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Pitching Enterprise

Yesterday I talked about my early attempts writing Star Trek: The Next Generation spec scripts circa 1991, when I was 16–17.

I went to college from 1992–96, then moved to Los Angeles in 1996 and did Film Score Monthly full time, expanding the magazine and starting our CD label.

I also started to write again—thanks to Star Trek.

Fred Dekker, who I knew socially from Shane Black’s house (I’ll tell the story of “Shane’s house” some other time), was hired on the first season writing staff of Enterprise (circa 2001), and said, sure, I could come in and pitch some episodes.

I wrote an Enterprise spec called “Resting Place,” where some red-shirt dies on a perilous spacewalk mission. The rest of the episode is the crew trying to get the body back for the family, before they finally decide, let’s just leave it—he wanted to explore, so he’ll forever be exploring.

A flawed idea, of course, and I’m sure not very well executed, but Fred kindly went through it and gave me some notes about what would be changed if it were a real episode. (I seem to remember I had T’Pol speak formally, without contractions, and Fred noted all the places where she’d actually use a contraction.)

A nice guy, that Fred Dekker!—as anybody who has met him on the convention circuit knows (he did the 1980s horror classics Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad).

So Fred had me in to pitch—I think I saw him and Andre Bormanis at the Star Trek production offices on the Paramount lot. I remember Andre lying on the couch, exhausted. They were cool and told me the coolest guy was…Jonathan Frakes, who had been in the office for some reason or another.

I brought in a few story ideas to pitch, but only in very broad strokes. I had dinner with Mark Altman in Culver City shortly beforehand, at a Thai place on Venice Blvd. (how do I remember this?), because Mark had an office near mine and we often saw each other socially, although usually for lunch. I told Mark what I had worked up—it was pretty vague—and he said in mild horror, “That’s all you’re going in with?”

So I thought, oops, I better go back and flesh these out. Which I tried to do. I was totally green, and it seemed beyond my capacity, but I gave it my best shot.

All I remember is that one of my pitches, my favorite, had to do with a Vulcan villain, which I thought was a cool idea: a guy who was totally logical, but self-absorbed, an absolute sociopath. Like a Bond villain.

Why did they never do something like that? Sounds like a great character to me. You can explore the idea of what makes goodness—logic or emotion?

I didn’t have any great hope of selling anything. They had told me that because the show was new, the showrunner, Brannon Braga, was being very hands-on and the staff’s own ideas were bottlenecking with him.

It was, in general, a difficult time to pitch anything to Star Trek: after several hundred episodes of the various series, the staff had heard just about everything under the sun and had a reason to say “no” to things that had already been produced, or rejected for one reason or another.

Andre Bormanis stayed with Enterprise for all four seasons, and today works on The Orville, so I guess he digs space. Fred left Enterprise after the first season.

I’m glad that I had this opportunity, and even though it was 20 years ago, I remember my excitement at being invited onto the Paramount lot. As I was parking, I saw Connor Trineer (Trip) walk to the commissary for lunch wearing half of his costume, and thought—this is where they make Star Trek! If only my 16-year-old self could see me now....

Some years later, I was on a flight to the Las Vegas Star Trek convention, and it was Southwest (open seating), so I sat next to Connor and his buddy Dominic Keating, and enjoyed talking to them.

Also around this time (1998–2002), I had a friend in a development deal with Paramount, Robert Nathan, and I often visited his office—which was in the Dreier building, right outside the Star Trek stages.

So I would walk to see Robert and pass various Star Trek cast members and their trailers. I’ll write about that some other time, but for now, I vividly remember walking past Jolene Blalock’s trailer, and glancing inside the open door—it was dark inside, and all I saw were a figure in a robe, Vulcan ears, and the burning tip of a cigarette.

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