Fact-Checking Inside Star Trek: The Real Story

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Harvey, Jun 7, 2013.

  1. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

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    ^^^No veil. My name is Dave -- I just like the old Warner Bros cartoons. :)

    Sir Dave
     
  2. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    I am Phil Lynch, of no renown whatsoever; you can tell what a neophyte I was to web 2.0 or whatever this is, since I just shortened my name and didn't think up a cool handle. And I also sure didn't mean to imply anyone is hiding or creeping, just how the web initially went, with handles.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Wow, I think I only had 1-2 pages each. It still took me a few minutes each.

    Ooh, that would've been helpful.


    Yup, that's the most common reason pitches get rejected. Laypeople tend to assume that any similarity between two episodes or series or movies is proof of a "ripoff," but the fact is that it's very hard to avoid doing something similar to an existing idea, which is why creators try so hard not to. Too much similarity to a recent or current work is a surefire way to get a story rejected, assuming the parties involved realize the similarity. Far from being proof of deliberate imitation, similarity between two works is most likely proof that they had no awareness of each other until it was too late to change things.

    Literally just ten days after I mailed in my TNG spec script, they aired "Quality of Life," which had a very similar plot about Data realizing an AI was sentient, complete with an almost identical beat where an offhand quip by Geordi was what got Data wondering about sentience in the first place. And "Empok Nor" was rather similar to one of my pitches to RHW, although I made the opposite assumption about Cardassian nomenclature and called it "Terok Hel." Although I bet a lot of people pitched stories about something happening on a duplicate station, since it's a good way to save money on sets.

    My spec script that got me the pitch invitation to DS9 was also a money-saver, a bottle show in which a technobabble phenomenon left a few characters alone on an empty DS9 for most of the episode. I'd noted how the shows sometimes did really economical bottle shows by focusing on character stories with minimal FX and action (e.g. "The Drumhead" and "Duet"), and I wanted to come up with a similarly inexpensive bottle show that was more science fictional, while still focused on character interplay. I suspect the economy of my script was probably a factor in getting my pitch invitation.

    I actually recycled the same premise for one of my Voyager pitches to Joe Menosky, and after I pitched it and he rejected it, he asked where I'd gotten the idea, since it was (here we go again) similar to a spec movie script he'd been pitching.

    I'd say one of the best things to come out of my pitching experience was that I got to thank Joe Menosky for "Darmok."

    Oh, one more thing: People complain about how Seven of Nine dominated VGR and often assume it was because of the actress's sex appeal. But when I did my second VGR pitch, for season 5, I tried very hard to avoid pitches about Seven or the Doctor, since I expected everyone else to be pitching for them and I wanted to offer something different. Yet nonetheless, most of the ideas I came up with were about Seven or the Doctor, because they were simply the most interesting and complex characters, the ones with the most potential for growth, change, and conflict. Everyone else in the cast had pretty much resolved their issues and settled into steady roles (aside from the Tom-B'Elanna romance), and thus there wasn't as much to say about them. I assume that's why both Seven and the Doctor were so heavily featured in the show. (Although I once estimated the figures for a Star Trek Magazine article fact-checking that belief about Seven, and I determined that Janeway remained the most prominently featured character throughout the series, with Seven second during her four seasons and the Doctor third -- except in season 7 where the Doctor took second place. And I'm getting recursive here, since I included this very anecdote in that article.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2013
  4. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You might try a service like this one.


    It's actually possible to change your name on here if you nicely ask one of the mods. They do it for holidays, after all. I was DS9Sega when I started on here before I decided to just "come out" as me.
     
  5. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I sent a spec script to Voyager about an exiled war criminal trying to return home, never heard back. At that point, I figured my career as a Hollywood screenwriter was over. :lol:

    Bill Jasper here. :techman:
     
  6. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

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    Re similarity. My spec which got me an invitation to pitch was entitled "Strange Bedfellows" (from Shakespeare, a very common title) and I believe DS9 later did an ep with title, which bore no resemblance to my story other than people having to work together who were not on, shall we say, the best of terms. Did they rip me off? Of course not!

    I also had a very broad, obvious joke (which was far from original with me) in which Gul Dukat, being escorted about the station, says something to Sisko like "Must I be escorted EVERYWHERE?" -- obviously the guards are going in the john with him. IIRC, Dukat does this exact line in a later show.

    Did they rip me off? Of course not! As I said, it was an old, hoary joke to begin with.

    So I agin echo Christopher. As they say, there are only (how many, again?) so many basic plots in literature, and by extension, television.

    Though I do love Malcolm Hulke's advice to a young Terrance Dicks (when the latter first started writing for DOCTOR WHO). Something like "All you need to write for television is a great idea (pause)... It doesn't have to be your great idea..."

    Sir Rhosis
     
  7. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I still have my TNG spec scripts and pitches. The "None So Noble" one is what convinced the Johnson brothers to let me rewrite their planned 3rd episode of Starship Exeter. As I recall, Jimm Johnson really liked my throwaway solution to the whole "why do Klingons look different?" question.
     
  8. diankra

    diankra Commodore Commodore

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    As Christopher and the others have said, it's very easy to duplicate someone else's idea: I lost my chance to write a Who novel because the McGuffin that initially got the Doctor involved overlapped with a book already in the works. By the time I'd rethought it, they'd halved the number of books to one a month, so the year's worth that had been commissioned had become two years' worth. By the time the next commissioning round started, the series was coming back and only established authors could be used...
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I doubt anybody would cry ripoff for the reuse of just a title, especially one that's a common phrase like that. There are several duplicate or near-duplicate titles in the screen franchise -- the TNG episode "First Contact" and the movie First Contact, TNG's "The Emissary" and DS9's "Emissary," TAS's "The Eye of the Beholder" and TNG's "Eye of the Beholder," TAS's "The Survivor" and TNG's "The Survivors," etc. Not to mention all the book titles later used as episode titles -- there's a TNG novel called Eyes of the Beholders and one called Survivors. And quite a few exact duplications between books and episodes -- "Reunion," "Requiem," "The Siege," "Sanctuary," "Evolution," "Resistance," "Sarek," etc. Plus a couple of cases of novels having very similar titles to other novels: TOS: The Kobayashi Maru and ENT: Kobayashi Maru, TNG: To Storm Heaven and Vanguard: Storming Heaven, maybe others. And that's not even getting into comic-book titles.

    And of course there are countless titles that get used over and over by different shows or films. Sometimes even titles you'd expect to be unique get reused. Both TOS and Space: 1999 have episodes named "The Immunity Syndrome"; once in the '70s my local station ran them both consecutively on the same night!
     
  10. diankra

    diankra Commodore Commodore

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    There is though the amusing time when Terry Nation reused one of his old Saint scripts for The Baron, and then they got run back to back in the States. Oddly, many viewers guessed the twist in the plot of the second episode run...
     
  11. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    I'm not big on 24th century klingons, but THAT sounds awesome. If I'd come up with an idea like that, I'd've probably made it a downer and called it THE KLINGON WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALLANCE!
     
  12. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    That's the way I went with my username originally, kmart for Kevin H. Martin (I had gotten in the habit of signing my name as kmart as well, which got me in no small amount of trouble at WaldenBooks when KMart bought them from Carter/Hawley/Hale in the mid80s.) But I got so much shit from posters about the name that when THE GOD THING got me to come back many years back, i was able to take TREVANIAN (for my favorite non Ellisonian author.)

    But on ILMFAN.COM I'm still KMART because I could never figure out how to change it.
     
  13. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks. I compared the theme to that of a Christian who becomes disillusioned when finally noticing that people in the congregation talk the talk (turn the other cheek, don't judge, help the downtrodden, etc.) but don't walk the walk, and thus questions the rightness of the faith before ultimately realizing that the ideals are what's important, not whether others follow them. Coming at it from that angle gave me an emotional grounding for the story which I hoped would make it feel authentic.

    My solution to the Klingon issue (pre TNG's exploration of the culture) was that that "Klingon" was the name of the warrior caste, and anyone who was a member of the caste, whether they were from the founding race Worf belonged to or one of the subject races that fell within their spacial "Warsaw pact". Once the Empire had lots of subject planets the founding race made them do all the real work, thus allowing them to become an almost exclusively a warrior race whose subjects grew the food and built the ships, etc. I posited that certain "2nd Klingons" (the ones from TOS) had done things which their masters didn't like, and they were all reduced to subject caste and banished from military service (I figured they'd started trading with the Romulans and opened that whole can of worms). It was a tidy solution which also helped drive the narrative of why the subject planets wanted out, and why the Klingons would never let them go (since their society had become utterly dependent on them).
     
  14. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

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    Thanks for the link, Maurice. Once the dust settles from our move, I'll check it out.

    Sir Rhosis
     
  15. SpHeRe31459

    SpHeRe31459 Captain Captain

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    Indeed. That's something I'd think Ron D. Moore could have gotten behind to champion.
     
  16. SpHeRe31459

    SpHeRe31459 Captain Captain

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    That issue seems to be one of the main reasons why the open submission was finally killed off. It was reportedly an ongoing hassle with the producers, where people who sent in unsolicited scripts would get ticked off and claim their ideas were stolen, etc.
     
  17. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    To be fair, sometimes it's remarkable how far coincidence can go. One of my story pitches was about a guest character who is plugged into the computer as part of an experiment to see if they can improve the response time of the ship to emergency and combat situations, and as the guy's mind is running at "machine speed" he starts doing all this impossible stuff, including plotting warp drive slingshot maneuvers around a black hole singularity to warp incredible distances. There's some superficial similarity to "The Nth Degree" in terms of the gimmicks, but I'd never go so far as to claim someone stole my idea.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's brilliant! And a really nice subversion of the way Trek and most screen sci-fi tends to treat species and culture/nationality as equivalent.


    Except that before you got to send in a spec script, you had to sign a waiver saying you wouldn't sue in such an event. That was the only reason the studio lawyers allowed open submissions to go forward in the first place. At least, the waivers were supposed to prevent that sort of thing. Maybe they weren't enough to do so?
     
  19. SpHeRe31459

    SpHeRe31459 Captain Captain

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    That's my understanding of it, the waiver was kind of a nice idea, but not all that enforceable in our increasingly litigious society.
     
  20. Alidar Jarok

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    For what it's worth, I don't think their direction with Klingons ended up being entirely different than yours. That entire plotline is about Worf being more Klingon than other Klingons and how everyone else is a hypocrite (well, not entirely, but that's one of the themes). But, yeah, your timing sucked. I could see it as a prelude to Sins of the Father, but they probably didn't want to risk any timing problems.

    What I'm reminded by this is the opening scene from the movie The Player, which is noteworthy for other reasons, but does have a nice little thing in the background involving Hollywood movie pitches and how the industry tends to handle it:

    [yt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0epB5Z6ijpk[/yt]