ST:TNG Eric Stillwell Letters
My earliest screenwriting efforts came at the age of 16–17 when I wrote and submitted spec scripts to Star Trek: The Next Generation.
I told the story here. My scripts were all lame fan service that were rightfully rejected.
But wow, was I into this! It was right around the time when I was publishing the first newsletters that became Film Score Monthly (1990–91).
I didn’t even want to become a writer; I just wanted to write Star Trek, and become part of the Star Trek legend. I wanted it so bad!
I was at my mom’s house on vacation last month and found the correspondence from Eric A. Stillwell, who was the production associate at The Next Generation assigned to manage with what was, I’m sure, an avalanche of hopeless and useless submissions.
But still, they did this (under showrunner Michael Piller) because they occasionally found useful stories and writers who made valuable contributions (many of them, in fact).
Eric Stillwell was one of the contributing writers to the all-time classic episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” and had a lengthy history with the franchise. He is today happily retired in France (info per various places online).
Even though the form letter said not to call for a status on your submission—yep, I called! Maybe only once or twice, but, well, I couldn’t resist. And I remember talking to Eric who very politely (if somewhat wearily) asked me to please be patient and wait to be notified.
He must have been used to dealing with fans (and kid fans), and I’m sure he was annoyed, but he was considerate and polite.
Here’s the rejection letter I got for my first script:
Hmm, I remember it took six months to get an answer—I would go to the mailbox excited every day hoping for some magic letter accepting me to Star Trek!
But on this first one, it was only three or four months. And I remember the rejection letter had the somewhat battered (by then) physical script enclosed.
My script “Excelsior” was, in fact, some silly fan service about the U.S.S. Excelsior.
My second script was silly fan service that brought back both the parasites from “Conspiracy” and Dr. Pulaski. It was called...“Conspirators”!
I can’t remember how many I submitted. In time, they made a new rule—maximum two submissions. And that was that, for me.
I do remember that I had a list of ideas and that by the time I had moved onto other pursuits (like Film Score Monthly) I was actually coming up with useful concepts.
I specifically remember thinking of the idea that was made as the episode, “Ethics,” in which the mighty warrior Worf has to adjust to being paralyzed. When that one aired, I thought, hey, I was getting close! (I also found it to be a boring episode.)
Holy crap, I found the file on my computer! Evidently I wrote this premise as a letter to a pen-pal, or a friend, I have no idea...
This file was dated December 23, 1991. So let’s see, I was 17. Please keep that mind...
Story as yet untitled
While surveying an abandoned, centuries-old alien station on an archeological mission, Worf's legs are crushed underneath a blast door in a tunnel. Cut off from the Enterprise (with no known time-table for return), Dr. Crusher's only hope to save him from death when the entire tunnel collapses is to amputate his legs and try to regenerate the legs (through cloning or other means) when back on the Enterprise.
She amputates, though unfortunately Worf has been too traumatized for the cloning to work once he has been returned to the Entprise. Worf is left as an invalid, which is worse than any existence for a Klingon warrior. His angst is too strong to hide, and his blame falls noticably on Beverly for choosing not to let him die honorably (yes, Worf has mellowed in the past five years but he's still basically a mean person), as if Beverly is not too guilt-ridden about it all herself.
In the days that follow, Worf's requests for an honorable suicide are declined and he must cope, along with Beverly who is in it with him concerning the whole affair. Artificial bionic legs are discovered on the station on the planet, left by the mysterious inhabitants who once occupied the station and have since evolved. The legs prove to be technologically advanced enough to substitute for Worf's natural legs, and Worf begins life anew with the bionics.
Unfortunately, the planet's inhabitants show themselves... and ask for the legs back. The release of the legs, it seems, was a renegade act of compassion for Worf, who was an innocent victim on the aliens' centuries old base. Just as the Federation has a Prime Directive, so do the aliens, and they cannot release their technology for Worf's use, despite their misgivings. Picard--and the ever honorable Worf--have no choice but to go along.
Worf is left ready to hari-kari himself, an emotional sub-plot resolved when confronted by Beverly. If Worf cannot take vengeance on Beverly, who is in a definite way responsible for his maiming, how can he expect to fufill the absolutist ways of his people.
Picard convinces the aliens to use their advanced medical technology to clone Worf's legs, a procedure involving so much trust on the side of our characters that the aliens hadn't thought to offer it. It works, all is well, and everybody survives to a very happy Rick Berman conclusion.
* * *
Please have some compassion in that this is the first time I have laid fingers to keyboard concerning this story. I know some of it has overtones to "The Bonding"--don't worry, that will be fixed. This is as rough a draft as can be. I feel the concept is very sound--placing Worf in a very compromising position and seeing how he deals with it, and also seeing what kind of relationship develops between Beverly and Worf. I'll have fun writing it.
Well, so what do you think?
© Lukas Kendall 1991
That’s it from my files, verbatim—not my best work! Looks like I was mostly ripping off “The Bonding,” as I noted to my pen-pal.
I did find evidence I actually wrote a teleplay of this, or part of it, though I truly do not want to read it.
Good thing I put that copyright notice on the memo!
I hope you guys appreciate how I’m trusting you with this old drivel. And, at the same time, let me apologize for same.