Wednesday, November 02, 2005

by William S. Kowinski

Legacy (Part One)

Michael Piller was an important creative force in TV and movie storytelling of 24th century Star Trek, and in many ways he was a conscience of Star Trek after Gene Roddenberry’s death. Judging from the testimonials from people who knew him that are appearing on TrekWeb and elsewhere, he also had GR’s dedication to story and his affinity for people. Michael Piller seemed to have been a great student and a great teacher and mentor.

Certainly his remarkable innovation of an open door policy for scripts added energy and years of creativity to The Next Generation.

But in reviewing the richness in his commentaries and interviews I’ve sampled today, I wonder how much more there is that we can learn from him, and others. In a commentary for Star Trek: Insurrection, he mentioned compiling all the script versions of that film, intending to publish them. To my knowledge, he never did.

It is unlikely that such a volume would be published commercially today. Paramount and Simon & Schuster (Pocket Books) have determined that non-fiction Star Trek isn’t profitable. (I’ll have more to say about that in a different connection soon.) With the ten “special edition” DVDs of Star Trek features complete, and the DVDs of all the 23rd and 24th century Star Trek television episodes issued, Paramount is unlikely to release any more filmed or taped material relating to them.

So perhaps it is time for a different kind of memorial to Michael Piller and the growing number of creative contributors to Star Trek who have passed away.

I would like to see some kind of public archive created of all the Star Trek material that hasn’t been released, and will never be released commercially. There must be many hours of interviews with Piller and others, perhaps filmed for various DVDs but not included. And for example, the commentaries that William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy did for original series episodes when they premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel, some of which have never been seen or heard.

There must be volumes of scripts and other writings done by those associated creatively with Star Trek, that will never be commercially published. Not to mention drawings, models and so on, as well as deleted scenes, alternate takes on tape and film.

The Internet offers new possibilities for providing access to people around the world. Probably there is no money to be made in all this, but there should be a method of ensuring access to scholars and fans.

Star Trek made a number of institutions and people a lot of money, and it became important to people who have made fortunes in different fields. They might be willing and even eager to create a Star Trek endowment, and help fund a nonprofit Star Trek foundation;to talk about a Star Trek museum, a Star Trek library and on-line archives, either as an independent entity or affiliated with another institution, such as the Museum of Broadcasting.

Maybe it’s time to talk about Star Trek fellowships, for people with the skills, talent and interest to research and prepare appropriate packages of visual, audio and print material. And interviewers to capture more memories and contributions from remaining Star Trek creators.

Perhaps this is the discussion that should be happening as Star Trek approaches its 40th anniversary. For it’s clear that whatever Star Trek becomes in the future, its past is becoming a closed book.

This proposal I believe is in the spirit of Michael Piller. He is one of the Star Trek creators in whose memory this could be done. Star Trek has an important legacy, and it can be kept alive.

No comments: