Monday, February 7, 2011

Look who's 10 today! Our phoenix Voyager, "Prophecy"

When you've got 700+ hours of TV and 12 movies piled up from over 45+ years, the anniversaries can come at you thick and fast, and from any direction.

So I should hardly have been surprised at my own shock when I realized only a few days ago what was coming up in Trekland today, Feb. 7.

For it was on this date exactly 10 years ago—a Wednesday then, of course— that we rented a big-screen and hosted a view party for the first-air premiere of our Voyager episode "Prophecy."

Alas, I have no party pics from that night—but the story of "Prophecy" began long before that night, of course—and I mean long. Each of those 700+ hours of Trek in turn have their own tale of coming-to-be—some straight and  easy with one name attached, some over a twisted and agonizing path with more hands involved  than the WGA can ever know about.  Of course, many, many folks have actually sold a story idea to Trek over the years—and, unless they were a seasoned veteran or an on-the-cusp up-and-comer, they never got the script assignment. Most of you know I enjoy telling those "how-to" story tales—my TNG Companion and many, many hours of interviews and writing over the years attest to that.

But this time, it was personal.
Plenty of other stories and sellers, yes— but if nothing else, our story is in contention for the title of Longest Gestation—as we used to relate in detail to con fans and script students alike. Its official lifeterm runs from the time of our pitch to Jeri Taylor on Dec. 14, 1994, a month before Voyager even premiered, to the time when last-season show-runner Ken Biller pulled it out of the file six years and seven season later for a big, fat update. (That's Michale Piller's scrawled "OK" on Jeri's memo, right.)

What started out as our token, easy "Klingon B'Elanna" idea  about a generation ship of Klingons deep in the Delta Quadrant, back when all the characters were just babies and the format was in its infancy, was a surprising sell when all our more elaborate ideas went nowhere. First story meeting, though, Michael Piller wants to change our cheap, shipbound "bottle show" idea into an elaborate, planet-bound adventures where we see these Kirk-era Klingons actually subjugate another colony world (even with subtitles for the poor natives' dialogue, with a newly created language).

But by the time of THAT story rewrite, there had been Romulans and Ferengi and one "split B'Elanna" story—and any further Alpha Quadrant aliens like Klingons were pushed back a year to give the Delta Quadrant denizens some room... and then it became two years. And then came Worf and the Klinogns to DS9... another year held back. By then I knew: we'd been paid, but the character were fast maturing, and we'd never see the show on our TV screens. It did indeed sit on the pile another three years—until Ken cleaned out the dead pile for Season 7. Or rather, asked me if I had my original notes on it, since nothing could be found in the Paramount archives. (I swear I saw that box next to the Arc of the Covenant crate...) Of course, by then B'Elanna had been wedded up with Paris over Chakotay and found herself with child—so our tale needed serious updating...and two more pairs of names on the credits. Still, the generational Klingon ship crew and B'Elanna as a focal point was at the core—and the Voyager writing staff was good enough to keep us in the credits.

Finally, we were thrilled that the old custom of a set visit for first-time sellers was revived for us. I'd had my share of on-set onlooking for research, of course, and Janet had previously been right there with the writers in the Hart Building—though they rarely could or would get a hall pass to go over to the sets. This time, though, it was not just any show, it was our show—with six years' worth of updating, of course—and that was a thrill to be another member in that club of famous names and one-hit wonders alike.  Can you spot who signed our script cover (right) that day—Nov. 15, 2000, the eighth and last day of the shoot, ?

There's plenty more tales to tell about the whole process and the rest of the shoot; you'll have to ask us next time we cross paths at a con, or I decide to take my "Star Trek: Between the Cracks" show into our own slant on the world of "Prophecy." But the irony, of course, is that a big, expensive Klingon bridge set and funeral that was supposed to open the show all got cut for time—meaning you never saw this solemn moment, or the Klingon skyward howl of warning to Sto'Vo'Kor that was included:

We went on to pitch many times over the years, and still regret that some of the stories—especially on DS9— never got bought and produced. But "Prophecy"—aka "Reflections," aka "Untitled Klingon Story" ... aka "Now THAT would made B'Elanna really kick-ass in Season 1, if she has to choose whether to shoot either Chakotay or her Klingon lover" ....that will always be ours. Aboard the good ship IKV Nemecek.*

*Sorry. You'll just have to hunt me down and ask for THAT story, too.


Dimitris said...

Congrats to the Nemeceks!
A great episode, greatly written by you guys! :)

Nan | WrathOfMom said...

That was a great episode -- I love it more knowing the back story.

Dave said...

I love Prophecy, it was one of my favourite things from 2001.

Dave Wrote This