Monday, December 18, 2006

Star Trek: The Next Final Generation

"Space... Still the Final Frontier... These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise B. Its [sic]legacy: to keep on exploring new worlds, seeking out new lifeforms and new civilizations, boldly taking the name Enterprise where it's never gone before..."
WARNING: This post is about Star Trek. And it's quite long. Unless you like Star Trek, just move along. Nothing to see here. Read the one about Peanut Allergy. It's quite good.
Meet the magnificant Captain Marshall Oak.

Captain of the USS Enterprise-B (one of the ones captained between Kirk and Picard) and legendary space hero. Also, one of the most dedicated 'Trekkies' in the entire world.

Marshall Oak, you see, has taken over 200 Star Trek photos and edited himself into all of them. Uploading them onto Flickr, a photo posting site, the magnificent Captain Oak has laid out the story of his Starfleet 'career' from the days at Starfleet Academy to his legendary run behind the wheel (does it have a wheel?) of the Enterprise.

I was about to write: "Geeze, this guy needs a hobby," but are his stories about Captain Oak's epic adventures any different from me writing my Adventure Eddy stories?

Well, actually, yes. At least I invented Eddy and his adventures and the world he lives in. I didn't just take somebody else's inventions and insert 'myself' into them.

But this post isn't about mocking Captain Oak, bless his Starfleet Regulation socks. There are enough people doing that already on the internet. And Oak, to give him his credit, takes all the jibes on the chin. He's happy doing what he's doing and photoshopping yourself into Star Trek seems a much more constructive outlet for obsessive behaviour than, for example, murdering prostitutes in Ipswich.

What I wanted to post about was Star Trek - and Captain Oak is a great example of Star Trek's enduring popularity and loyal fanbase.

But at the moment, there are no Star Trek movies on the horizon. The TV series has been cancelled. Why do studios think that the Star Trek franchise is no longer bankable? I mean, people love the show. They're even making versions of it themselves and - bloody hell, some of them are pretty good.

The fact is, the Star Trek franchise was pretty much run into the ground by Paramount Studios and the last few installments have been terrible. Star Trek: Nemesis was the last movie and it was a real mess. Just utterly, utterly terrible and a box office bomb to boot. Then the series Enterprise appeared and the over complicated story arcs and utterly incompetent captain (who seemed responsible for putting his crew into danger each episode, instead of getting them out of it) was just painful to watch. Even the last episodes of the pretty good Voyager ended up being dumb.

It's almost inconceivable that Paramount could take a winning franchise with a 40 year heritage and totally screw it up - but they succeeded. And I think I know why.

Two types of people watch Star Trek.

First off, there are the fans. The people like Marshall Oak, who dream of being Starfleet Captains and who can obsessively quote the Warp Speed of each ship in the fleet.

Then there are the people like me, who like Star Trek and think it's pretty cool - but we're not obsessive about it. If I catch one of the old movies on TV, I'll probably watch it (I love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.) Most times, though, I can't be bothered to rewatch an episode of The Next Generation if it's on. But I did give Enterprise a fair crack of the whip and it was only when Captain Archer (Quantum Leap's Sam Beckett) repeatedly screwed up and got his crew into trouble AGAIN that I stopped watching.

In order to be a success, any new version of Star Trek has to appeal to the core group of obsessive fans and still be accessible to people who just 'stop in' like me.

And this is where Paramount have screwed up, time after time.

Enterprise is the best example of this. They decided to create a Star Trek series set before the days of Captain Kirk and co. Which wasn't really a smart thing to do. It meant they have four series of Star Trek to remain loyal to and anything that occured in the new series had to remain consistant with an established continuity. This put off casual fans like me, who felt that it was too much of an investment to get involed in. It also put off the Trekkies, who disliked the flagrant disregard for continuity (for example the Borg, first discovered by Captain Picard 200 years in the future, suddenly made an appearance to bouy up flagging ratings.)

Another thing that put off casual fans were the immense story arcs. Star Trek made itself popular by having self-contained 'episodes' which featured a beginning, middle and an end. You could sit down in front of the TV, having never seen an episode before, and enjoy watching Star Trek. With Enterprise, though, new alien races were introduced, plots were uncovered and the entire series slogged along like a space soap opera. Storylines took an entire series to wrap up, instead of just 45 minutes.

I sat down to watch the occasional episode of Enterprise and left wondering: "Who are these people? Who are THEY? What's going on?"

Then I'd turn over.

Finally, the thing that nobbled the Star Trek franchise was the drama.

Originally, Star Trek was envisiged as a 'Wagon Train to the Stars...' Gene Roddenberry pitched the show to the Network Execs like that because of the popularity of TV Westerns at that time.

Each episode of Star Trek was self-contained and involved the drama of saving lives, or saving the ship. The Captain had people he was responsible for and have to make tough choices in order to do what's best for them. It was a very human drama, based fundementally on the choices the characters make and what drives them to do what they do.

Star Trek: Enterprise revolved around saving the universe in what seemed like every single episode. Captain Archer, despite repeatedly proving that he wasn't responsible enough to command a fishing vessel, found himself being sent off to save the Federation every week and, you know what? The viewers just got desensitized to it all. We no longer cared...

Enterprise distanced us from the emotion and danger of space adventure. We no longer felt involved and that meant a lot of us no longer really cared about whether the crew would emerge victorious or not.

In the end, the Trekkies didn't like the fact that the canon they so loyally supported was mucked about with for the sake of flagging ratings - and the casual fans didn't like the fact that getting involved with the plot and characters was such an investment.

Where was the Saturday afternoon show that you could sit down, watch and enjoy? That's what the best Star Trek was and why it became so popular.

The production team lost focus and the viewers lost interest. And for that reason, a franchise that should promise slice after slice of fried gold has pretty much ended. There are apparently no plans to start another Star Trek series "for some years to come."

Which is a pity. The whole concept of Star Trek is exciting and promising. The people at Paramount should really get back down the basics and come up with a Star Trek series that delivers everything both Trekkies and casual fans want.

It can't be too tough, can it?

To answer that question, I'm going to invent a new Star Trek series that I feel contains all of the excitement and adventure required to make it a hit.

Star Trek: The Next Final Generation


This exciting new series would be set during the last few series of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This was when the Federation was at war with a dangerous new enemy, The Dominion, who had come through a wormhole and allied themselves with the militeristic Cardassians in an attempt to overrun the Galaxy.

It's perfect, really. The universe is at war. There is a firmly established enemy. Federation ships face danger and destruction every day. Additionally, the period is already familiar to most fans of Star Trek as it's the time of Captain Picard, Voyager and Deep Space Nine. It's immediately accessible to viewers whether they're Star Trek Fans of not.


The focus of almost all Star Trek series has been the ship. In my Star Trek series, there will be no exceptions. However, unlike in Star Trek (where the Enterprise is the flagship of the fleet) or Voyager (where the ship is the most advanced of it's kind) our ship will be a normal, basic Ship of the Line. An Excelsior class frigate called the U.S.S. New York.

Listen, it's my show. I can call the ship whatever the hell I want, okay?

I'm going to go a bit nerdish now, but this is all stuff I learnt from Wikipedia.

The Excelsior class ship was first introduced in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. One of the most reliable and servicable designs, many ships of this kind continued to serve in Starfleet up until the Dominion Wars, eighty years later.

I think it would appeal to viewers of the show because it's instantly familiar. They've seen them about before in various incarnations of Star Trek. The choice is also important to the appeal of the show because the ship is nothing special. It's an old clunky warhorse. There are going to be no Deus ex Machina solutions to problems in my show. None of the old: "Oh, look, the saucer comes off..." or "Oh, look, the ship's got a cloaking device..."


The crew are the most important elements of the Star Trek mythos. Instead of having the smartest, most unique crew members, though, my guys are going to be decent, hard working men and women from the Star Fleet.

Captain Marcus Gordon

A seasoned officer, who has served with Starfleet for over thirty years. Tough experience has given Gordon a gruff exterior, but he is a warm, compassionate captain dedicated to his ship and crew.

I picked actor Ron Glass to best portray our Captain. There's a warmth and charisma to the man that made him so good in Firefly. I think he'd come across as compassionate while also able to turn on that steely authority a captain would need.

Commander Lea Neale

Ambitious, focused and impatient, Lea Neale graduated top of her class from the academy and her Starfleet career has been a rapid scramble up the promotion ladder. One of the youngest First Officers in the Federation, Lea's professionalism and ability are offset by her arrogant personality and hunger for success, whatever the price. She's made quite a few enemies on her journey up the ranks and has few friends. She finds Captain Gordon frustrating to work with, as she considers him too slow and deliberate, whereas she is a woman of action. However, Gordon's seemingly limitless patience and friendship has won Lea's respect and loyalty.

For the role of Lea, I chose Smallville's Allison Mack, who could pull off unlikable and stern pretty well. I liked her because she's pretty, but not 'beautiful' especially compared to half of the skinny, exotic women on TV these days.

Lieutenant Commander Surek

Security officers tend to be aggressive, tough characters like Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation. And I don't know about you, but if I wanted a guy in charge of my security, I'd like him to be a poster child for calm. So since we need a token Vulcan on our crew (like Spock) I thought Security would be the best place for him. Unemotional. Methodical. Unimaginative. That's Surek. As a Vulcan, and therefore unable to express his emotions, he finds it difficult to interact with the other crew members.

I thought actor Rick Yune, last seen in Die Another Day, would be perfect for Surek. A tall, muscular Asian man, he's got the defined features and colouring of a Vulcan and the on-screen presence to pull off a security officer.

Ensign Tate Auric

Lieutenant Tate is a Bajoran - therefore her last name is her first name. If that makes any sense. She grew up during the Cardassian occupation of her homeworld and at 13 was flying shuttles for the resistance. She has a natural instinct for flying and therefore makes an able and talented Helm Officer.

Tate is highly emotional and impulsive. As a teenager, she was lucky enough to join Starfleet Academy, but her quick temper and idealistic nature almost got her expelled on several occasions. Due to her experiences growing up, which involved unspecified brutality during her days in the resistance, she has an understandable hatred of Cardassians and is enthusiastic to be fighting against them. Tate is naturally suspicious, but once she has befriended somebody, she is fiercely loyal.

Captain Gordon befriended Tate early in her career and has used his influence to get her out of trouble more than once. For this reason, Tate looks up to Gordon almost like the father she never had and her loyalty to him runs very deep - to the point that she'll confront anybody who criticises him. This has caused several uncomfortable incidents between her and Commander Neale.

For the character of Tate, I thought Hard Candy's Ellen Page would be a perfect choice. 18 years old, Ellen manages to combine elfin looks (which would be appropriate given Tate's hungry, tough childhood) with a fiery temper and strong resolve. She's also got the dark eyes and hair that seem to be a characteristic of Bajoran characters in Star Trek.

Doctor James Mgambi

An Kenyan in his thirties, Doctor Mgambi is a talented and dependable medical officer who graduated with distinction from Starfleet Academy. He served on the front line during the battle of Wolf 539 (a battle in which the Borg utterly devastated the Starfleet and wiped out hundreds of ships and thousands of officers.)

Patient, with an excellent bedside manner, Mgambi is empathic and sensitive. However, he is still dealing with post-traumatic stress from the battle of Wolf 539 and this has caused him some severe mental trauma. He finds it uncomfortable to get close to people and therefore is really only close to unemotional Surek.

I think British actor Colin Salmon (once tipped as the first 'black Bond') would be perfect to play Mgambi. Handsome, imposing and talented, Salmon would bring quite a bit of depth to the traumatised Doctor. I also like the idea of making him a real African (try out your accent skills, Colin) as there aren't too many characters like that at the moment.

Commander David Blake

David Blake is a human from an earth colony on a large planet orbiting Alpha Centuri. Like many of the colonists from this world, the high gravity has had the effect of encouraging a short, muscular build and as an eighth generation colonist, David is less than four feet tall.

David was accepted to Starfleet academy where he studied engineering, becoming an accomplished and talented engineer. He was the youngest Chief Engineer in Starfleet.

David has a bright, cheery personality and befriends people easily. Despite being only four feet tall, in the world of Star Trek he suffers no descrimination and is actually one of the most level and well adjusted members of the crew.

The idea of a four-feet tall Engineer came to me while I was looking for Welsh actors to play my engineer. I thought it worked out as quite a clever idea. After all, in the enlightened Star Trek Universe, there is no descrimination. So why not have a dashing British engineer who just happens to be four feet tall? Why should 'short' people only play Ewoks or comedy roles?

Which is why I thought Warwick Davies, who's played Ewoks, aliens and even Marvin the Android, would be perfect as David Blake. Warwick is a good looking, engaging guy with tons of charisma. I think he'd be an interesting character to ad to the mix.

So what happens?

Yay! Now I have the crewof the U.S.S. New York, who are serving in the front line during the Dominion War. Now, in order to make the series as accesible as possible, I want to make sure each episode is 'stand alone' and people who aren't fans can still sit down and watch an episode, out of sync, and enjoy it.

So here are some ideas for episodes.

Path of Least Resistance: The peaceful colony of Reo VI lies directly in the path of the advancing Cardassian fleet. The USS New York is assigned to make a much needed supplies drop before the Cardassians arrive. Away team member Ensign Tate is moved by the colonist's plight and wants to use her resistence experience to train them to defend themselves. Lieutenant Commander Surek coldly believes surrender will result in less bloodshed. With the enemy only hours away, what's best for the colonists?

Ships of the Line: Having stumbled over a hidden fleet of enemy ships, the USS New York and USS Somerset hide in a nearby nebula. However, the nebula is mined and the Somerset is severly damaged. Unable to call for distress or warn Starfleet while hidden, Captain Gordon faces the dilemma of abandoning the injured crew of the crippled Somerset, or allowing the enemy fleet to ambush Starfleet.

Price of Silence: Brutally ambushed, the fifth fleet limp away from their staging area. The USS Annapolis remains, crippled and powerless. The USS New York receives orders to return to the Annapolis minutes before the enemy fleet arrives. The USS Annapolis must be scuttled, to prevent the information stored on it's computers from falling into enemy hands. The dilemma? Over a hundred crew members still remain on the stranded ship.

Unforgiven: A high ranking Cardassian officer is going to defect and the USS New York is sent to recover him and the vital tactical information he's stolen . However, Ensign Tate discovers that the officer is the same man who brutally murdered her parents during the Cardassian Occupation - a man she's sworn to kill.

Pocket of Black: While on patrol, the USS New York runs into a Borg Sphere, powerless and drifting in space. While Lea Neale and Surek think it could be used as a brutal weapon against the dominion, Doctor Mgambi remembers his devestating experiences during the battle of Wolf 539. Activating the sphere soon treatens everybody on the ship.

Chain of Command: Stumbling over a crippled Federation ship, Captain Gordon and the away team try to rescue the survivors. However, an ambush by Dominion ships leaves them stranded and puts inexperienced Commander Lea Neale in charge of the New York. Clashing sharply with the more experienced, resentful crew, Lea struggles to rescue her captain and establish her authority as First Officer.

There we go... Easy as breakfast.

In the space of just a few minutes, I've created a sterling reinvention of the Star Trek mythos. Come on. Surely the highly paid Hollywood scriptwriters could match lil' ol' me. I don't even claim to be a Trekkie.

Viacom and Paramount take note. Star Trek lives on in the hearts of millions of fans. All you need to do is take the elements that made it so succesful and give them back to them.


Buzz said...


This is "Marshall Oak" or... the man behind the mask.

Thanks for your "reference" and your analisys about my old hobbie... It's been some time since I've done my "images" putting myself in the Star Trek Universe and all the rest. But sometimes (like now) I "search" about "references" to the name and found you.

I liked your words and you "creation" of a "new Trek series...

Old thoughts about old things... But thanks anyway... People usualy don't understand what I did... And what I did was just to please myself...

Today many people try to make "fan films" - and they are quite good! Since I could never do such a thing... I did what I did... photoshopping myself into the adventures, trying to create a whole new "universe" inserted in Star Trek. No bad to ANYONE came from what I did. And yet today I'm very satisfied with my pictures and the "story" I created just to satiisfy MY fantasy, MY dreams and to give wings to my creativity...

Well, thanks for everything and all my best.

Marcelo Carvalho
aka "Buzz Lancaster"
aka "Capt. Marshall Oak"

Roland Hulme said...

Hi Marcelo! I've got admit, I'm a little flattered to have you pop onto my blog. I hope you took my comments on the chin with your usual aplomb - I didn't mean any disrespect and did secretly think what you did was pretty cool and creative. It's no different to my little post, when you think about it.