On Sunday, the crowdfunding campaign for the documentary To The Journey: Looking Back at Star Trek: Voyager passed $1 million, triggering the inclusion of a “surprise” stretch goal. In his exclusive interview with the TrekMovie.com podcast All Access Star Trek, producer and co-director David Zappone dropped some hints about the surprise and offered a lot of new details on what to expect from the doc.
The surprise is new footage
With the crowdfunding campaign passing the $1 million goal with three days left to go, To The Journey has completed the 10th funding stretch goal, which calls for the inclusion of an “exclusive never-before-seen Voyager surprise.” David Zappone offered the TrekMovie.com podcasters some more detail on this surprise:
“We are planning on doing something never seen before. Something with the actors themselves is all I can say, but because of rights and negotiation, it is premature to get into it.”
When pressed on if this surprise will be something from the CBS archives, past footage that hasn’t been seen, or new footage they plan to shoot, Zappone confirmed it is “something new.”
Given that it’s new footage that requires negotiation over rights indicates this surprise would involve something with Star Trek: Voyager characters, whose rights are controlled by CBS. Like in any documentary, no permission is required to talk to actors about their work on a given show, but to have those actors portray their characters would require permission. There are many possibilities on what could be done with the characters, but they will be constrained by a very limited budget.
According to Zappone, the idea behind this new footage stemmed out of a challenge from Voyager showrunner Brannon Braga, who asked how they planned to “top” the DS9 season 8 writers’ room component of the DS9 documentary What We Left Behind. While not wanting to copy the DS9 doc by doing another writer’s room, the team still wanted to include something with the same kind of impact.
Interviewing everyone they can from cast and crew and studio
To the Journey started production during Star Trek: The Cruise in 2020, right before the pandemic kicked in. Since then, things have slowed down, but additional interviews have been conducted and more are planned. Zappone tells TrekMovie they will be doing all of their interviews in person. They have already confirmed interviews with the main cast members, with some already done. Zappone said he even wants to get an interview with Geneviève Bujold, who was originally cast as Captain Janeway but left the show during the shooting of the pilot episode, but they haven’t reached out yet.
The one cast member who may be difficult to include is Jennifer Lien, who left the show after the third season and has had some issues with mental health and run-ins with the law in recent years. But Zapponne remains hopeful:
“I wish she were [available]. We have not given up. There are some avenues. I feel she should be represented, because as a fan I thought she was terrific. We are going to do our best to find someone, if it is not her, who can maybe speak for her. But we are delving into her experience already with all the other interviews.”
The producer also said they are planning to reach out to many notable Voyager guest stars, including Michael McKean, Sarah Silverman, Joel Grey, Ed Begley Jr., and Jason Alexander.
Interviews with co-creators Rick Berman and Jeri Taylor are already being arranged. They are also expecting to include many of the writers; in addition to Braga, they have confirmed interviews with Ken Biller, Bryan Fuller, Andre Bormanis, and Lisa Klink.
They will also be speaking to a lot of the other people who worked on the show, including makeup designer Michael Westmore, visual effects supervisor Dan Curry, cinematographer Marvin Rush, and directors David Livingston and Jonathan West. Star Trek: Voyager composer Dennis McCarthy is on board to compose an original score for the doc, as he did with What We Left Behind.
To the Journey will also include discussions with people from the Paramount side. Zappone explains:
“This is the first Star Trek show that was on a network since the original. It was the flagship of UPN. Certainly, it was not the greatest relationship between the studio and the producers, so we want to delve into that.”
Exploring the “Janeway Effect”
The doc will also include interviews with notable Voyager fans. Currently on the list, a number of prominent political figures including Stacy Abrams, Pete Buttigieg, and Cory Booker. They will be speaking to a number of NASA scientists as well.
In his TrekMovie podcast interview, Zappone talked about the influence Voyager has had on a new generation of fans:
“Most of the fans I have spoken to are in their 20s and 30s, so they were really influenced by Kate and this whole ‘Scully Effect,’ which is this proliferation of women now in the sciences and medicine because of Dana Scully in The X-Files, and there is a similar ‘Janeway Effect.’ Her portrayal of Janeway as a leader and a scientist has influenced young women to go into those type of fields.”
Voyager is the first Star Trek series with a woman as co-creator, and that is one of the reasons Zappone notes the importance of including an interview with Jeri Taylor, adding “we need her voice.” In addition to bringing on a more diverse team to help produce the doc, Zappone vowed to ensure the documentary reflects the diversity of the Voyager cast, noting “diversity will come through the interviews themselves, it will be reflected.”
Breaking up talking heads with animation and Garrett’s set movies
With all those interviews, the documentary could end up being a bit dry with just a lot of footage of people talking, but Zappone says the team is “actively discussing ways to avoid talking heads.” One way to mix things up is to have interviews in interesting locations; for example, Kate Mulgrew was shot on the bridge of the cruise ship at Star Trek: The Cruise.
Another solution to the talking heads problem is the inclusion of rare behind-the-scenes footage. Zappone explains:
“Thanks to Garrett [Wang] he has old mini-DV tapes that he filmed behind the scenes on Voyager that have never been seen and we are getting access to all of that. I don’t think anybody has seen that kind of footage before.”
Zappone also confirmed they are looking at other ways to break up all the interview footage, like possibly adding animation as they did for their Star Trek: The Next Generation documentary Chaos on the Bridge:
“On Chaos on the Bridge, I said we need something here. It is nothing new, I was inspired at the time by things like the Robert Evans doc The Kid Stays in the Picture. There are creative ways to work with photos and drawings, so yes [animation] is very possible. There are just certain things when you are talking about something from 30 years ago, how do you cover it? So animation becomes an option.”
Not avoiding controversy
As noted above, the doc will deal with some of the more tense moments during the making of Voyager. In addition to covering Lien being replaced by Jeri Ryan and the struggles with UPN, Zappone said the team was committed to an honest portrayal, as they had done with the TNG doc:
“Are we going to cover warts and all on Voyager? The answer is yes. But I would argue like with Chaos on the Bridge, we cover the turmoil [on the first two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation], but ultimately it is a story of the success and the brilliance of the shift in that show in the third season and how it went on to greatness. But we will be very candid with Voyager.”
Planning theatrical event, hoping for Paramount+
As of now, the plan is to release the documentary in late 2022, with backers getting digital copies or Blu-rays. Backers can also buy tickets to premiere events in Los Angeles and New York. But Zappone is also hoping to replicate what they did with the DS9 documentary and do a theatrical release event with Fathom Events.
Zappone feels that To the Journey will have an even wider appeal to the general public than What We Left Behind and he still is holding out hope that it (and the other Trek docs made by 455 films) will find a streaming home with the rest of the Star Trek Universe:
“Absolutely it’s still possible. That’s the beauty of crowdfunding. Now we get the money to produce this film on our own and to bring it to CBS. So we don’t need a sale yet, but we will. That’s the way the system works is we raised enough through crowdfunding to at least get through to production, but then the licensing fees are enormous on these films, and that’s where you need to have the sale to cover all of that. But yes, the answer is it is absolutely still possible. And it’s still possible they can acquire all of the previous [Star Trek] docs, with the exception of [For the Love of Spock] they are all available. My hope is they all find their eventual home on Paramount+, because where better for them to be?”
The crowdfunding campaign wraps up at the end of March. To support To The Journey visit the Indigogo page.