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STLV2016 Day Five: Voyager and DS9 Stars, Inside the Writers’ Room + More

The annual Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas came to a close today but not before some fun and insightful panels. Today’s highlights include the stars of Voyager and Deep Space Nine and an ‘Inside the Writers’ Room’ panel with Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, and Naren Shankar. The TrekMovie.com podcast Shuttle Pod was represented by Kayla Iacovino on the Roddenberry stage. We also recap yesterday’s ‘Top 10’ Star Trek episodes panel.

Voyager Comes Home on the Final Day

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The crew of the U.S.S. Voyager wrapped up their appearance at the 50th anniversary convention with appearances by Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine), Robert Duncan McNeil (Tom Paris), Robert Beltran (Chakotay), and Robert Picardo (The Doctor) in a panel moderated by Garret Wang (Harry Kim). Ryan immediately took out her phone and began a Facebook livestream. As she fiddled with her phone, McNeil asked to take it as he is an actual director.

Picardo talked about his work with Theatre Arts at Caltech (TACIT) to assist scientists by become better communicators through the stage. Ryan was heartened to hear that her portrayal of Seven of Nine, and stories detailing her exploration of humanity, had a profound influence on individuals with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Turning to the show, Ryan said that the most difficult part of working on the show was keeping a straight face because the men on the show are so hilarious. When asked about Chakotay’s facial tattoo, Beltran revealed that the first concept had one that completely covered half his face. As makeup artist Michael Westmore toned down the tattoo, Beltran revealed that the tattoo’s design was influenced by the Maori people, rather than Native American tribes.

The Men of Deep Space Nine

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Image via CBS

Following Saturday’s Women of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine panel, the men got their turn today as showrunner Ira Steven Behr, Rene Auberjonois (Odo), Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun, Brunt), Andrew Robinson (Garak), Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko), and Armin Shimmerman (Quark) took the stage. As it was Lofton’s birthday, the entire auditorium sang happy birthday to him. 

Behr began by lamenting that DS9 has always been viewed as the odd duck of the franchise, even during production. Behr was particularly proud that DS9 episodes can not be confused with episodes of The Next Generation, Voyager, or Enterprise. Behr felt so lucky that the show continues to resonate with people.

Combs joked that Weyoun actually showed quite a bit of goodwill toward the show’s heroes, immaculately managing Terok Nor during the Dominion occupation. Combs likened Weyoun to a middle manager at a large corporation who visits local branches, evaluates the staff, gives them stunning reviews, and then recommends that they all be fired. Regarding Weyoun’s reappearances after dying, Behr said that the writing staff immediately regretted killing off Weyoun in season four’s “Into the Death.” Behr joked that he hated wasting good prosthetics, so he decided to bring Weyoun back through clones. Behr pointed to Combs as just one example of the stellar cast of recurring characters on the show. Shimmerman pointed out that the series regulars became better because of the recurring characters.

The entire cast praised the show’s writing staff, with Auberjonois confessing that the writing forced him to deal with things differently as an actor. He was grateful that the writers developed his character so well over the course of seven seasons. Lofton commented on Avery Brooks (Benjamin Sisko) and pointed out that DS9 was an opportunity for him to learn from more experienced actors. Brooks, in particular, took Lofton under his wing and became a pivotal mentor, and eventually a father figure.

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Image via CBS

Behr noted that he still gets asked if there will be a DS9 film, but the showrunner felt that DS9 concluded on the perfect note. He said that “What You Leave Behind” was not the end of DS9, but the conclusion of the audience’s involvement with the story. The station and its characters live on, we simply left them.

Robinson had originally auditioned for the role of Odo, but was turned down for the part. When he was asked to return to audition for another role, his initial reaction was negative. He was so happy that he eventually agreed to the audition because the show had changed his life, as he had previously acted on so much bad television. Robinson loved how “plain, simple” Garak toyed with the imaginations of not only the audience, but even the writers. Garak was so complex that the writers loved including him.

Shimerman, who had played one of the original Ferengi on TNG, felt it was his mission to redeem the species and elevate them to the status of the Klingons and Romulans as a race central to the Star Trek universe. Their initial introduction on TNG left a bad taste in Shimmerman’s mouth and he wanted to show that Ferengi were filled with three-dimensional characters, but he credited the supporting cast as truly helping him fully flesh out the species.

Behr recalled that the character of Commander Sisko had been envisioned as a single father in his early 30s, thus the rank of Commander was appropriate. However, once Brooks was cast, the writers fought with the studio to have Sisko’s rank changed to captain. Behr was frustrated with the many fights they had with the studio, such as over Sisko’s rank and even his goatee. However, those battles waned as the studio took its eye off of DS9.

Inside the Writer’s Room

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Several of Star Trek’s most prominent writers, including Ronald D. Moore (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Brannon Braga (TNG, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise), and Naren Shankar (TNG) took the stage to discuss writing for Star Trek.

Shankar started out as a Writer’s Guild intern who became a staff writer on TNG. As he had an engineering background, he was also made the show’s science advisor. One of Shankar’s friends was responsible for creating the famous “technobabble madlibs.” Moore commented that, on some TNG scripts, he would write something along the lines of “Mr. Data….tech the tech with the tech…” It was Shankar’s job to fill in those details with the technobabble we have all come to love.

Inside the TNG writer’s room around season five, Shankar explained that a typical day involved assembling in executive producer Jeri Taylor’s office and breaking stories. All six acts of an episode were mapped out on a white board, and the writer had to defend their storytelling decisions. Shankar enjoyed Taylor’s managerial style. Instead of dictating how the story would be told, Taylor’s policy was that “the best idea wins.”

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Reflecting on his beginnings on TNG, Moore recalled that executive producer Michael Piller had asked Moore for a memo explaining the Klingons and Romulans, two races that Piller did not fully understand. Piller was impressed with Moore’s knowledge, and he asked him to take a look at two scripts that were in production. Moore merged the scripts together and wrote “Sins of the Father,” the first episode in Star Trek history that took the audience to the Klingon homeworld.

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Moore and Braga, who collaborated on “All Good Things…” and Star Trek: Generations both said that the process of working on both stories at the same time was confusing and daunting. Generations was particularly difficult because the studio had issued a list of the following requirements for the film: 1) TOS characters could only appear in the first fifteen minutes of the film, except for Kirk; 2) It had to be a Picard story; 3) Data also had to be heavily involved; 4) The villain had to be as good as Khan; 5) Klingons needed to be involved. Both writers felt significantly hampered by these requirements, with Braga commenting that “All Good Things…” should have been the first TNG film. Moore, for his part, did not feel the film was a success, partly because he and Braga were too young and inexperienced to be writing a feature film.

When it came to writing the first standalone TNG film, Moore and Braga said that work began while Generations was still in theatres. Instead of the rigid guidelines passed down from the studio, the duo had much more creative freedom. Berman wanted the story to include the Borg, and the initial idea was that the Borg would go back in time and attempt to assimilate Earth in the Medieval era. Both Moore and Braga found this idea to be ridiculous. Braga compared the Borg to zombies and, during the writing process, the need arose for a single villain, thus the Borg Queen was created.

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When asked about his role in the creation of Voyager, Braga noted that most of the writing staff assigned to the new show were not in the loop regarding the show’s pilot and direction. Voyager was created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller, and Jeri Taylor, but they did not let the writers even see the pilot script. As the writers became more frustrated about being in the dark, Rene Echevarria snuck into Taylor’s office whilst she was out to lunch and stole the “Caretaker” script. The writers quickly read it, and returned it to Taylor’s office before she returned. Braga did not take over showrunner duties until season four on Voyager, and he felt that his most significant contribution to the show was creating the character of Seven of Nine. Braga recalled that he and writer Joe Menosky (who is now working on Star Trek Discovery) wanted to include a number of “mini-movies,” which eventually became Voyager’s two-part episodes. Braga was particularly proud of “Year of Hell,” but revealed that the original concept was to do a whole season within that story.

TrekMovie’s Shuttle Pod Joins Roddenberry’s Podcast Summit Panel

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Mission Log Podcast hosts John Champion and Ken Ray welcomed representatives from seven different Star Trek podcasts onto the Roddenberry stage this afternoon. The panelists, as John pointed out, represent many different kinds of Star Trek podcasts on the air today but are certainly an incomplete sampling. In attendance were Mission Log, Shuttle Pod, Trek Geeks, Women at Warp, Trek Radio, Priority One, The G&T Show, and Saturday Morning Trek.

Each podcaster talked about how their show stands out from the rest – some are geared toward one series or era such as Trek.fm’s The Animated Series podcast Saturday Morning Trek, others focus on the friendship and opinions of its hosts as with the TrekGeeks podcast, and others still focus more on news and the occasional deep dive into Trek episodes or movies a la the Shuttle Pod.

The group shared stories of triumph, many citing examples of their most cherished interactions with fans, as well as stories of grief that included everything from annoying trolls to sexism to death threats. All-in-all, the panelists agreed that the vast majority of interactions with listeners are positive, and ultimately those interactions are what keep them coming back to the mic.

Tribbles, Mirror Mirror Don’t Make the Cut In Top 10 Shocker

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Friday impassioned fans had the chance to vote on the top 10 episodes they love to hate (or, frankly, just hate) but on Saturday it was time to find the best episodes ever.

Engage podcast host Jordan Hoffman led the discussion again – navigating a course through the ion storm of ebullient fandom to get the 10 best of the best. The winners were:

  1. The Magnificent Ferengi (DS9)
  2. In a Mirror, Darkly (ENT)
  3. Balance of Terror (TOS)
  4. Chain of Command (TNG)
  5. The Visitor (DS9)
  6. Yesterday’s Enterprise (TNG)
  7. Amok Time (TOS)
  8. The Inner Light (TNG)
  9. In the Pale Moonlight (DS9)
  10. City on the Edge of Forever (TOS)

Curiously, no Voyager episodes made the list – nor did some others that host Hoffman expected to see.

“Much to my disappointment, ‘Corbomite Manuver’ did not make the list. Nor did ‘Darmok’,” Hoffman told TrekMovie afterward. “What was funny was how ‘All Good Things’ was almost on the list and got bumped, and we were yelling about how we would upset John DeLancie, and he was, in fact, backstage and could hear the whole thing.”

Also given its perhaps less celebrated status in the franchise than other series, Enterprise gave a surprisingly strong showing with its single entry on the top 10. Hoffman summed it up a little differently.

“God only knows how the Enterprise mirror episode won out over ‘Mirror Mirror’ but that’s that,” he said.

More of a perennial classic – and perhaps the best-known episode in broader culture – “The Trouble With Tribbles” was cut from the No. 10 spot on the list in favor of “The Magnificent Ferengi”.

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Wow I see why Generations had the issues it did, because of the studio ridiculous over sight and restrictions. I love the other ‘note’ they included, the villain must be as good as Khan lol. Yeah, no pressure there. ;) And I don’t know if I agree with Moore’s assessment he was too ‘inexperienced’ to write a feature film. Of course he would know more than me and I guess I will never understand it but if you could write 50 hours of a science fiction show like Star Trek in a quarter of the time how is writing a feature film all that different other than you add more action in the movie? TWOK is considered the best Trek film but the story isn’t anything you can’t find on a standard episode and its very simplistic in nature. I’ve seen every Star Trek movie, all they do is DUMB DOWN what we get on the shows, probably minus TMP. The TV writers actually come up with some amazing complex stuff while the movie writers make it as simple as possible for others to get it. First Contact proved they could make it both a Star Trek story but ‘dumb it down’ for the general audience, which is exactly why we got the Borg queen in it (which I dont have to tell many was also a mandate by the studio), so Moore should give himself more credit. And I always find it weird that All Good Things, which they… Read more »
Even without any studio restrictions, writing a film has several issues, other than increasing the action, that are purely technical differences from writing a TV episode. The pacing has to be different. That doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be faster. It means that one episode of television is basically a series of cliffhangers at each commercial break. In the case of All Good Things, it was a teaser and like ten acts, each one with some kind of cliffhanger. In a film, the traditional pacing is that the first half-hour introduces characters, culminating in the event that catalyzes the story, the middle half-hour to hour is the buildup of that story to a point where it seems hopeless for the heroes, and then the last fifteen minutes to a half-hour is the big finale and resolution (although some films obviously break from that structure; Jaws is sort of two acts instead of three). In TV, often that catalyzing event happens right in the teaser, because we already know the characters. Another thing to watch out for might be a bit more of an editing thing, but the audience in a movie theatre needs a breather after jokes or big moments because the large group would take a while for their audible reaction to die down. So, that means maybe writing jokes that are fine to lose under the laughter for the previous joke. There’s a freedom to writing for film that you don’t have in television. That can actually… Read more »

What a stupid note. Good thing though because they were planning to make a villain that was only half as good as Khan. *fart*

All Good Things would have been a far better movie with the Enterprise-A as one of the Enterprises.

That wouldn’t have made any sense. It was supposed to be Picard’s past, present, and future. Picard had nothing to do with the Enterprise-A.

Unless Q decided Picard needed some help solving the problem and thought the Enterprise-A crew would be useful. Q sent Picard back to the soup of amino acids. Presumably, the theme of the story could have been less about the life of a captain and more about the life of a line of ships. I don’t know.

Thorny,

Re: It was supposed to be Picard’s past, present, and future.

If that were remotely true, how’d Picard and the anomaly end up at the primordial goop billions of years before Picard was born?

Because Q took him there to show him the ultimate consequences of anti-time.

To elaborate… and Picard had to stop it, so Picard used his past, present, and future selves to do it. The Enterprise-A would have been an odd man out. It would have been very much like Enterprise’s “These Are The Voyages” if they’d dragged the TOS Crew/Ship into the episode.

I’ve always liked All Good Things – but I never thought it was movie material as written.

I don’t think making something accessible to non-Trek fans is necessarily dumbing it down. You’ve got to have a basic understanding of who the characters are and why this matters.

Generations was fine. It was clunky. The Picard arc was a kittle silly (but Stewart pulled it off). And it dragged (too much Spiner). But it was definitely a movie (unlike, say, Insurrection).

I get your point I DO but yes they do dumb it down in the films, that can’t be denied. And I’m not talking about issues where its too inside baseball like Trek canon or even the characters. No, I get that. But I will bring up the example I brought in my OP and that is First Contact. As said the entire reason why there was a Borg queen in that film was because Paramount thought audiences would be too confused (read: stupid) to understand how the Borg worked as a hive mind and also that they wouldn’t be as interested in it unless there was a direct villain to identify with. That was the most intriguing thing about the Borg, there is NO one person that leads them. They all think and act collectively. Paramount on the other hand thought while fine for every day Trek and sci fi fans to get, its no way Billy Bob and Carol from Wisconsin would ever understand anything on that depth so lets give them a villain and one who can explain everything thats going on to the android. Thats the most direct example right there. Its not that its too inside baseball for Star Trek, they really thought the basic concept of the Borg would drive people away because they had to think just a bit harder to get it. And to make this clear I LOVE the Borg queen. I never had an issue with her being there but… Read more »

Generations needed one more major re-write, but Paramount was adamant about a Thanksgiving release, so Berman & Co. were not able to fix the obvious flaws. If they’d fleshed out the story enough to get Nimoy’s approval and participation (Majel could have replaced the ill DeForest Kelley), and replaced that awful Dickensian Christmas fantasy with something actually meaningful to Picard (how about a fantasy life with Beverly, or Kamala from “The Perfect Mate”, or his family from “The Inner Light”?) the movie would have been much better. And then for the love of God, a more heroic death for Kirk. Six more months to rewrite and a Summer 1995 release, and they might have had a blockbuster.

Awesome to see “In the pale moonlight” voted #2 episode ever. It’s my all time fav and definitely one that I show to non-trek fans to introduce them to why I love the show.

Totally agree. Yet I could never understand why “The Visitor” always makes these lists. It is an average SF story with some below-average acting by the guest actors (the writer girl and Tony Todd, who tuns in his weakest performance on Trek, had zero chemistry). Lofton isn’t able to carry the story, the old-age makeup looks awful and it’s obvious from the teaser that the show will hit the reset button anyway.

It is a fantastic episode, I agree. I wish they had included “Beyond The Farthest Star” but…I’m satisfied with the Top 10 list.

What Braga said about “Year of Hell” is particularly interesting, because “good two-parter, but would have worked even better as season-spanning story arc” is what you can often read in reviews of said episode!

And given the many episodes you have when putting all Trek series together, I think it’s not really a surprise when some fan favorites don’t make it into a top 10 list. At least of in my opinion, none of the episodes that actually are on this list are there completely undeserved.

To me, “Year of Hell” epitomizes everything that was wrong with Star Trek: Voyager. By the end of the episode, that huge red RESET BUTTON had been pushed and everything was back exactly as it was at the beginning.

I would guess that if they spent a whole season on the Year of Hell, they wouldn’t have had a reset button.

They didn’t need to spend an entire season on it at all. The final 5 or 6 episodes of the fourth season would have been sound. They could have ended it on a cliffhanger then into season 5 and resolved it inside the first two episodes of that season so we would have got a good 8 episode story arc. It was a really wasted opportunity in my opinion and the two parter as it is really isn’t very good because it’s too congested an episode. They crammed so much into two episodes that it completely takes the viewer out of the story. I felt like I was seeing snippets of the story and no where linear the full story and the characters didn’t feel developed once all was done and duster and the reset button was pushed.

DataMat Today 10:54 am

I agree with your assessment there. An entire season of our protagonists being slowly destroyed—would we really wanted to have seen that? But, there definitely was room to stretch out that story arc and flesh it out more. 5 to 8 episodes seems reasonable. And the end should have involved some sort of lasting change to the Voyager crew. The whole reset button approach really kills it. It’s the hackneyed, “…but it was all just a dream,” ending.

The basic premise of YOH was recycled for the Xindi-Arc in Enterprise. Probably a good choice as the season-long YOH probably would have ended with a huge reset-button (as did the episode), while Enterprise simply returned to spacedock.

A pretty incredible job on this coverage.

I don’t recall The Magnificent Ferengi – not sure if I’ve seen it. I was never a fan of the Ferengi episodes.

Much appreciated Jack!

The Magnificent Ferengi is a very fun episode. Has to do with Quark attempting to rescue his mother from The Dominion. Probably the best Ferengi episode in the series. Kinda sticks out like a sore thumb though in that part of the war arc for it’s levity and comedic tone. Still, I highly recommend watching it.

That and “Little Green Men” were very badly needed comic relief during the War Years.

I quite liked Little Green Men. I’ll check out the other one on Netflix.

If you recall, The Magnificent Ferengi also had Iggy Pop guest starring as well. I don’t know how the make up people did it, but they managed to make Pop even creepier looking. :0)

So, it was Ron Moore who confused the TNG staff about the nature of Romulans and Klingons. [And Ron Moore is one of my favorite Trek people!]

In TOS Romulans were the ones with a great sense of honor and “face,” and the Klingons were sneaky, dastardly villains who loved battle. That changed somewhat in TNG, much to my puzzlement. Suddenly Romulans were sneaky dastards, and Klingons were honorable warriors who loved battle.

J’accuse, Ron Moore! ;-}

Ha! It’s true. I never liked the Klingons or Romulans in TNG, with maybe Worf excepted (at times).

I was always intrigued by Vonda McIntyre’s Klingons, where she focused on castes and things (in a more interesting way than House Duras etc.). Likewise, Diane Duane’s Romulans were intriguing – and complicated.

The TNG Romulans were matinee villains – and the silly costumes and makeup didn’t help.

Marja Today 2:27 pm And they also reallocated the “Bird of Prey” moniker from the Romulan ship to the Klingon ship, the former of which then became a “War Bird.” I forget who, but someone wrote an article discussing how all of the noteworthy Romulan characteristics—apart from being related to Vulcans—were reallocated to the Klingons, leaving the Romulans as a race with very little dramatic purpose other than to be a nemesis of the Federation. On a few occasions, throughout the 4 post-TOS series, the writers have tried to characterize the Romulans as arrogant and devious, but it’s never been combined with any theme that would make those rather flimsy traits stick. What they should have done—what I’d do—is to focus on the defining philosophical difference between the Romulans and their distant cousins, the Vulcans. The Romulans should be overtly philosophically opposed to the Vulcan way of logic and suppressing passion. Romulans should actually be more like Klingons in this regard, celebrating and indulging their passions, regarding with suspicion and distrust those who are too rigid in their thinking, too lifeless in their approach to living. In this way, the writers could have set up meaningful themes involving the Romulans. Instead, they made the Romulans devious, with a bit of an East Asian flaire to their covert tactics and general sneakiness. I think this characterization works alright for battle/conflict plots, but it’s one-dimensional and doesn’t lend itself to a full story arc. I think that the Romulan characterization could still… Read more »

Well, sure, if you include DS9 and TNG and ENT on the list, of course some other-than-TOS eps garnered “favorite” status.

I wish they’d done Show by Show: Best 10 eps of TOS, DS9, TNG, etc.

Woah, RDM looks like Matthew Lillard now.

“Curiously, no Voyager episodes made the list”.
No, not curious AT ALL.

LOL, yeah. Voyager’s best episode is probably “Death Wish” and it’s a bit too

“Living Witness”.

Stand-out episodes in VOY are sparse, but there are a few worthy contenders for the list. The whole Tuvok/Neelix dynamic in VOY really works well and doesn’t get nearly enough mention. Episodes like “Riddles” give us a very relatable and moving take on the human condition in a style and tone that was unique to VOYAGER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUDBTeIB_Cg

I’d love to see Ron Moore back to write some of ‘Discovery’ episodes.

“Curiously, no Voyager episodes made the list”

No, there is nothing curious about that. Voyager had its moments, but none of them would qualify for a list of Trek’s best episodes.

In a MIRROR, DARKLY is not an episode I would put in the top 10 though… surely there are better episodes?

As far as Voyager… tuvix is an episode that should deservedly be called among treks greatest episodes. There may be a few more but that one stood out as far as Voyager is concerned. Maybe Death Wish as well, another episode from the second season of Voyager.

No love for “Cause and Effect,” which to me is the coolest sci-fi concept in all of Trek and a really dynamite story device.

Episodes like “Cause & Effect” set TNG apart from all of the other Trek series. No other series could do sci-fi concept mysteries like TNG.

“Berman wanted the story to include the Borg, and the initial idea was that the Borg would go back in time and attempt to assimilate Earth in the Medieval era.”

Resistance is feudal.

I worked for ten years, through out the 1990s for a private, non profit social service agency in San Francisco, where 60% of the people we dealt with where homeless. And watching the two part DS9 episode PAST TENSE. I was looking at a presentation of what a real near future America could be having. The episode was shown during the 1994-95 session. And the show had all the elements of the dynamics of how people could be pushed aside with no one caring. A VERY, VERY, BEAUTIFUL EPISODE.

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