Starship Exeter—The Atlantis Invaders: Annotated

Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by Maurice, Jul 14, 2020.

  1. STEPhon IT

    STEPhon IT Commodore Commodore

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    Maurice, in 2004 were there a competition in crowd funding and were there mean spirited blackballing from from other Trekfan productions which halted some movement in the Exeter production plans? Looking at your work, I would gladly sponsor this project and other Exeter Studio movies.
     
  2. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    I can't speak to any of that. My involvement was largely limited to screenwriting and some on-the-side graphic design and storyboarding for both TTI and Atlantis, and, in the end, working with Scott to finish act 4 of TTI and get the whole show finally released.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2020
  3. STEPhon IT

    STEPhon IT Commodore Commodore

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    What was the significant meaning of the title "The Eagle and the Serpent" pertaining to your idea for Cutty and Harris and the Romulans?
     
  4. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    It's an analogy about how there's no scientific basis for saying one thing is better than the other. Which of two animals is "superior" depends on the circumstances and if it's the niche they're suited to exploit.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020
  5. STEPhon IT

    STEPhon IT Commodore Commodore

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    After brainstorming and conducting your version of "The Atlantis Invaders" were you ever curious in reading the Charles Lee Hackett third draft? What I found interesting, and I found this in other Exeter scripts, is making Harris - this super brain, wonder woman where her knowledge exceeded even Cutty's expertise. So there wasn't a big three appearance like your script which was more in tone to TOS, but a BIG 2 where the Captain and the 1st officer hog up pages while Cutty comes off as a nuisance and worst a Bones knock off with non of the essence and dimensions of a character representing the audience.

    To be fair, its possible the scripts were written before the Johnsons and Hackett and other writers knew what they had in Michael Buford, a good actor who embodied more of Cutty than what's written. There's not a lot of black characters with the dimensions are clear as Cutty in fanfilms and I thought the opportunity were boundless if writers would at least try to open the door on creating characters which are not archetypes or token follies but a human being who could be an important element to the narrative.
     
  6. Bixby

    Bixby Captain Captain

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    I really liked Cutty, but you're right the actor playing him brought out more that what was on the page. He's like Scotty, a blue-collar everyman who is quite capable at his job and very emotional. But despite that and the running gag with coffee (similar to some episodes with Scotty's predilection towards liquor), I find it hard to peg his personality down.
     
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  7. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    I read it first (it was on the old Exeter website) and decided it was easier/better to do a page one rewrite.

    Cutty's personality as planned by the Johnsons is discussed in one of the footnotes in my annotated draft. I had my own ideas on what I wanted to do with him: I saw him loyal to a fault and sometimes has a hard time of letting go of an opinion. He holds grudges, but can eventually see reason, tho it can be an uphill fight. He has ambitions to be the XO, but he's not (yet) got the temperament for it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2020
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  8. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    You’re right, Michael Buford really made that character. I really wish we’d seen more of him.
     
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  9. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    Buford's great. Never met him in person but have had a number of lengthy phone chats with him.
     
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  10. STEPhon IT

    STEPhon IT Commodore Commodore

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    What was the process of structuring stories which would be appropriately set in the late 60's and the era of the 1970's? Re-inventing a world where heightened social issues would be prominent, but I think the optimisms of that era would be fun to explore and translating it through the lens of Science Fiction and Star Trek. Even the production design could share influences and probably hairstyles and costume fashions. For the group, after watching Starship Exeter where were your thoughts on the possibilities for the series?
     
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    There wasn't much thought about social issues in "The Atlantis Invaders" other than the rights of indigenous peoples to not have their environment exploited. Jimm wanted this to be a big "fun" action adventure episode, so that's where I focused.

    As to "The Eagle and the Serpent", the thought process went something like this:
    1. Because "Invaders" was too big in scope, I decided to propose a "bottle" show that took place entirely on the Exeter and another ship, which could repurpose walls and such from the Exeter sets.
    2. I wanted to stick Harris and Cutty together and explore their personal/professional conflict. Basically, I wanted to lock them in a room together where they could not escape each other and their personal elephants in the room.
    3. Which then suggested seeing how Garrovick would function if he lost both his righthand and lefthand woman/man, and pit him against Doc Azato in a "fitness for command" conflict.
    4. I forget exactly how I hit on the Romulans, but I recall was sick of the Klingons and wasn't interested in writing them. Since TOS only used the Romulans twice, I thought "what if this was a 1970 spin-off and the first time we really got to see the Romulans in depth?" Jimm's attitude was that Exeter was only to acknowledge TOS and ignore the sequels entirely (except maybe TMP), so I wasn't beholden to anything but what came before.
    5. Once I hit on the Romulans I looked back at their two appearances, and as I always liked "Balance of Terror" (BOT) best I decided I wanted to play a submarine story. As a joke I said, "If 'Balance of Terror' is The Enemy Below, then this episode is The Hunt for Red October," and that I'd trap Harris and Cutty on the enemy ship.
    6. BOT really is The Enemy Below in spaceship drag, right down the conflicts between the commander and his crew, so it became apparent that once stripped of their superficial Roman veneer as portrayed in BOT the Romulans were really Enemy's Kriegsmarine and their master the "Preator" was der Fuhrer. And looking at it that way...
    7. The Centurion's line "If we are the strong, is this not the signal for war?" struck me as very master race-ish, very survival of the fittest in an awful Social Darwinist way that allows one group of people to decide they are superior to those they deem lesser.
    8. Around that time there was a lot of talk about the G.W. Bush "War on Science" and the suppression of science for political aims. Couple that with the "master race" underpinning suggested by BOT's Enemy Below connection and it's not a big leap to end up thinking about the third reich abuse of science for political aims leading to thing like the horrors of human experimentation. So that suggested the opponent on the Romulan ship would be a "Doctor" who was trying to prove the superiority of Romulans to Humans by using Harris and Cutty as test subjects, but...
    9. The "tests" would be more action-adventure gladiatorial re Cutty, in keeping with the Roman veneer of the Romulans. But the real test was an intellectual one aimed at Harris.
    I know this all sounds awfully dark but I had no intention of going all "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" with it. Whenever Star Trek tried to send messages they were typically subtle as a sledge hammer. My thought was, "It's an action-adventure episode with space battles, hand to hand combat as Cutty is 'tested' against a Romulan soldier to see which is stronger, and Harris butting heads with the Romulan Doctor, scientist to scientist." The combat and the battle of wills would be action-adventure analogies for the themes, which would never be stated in bald terms, but would inform everything that happened in the action.

    And that's a long-winded way of saying, "and that's how you make a story about something."
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
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  12. STEPhon IT

    STEPhon IT Commodore Commodore

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    Was there anything in the story process of "The Atlantis Invaders" you believed would be better left out and what should've been placed in to produce a better narrative?
     
  13. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    Story process better left out? Huh?

    Pretty much all my thoughts about what I would have liked to have done differently are in the annotated script, but the broad strokes are:
    • starting the show on the mining colony
    • a better 2nd act ending/twist
    • a more interesting overall "twist" for the Atlanteans
    • better paying off the theme of acting without considering the consequences
     
  14. STEPhon IT

    STEPhon IT Commodore Commodore

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    Ooops. I meant the plot and subplots.
     
  15. STEPhon IT

    STEPhon IT Commodore Commodore

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    Dr. Azato replacing Dr. Fu. In TTI Azato didn't really have much character; he was a snarky a bit annoying personality which was wise to show him briefly. Dr. Fu was a "Bones" rip off and was a poor archetype of TOS legendary Ship's Surgeon. I understand the casting limitations in finding an Asian performer, but if there was a continuation for the series based upon Azato's character, I would've recast for another Doctor. Exeter fans, do you have any thoughts on Dr. Azato as a character?

    Maurice, if you did pursue writing "Eagle*" you would have to create some dimensions to Azato in order to elevate the conflict between him and Garrovick?
     
  16. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    I dunno if I'd characterize Fu as a Bones ripoff. He was supposed to have been this older more fatherly figure compared to the leads. His role in both scripts was pretty small (I don't recall how much he had to do in "The Mighty Galvanaut"). I wrote him like an impatient grandfather, not some confidant of Garrovick's (Cutty's role) or foil to Harris in the Spock-Bones mold.

    Azato's personality was just no nonsense. He hated being on the bridge, and would never hang around on it like Bones did. I had toyed with the emergency of the ship being damaged and Cutty & Harris being missing forcing Garrovick to place officers in positions outside their comfort zone, like putting Azato as 2nd in command, but that would have required Azato to have been through OCS and inside the chain of command, or at least qualified to be, which seemed a stretch.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
  17. Bixby

    Bixby Captain Captain

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    Some may remember when I first arrived to this site I also took a partial crack at rewriting the Atlantis Invaders. I do tip my hat that you finished it entirely, Maurice. I really enjoyed reading the annotations.

    I do have two general observations about the original concept for this episode, the first being that I don't know what came over the Johnsons in the early days of this story. I assume that the early drafts for the Mighty Galvanaut, and Atlantis Invaders and all the others were brainstormed around the time they did the Savage Empire. I'm just surprised they still went ahead with setting Atlantis Invaders in an ocean environment, complete with an army of alien mermen and even one scene with Garrovick hanging on for dear life to a sea serpent as it swam to the surface. Gotta admit they were really ambitious at the time, but professional film studios with an actual budget would have shied away from such a story. Did they ever concede a lot of those ideas were too difficult to pull off, to put it mildly?

    The other aspect that still bothers me somewhat to this day is that they brought in the characters of Princess Tr'tillya and her father, King Argolas into their series. Not the characters themselves and their purposes in the story, but rather that for a ''show'' set in the 24th century and one that strove to strictly emulate what may be the most socially-conscious series of the 1960s (for civil rights, women's rights, anti-war, etc), yet would be casually validating a concept as ethically despicable as generational rule well into the future.

    I may be wrong, but I think that apart from the episode Elaan of Troyus there was never a mention of another Federation member planet that had a monarchist system, though I'm still puzzled that such a forward-thinking organization would even accept one that wasn't a democracy. But since the Troyaans were portrayed as near-barbarians who still developed interplanetary travel somehow, astoundingly, I guess the whole point of that episode was for Kirk to be completely frazzled by Elaan's barbaric ways, and a monarchist system was a simple way to make that point.

    But I guess as much as we may have evolved over the last 500 years we are still unable to sever completely with the romantic but intellectually heinous images of Kings and Queens and Princesses, especially since corporations like Disney make those their bread and butter. But apart from children's animated films and most British costume dramas, you can notice how portrayals of royal characters have been progressively absent from most serious modern-day set entertainment for the last few decades (though not from medieval fantasy projects like Game of Thrones and the Witcher or garish comedies like the Princess Diaries).

    Just look at the trouble Marvel Entertainment had with its house concept the Inhumans series which deservedly got trashed and canceled quickly. A Royal family of artificially endowed super-characters should NOT be one with its own film or TV series, only guest appearances at the most. You can't really make heroes out of a family that controls who gets the superpowers in the kingdom. Of course it's going to be the close cousins and nieces and nephews who will inherit the best powers, while everyone else will only get utilitarian skills...because that's how the family keeps the throne for itself. and the writers can't make any OTHER characters/serfs from the kingdom ones with an interesting personality because eventually you HAVE to write a story that has them question WHY they can't have a better power (answer? because that would reveal the Royal Family of the Inhumans is not such a heroic bunch after all).

    Anyway I've been meandering in different directions, but basically I would have hoped that the Johnsons should rethink Tr'tillya's royal status entirely if ever this script gets salvaged. I'd like to think someone like Gene Coon would also have changed that aspect of the script.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
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  18. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    Jimm is very fond of John Carter of Mars and even toyed with doing A Princess of Mars film after the story had fallen into the public domain, and I suspect his love of such pulps informed the Princess of Atlantis.

    I don't recall much about the script that existed prior to my rewrite, but I never pictured the Atlanteans as Federation members or even potential ones. I made their society deliberately alien in its customs and morays, and the only "royal" character is Tr'talia (as I made her name). For me the story was about exploiting the land of indigenous people, whose mores were alien and which I did not romanticize (the romance aside). At the end of my script the humans leave the planet, possibly never to return.

    Everyone seems to want to discuss everything but the actual script I shared. Oh well.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
  19. Bixby

    Bixby Captain Captain

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    Hold on, little buckaroo...:)
     
  20. Serveaux

    Serveaux Boomer American Premium Member

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    I think the notion that every government of every planet that the Federation people find themselves needing to do business with in the 23rd century would meet their (or our) standards of modernity and fairness or else is one of the big things that makes modern Star Trek so antiseptic, unimaginative and often boring.

    Among other things, it really limits the potential for Trek to comment dramatically (as distinct from preening and preaching) about current day issues because it's a way in which the Trek universe diverges so far from contemporary human reality that Our People are spared confrontation with a lot of really bad shit that exists in the real world as a result of our political and economic systems.

    I'd love it if in SNW Pike had to deal with some of the shit we saw in "The Cage" version of the galaxy at large - slavery, feudalism - but he won't. There's no easy, apparent profit for CBS in changing up the recipe for Mom's Macaroni and Cheese.

    In TOS there was a suggestion that if we ever went back to Earth we'd find a pretty idyllic and progressive world. Consequently, there was never a good enough reason for the story ever to go back to Earth.*

    On the subject of Cutty, I had a lot of fun with him and, after hanging around on the set for most of a week, a really different idea of the character's potential based on getting to know Mike Buford than I had before. I worked from my own ideas about the characters' backstories based on what there was of their behavior in "The Savage Empire," and figured as long as a plot point didn't require me to explicate it there shouldn't be problems if, for example, Jimm figured Cutty for a lifelong bachelor and I assumed he'd been married three times.**

    *The very first time modern Trek returned to Earth in a substantial way was the TNG episode Conspiracy. In that case, the crux of the drama was very much that something had gone real, real wrong in "paradise."

    **Yeah, I' m pretty sure. He and his ex-wives are all great friends.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020