On Monday TrekMovie posted our exclusive discussion with veteran Star Trek writer/producer Brannon Braga about his new Hulu horror movie Books of Blood and how he brought some of his love of horror to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Today that discussion continues, moving on to his time with Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise, along with his thoughts about what’s new with Star Trek and if he would consider returning to the franchise.
Turning to the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: Voyager, what do you feel is the legacy of that show?
First of all, I’m not the right person to be asked, you’re the right person. Because you are a serious genre critic and serious writer about this stuff and you could answer better than I can, because anything I’m going to say might sound trite because I worked on the show for so many years.
But I think most people are going to point to Captain Janeway. The best characters on the show were women. A woman was the lead and the leader. It was not something we were calling attention to, it just was what Star Trek did. And I would say Voyager is just part of Star Trek’s legacy in totality, so far. Which is to say it is just part of the concept that the crews were diverse. It wasn’t a thing, it was part of Gene [Roddenberry]’s concept of the show, starting with The Original Series. I think that’s the legacy of Voyager, and I think it’s one important part of the legacy of Star Trek: the depiction of diversity and equality.
We talked a little bit earlier about pitching. Bryan Fuller was on Mark Altman’s Inglorious Treksperts podcast a couple of months ago, and he talked about how the writers’ room was really excited about Voyager season four and developing “Year of Hell” as an overarching arc for the season. And then you went in to pitch it, Rick Berman said no and so it became a “two-parter.” Bryan also said you were dejected by the decision. Is that how you remember it?
I don’t remember the particulars of why it didn’t happen, but I do know that my original concept was to do “Year of Hell” as a season. And I knew that it probably wouldn’t happen, because at the time there wasn’t really serialized TV going on as far as I knew. It would have been harder to syndicate, and Star Trek was a particular piece of entertainment and business for Paramount. It would have been a tough sell. I don’t know who said no. Was it Rick? Was it Jeri Taylor? Did it go up to the studio? I don’t know. So Bryan may be right, that that is the way it happened.
I’m proud of the two-parter. Because Joe Menosky and I had been doing these two-parters and we thought, ‘Why not take it to the next level?’ A two-part episode of television was a big deal. What? A story over two episodes? Which today is almost antiquated. We wanted to take it a whole new level and do a season called “Year of Hell” and it is going to be the most challenging and absolutely crazy thing that Voyager has ever experienced. I am proud of that two-parter and even recently watched a little scene from it; the bit where Janeway is saying goodbye to a blind Tuvok before she goes down with the ship, and it’s very moving. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this show works, when it works.’
In your original vision, would the season have still ended with that reset? I know that is part of the conceit, but aren’t you also losing something?
Well, the reset, I totally get why a lot of fans didn’t like that. But it was part of the concept of the villain. That was Voyager’s goal. We are going to erase this year. It wasn’t me saying, “Well, we got to get the ship clean again.” It was built into the DNA of the concept that this is one year they would like to forget. So I thought it was cool. And I like the way it ends. And I like the Janeway sacrifices herself and goes down with the ship, which of course, couldn’t happen! There are extremes I could take this that I could not have if the time travel element wasn’t built into it.
Only six years later you and Rick essentially did a “Year of Hell” season on Star Trek: Enterprise [Season 3]. Had the landscape of television changed that radically in those years (including the premiere of 24), or could you have taken more risks with Voyager?
Well, first of all, I think we did take risks on Voyager. There are some really great episodes. There are some really powerful themes explored. I think bringing in Seven of Nine was a gamble. Personally, I think it paid off and helped the show and helped Janeway. I was always trying to do the best stories that we could. I was always pushing what the production of Star Trek could do, whether I was destroying the ship or putting the ship under ice and freezing the bridge. There’s some nutty stuff that was being done because I wanted to really push the boundaries of what was possible even just visually.
But 24 changed everything. 24 came out and it took hold and was a hit. It was brilliant. And when we started discussing [Enterprise] season three towards the end of season two, and the studio felt that we should shake things up a bit. Our original concept of the show was a little more daring. Having said that, I went back to this serialized storytelling concept. Let’s tell one story over the course of season three. And it was accepted. And I really do believe we have 24 to thank. Ironically, I would go on to write for 24. And I think it is some good Enterprise there in season three.
It’s true that a lot happened in those six years. Of course, 9/11 happened, which also changed the whole landscape.
Go back six years. I was thinking about Cosmos, which is airing right now, Tuesday nights at eight. I think when Cosmos came out six years ago, there weren’t these documentary series, really. Certainly not very many of them at all. Then Making a Murderer came along, then The Jinx, and others. And now it’s its own genre. And I just marveled at the domination of the streaming platforms and the proliferation of television over the past six years. It has been absolutely jaw-dropping. So a lot can change.
Have you heard that Robert Duncan McNeill wants to bring back an element of Voyager?
No. I hadn’t heard that.
Well if you hadn’t seen, CBS has a new series of short episodes set in Star Trek called Star Trek: Short Treks. Robbie has suggested doing some Captain Proton shorts in black and white with the whole Voyager cast. Your Orville colleague David Goodman is even interested in writing it, but nothing has been officially pitched yet, I don’t think.
I love it.
Goodman told me that as soon as he becomes a free agent, his first call would be to Alex Kurtzman and Secret Hideout to pitch that and other Star Trek ideas he has. With CBS creating so many Star Trek shows, and with Paramount pondering their next steps. Could you imagine a world where you returned to the franchise?
I’m trying to think about how many spaceships I’ve been on. Next Gen had two different Enterprises. I had Voyager, I had Archer’s Enterprise. The Ship of the Imagination [Cosmos], then the Orville. So six ships! I’ve been on the bridges and writing for six different ships. And I never get tired of it. I just love it. So I don’t have immediate plans to work on Star Trek. Nor do I know that anybody would want me to be on Star Trek, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. Absolutely not. But I don’t have immediate plans and I am busy with The Orville.
At CBS and Secret Hideout their approach is to put together different kinds of Trek shows with different styles and themes, not unlike how Disney is doing with Marvel and Star Wars TV shows for Disney+. So maybe if you had an idea for a Star Trek horror anthology type of show, maybe they would like that.
[Laughs] The dark side of Star Trek, I’d watch that.
Although they actually are developing a Section 31 show for Michelle Yeoh, which could be kind of dark.
I have always been attracted to reality-bending, and often scary science fiction. But what I haven’t been attracted to personally, is depicting Starfleet in a negative way. Because it was really important to Gene that the Federation be something that isn’t corruptible. It was founded as a democratic, multi-species body that stood for something. And I never felt we needed to do that. Having said all that, a Section 31 show is an intriguing idea, especially with Michelle Yeoh.
You did have some Section 31 in Enterprise, but I guess you weren’t showrunner anymore on Season 4.
Yeah, I wasn’t there. That wasn’t me. I’m not crapping on section 31 as a concept, I’m just saying it wasn’t my bag. That was on season 4, and that was Manny [Coto]’s season.
But I love what they’re doing with Star Trek. I think it’s fascinating. And I think it’s pretty obvious with Picard that the shows are going to be different. Picard is not on the bridge of a ship when we meet him. It’s different and more character-driven. I think it’s great. I think it’s fun.
Speaking of Picard, you mentioned how you created the character of Seven for Voyager and cast Jeri, who you were very close to. So, what is it like for you to see Jeri play Seven in this entirely different context?
Well, I haven’t seen all of Picard, but obviously, I was very curious. It’s thrilling to see a character live on and I’m really happy to see Jeri step back into the role. And it’s fun. And obviously, the character that they’re depicting is still very traumatized from her experience. I was thinking she doesn’t quite sound like Seven to me, but then again this is a character that’s been through a lot in the intervening years. There’s a bit of me that feels possessive. But at the end of the day, I’m really happy that her character continues, and people are interested in her. She is a great character, mainly because of Jeri. Jeri brought that one to life.
Braga’s Books of Blood on Hulu Today
Brannon Braga’s latest project is being the co-writer and director of the Hulu original horror film Books of Blood which arrived on October 7. Check out the trailer.
More Braga to come
Check back later this week for the rest of our exclusive interview with Brannon Braga, where we briefly discuss The Orville and Cosmos.
Check out more exclusive interviews at TrekMovie.com.