Stranger things have happened, but not many.
When you’ve spent a few years trying to get published, you get used to being shot down. Odds are good that just about everything you write will be rejected, so after a while you come to a crossroads. Your choices are pretty simple. You can a) feel sorry for yourself, much to the consternation of family and friends who can’t imagine why you torture yourself this way, or b) develop an attitude. Most of the time, Plan A seems like just the ticket. You get to drink yourself silly, and if you play your cards right you might get a grace period of sympathy before it’s back to the drawing board. Plan B, however, has its own advantages, and won’t send you off to drive the white bus, wondering why you just threw up a cocktail napkin.
Because Plan B can be summed up thusly: “Hey, I can do that.”
Which is how I ended up in Hollywood pitching stories to a certain television show. Back when The Next Generation was burning up TV screens, I thought it might be a hoot to write my own script. Of course I had no idea what I was doing (I’d never even read a TV script before), so I started up straightaway. The result was a special effects extravaganza that stood absolutely no chance of selling to the show, but I didn’t really care. I had no plans to send it in anyway, and mostly used it as an exercise to study the form and format of scripting.
A few months go by, and a friend sends me some pages from the magazine Cinefantastique. The article was all about some unknown writer named Ron Moore, who pitched a speculative script called “The Defector” to Star Trek. Not only did it sell, it landed him a job on the show! Star Trek, you see, had an open submissions policy. Anybody could send in a script, even if you didn’t have an agent. All you needed to do was sign a release, include a SASE, and you were on your way.
Figuring I could be the next young prodigy, I decided to give it a try. I did two scripts–one an action thriller, the other a character driven piece that was easier on the effects budget. The first one was rejected in short order, which didn’t come as much of a surprise; the second one, however, actually got me a call back. The producers weren’t buying my script, but they liked my take on the characters enough to think I might have some potential. They invited me to pitch more stories, an offer I eagerly accepted after my heart started beating again.
I flew out to L.A. a couple of weeks later to make the pitch in person, figuring the overwhelming power of my personality would be enough to close the deal. Boy, was I wrong. Two minutes into the story meeting, I suffered what could be called a minor anxiety attack–palpitations, dry mouth and a sudden urge to flee the scene as fast as I could. The producers were kind enough to get me a glass of water (apparently there was no scotch in the office), and I managed to calm myself down. I showed them a couple of scripts I had already completed, plus some story outlines that I thought were pretty good, which seemed to impress them. “What do you do in your spare time?” one of the producers laughed. I was off to a roaring start.
Discussion ensued. A few traded whispers, a couple nodding heads, then the guy in charge looked at me like I was a wino asking him for pocket change. “That’s interesting,” he sniffed. “But do you have anything else you can show us?”
He might as well have said, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
I left the studio wounded, but much the wiser. Over the next year I made a few more pitches, one of which generated some mild interest but not much more. Official policy was to give a writer only two chances to make a sale, but for some reason I was into my fourth pitch session before they decided to cut me off. It was for the best, in any case. I liked the stories I had written, but it was pretty clear that Star Trek and I were not an ideal mix.
Even so, the experience was a real adventure. And these scripts are sort of its legacy–not to mention a curious look at what might have been…
SWORDS AND KNIVES (PDF Format)
Every Trekker has an idea for a Borg story, and this one was mine. If the title sounds familiar, you’re probably a Tears for Fears fan (it’s taken from a track on the superlative Seeds of Love album). A Romulan incursion across the Neutral Zone coincides with an Borg attack on their home world, forcing a hasty alliance between our pointy-eared friends and the Federation. Throw a new super-starship into the mix, and you’re set for the mother of all showdowns. Lots of space battles, cool weapons and Riker taking his own command–all before “The Best of Both Worlds” was a glint in anyone’s eye. I never submitted this to the show, but it was a big hit with my buddies in college.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS (PDF Format)
Another title cribbed from The Seeds of Love. Interplanetary terrorists use an old Klingon battle cruiser to stage an attack on Starfleet Headquarters during a parade of ancient spaceships, and its up to Bruce Willis–er, Will Riker–to stop them. More action, more adventure, and an even smaller chance of ever getting produced. Interestingly enough, the show did do its own riff on Die Hard a couple of years later with the episode “Starship Mine.” Perhaps my story was just ahead of its time? Yeah, keep telling yourself that. A rousing little thriller nonetheless.
HALLOWED GROUND (PDF Format)
The one that got me in trouble. I took this title from Jude Cole’s A View From 3rd Street (could there be a musical theme here?), and did it as a counterpoint to “Famous Last Words.” Where that was all blood and guts, this was pure character drama–and a shameless attempt to pander to the producers. I must’ve done something right, because they liked it enough to call me back. The Enterprise returns to the planet where Jack Crusher was killed, and turns up evidence that his death might not be what it seemed. Solid parts for Beverly and Wesley (both of whom I thought were sadly misused on the show), and an interesting play on their relationship with Captain Picard. Sure wish this one could’ve aired, but it was not meant to be.
ECHO IN THE DARK (PDF Format)
Sound familiar? I used this as the basis for my one and only Deep Space Nine novel, because I liked the premise so much. Straight up horror this time, as the Enterprise picks up an ancient evil that invades the ship’s computer system. Murder and mayhem ensue. Creepy and atmospheric, this was one of the scripts I brought with me when I met the show’s producers. Not a bad effort, all things considered, and very budget conscious as all the action took place on board. No sale, though.
COWBOYS AND ANGELS (PDF Format)
Surely the only Trek story ever to be named after a George Michael song. What can I say? My sister had Listen Without Prejudice and this one stuck in my head for some reason. A pure holodeck fantasy, “Cowboys” cast Picard & Co. as gangsters in a 1930s era juke joint, with Data as the godfather Papa Roselli. I thought it was a cool way to play with character relationships in an allegorical way, especially the romantic tension between the captain and Beverly Crusher. A bit over the top, but decidedly fun. Better than “Man Hunt” in any case.
Author holds the copyright on all works. All scripts are registered with the Writers Guild of America West. Any attempt to reproduce these materials without the author’s permission would be kinda stupid since the show hasn’t been on the air for a while, and will earn the wrath of agents, lawyers, accountants and the boogeyman, and probably start a Senate filibuster.