In May we reported that Star Trek: Voyager stars Robert Duncan McNeill and Garrett Wang were serious about wanting to bring back their Captain Proton holodeck adventures. This week the subject came up again on their podcast, and there have been other developments that may add up to this thing actually having a chance.
Captain Proton to the rescue, again?
In the latest episode of The Delta Flyers—McNeill and Wang’s Voyager rewatch podcast—their guest was their Voyager co-star Robert Beltran, who just released the short film Butterflies. That got McNeill thinking about short films, so he brought up the Proton idea again:
It’s exciting to hear how you and your filmmaker friend were able to create some content on your own, it’s exciting. It reminds me… I’ve always had this idea of doing a kind of segmented story with our cast from Voyager doing a Captain Proton-only miniseries. Like serialized little eight or ten-minute chunks that add up… Do a dozen of them and we got an hour-and-a-half movie, but you can only see it in eight or ten minutes. We shoot it in black and white. It’s only in the holodeck with Captain Proton.
It could be fun. And do it with the same tongue-in-cheek kind of fun that that holodeck program had. I’ve always wanted to do that. I love seeing what you are doing. That’s exciting to see a similar approach on that project. So maybe we will get something going someday.
In addition to starring, McNeill is likely seeing himself as a producer and/or director for the Proton project. In the two decades since Voyager wrapped, McNeill has worked extensively behind the camera, directing on shows like Dawson’s Creek, Chuck, Supernatural, The Orville, and others. He’s been an executive producer on a number of shows including Chuck and The Gifted. He is also attached to the upcoming Turner and Hooch reboot for Disney+.
Actors on board
The Captain Proton black-and-white holodeck adventures stylized like classic Flash Gordon serials featured McNeill’s Tom Paris playing Captain Proton and Wang’s Harry Kim playing his sidekick Buster Kincaid. There were nine Captain Proton segments during Voyager’s run. Other members of the Voyager cast participated in the adventures as well, most notably in the episode “Bride of Chaotica!”
In her recent TrekMovie interview, Voyager’s Kate Mulgrew said she thought it “could be fun” to reprise her Proton role of Queen Arachnia. The actress added that playing Arachnia was “probably the greatest fun I had in the seven years on Star Trek.” Although we didn’t discuss Captain Proton, in our recent interview with Voyager’s Robert Picardo the actor said it would be “fun” to return to the role as The Doctor, so playing The Doctor playing the President of Earth seems like something he would say yes to.
And in the Delta Flyers podcast, Robert Beltran thought bringing back Captain Proton was a “great idea,” so he seems on board as well. Other members of the cast probably could join them, including Jeri Ryan, who is already reprising her role of Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Picard.
Kurtzman wants black-and-white Short Treks
One way to get Captain Proton to work in the new CBS All Access Star Trek Universe would be to do it as one of the Star Trek: Short Treks, the Emmy-nominated anthology series of shorts. Earlier this month executive producer Alex Kurtzman said he hoped that there will be more Short Treks, and the Emmy nomination could help in that effort. He also specifically said he wants to continue experimenting with different formats including black-and-white. In an interview just last week Kurtzman brought the idea up again in more detail:
“We have talked about doing them in black and white. But you have to do that for a reason. You can’t just do it to do it. There has to be a story reason to do it that way. Obviously there has been stuff in black and white in Trek before.”
Kurtzman’s comment about previously doing black and white in Star Trek is almost certainly referring to the Captain Proton segments from Voyager.
One potential conflict is McNeill’s vision of a series of shorts; so far each Short Treks episode has been a standalone story. If there were a new season of Short Treks, it’s unlikely that Kurtzman would want to dedicate it entirely to Captain Proton—he’s already said there are other things besides black and white he wants to experiment with on the series. But maybe McNeill would settle for making something more self-contained, and/or follow-ups could happen in future seasons of Short Treks.
Writer ready to pitch, when he can
When McNeill first mentioned he was interested in this project in May, he said he had brought it to writer/executive producer David A. Goodman when he was directing an episode of The Orville. Goodman is a big Star Trek fan who worked as a writer/producer on Star Trek: Enterprise and has written a number of Star Trek books. He also wrote the Star Trek episode of Futurama, “Where No Fan Has Gone Before.”
In June, TrekMovie spoke to Goodman about the upcoming third season of The Orville, and something that wasn’t included in that article was a brief discussion about McNeill’s Proton idea. At the time, Goodman said he thought it was a good idea:
Robbie was directing [on The Orville] and we started talking about Captain Proton. When I was a kid I was a huge fan of the original Flash Gordon. When Robbie and I were talking about this a couple of years ago the streaming services were all starting to launch and we thought you could do some short-form episodes of Captain Proton.
He clarified that he hadn’t worked out any details on the pitch, but felt it was “worth a call” to CBS. However, being that Goodman is currently under contract with Fox Studios/Disney, he can’t actually make any pitches to other studios. He said his contract ends this year but he may be extended based on possible pitch ideas or work being pushed into next year, including a possible fourth season of The Orville.
But Goodman made it clear he also wants to work in the Star Trek universe again:
When my contract comes to the end that may be one of the first calls I make, to see if I could get that going, because that would be a blast to figure out some way to do a short form… one of the many great experiences that I have had working on Orville is that I have got to work with all these people. I have been a fan of Robbie’s for years. He is a super-talented director. So the idea that I can work with him on something like this is pretty exciting… The minute my contract is over, that is the phone call I will make.
It may be that McNeill can be patient and wait so he can work with Goodman on the project. But if McNeill decided he wants to move forward with CBS before Goodman’s work at Fox wraps up (and CBS is interested), there are certainly other writers who can take on the Captain Proton project.
Time for a little bit of nostalgia?
We have already seen Star Trek: Short Treks dabble in Star Trek, although mostly related to the TOS era. It could be time to give the TNG era some love as well. Star Trek: Voyager has a loyal fan base that has grown in the era of streaming, and they would love to see their stars back. It is certainly worth considering.
What say you? Let us know in the comments below.
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