Lazy writers?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by JesterFace, Oct 29, 2017.

  1. JesterFace

    JesterFace Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This (old) comment by Berman about Trek series and their differences has made me wonder this many times...
    It's true that if there's no conflict between people, it could be harder for the writers, but aren't there already enough entertainment out there where people just don't get along?

    Rick Berman:
    "The problem with Star Trek: The Next Generation is Gene created a group of characters that he purposely chose not to allow conflict between. Starfleet officers cannot be in conflict, thus its murderous to write these shows because there is no good drama without conflict, and the conflict has to come from outside the group.”

    Friction between different characters is not the only way to create drama as we have seen with many Trek stories.
    There are a lot of aliens out there to argue with, does it really have to be the crew that can't get along?
     
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  2. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    In TOS, the characters argued and disagreed over what to do. THAT was the Trek that started it all.

    I quite disliked the passiveness of The Next Generation crew.
     
  3. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    In all honesty, when there's a rule in place forbidding character conflict, than you are severely limiting the show in very fundamental ways. It's also important to remember no conflict does not mean the same thing as having everyone hate each other and be at each others' throats like Ron Moore did on BSG. You can still create a positive environment without forcing everyone to agree with each other and never argue.
     
  4. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Vice Admiral Admiral

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    On the other side of it though, conflict between characters is often misused as lazy source of story And can make characters seem childish and unprofessional. DS9 had episodes like Hippocratic Oath or Sword of Kahless where characters act like children. And even when you don't fall into this trap, why should a show with aliens and all sorts of funky fake science widgets spend an episode on just one character's base personality trait rubbing against another's? Trek can do better than use sitcom boilerplate stories.

    Source of drama should be external, just conflict can arise from different reactions to the external threat.
     
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  5. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Can be external is not the same as "should" be external. There are lots of different kinds of conflict: internal conflict, interpersonal conflict, conflict with nature, etc. Why limit yourself to just one kind of drama? And, honestly, limiting your stories simply to external threats sounds kinda shallow and monotonous.

    At the risk of being pretentious, Faulker famously wrote that the best and most profound stories are about the human heart in conflict with itself. I'm inclined to think that applies to aliens as well. :)
     
  6. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    I like my characters imperfect. And besides, despite being in my thirties and working with people who are more or less my age with maybe a five year bumper in either direction, we act at my workplace in many ways which can be defined as "childish." So to me, seeing that on screen is realistic character interaction.

    Maybe that's one of the reasons I like The Orville so much.
    Because the show is ultimately about the characters, regardless of whatever else is going on. If the characters aren't at all interesting, it can ruin the show completely. At the same time, interesting and entertaining characters can save an otherwise plodding episode.
    When you start making rules about what the source of drama "should" be, than you're only setting the show up for failure. Let the drama come from wherever works for that script and go from there.
     
  7. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Furthermore, without emotion and drama and conflict, all you have is an exercise in problem-solving. And, yes, it's possible to tell sf stories in which cool, uber-competent heroes cope with external threats without any messy emotional angst or conflict. But that was never the STAR TREK I grew up on.
     
  8. USS Triumphant

    USS Triumphant Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm really glad an actual author has shown up. Because it means I don't have to type everything I was going to. I'm a lazy writer, I guess. :shrug:;)
     
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  9. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I was tempted to just ignore the "lazy writer" thing. Writing conflict into your stories does not mean you were too "lazy" to figure out something else; it's kinda your job description. :)
     
  10. diankra

    diankra Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Braga's account isn't exactly objective. Right from the start TNG has debate over how to respond to events (Tasha and Worf inclined towards force, Troi and Data towards understanding and analysis, Picard deciding), just like TOS.
    If people claiming to speak for Roddenberry over-asserted the 'no conflict' rule later and provoked a backlash, that's credible... but you can have debate without open conflict. It happens every day in well-functioning organisations, civilian and military.
    Or as Sergeant Wilson used to put it, "Are you sure that's wise, sir?"
     
  11. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Vice Admiral Admiral

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    @The Wormhole

    I didn't mean to sound prescriptive. But in my experience with Trek, when the story is driven entire by internal conflict, what they do is distill the character down to one dimensional quirks and present the conflict as a clash of those quirks. If you have good enough writers to avoid that pitfall, great. But I can't stand TV when characters are treated like the sum of their idiosyncrasies.

    And furthermore, why set your show in space with aliens and then tell the same stories you can tell sitting around a bar?

    The show should be character driven, but it should also respect the premise and the genre. We're out there exploring new life and new civilizations, facing threats to our entire way of life. Two roommates one is messy and one is clean just seems kind of petty and meaningless, given what else is going on.

    Yeah, it's realistic for people to be childish and incompetent in Superstore, but those people wouldn't be entrusted with any serious responsibilities. When you are fighting for the lives of millions, it makes no sense for characters to dwell on their childish personal hang ups.
     
  12. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    If it enhances the show, than why not.
    Didn't care for Red Dwarf, I take it?
    What doesn't make sense is letting a guy who admitted to murdering everyone under his command to keep his rank, and place him in command of an important asset.
     
  13. Ron Nasty

    Ron Nasty Piggy in the middle Premium Member

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    Depends on the bar. The stories don't have to be about the setting. The best Trek stories are about people and situations not about being on a spaceship,

    Trek isn't really about exploring new life and new civilizations, facing threats to our entire way of life. It's about the people who are exploring new life and new civilizations, who sometimes face threats to their entire way of life.
     
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  14. 1001001

    1001001 Boorish Jackass Moderator

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    The crew didn’t have much internal conflict, but Starfleet and the Federation had plenty.

    Evil admirals, crazy captains, scheming diplomats, treacherous scientists....
     
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  15. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I don't think "conflict" automatically translates to trivial disputes over childish matters, like who drank the last cup of coffee. The sci-fi stuff and interpersonal conflict are not mutually exclusive. You can have conflict over how to deal with exotic aliens and time-travel paradoxes and what-not. Should you kill your best friend before he becomes an insane god? Is it right to break or bend the Prime Directive for the greater good? What if Ensign Ro has a chip on her shoulder where the Federation is concerned--and what if she has her reasons? What if the captain is letting his personal desire for vengeance get the best of him? What if Klingon honor conflicts with Starfleet principles? Etc.

    I don't think anyone is arguing that we need crew members snapping at each other over trivia--unless they're under stress and that's a dramatic way of illustrating it.
     
  16. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    And a partridge in a pear tree.

    Oh, wait, that's not what this is about, is it?
     
  17. diankra

    diankra Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Should you lie into the log so your late best friend looks good, and deprive a later captain of the head start info that might save that ship?
    Repeat of No Man... this week, that bit always irritates me, particularly Spock going along with it.
     
  18. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Nicely put. "Exploration" is an abstraction. STAR TREK stories are not just about ideas; they're about people and events..

    Even if you're dealing with an alien nano-virus threatening a Federation colony, you need to personalize it somehow. We need to meet the victims and see their fear and anger and bravery. And maybe the captain and the ship's doctor don't agree on the best way to deal with the crisis and things get heated because lives are at stake. Or maybe the leader of the colony is an old friend (or rival) of the doctor and thing get personal.

    The story isn't just about the nano-virus or the colony. It's about people coping with both internal and external pressures. Which how the best STAR TREK stories usually work.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2017
  19. diankra

    diankra Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Exactly. Whatever the era or genre, what matters is how the characters react to events. Whether the event is a star-eating amoeba, or your diiirty old dad eating the last bit of food in the house.
     
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  20. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I remember a convention panel years ago where somebody stated that all stories are about human beings under stress. The advantage of science fiction stories was simply that you could examine human behavior under a wider variety of stresses than were possible in, say, a kitchen-sink drama. How do you cope with meeting your own time-displaced clone? What if you encounter an advanced civilization that regards cannibalism as a vital part of their culture? What if your first officer is a pointy-eared alien from a very different culture--or your ex-wife? :)