David Gerrold, a Hugo award winning novelist and writer for Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, recently took the time to give us an interview. In this interview, Mr. Gerrold shares his thoughts on bringing back Kirk, and the Star Trek franchise.
You can visit Mr. Gerrold's website at www.Gerrold.com, and be sure to visit his blog here!
Thank you once again for taking the time to answer the questions of fans from the Bring Back Kirk campaign. One of the greatest aspects of the original series is the respect and appreciation those responsible have for the fans, and the willingness to interact. That said, let’s begin.
1. What are some of your current projects? Do you have any books or film projects coming out?
Benbella Books has published a special edition of THE MAN WHO FOLDED HIMSELF, they’ve just republished the first two Star Wolf novels, THE VOYAGE OF THE STAR WOLF, THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, and a brand new Star Wolf novel in January, BLOOD AND FIRE, based on my unproduced Star Trek script. I’m working hard to finish the fifth book in The War Against The Chtorr, A METHOD FOR MADNESS, and I have a couple of surprises in store too. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction has a new novella called DANCER IN THE DARK, coming in their April 2004 issue. The best way to keep up is check my website, www.gerrold.com.
2. What do you think of the current state of the Trek franchise, including "Enterprise," and the franchise's future?-- Bruce Kanin
There are some very good folks working on Trek, Herman Zimmerman, Mike Okuda, Chris Black, and others; but I have concerns that some of the decision-making processes at the very highest levels do not reflect the original spirit of Star Trek. As I’ve said elsewhere, the original mission is to "seek out new life, new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before." That’s what inspires the audience, that’s why they fell in love with Trek in the first place — the remarkable discoveries. The original Trek was a visual extrapolation of the classic science fiction genre. The current Trek too often satisfies itself with eye-candy while forgetting the much more profound obligation to stretch the boundaries of imagination.
3. What was your reaction to Kirk's death in Generations and the fans backlash towards Star Trek because of it?—Matt in Rochester Hills, MI
That was the last Star Trek movie I saw.
4. Given the emotional outcry from the fans over Kirk’s death, the demand for his return which sparked the Bring Back Kirk campaign, the high sales of THE RETURN, by William Shatner, and Mr. Shatner’s willingness to return to the role of James T. Kirk, how do you feel about the return of the character?
I’d be first in line to watch any new film or episode that brought back Kirk. To me, Star Trek at its best has always been about the choices confronting Kirk — whether to act on logic or emotion, whether to be thoughtful and restrained or decisive and aggressive. Watching Kirk work his way through a problem is the joy of Trek, because it shows that humanity at its best is a problem-solving species; and Kirk as a role-model is the best one Trek ever offered. Let me also add that William Shatner is the hardest-working of all the Trek alumni. He’s a good man and he doesn’t deserve the bashing and the ridicule that some very ignorant people have heaped on him over the years. (Okay, yes, there’s that album, but other than that….) It’s time to give Shatner a break, because in the early years, his hard work was a large part of what made Star Trek work.
5. TParrent asked several questions for you:
a) If you were to bring Kirk back, how would you do so?
b) In what time period - the 22nd, 23rd, or 24th centuries, or elsewhen?
c) Kirk vs. Chtorr: does Kirk wind up an appetizer?
If I were to bring back Kirk, I’d yank him in out of an alternate timeline in which TNG and everything afterward just didn’t happen. The TNG and post-TNG universes are so screwed up they need someone to help straighten things out. So they grab Admiral Kirk out of retirement from a parallel universe. I’d reunite him with any of the original actors who still wanted to play, but my first choice of course would be Spock. George, Walter, and Nichelle would probably love to come back too. But my primary focus would be to have Admiral Kirk and Admiral Spock training a new generation of Starfleet officers on a revamped Enterprise. A much smaller crew, because you no longer need a flying city. No families. For storytelling purposes, those folks are in the way — they are too conveniently hostages. We need a ship that is staffed by folks willing to give their lives for the mission, if that’s what the mission requires. The new crew would be the Mission Team, Kirk and Spock would be the advisors with age and experience. I would still want to see Kirk in action situations, but not hand-to-hand combat. And I wouldn’t put the burden of the action on him, because that’s unrealistic. That’s what the Mission Team is for. I would assemble different Mission Teams for different missions, and they wouldn’t all be wearing red shirts with bulls-eyes on the back. This would let us use guest stars as crew members.
6. How did you feel when they decided to go back to your episode in the DS9 tribute 30 years later? And what were your feelings when you saw the episode?—Lois Bateman
I thought the "Trials and Tribble-ations" episode of DS9 was one of the best TV scripts I’d ever read, and when the episode was filmed, it was one of the best episodes of any series I’ve ever seen. I was enormously flattered. I thought they did a brilliant job.
7. What would you say was the difference between Gene Roddenberry's attitude toward the viewing audience back in the 60's; and Paramount's attitude now? Do you think their audience expectations affect the stories they are telling, for better or for worse?—David Liddle
Back in the 60’s, Star Trek wasn’t a hit series. It was a mid-level series that did not pull a strong rating; its survival was always in doubt. (This was before anyone had done a demographic study, showing that Trek was the most demographically intense way of reaching the target audience of 18-35 males — and many females — of any show on TV.) We knew that, so we were doing Star Trek for ourselves. We were taking chances, not because we had an eye on the ratings, but because we wanted to see how far we could push the envelope. That’s why a lot of stories were written by SF writers like Harlan Ellison, Norman Spinrad, Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson, and others. Because the attitude was to do REAL science fiction. In the 80’s, the attitude was "don’t hire SF writers, they think they know more about our series than we do." (Well, yes, we do.) The attitude in the 80’s was that Star Trek was now a proven cash cow. It was the "franchise." So the pressure from the studio was not to rock the boat, not to do anything that would endanger the franchise. This meant you couldn’t push the envelope. This meant doing stories that pretended to be issue stories — they could acknowledge that an issue existed, but they couldn’t make a statement about it.
8. The people behind Enterprise are pleased to announce they are making occasional episodes in the spirit of the original series, commenting on social issues, and following with Gene's parallel earth development theory. But to Star Trek fans, this is not what we loved about TOS; it's just something the writers of the time used very well. What we loved were the characters. Why do you think there appears to be resistance to bringing them in the current shows? Do you think it's an age thing, or maybe more to do with ego?—Samantha Chatham
This is a great question, but unfortunately, I’m not a mind-reader. I couldn’t possibly guess what anyone at the studio is thinking. Regarding social issues — I think that the willingness to address an issue is only part of what makes a great story; the other part is watching a thoughtful, committed hero confront the problems raised by that issue; we want to see how our role-model can look at all the sides of a problem and understand it. And ultimately, we want that role-model to take a stand. Taking a stand is what makes a person unique and distinct. It’s what gives a character personality. To my mind, the original characters defined the personality of Star Trek as a series. They had a genuine affection for each other and we saw how they worked together as a team. Not to take away anything from any of the subsequent shows, but I don’t think any of them have ever had characters who reached that same level of affection in the audience’s hearts. I think a large part of it is the writing.
9. To a lot of fans, Captain Kirk is a hero. Not an action hero; but a man of wisdom, intelligence, compassion and tactical genius. What does the character mean to you, and is it possible to be fond of characters you write for in the same depth as the affection the fans feel?—Moses C. Saunders
To me, Kirk represents the essential human being. At his core, he has the best of all of us, and a little bit of the worst as well. I think that’s why we can all identify with him so profoundly, why we love him. He’s us. As for the affection of the author — not to take anything away from the fans, but in my experience, I think that the writers love the characters even more — because we live with them for days and weeks at a time while we’re writing scripts or novels. We get to know them in ways that aren’t immediately apparent to the viewer. I might not write the scene where Kirk confesses his impatience and frustration with this, that, or the other; but in my head, I become intimate enough with his thoughts that I am very much aware of his impatience and frustration. Here’s something to look at. In my Star Wolf novels, Jonathan Thomas Korie (note the initials) is a spiritual inheritor of Kirk’s tradition. He’s a little more introverted, and has a little more self-doubt than Kirk demonstrates, but he’s a different form of Kirk. If you read the novels, you can see that I’ve had a lot of fun getting into his head and watching him grapple with the details of his challenges. Although Kirk has usually been portrayed as much more of an action hero, in point of fact, I like him more when he gets thoughtful.
10. How would you feel if Paramount decided to rewrite Kirk's 5 year mission, and recast the characters much in the way they are doing with Battlestar Galactica?—Willie Davis
Since Gene Roddenberry and Gene L. Coon are both gone, there are only two (still living) writers on the planet who have proven that they understand the original vision of the original series. The other one is Dorothy Fontana. Without someone on board who remembers the spirit of the original series, it will be like every other remake — an attempt to cash in on a name, without recapturing the vision. I haven’t seen very many sequels or remakes that are equal to, let alone better than the original. (Godfather II and Aliens are the only ones I can think of. No, The Empire Stirkes Back is not as good as Star Wars; it has serious structural problems. While Princess Leia and Han Solo are having their problems in a matter of hours, Luke is apparently on Dagobah for several weeks…?)
11. What would you say to the people who say that William Shatner is too old to return as Kirk? Does age matter? And do you think those people who expect him to be leading fist-fights, don't get the essence of the character? –D. Croutch
What would I say to folks who think that William Shatner is too old? "Thpffft." As long as Shatner can get out of bed (or into it, for that matter), he’ll always be Captain Kirk. Give me a break.
12. A few years ago there was a list of reasons to Bring Back Kirk. One of them went like this: In Star Trek 3 the crew risked everything to bring Spock back: with Kirk losing his ship, his rank, and his son. Kirk dies twice, and Spock doesn't even do a tricorder reading of the nexus. If you were asked to bring Kirk back, would you seek to address this sloppy discrepency in the Spock/Kirk relationship?—Matthew Scott
Yes. I’d have the writer of that particular exercise shoved out the airlock. Oh, wait….never mind.
13. On the Voyager Home commentary Nimoy and Shatner both voiced their disappointment that Paramount didn't exploit the original cast with more feature films. If Paramount would hand over to you the responsibility of bringing these guys back, what format would you do it in ie guest stars on Enterprise, TV movies or a feature film?—Cheryl Ford
The first thing I would do is take Shatner and Nimoy out to dinner and ask them what THEY want to do. They’re not cattle. They’re talented men who have lived more than half their lives carrying the mantle of their characters. They are entitled to a voice. Regardless of the format, however, I think the story would have to be about two old friends coming together to deal with a new challenge. And it would have to be a challenge of enormous importance. The story I would tell would be the story of these two great leaders training a new generation of officers.
Again, many thanks to Mr. Gerrold for his time!