dark & gritty.
I’ll go in depth about this very point in tomorrow’s post, but suffice it to say that Terran is not trying to be Battlestar Galactica: Starfleet Edition (or the awkwardly bleak Star Trek Renegades).

Is this set in the Bad Robot/NuTrek-verse?
The Terran pilot works in both the prime or new timeline.
Though if there’s a new Star Trek series made in the coming decade, it will probably be set in the NuTrek-verse.
Yes, I’m saying that in full knowledge of the different TV/movie copyright holders (CBS v. Paramount).

Isn’t the franchise called STAR Trek for a reason? And by reason I mean STARS.
I personally believe the Star Trek franchise is about one thing: exploration.
Whether that literally means exploring the stars, or more metaphorically an exploration of humanity, that’s up to the shows (and, to various degrees, the movies).
After 700+ episodes, I do think that taking the literal concept of a trek throughout the stars is a bit tiring, especially for a “new take”.
Sure, you could do a show in the 25th century. The ships would be sleeker, maybe there’d be a Romulan on board or something. It would basically be “the NEXT next generation”. But it wouldn’t feel new, and would be compared ad nauseam to its 90s counterpart.
One of the reasons the television franchise started to burn out (even before Enterprise) was because of a lack of drive, and novelty factor. There are only so many “reactor failure” stories.
Terran, to me, still fits the above description. It’s ultimately closer to what Deep Space 9 brought to the table: real and (hopefully) interesting situations with a backdrop of human introspection. It’s self-exploration (or self-reflection).

Isn’t Earth a utopia by the 23rd century?
It’s easy to be a saint in Paradise.” – Commander Sisko (DS9 – 2×21)

It is well known that Gene Roddenberry’s uncompromising stance on a utopian version of Earth was a point of dissension and controversy among some of the shows’ writers.
The planet was barely a focal point of The Original Series. The question was more about how “evolved” humanity had become in the future.
By the time the utopian concept was being explored in the latter shows, that vision had already been challenged in the canon. In other words, it was never really explored as faithfully being the utopia. Of course, this very comment is itself a point of dissension among Star Trek fans.

TOS didn’t have to legitimately deal head-on with this vision, so there was no reason to even question it.
DS9, and Enterprise to a different extent, both wanted to explore the cost of this utopia.
And if you think The Next Generation is exempt from this contemplation, take a look at the featured Starfleet admirals on the show. There’s a reason why all of them turn out to be “bad guys”.
It’s the characters that are always striving to keep these ideals.

Maybe there’s a reason why the Earth hasn’t been a focus of Star Trek stories. Midi-chlorians, anyone?
I’d say that the equivalent to the Star Wars “Force” would actually be all the technology used in Trek. Therefore, midi-chlorians = treknobabble.
More importantly, Earth has been used at some point in every Star Trek series. It’s even my opinion that the some of the best and most compelling episodes of the entire franchise are set on Earth (or directly connected to it). Examples include:
The Next Generation: Family/The First Duty (4×02 / 5×19)
Deep Space 9: Homefront/Paradise Lost (4×11 / 4×12)
Voyager: In the Flesh/Pathfinder (5×04 / 6×10)
Enterprise: Demons/Terra Prime (4×20 / 4×21)
This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Terran is is about giving a new perspective on something that has been in the background of Star Trek for nearly half a century.
It is delving, head first, into this part of the universe, (ironically) seldom explored, but fundamental to the entire dynamic of the franchise.

I hope you’ll enjoy, and share your thoughts.

Download the pilot script (.PDF)

Click Here For Part II – “Why Star Trek?”: The State of an Enduring Franchise

Click Here For Part III – “Breaking Rules”: Speccing and Sharing Star Trek: Terran