Monday, May 09, 2005

Fame (II): The ever-gracious Lynn at Reflections in d minor said some very nice things while linking to some of the stuff I've posted about Star Trek (Or as Orson Scott Card calls it, Wagon Train Among The Cheap Interplanetary Sets). She posts some of her own ideas about the future of the series and sci-fi in general, and Firefly comes up again.

Card's written a lot about Trek (More than just what's in that little article), and I think he inadvertently came up with the best idea for a Trek series I've ever heard in his book How To Write Science Fiction And Fantasy.

These excerpts are from a section of his book about how to pick a main character. Under a section headed, "Who has the power and freedom to act?" he points out:

The original series creator wanted characters with the power to make decisions, and centered on the captain and executive officer of a military starship. Unfortunately, however, as anyone who knows anything about the military will tell you, the commanders of ships and armies don't have many interesting adventures. They're almost always at headquarters, making the big decisions and sending out the orders to the people who do the physically dangerous work.

In other words, the lives of commanders (and kings) are generally above the most interesting action. The really neat stuff is going to be happening to the people on the cutting edge--frontline troops, scouts, the people who get beamed down to the planet's surface to find out what's going on. It would be insane for the commander of a ship or any of the highest officers to leave their posts and do common reconnaissance. In any real starfleet there would be teams of trained explorers, diplomats, and scientists ready to venture forth at the commander's orders. If Star Trek had been about one such team, the stories would have been inherently more plausible--and there would have been room for tension between the ship's officers and the exploration teams, a rich vein of story possibilities that was virtually untapped.

Instead, Star Trek centered around the characters with the highest prestige who, in a realistic world, would have had the least freedom. But since commanding officers who behaved like commanding officers would make for boring television, the writers simply allowed the characters to go exploring, constantly leaving their duties on the starship as they merrily went about getting kidnapped, lost, beaten up, or whatever the plot of the week required. Any captain of a ship or commander of an army who behaved like Captain Kirk would be stripped of command for life. But the series would not have worked otherwise.

At this point, you might be saying to yourself, "I should be so lucky as to make mistakes like Star Trek--I could use a few bestsellers." But the point I'm making is that Star Trek could not possibly have succeeded if the captain had actually behaved like a captain. Centering the series around a commanding officer was such a bad mistake that the show immediately corrected for it by never, even for one moment, having Kirk behave like a captain.

Aside from the digs at the show, I think the answer the producers are looking for is Star Trek: Away Team. A series about a team of explorers on a ship who are often at odds with their supervisors and each other. Instead of episodic plotlines, the series should grow and progress in a JJ Abrams kind of way, with team members leaving or dying on occasion and greater mysteries being unveiled over the course of the show. Episodes could have the mystery of a CSI or a Cold Case, the political maneuvering of a Law & Order or a West Wing, and the tense action of a 24.

It sounds like a show I'd watch.

No comments: