Michael Piller’s Book Recounting Insurrection’s Production Now on Sale

Michael Piller on the set of Star Trek: Insurrection

Michael Piller, known to Trek for his work on The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, authored a ‘textbook’ on screenwriting, based on the production of the feature film Star Trek: Insurrection. That book was never published and thought to be lost to time after Piller’s passing. Now for the first time ever, Piller’s Fade In is officially available in published form at michaelpiller.net.

Artifacts and relics lost to time are not uncommon, especially for a franchise that is 50 years old. However, one item that was not necessarily lost, but unavailable, was Michael Piller’s book, Fade In: The Making of Star Trek: Insurrection – A Textbook on Screenwriting from the Star Trek Universe. Michael’s wife, Sandra, told StarTrek.com that she made it her mission for his book to be published after his tragic death in 2005 at the age of 57.

“I wanted to help Michael’s dream come true,” Sandra explained to StarTrek.com. “When he wrote it originally, there were objections from Paramount because they wanted to keep the behind the scenes secret. Since then, I believe they see how much people do want to know and how it keeps them interested.”

Joining Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1989, Piller’s appointment as showrunner in season three brought a stability and leadership that had been missing during the show’s first two seasons. Piller worked with Ira Steven Behr, who would go onto to run Deep Space Nine, and Ronald D. Moore, who co-wrote the screenplays for Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: First Contact and resurrected Battlestar Galactica.

Piller and Behr would go on to become close professional colleagues as well as personal friends. Behr even contributed to the book, writing a letter to Michael, which was very important to Sandra, who said she was “proud and honored” to have it included.

Helping to launch DS9 and Voyager, Piller left the writing staff of the latter show in 1996, before coming back to the franchise to write the screenplay and co-produce Insurrection. During his script writing process, Piller kept notes and a daily journal, as preparation for writing his book. It was his continuing effort to detail the writing process, not just for Star Trek fans, but for all aspiring screenwriters.

Sandra is quick to point out that Michael did finish the book before he became ill and notes how much her husband relished serving in a mentor role to young and aspiring writers. Her hope is that Michael will still able to provide that guidance with the publishing of Fade In.

“I hope whoever reads it enjoys learning about Michael’s personal experience in this process of writing and rewriting, and the meetings and the throwing it out and starting all over again,” Sandra told StarTrek.com. “The real experience of it. The process. One secret I just remembered might help you understand…Michael always gave his writers books like Zen and The Art of Archery, or Tennis or Mechanics, or whatever to help them reach that place inside that lets them be calm and hear those voices of the characters speak.”

Hitting the convention circuit to promote the book’s availability, as well as make it available to fans, Sandra has attended Star Trek Las Vegas, as well as conventions in Cherry Hill and Chicago in the past few months. Fans will have one more chance to purchase Fade In at a convention in Toronto at the Creation Supernatural convention between October 7-9.

You can read the full interview with Sandra Piller at the official Star Trek site.

Fade In is now available for purchase at Michael Piller’s website for $95.00.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Hmmm… that’s quite a price point

I would love to read this book, but 95 bucks is too expensive for me right now. Also, I don’t mean to nitpick, but who did the artwork for that cover? It’s not professionally done by the look of it.

No indeed…it looks amateurish. I wouldn’t pay $95 for a complete volume of behind the scenes material on my favorite film of all time. I’m certainly not going to pay that for a short book on what went on behind the scenes of one of the not-so-great Trek films of all time.

The cover “art” is atrocious. Looks like a 10 year old just threw something together in MS Paint.

I read this while it was floating around the net a few years ago, and it’s a great read that I’d highly recommend and would snap up myself… if it wasn’t $95. I know high-quality independent printing can be pricey, but I just can’t justify paying more for a short read than I would for the new two-volume Star Trek Encyclopedia (based on Amazon price, not MSRP).


I thought it was still available for free download …huh … it has a lot of good info about the process, but the price seems absurd, wonder if they’re just hoping to get all libraries and diehards to order it.

I think they’d need to offer a longer version — they were looking for a missing draft to include a few years back — to entice anyone who already has the downloadable version stored away.

This is a good example of a story about how a movie went awry, but if you want the best examples of that, I’d suggest MAKING OF EXORCIST 2 and SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE (about Preminger’s ROSEBUD), which are the most honest accounts I’ve ever come across (better than DEVIL’S CANDY FINAL CUT by far, not that those were bad books.)

The one I’d pay to read would be the original version of that MAKING OF TFF book , before Shatner paid the author off and gave some bits to his daughter to rework and pump up.

I downloaded it about a month ago. I remember reading about it when it was going to be released originally and “officially” and thought little more about it until a recent article at the AV Club mentioned it in passing. It took little investigative effort to find a pdf of it.

I saw this book at a convention and considered getting it, but did not care for the quality of the cover. Over time and use, it seemed to be the type to crack/crease and eventually even tear. Hardcover, yes, but not the best quality. On the plus side, it was a nice, fat book for the money.

I got this as a free download a while back-where it almost certainly won’t be available now-and it’s a great read. However, with the best will in the world, it is most certainly not worth $95/£75.

As much as I would love to collect all things Trek, especially behind the scenes books, that “movie” left such a bad taste in my mouth that I will never own a copy of it (and I even own four different versions of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek V on home video (VHS, DVD single disc, DVD dual disc, Blu-Ray)). Even if someone gives me a copy, I will return it. It is that bad. Which is a damn shame considering Michael Piller wrote some of the best Trek out there (hell, he gave us the best spin-off: Deep Space Nine).

I think the LA Times* summed it up best (when ranking all of the live action and animated Trek) when they said:
Let’s say you’re trapped underneath something very heavy: While you’re waiting for help from someone very strong — if this was on television, and the remote was just out of reach, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have to watch.

* http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-hc-star-trek-movie-and-show-ranking-20160830-snap-story.html

Hm. While I don’t think it’s some of Trek’s best, I wouldn’t necessarily throw it in the heap with what I believe to be the bottom of the barrel as far as Trek is concerned…Nemesis. I had to force myself to sit through it. Awful, soulless film. I’ve tried to watch it again to see if perhaps it might seem better to me now as opposed to 10 years ago to no avail. It still sucks just as bad as it did the first time I watched it.

Whole heartedly disagree. Underrated film and then some.

The biggest problems with NEM were poor pacing and Spiners ego (sorry, but true). INS was worse because it was top to bottom wrong conceptually. By siding with the smug, non-indigenous Baku, Picard and his crew were, morally, on the wrong side of the argument. In fact many of the actors allegedly admitted as much to Roger Ebert, on the night of the film’s premiere. Even they weren’t sold on it. The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many, indeed.
Having said that, the Piller book is still a fascinating read-and it’s nice to see that the great man himself didn’t entirely let himself off the hook when explaining the movies less than stellar final box office.
It isn’t though, worth ninety-five of your hard earned dollars.


“Non-indigenous” has to be the most nonsensical excuse for depriving humans of their rights as the DNA evidence shows the vast majority of humans migrated from a small population in Africa. Also, neither the planets nor even the land masses on the face of the Earth are fixed in location, i.e. everything migrates.

Aside from the fact that I meant non-indigenous as a description, not some kind of attack, lets examine your statement.
Yes, peoples migrate from continent to continent, all part of the natural order and no, it doesn’t mean that they should be entitled to fewer human rights in the places they end up than from where they started. But we’re talking about sci-fi here, Star Trek in particular. People have human rights from landmass to landmass-but aliens moving from planet to planet? Sure, Federation citizens would have the same entitlement across the sectors, but B’aku wasn’t part of the Federation was it? Should the Federation apply Starfleet/Fed rules to every none Federation world it comes into contact with, even those where the Prime Directive doesn’t apply, just because it arrogantly assumes it’s the right thing to do? How long do you think that’ll go on for before it starts a war? That’s pretty much what Picard is doing in the movie-and consequently he IS on the wrong side of the argument (not to mention incidentally, that he’s emotionally involved with Anij which means his judgement is compromised anyway).
The B’aku amount to a few hundred people. The planet isn’t theirs by rights. They jealously guard their fountain of youth from all-comers, particularly the S’ona, whom they ruthlessly exiled (and therefore condemned to death). They refuse to allow anyone to settle on the planet (no immigrants permitted there, not anymore!) and they won’t allow the extraction of sample ring energy that could lead to medical breakthroughs that could save the lives of billions. The bottom line is, these selfish people are happy for anyone around them to die needless deaths-particularly those fighting in the Dominion War-while they sit smugly in ‘their’ little Eden and spend the next three hundred years weaving carpets. And our heroes are happy to defend them!
And that is why IMO-which was my original point-INS is, by a country mile, the worst Star Trek movie.


Re:The planet isn’t theirs by rights

You say non-indigenous is merely a descriptor, but then you make this declaration: The planet isn’t theirs by rights. How is it possible that an uninhabited planet discovered and settled by the Ba’ku is NOT theirs by the basic rights that the Federation believes all lesser civilizations have as codified in their Prime Directive? And what does this notion have in store for all Federation colonists?

Are you actually trying to make an argument that the Federation has the right to do whatever they want to the Romulan settled worlds because of this “The planet isn’t theirs by rights” ill-conceived concept that you claim exists? Do you even realize what this preposterous notion that you are peddling says the KT homeless Vulcans have in store for them no matter where they settle?

Or worse, are you actually claiming the PT Romulans have the right to do whatever they want to their home planet Vulcan because they were exiled?

Given that the Vulcans are Federation members no-one would be turfing them off of any world. And the Romulans would have no interest in ‘reclaiming’ the Vulcan homeworld, since their ancestors left it of their own accord-unlike the S’ona they were NOT exiled.
Once again, I see no moral problem in relocating the B’aku to another world (though I accept that drugging them all and shipping them off in a holoship rather than being upfront with them, is certainly ethically problematic).
Unlike other civilisations in the cosmos, the B’aku have only a tenuous link to their own homeworld. They aren’t intergrated into it in any technological way. They have no religious or ideological connection to their surroundings. There is no social or political imperative requiring them to stay in that location. A couple of hundred years ago they just decided it would be a neat place to live and so they pitched up tents. They were not-unlike the New Vulcan settlers in the KT timeline-refugees, so they wouldn’t have a protected status. They are actually little more than a hippy commune, truth be told. And as such-with no roots and with no functioning government with which the Federation could negotiate-a different standard applies.
Secondly, when making such a decision with regards to their future, you have to look at their behaviour. By exiling the S’ona and therefore condemning them to a painful future, they have demonstrated utter ruthlessness. They also refuse to share in a breakthrough medical technology, which has the potential to save the lives of billions of people, simply because THEY WANT TO LIVE FOREVER. They make it pretty clear in that movie that they don’t give a shit about anyone else. I don’t know about you, but I would have no problem with making what others may consider an immoral decision when dealing with a group of people who are already morally bankrupt-especially when the lives of potentially billions could factor into it. No problem at all. And i’m guessing i’m not the only one.


Re:Vulcans are Federation members no-one would be turfing them off of any world

What do you call what Nero did? A tailgate party?

And the Ba’ku fit your definition of the Romulans.

And their exile of of the Son’a only denied them immortality which even you yourself claim the Son’a as Ba’ku have no title to, and therefore no excuse for their excesses in attempting to repossess it. The pain, the Son’a brought on themselves, in their relentless attempts to regain immortality at all costs, because they too WANT TO LIVE FOREVER. They make it pretty clear in that movie that they don’t give a shit about the pain and suffering for themselves, their families, their fellows, or others.

Also, you may not care for the indigenous excuse but that’s exactly the one the Federation Admiral gave to Picard. It seems clear that all colonists are regarded as second-class citizens in the Federation and the Maquis were right about that.

Nero’s attack on Vulcan was a partially successful attempt at genocide. That isn’t the same as the Federation relocating a few hundred people in order to gain access to a technology that could cure ills and save many lives
I agree that the S’ona are no more entitled to the energy than the B’aku, but at least the S’ona were willing to share it with Starfleet, which the B’aku weren’t. Also the S’ona were prepared to go through semi-official channels with Starfleet, or at least with Dougherty, in order to achieve their goals rather than kill the B’aku outright; at least until Ru’afo’s desire for vengeance overcomes his common sense at the end. Of course if the Federation had known the true blood feud motivations of the S’ona then they wouldn’t have sanctioned the mission. But that doesn’t invalidate what they were trying to accomplish, or their reasons for it IMO.
For my money the S’ona are the real victims of that picture (particularly with regards to their deformities, which, troublingly, seem to act as 90’s trek shorthand for ‘unsympathetic’). This makes Picard’s defence of the B’aku
baffling to me, and that’s why I don’t rate the movie. But hey, that’s just my opinion.

But why would the Federation have any RIGHT to relocate people that aren’t even a part of the Federation? Just because they WANT the technology, they get to go into any part of the galaxy and tell whoever they find there ‘take a hike, we want what’s on your planet, it will do us more good than you?’ Can you imagine, say, the US just going and doing this to, I dunno, Lesotho? ‘Sorry, small African nation, though we have absolutely no connection to you or authority over you, we are now going to kidnap you out of your villages and make you go live somewhere else because there’s something under your soil that we can use.’ What kind of entitlement could there POSSIBLY be to do that?

The So’na were prepared to go through semi-official channels of a government that had no say over the Ba’ku! In the analogy above, if the USA was willing to go through Russia to evict these African villagers, would that somehow make it okay? How does going through a third party to ‘officially’ abduct someone make it better?

The So’na:
A. Attempted to take over their planet; they launched a coup to overthrow the government and failed. they weren’t exactly the good guys.
B. Make ketracel-white for the Dominion. They are actively helping to cause millions of Federation deaths.
C. They are slave-owners. They have enslaved two other entire races!
D. They are in their own gruesome shape because of self-inflicted medical experimentation to prolong their own lives.

These are not victims; they’re not sympathetic. Their deformities are self-inflicted, their actions are reprehensible, and they’ve spent the last 300 years building a criminal empire on the backs of slaves, which has made them rich and opulent and apparently focused on hedonism. What the heck is there to be sympathetic about?


Re: they won’t allow the extraction of sample ring energy that could lead to medical breakthroughs

You are confused. The Ba’ku didn’t have the technological power to refuse the extraction. They would merely be the recipient of a mass extinction due to its extremely polluting toxic side effects. It was The Federation that was refusing to allow a mass extinction of the Ba’ku. But I would like someone to explain to me where in the Prime Directive that it allows turning planets teeming with life into lifeless husks merely because self-aware life has yet to evolve there?

A watcher of Atop the Fourth Wall, by any chance?

I didn’t think the Ba’ku were keeping the fountain of youth from anyone (no one ever really ASKED them, anyhow)- they just didn’t want to be forcibly torn from their homes and have their planet nuked to have the fountain harvested for export. If someone wants to evict you and burn down your house to get to some valuable mineral deposits underneath and you don’t fancy that idea, it’s a heck of a lot different than refusing to have guests over to your house. One, you would forcibly resist, the other you’d probably be fine with… IF the people that wanted to come over didn’t start by trying to abduct you in the night and do the former.

There’s a false binary choice at play that says there are two options- abduct the Ba’ku and render their home uninhabitable to steal the radiation, or leave and never have anyone but the Ba’ku ever get any benefits from the radiation ever. This is disingenuous; sick people could easily come to the planet and benefit from the same radiation WITHOUT having to fire the collector into the rings. Picard and co. aren’t fighting to keep THAT from happening; the So’na conspiracy is just such an extremist effort that this possibility is never proposed. Rather, Picard and co. are fighting to prevent an abduction and despoiling of the planet that bypasses any rational option and goes straight to ‘rape & pillage.’

And for that matter- is your home (I’ve no idea where you live, but if it’s an apartment, use your parents’ home as a substitute) yours? If someone said you were being arrogant and entitled for wanting to keep it because they believed the land could be used for the greater good by evicting you from it and bulldozing the house, would you meekly accept homelessness?

My point being, I’ve heard this argument before- ‘They’re just colonists, they don’t have any right to the planet’… but why does anyone ELSE have a right to the planet, then? If these people have made homes there and raised children there and lived there for hundreds of years and didn’t even take it from anyone but just settled on uninhabited land, don’t they have rather a stronger claim to it that some other group that flies up and says “We want it, therefore it’s our?” I can’t really see the logic of claiming that the Ba’ku have no right to the planet where they live, but someone else who just got there has a right to it because they want what’s on it. Isn’t that precisely what (in the USA, at least), we’ve criticized- from Native American land seizures to claims of oil greed in Iraq- as absolutely monstrous, utterly illegitimate reasoning of a bully and oppressor?

IMHO, Nemesis was a total “clusterf***,” or as you said, Numenosium: “Awful, soulless film.” Indeed.

Oof, $95? Can I get an official ebook version for substantially less? :/

Many Star Trek films fall short for being over ambitious. Insurrection is the only case where a Trek film fails for lack of ambition. It should have been called Star Trek: The TV Movie. There’s not a lot wrong with it within the scope of what it wants to do, but it simply puts an average two-part TV episode on the big screen, rather than exploiting the different medium to do something you can’t on TV. It could have been a network Christmas special for all the impact it made.

Precisely. It isn’t that Insurrection is a bad film, it’s just not any better than an average episode of the series on which it’s based. An unfortunate missed opportunity.

The book goes into that – and is quite fascinating. I read it for free online a few years back.

$95 DOLLARS?!?!

(ahem) No, thank you.

I think the $95 price tag is because it’s being pitched as a textbook, and textbook prices are commonly much higher than would seem ‘normal.’ My guess is that this was the only way she could get it published, due to Paramount. It’s expensive, but as an aspiring screenwriter myself, I think this would totally be worth the price.

Unless she’s made changes to it, the version that floated around the web for years didn’t read like a textbook more like a memoir. $95 is too much for that.

It’s a little too early for April fools, isn’t it?

insurrection was boring !!!

I loved insurrection and would love to pick up the book!
$95 is steep though.
Oh well.

Does anyone know what type of cancer Mr Piller died from?

Go Giants! I don’t know if anyone saw the Giants game but they won the one game playoff wildcard vs the Mets !
We play the Cubs tomorrow night

According to startrek.com he had head and neck cancer.

That’s horrible,my late father passed away from pancreatic cancer

He was using minoxydl to regrow his hair when he got the idea for INS, is that stuff cancerous?

As for getting cancer, a makeup effects artist I knew and worked with died of testicular cancer at a way-too-young age, and some of his friends have blamed it on the chemicals he had to work with day in and day out.

And for me and mine, INS was a mucho better film than NEM, not to mention STID. At least STB brought the franchise back up from the crud level, even if it didn’t go over fantastically well at the box office.

Re minoxydl, going by Wikipedia, cancer isn’t listed as a potential side effect:


PS: Looking on Wiki into toxic chemicals, there’s one that was sold as film cleaner by Kodak back in the day, I used it on all of the dozens of garage sci-fi films I made in the ’70s and ’80s. That very chemical was taken off the market many years ago. 8(

And I’m glad I still have Piller’s book in PDF form, downloaded from one of the many ST old fan sites…

I have the free download on my computer right now. I absolutely love it and miss the guy like crazy, but I would not pay anything over $20 for the book version. BTW: his first draft with the Romulans was MUCH better than the studio-involved final version.

Did they really abscond with fan art of the 1701-D to use for the cover? Seems the copy I downloaded a couple years ago is much better done (featuring the 1701-E on the cover and great Insurrection production photos spread throughout).

$95? Here was I thinking that Harlan Ellison’s recent paperbacks were pretty expensive but this is just ridiculous.


Having bought a couple, Ellison’s books rock! For the early drafts of “Demon with a Glass Hand” alone, they’re well worth the cost. IMHO, that’s the best hour of filmed science fiction…ever.

I don’t think I even know about earlier drafts of DEMON, wow! I was sorely tempted to buy the superexpensive version of Ellison’s FLINTLOCK (unproduced script for OUR MAN FLINT tv series), which is one of my favorites (kind of FLINT meets THE PRISONER)

First and Third volumes of Ellison’s BRAIN MOVIES. Or you can check the big ‘n’ slick 1990s version of “old buddy” (pfft!) Schow’s Outer Limits Companion for a fairly thorough description of the early draft(s). Actually the shooting script photocopies floating around in the wild (easily available on eBay, etc.) come from a draft before some changes were made, including the shift of location (by Justman) to the Bradbury Building.

If they cut the price to fifty dollars or lower, I would go for it, but 95?
Sorry, I just can’t do it.

I’ll say what everyone is too kind to say… this is price-gouging, plain and simple.

In 2006, I released my first book, which was an *actual* textbook guide to making one-hour drama, using the USA Network series La Femme Nikita as a case study. The book was over 400 pages, filled with photos–including production materials from Warner Bros., who were kind enough to license them for an unofficial book–along with a cover photo from the late Herb Ritts which had never been seen before until this publication (and to date, is the only Herb Ritts photo ever licensed for a book that isn’t about his photography).

And I was able to publish it independently and on high-quality paper stock… for less than $40.

It angers me to see how TPTB often take advantage of the love that Star Trek fans have in order to raid their pockets. It’s not cool. You should get FAR more for your money at $95.

How did you manage that level of coop from a studio? I’ve participated on research articles that Paramount would not even permit a single photo authorization, and on Warner stuff it usually hasn’t been much better.

I had helped negotiate a limited merchandising deal when the series was on the air, and I was involved in developing the special features for the DVD releases, so the folks in the consumer products division already knew me, or at least knew of me, so that probably helped. But every person I interacted with at Warner Bros., no matter what department, was extremely gracious and helpful. Perhaps I lucked out, but I couldn’t have asked for better. They were wonderful.

But why?

That’s awesome. I was fortunate enough to read the book during the era where its only availability was… shall we say, ‘underground.’ But it was a good book, insightful and well-written, and I’m glad to see that it’s been made publicly available at last. With that price, I will probably not be getting a copy (though neither will I be reading any freely-acquired versions I might have previously had, now that it is an officially sold item, until or unless I purchase a copy for myself), but I am glad to see that it’s out there, and I hope that others will check it out. It’s a great read.

interesting that this movie seemed to draw on elements from TNG’s ‘homeward’ and ‘journey’s end’.
picard’s actions in the latter may explain his decisions in ‘insurrection’. and that he was correct to do so.

and the film was written to address the ethnic cleansing during the Yugoslavia conflict in the 90s.

That cover looks like it was made in MS Paint… on Windows 95

Uhh $95? I went from “hell yeah” to “go to hell” REALLY fast.

Uhh, $95?? I went from “hell yeah” to “go to hell” REALLY fast.

Happy to see this book finally get in print; absolutely baffled at that price point. This isn’t an art book so there is no reason to price it so high. And as others have mentioned, that cover art is really poor.

On a positive note, it is a terrific insight into why Insurrection was so, so bad.