Deep Space Nine executive producer and showrunner Ira Steven Behr has been spending the last few years running the time travel related show The 4400 on USA. TrekMovie.com attended a press round table discussing the premiere of season 4 and the subject of Star Trek came up. Behr was asked if he had a view about J.J. Abrams taking over Trek and the return to Kirk and Spock. At first said that he didn’t have any strong feelings, but then went on to talk about the franchise, saying…
For one bright shining moment I thought there was a Camelot. For Deep Space Nine they let us really mess around with the formula quite a bit and maybe that was bad or good I don’t know. …I still remember the day (and I loved Michael Piller) but the craziest thing he ever said to me is when he came into my office and said “listen Ira you are doing a great job on Deep Space Nine, but you just have to realize that Voyager is coming out and it is going to be the tentpole for the franchise and you will always be in the shadow of Voyager because that is the real Star Trek.” But I can point to the moment when they put the Maquis into the Starfleet uniforms, that was the beginning of the retreat.
Since then it has always been trying to regain the past and that is the only thing I can say about the movie. It’s the safe thing, it could be a huge hit, it could be the greatest thing of all time, but the fact that they had to go backwards into the future…the Marshal McLuahan thing where ‘we march backwards into the future’ when he was talking about the media, well that is a perfect example of it by having to go back to Kirk and Spock. But I wish em luck because what ever is good for Star Trek will sell Deep Space Nine DVDs.
Regarding Abrams and his team (Lindelof, Orci, Kurtzman) Behr said he had no opinion, because he wasn’t familiar with any of their work. In fact Behr noted that he really doesn’t watch much current TV, even saying he had never seen Heroes – a show that is often compared to The 4400. He also noted that even though people often asked him about the similarities between Babylon 5 and DS9, he had only seen one B5 episode and that was because B5 actor Bill Mumy was a neighbor and showed it to him. He did say he likes The Office, 30 Rock and Venture Brothers and the HBO dramas (Deadwood, Sopranos, & Rome. Regarding DS9’s position in the franchise Behr said he always bristled at comments that Deep Space Nine ‘wasn’t Star Trek’ or didn’t follow in Gene Roddenberry’s vision. He felt that Roddenberry was at first a creative person and that he would understand in the end the need for change and in Behr’s opinion the shows lost that, saying "The safer the franchise got, the weaker it got."
The 4400 has more Trek connections beyond Behr. The show was created by DS9 writer/producer René Echevarria. Last season saw a number of episodes written by DS9 writer/producer Robert Hewitt Wolfe. In addition Trek recurring actor Jeff Combs has become a recurring character on The 4400, and Behr says he will appear in about half the shows this upcoming season. Behr would like to have more actors from DS9 on the show, but noted that it isn’t as easy when you are shooting in Canada. However he said he is currently working on a deal to have an unnamed recurring actress from DS9 do a 3 episode arc at the end of the 4th season. [UPDATE: Behr has sent a follow up confirming they have signed Penny Johnson (DS9: Kasidy Yates)] Behr also promised more sci-fi elements with fewer ‘freak of the week’ type of episodes, including more scenes set in the future. He also let slip "we finally answer (or may answer) what it is all about" meaning the overall mythology regarding the saving of the future and the original abduction of the 4400. Season 4 of The 4400 kicks off June 17.