Last week TrekMovie.com ran a report on Brannon Braga’s appearance at the Vegas Convention. Brannon was kind enough to drop by and keep the conversation going in the comments section where he replied to questions and comments (and rants) from many TrekMovie.com readers. Since there are 200 comments it is a bit to plow through and many readers don’t read comments anyway, so the impromptu chat has been compiled below…
Trekmatt: I think it took great guts to appear on stage in front of fans, because it would have been really hard to judge what reaction you’d get, so you must have been really nervous, and i give you great credit for appearing, i also really hope it’s not your last con appearance as i think that will be a real shame.
Brannon Braga: To those who comment “it took guts” to get on that stage: yes, I was nervous as hell. Because as you point out, I had no clue what the reaction would be. But I was prepared to handle it no matter what. And to my relief, the audience could not have been more gracious. Thanks to Adam and the Creation team for putting me there in the first place!
The Realist: Where did you see ENTERPRISE going if it did get re-newed for a firth season? Or where did you see it going if it ran for a full Seven Seasons?
Brannon Braga: If “Enterprise” had continued, we would have kept going with Manny Coto’s unique vision of the show. Also, we would have explored the temporal cold war to its conclusion. We all felt that there were many more Trek stories to tell with that crew, and we were saddened by its premature end. Manny and I speak often about this. The show had really caught fire in seasons 3 and 4.
Anthony Pascale: Didnt Manny try and wrap things up with the TCW at the beginning of season 4?
Brannon Braga: We wrapped up the temporal cold war somewhat quickly at the top of season four because we suspected we would be ending the show that year. Otherwise, we would’ve more thoroughly played it out.
Dort Munchouser: He should have been stoned on the stage. The franchise needs “reinvigorated” because of the damage he helped deliver through the shows…especially the later ones. So he had some nuggets among the dung….every monkey is gonna find a bananna or two. That doesn’t forgive all the dung.
Brannon Braga: This monkey found a lot of bananas in his dung, thanks. Happily I was not stoned on stage. However, I did have one glass of wine beforehand, I must admit, just to relax.
Anthony Pascale: something that I didnt put into the article but is worth mentioning is how you said you were still deeply involved in season 4 of ENT – and that you even wrote or contributed to some of the scripts without credit. I dont suppose you could tell us which ones….I dont think the WGA monitor this site!
Brannon Braga: I was indeed involved in Ent-season 4. But only in a supervisory capacity. Manny was really running that writing staff. I was there to help him fashion stories and give notes, which was only part of the time because Manny was doing an amazing job. I rewrote an episode called “Divergence” I believe. No offense to the credited writer. It just needed work and I was happy to help Manny out.
Garyp: “I thought Manny Coto did a great job. One could argue that Enterprise might have been that from the beginning. When I was seeing what Manny was doing it was like “you know what? Maybe this should have been the show from the start.”
This statement angers me. All he had to do was turn on his laptop at any given time for three years and listen to what fans were saying. Why so stubbornly take a show in a direction nobody wants?
Brannon Braga: For the record: I have always enjoyed interacting with fans of Star Trek. They’re intelligent and thoughtful and really helped guide my thinking in shaping episodes of the show. That’s one of the reasons I went to so many Trek conventions over the years, and started reading the web when it got up and running. But I’ve always been shy about coming online directly. This is because so many of the comments are brutal and unproductive. Now, I don’t mind brutal: that I can take and respond to. But calling for my death and harping on about how I was boffing Jeri Ryan and what an asswipe I am doesn’t really compel me to come back for more. Having said that, I don’t necessarily think I’m so important that my being here means much; but it means something to a few people, and it means something to me, as well. The reason I’m here now is because the folks on this site seem to articulate their grievances in a civil manner, unlike another site I know, where I feel like putting a bullet in my head after about five minutes (”Why DON’T you put a bullet in your head!” someone will no doubt respond). Anyway, just wanted to share those thoughts. Bring on the criticisms, no matter how harsh, but please leave the ugliness behind. Thanks for a great site.
DeQueue: Thanks for being so active on this site. I think part of the problem was the vision of the producers was different than what the fanbase expected, and perhaps wasn’t as executed or articulated well to us — though when I watch your interviews on DVDs, I’m beginning to understand what you were trying to do. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the vision of the series is most accurately captured in the episode “First Flight” an episode that did a great job of showing the struggles of early space exploration. The intention of the series was NOT to make a prequel (with all the “references” to future Star Trek series), but to create a series that:
1. Approached Star Trek with more contemporary characters we can better relate to — the 22nd century being closer to our time than the 23rd or 24th.
2. Similar to the movie “The Right Stuff,” to show the challenges of early space exploration.
3. Re-introduce viewers to a universe we are familar with through the eyes of the characters — the strategy being that it could bring in newer viewers who have never watched the show
and in a way re-capture the spirit of The Original Series but for our generation. In essence, it’s like taking The Original Series and remaking it in the 21st century, but not necessarily rebooting. The idea is that since it is BEFORE the other Star Trek series, the series could literally stand-on-its-own without being bogged down with too many backstories.
ENT was a prequel in a sense, but in many ways, it wasn’t trying to be…not in the Star Wars way, that is. In fact, it seemed to purposely AVOID references to previous Star Trek, because it was supposed to be a “fresh start” and could stand “on-its-own.” This would allow a new viewer should be able to tune in and watch the show for the first time.
I feel like ENT was selling apples (a fresh start to the franchise), while the fans were expecting oranges (a prequel that neatly filled in all the missing holes in history — which Coto eventually did in Season 4), because that’s what Star Wars did with their prequels, and I think that’s the cause of a lot of disconnect between the fanbase and the producers.
Unfortunately, it didn’t help matters that the apples were not very good the first two seasons which made it difficult to “sell” the premise. (which is why Season 3 changed the premise, and after demanding so many oranges, finally got a true prequel in Season 4). I think the reality is any premise would have been sold on the audience had the writing been solid. Heck, the series could be the year 7560 on the starship Blah, and it would be great had the writing been good.
That being said, could that original ENT premise had taken steam if given time and the writing improved? Frankly, I don’t know how much “early space exploration angst” the audience could really take before it got old. And it could probably get ridiculous fast if ENT happened to invent everything from “Red Alerts” to “Escape Pods.” I think Manny Coto had the right idea with the pre-TOS premise. There’s much more you could write for there. If you had started over from Season 1, would you still approach ENT the original way?
Brannon Braga: Excellent assessment. You captured very well what we were trying to do with Enterprise. But we were also excited to delve into Trek canon. Canon fodder for stories, so to speak. Not nearly as much as Coto did in season 4, obviously, but still… we wanted to do it all.
Would I change anything? Of course! Hell, man, if I could travel back to 1999 I would change a lot of things. Was Enterprise all apples? No. You gotta admit, you tasted an orange here and there.
Cyrus: You have written some damn good scripts, many of which are very underrated especially those Voyager episodes you co-wrote with Joe Menosky (how come Joe M. never wrote for Enterprise, not even as a freelance writer?). But as a showrunner/creator you didn’t always make the best decisions. It would have been great if you had hired a co-creator/exec producer like Manny Coto right from the start. A prequel show needed someone who was a big original series fan among the showrunners.
Brannon Braga: Joe Menosky was brilliant. He and I wrote what I thought were some of the best ever episodes. Feel free to disagree, but if you look at those 2-parters we did… cool stuff. Joe moved on after Voyager. As a showrunner, I made good and bad decisions. Hopefully, mostly good. That obviously is open for debate but I feel positive about my career with Trek; but I also recognize my failings and accept the blame for them. And hey – I wish I’d found Manny Coto from the start, as well!
Dr. Image: One aspect of Enterprise that could have contributed to it’s downfall was it’s stylistic sameness to previous Trek series- that is, the style of acting, the cinematography, the lighting, the “music,”- so many things started to get so tired over the years. For a show set in an earlier trail-blazing era, it wound up playing it safe in these areas. Was this a concious decision on Rick’s part, or did it all just end up that way unintentionally due to the fact that so many of the same people were still on board from the other shows? I mean, I was expecting a raw, dangerous, pre-Pike version of space travel from ENT. Instead we got what wound up as yet anothr “version” of TNG or VOY.
Brannon Braga: Maybe we didn’t take the “look and feel” of Enterprise far enough away from the others shows. You might be right. We didn’t want to stray TOO far from what people loved about the show, so you can understand our paradox. Rick and I also had a studio that was a little nervous about the prequel idea.
Lee Gordon: I think Braga is destined to forever be the Bill Buckner of science fiction. It’s true that Braga did a lot of great work during his tenure with the Star Trek franchise, but, unfortunately, he also presided over some notably bad stuff and that’s what he is most remembered for. When discussing that bad stuff in interviews, he and Berman always seem to point the finger of blame at circumstances rather than at any of the creative decisions they themselves made.
Cafe 5: Most people are in agreement that Brannon wrote some very good stories.
Early on when “enterprise” first started and the fans began to let the powers that be in on the fact that certain things were not working they were totally ignored. Statements were made by the producers that if the fans didn’t like the show they didn’t have to watch. This was a wonderful attitude to have towards the fans. All the fans wanted was Star Trek. Sometimes they actually got Star Trek most the time they did not. Painting one’s self into a literary corner then choosing to either kill someone or blow something up is not very good composition. These events haven’t had enough distance of time to be let go by the fans who saw and enormous amount potential wasted before their very eyes.
Brannon Braga (to Lee Gordon and cafe 5): I have always taken responsibility for my creative decisions. Never once do I recall blaming the fans for not watching the show. That is crazy. However, there were many circumstances contributing to Trel’s eventual “downfall” or “loss of popularity” or “taking a break” or whatever you want to call it. I don’t think anyone can point to one reason Trek went off the air for a while. Even “Gunsmoke” and “I Love Lucy” came to an end! By the way, Bill Buckner might really be offended by your comparison to me.
Trekmatt: I think just having you here, knowing that you are reading comments and replying to comments, makes fans (including myself) feel proud to be on this site. But also having you here has given us a feeling of respect for being fans and hopefully we have shown you to have a lot of respect from us too.
As another poster mentioned, don’t take the harsh criticism to heart, some things people have said are terrible and i’m sure are not meant, so don’t take them to heart. Most things like that, people probably say because they think that they’re never gonna get in contact with you, or that you’re never going to read them, but i bet that if they knew you were reading those comments while also commenting yourself on them, they may take a different tune.
Brannon Braga: Thanks for your encouragement. I have no problem with harsh criticism. None at all. It has always helped me make the work better. It’s the silly personal threats that are irksome.
DeQueue: Thanks Brannon for the response. I definitely tasted some oranges (prequel elements) in Seasons 1 and 2 — “The Andorian Incident,” “Shadows of P’Jem” “Minefield” “Cease Fire” “Judgment” to name a few. And these episodes did a nice job of tying-into the mythology of Star Trek. (And all of Season 4 was essentially these type of “prequel” episodes). But I also wanted to say, I do enjoy apples! It didn’t have to be all oranges “prequel stories” for it to be good. I definitely welcomed a “fresh start” and “fresh look” to the franchise about “dangerous early space exploration.” But I absolutely agree with Dr. Image in #113. For a show that wanted to be “different” and “more contemporary” it stylistically looked EXACTLY the same as VOY and TNG. The characters and the episode still had a “24th century” feel to them, and the show could easily have taken place in the 24th century.
It is this “stylistic sameness” that made the apples difficult to accepted, because ENT felt like Star Trek: Voyager, Part II. Instead of the “fresh start” that it wanted to be, it felt like it just wanted to mimic TNG and VOY, and was “afraid” to take risks and try new things. And as #113 alluded to, why did the style stay so “safe” — so close to how VOY and TNG was produced? Was this a conscious decision on Rick Berman’s part to stay “close” to how TNG and VOY was done? Was it UPN? Were there things you WANTED to try, but were told not to? (It might be touchy if there were so limitations that were placed on you that you can’t talk about)
I don’t know if you’ve ever watched Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” — it’s very different from Star Trek, but it’s a style that could have easily been adapted for ENT. But yeah, that would have been a really different type of show, and maybe from a “business-sense” it seemed too risky to make Star Trek so different that it could potentially lose viewers used to a certain type of show. But it’s risks that keep viewers interested in tuning in.
I do believe ENT did make a conscious effort to try to make the ship and the characters different, but in the end, it just turned out WAY too similar to what we’ve seen before on VOY and TNG. Maybe if the same creative stuff is involved, it’s just too hard to break out of a certain writing and production style. Maybe there were restrictions from the studio or Rick. I don’t know. In any case, I think the fans definitely would have welcomed something radically different and innovative but was surprised to tune in and watch exactly the same show.
Brannon Braga: Yes, there were limitations — or opinions would be a better word — placed on us during the show’s development. But that’s part of the process. Paramount was understandably worried about protecting their huge franchise. You know, Rick’s initial idea was to play the first season on Earth as they were building the very first warp ship. But that was way too off-concept, I think, for the studio. Maybe they were right, who knows. Remember that the previous Trek shows were very successful for the most part. It’s a balancing act when you try to “reinvent”. So we ended up with Enterprise, an excellent TV show, if you ask me, but also with its share of compromises and problems. And yes, writing was a large part of it. I think we did some superb work, but there were times that we did things that felt too familiar. Sometimes without realizing it. Quite a strange situation, working on the fifth incarnation of a series. Quite a challenge, as you can imagine.
Josh T.: I’m appalled and stunned by all of the ass-kissing occuring here. Attempting to mend fences and arrive at some sort of rectification AFTER the fact is slanderous and offensive. Where was the engaging of dialogue with the “fans” WHEN it mattered during production of the various series?
The internet isn’t a NEW resource for obtaining feedback. Things look quite a bit different atop the horse than they do after one has fallen off I daresay. Only now in retrospect once contracts have expired do certain personas find the time and have the inkling to interact.
Brannon Braga: Ass-kissing, Josh T? You’d better believe I’m kissing your asses. And I will keep kissing, happily so. Meandering along? A product I didn’t believe in? Man, Josh, I wish you’d been there. We were sprinting at all times to give you the best we had. Me, all the writers, actors, production crew: we committed our lives to that show. We loved it. You may not have liked what we gave you, but you’ve got it all wrong when you acuse me or anyone else of being lazy.
Lope de Aguirre: Granted VOY wasn’t just a wasted opportunity like ENT – for me it was a nearly complete stinker. Doesn’t change the fact that I liked “The Andorian Incident”, “Unexpected” (both Braga), “Shuttlepod One” (Berman/Braga) or “The Maguis” (Berman). Trek could have been so much more BUT
a) we don’t know for sure who was responsible for what specifically and which other factors played in
b) some of Bragas episodes are the best of whole Trek IMO
I personnaly like Moore more for his great character and drama driven scripts but the sci-fi stuff from Braga is as far as I can see unique (known concepts different approach, one that actually works not like most other TNG + VOY attempts)
Brannon Braga: Good point, Lope. Star Trek encompassed different kinds of stories each week. Some “high concept” sci-fi, others character drama, some political, etc. What’s amazed me over the years is how Trek means different things to different people. And it’s very difficult to satisfy everyone with every episode. Gene Roddenberry likened the show to an anthology of sorts.
James Heaney (fka Wowbagger): I wonder why no one has mentioned yet Mr. Braga’s strange idea of sexuality on the show, though. Troi/Worf? Trip/T’Pol? Torres/Paris? Archer/T’Pol? And, of course, the one that really gets people rowdy: C/7? What the dskopach? Let’s add this to the random catsuits, the occasional supposedly comedic but incredibly juvenile incidents where Hoshi would lose her shirt and undergarments, and Vulcan Neuropressure, and we have a fairly complete picture of what a lot of fans considered alternately befuddling and insulting presentations of sexuality in Braga-run shows. I have no idea what role Mr. Braga played in these various creative decisions, but… seriously, what was going on? The Theiss Titilation Factor is one thing, but ENT and VOY’s attempts to follow TOS’s spirit of free love just came off looking strange and frequently annoying.
Loved “Divergence.” The image of Trip climbing between two ships on a cable was one of the classics, and on seeing it I immediately said, “Braga.”
Anyhow, to close: Mr. Braga, thank you for being here, thank you for doing that convention, and I hope we hear more from you in the future. It has indeed been a pleasure to watch your work in all its forms for these past fifteen years.
Brannon Braga: Yes, I suppose I did (along with Rick and the other writers) infuse Trek with a few sexual moments over the years. Took a lot of flack for Seven’s catsuit. But you know, Roddenberry’s Trek universe had an undercurrent of sexuality. He established it in the original series with episodes like “The Cage”. Orion slave girls anyone? How about Kirk’s escapades? And is the catsuit any more offensive than those miniskirts? Roddenberry took some criticism for some of this, I realize; especially for being sexist at times, as in “Turnabout Intruder”, where he established that women could not command starships. But we always did it in the spirit of fun and exploration. What’s wrong with Vulcan neuropressure, I ask you? What’s so insulting about creating moments of physical intimacy for the characters? Star Trek explores all dimensions of humanity, and sexuality is arguably one of the most prominent.
I will concede, however, that Hoshi losing her shirt was a bit “Girls Gone Wild”. But then, Trip in his blue underwear didn’t seem to get a lot of complaints.
Just ask Connor Trineer. Entire websites have been erected in honor of his skivvies.
Lope de Aguirre: Was there any particular reason why Trek IX + X weren’t any longer written or co-written of you?
Brannon Braga: I didn’t write any more movies after “First Contact” because I was running “Voyager” at that point and didn’t feel like I could do both justice. Having written two movies with Ron Moore while also doing the TV shows was just too much. I chose to focus my energies on “Voyager” and I’m glad I did. I’m most proud of my work on that show.
Bill Hunt: [on TATV] I acknowledge that the idea behind that final episode, and the motivation behind it, was good and genuine. Paying tribute to all the series was a nice idea, and giving Enterprise legitimacy by having Next Generation characters reflect on it was a cool touch. But a few things frustrated me about the episode, and I wondered if you’d comment on them:
1. Trip’s Death – the idea of killing Trip wasn’t what bothered me, it was the way he died.
2. Little Emotional Reaction – Other than that one scene with Archer and T’Pol packing up Trip’s things, nobody really seems to grieve for Trip.
3. No Resolution for Trip and T’Pol – This was the most frustrating, because their ongoing arc was really the only major bit of ongoing personal character development we were given in the second half of the series.
4. No Big Speech – Having the episode close with “End program” right as Archer is about to start speaking at the founding of the Federation was a huge cheat for me as a fan.
5. Doesn’t Fit with The Pegasus – Riker and Troi’s appearance in the episode just doesn’t seem to quite fit with the story and tone of that original Next Generation episode.
Regardless, I hope we see new creative work from you soon. Best wishes to you, Brannon.
And by the way… Anthony? Keep up the great work. You’ve turned TrekMovie into a real boon and resource for Trek fans. Well done.
Brannon Braga: All valid critiques of the “Enterprise” final episode. While writing it, we thought it would be great. We were off-base. Rick Berman may not agree with me, and I don’t want to speak for him, but I believe that the story was tangled and didn’t fully convey the sentiments we intended. Please know that we never set out to anything but our very best. I poured my soul into that episode, which I guess makes it even more tragic that it didn’t turn out so well.
Josh T.: As an unabashed AND unapologetic disliker of modern era Star Trek, and as someone who has more than a few issues with Brannon Braga, Rick Berman, Sherry Lansing and company, I would like this oppurtunity to hear Brannon discuss some of his personal insights and reflections on what to me, was the pivotal moment in the Trek legacy which was the killing off of the character of James T. Kirk, since it could be argued and debated that single event in fact began the decline of Star Trek in many ways, both commercially, critically, conceptually, and monetarily.
Can you discuss some of the personal intricacies Brannon?
How did that decision arrive? Was it initially agreed to? What was the process behind the story leading to that conclusion? Was there ever any thought given to perhaps not using Kirk in the film, or his character continuing in the 24th century much as Scotty did?
I’m genuinely curious about your insights and memories.
Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, as the co-author of the characters demise, what are your personal views and opinions on potentially bringing the character of Kirk back from the grave?
Brannon Braga: The decision to “kill Kirk” was a complex one, made by many people, including Shatner himself, who was heavily involved in the process of developing that script. I don’t remember where the idea originally came from, but I can tell you that everyone was on board. It seemed a fitting way to “pass the baton” to a new generation and a final farewell to Shatner’s character. But I don’t argue that his mode of death was less than overwhelming. Listen to Ron Moore and my DVD commentary for more on that.
I disagree that Kirk’s “death” signalled the “demise” of the franchise. “Star Trek: First Contact” went on to become the highest grossing Trek film ever, and one of the best reviewed. The TV shows were doing pretty damn well, too.
Kirk back from the grave? Hell, yeah. I even noodled a story that would do that on “Voyager”. Involved the Klingon hijacking of a modern-day 747 (and some time travel of course). Never wrote it, though.
This is sci-fi. Anything is possible.
Editors Note: We will be inviting Brannon back for a more organized Q&A, so if you missed your chance you will get another. Do not expect him to drop into this thread and answer questions, we will try and do something more organized and easier to wade through (more details later). I want to again thank Mr. Braga for dropping by.