REEL TALK: STAR TREK: FEDERATION: BRYAN SINGER &.... me?

14.5.11 , Posted by Geoff Thorne at 12:07



Okay.

Over the last few weeks there's been a tiny stir about the so-called "Bryan Singer Pitch," some years ago, for a possible new Star Trek series. Setting aside the various opinions about the relative quality of the idea itself– some like it and some don't, just like anything– I'd like to get some things straight.

1) Bryan Singer did not write this pitch. Nor did Bryan Fuller. Nor did Chris McQuarrie. Nor did Robert Burnett.

2) FEDERATION was not based on any prior works of scifi, nor influenced by even one novel written by any scifi luminary, much less a series of them.

3) FEDERATION was not influenced by other/prior pitches for new series or new animated series or Star Trek novels or Star Trek comics.

How do I know? Because...

1) Star Trek: FEDERATION was written, from the ground up, in its entirety by yours truly. Yes. 100%

2) I did not base it upon any prior works. It was not influenced in even the slightest way by any military scifi or other TV series either in pitch form or what might have been on the air at the time. it came, entirely, out of my head and my love of the Star Trek franchise.

Here is what actually happened.

I met Robert Burnett some years ago at a comic book shop we both frequent. I had just come off an unpleasant freelancer pitch to, I think, STAR TREK: VOYAGER, the TV series and was bitching about it to a friend of mine. I said something to the effect of "I don't know why some writers are bastards when they see another writer. Everyone started out as a freelancer. They have to know how it is."

"I'm a writer," said this guy I didn't know but had seen around."I don't think I'm a bastard."


The guy was Rob Burnett and, to make very long story short, we hit it off. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that Burnett is in serious contention to be Star Trek Fan #1. Look him up.

Anyway, we got to talking and, in relatively short order, he agreed to publish my comic book mini series, THE RED LINE that year. Things didn't work out with the comic book but we remained somewhat in each other's orbits and, a few months later, he emails me, asking be to drop by the office for a "serious talk." What the hell, right? I went.

When I get there, Rob lays out this wild conversation he's had a few nights before with Bryan Singer, Bryan Fuller and Chris McQuarrie who are, apparently, good friends of his. Pretty amazing to me, a massive USUAL SUSPECTS fan.





Awesome for Rob, I suppose, but what does it have to do with me?

Well, it turns out the other three guys are big Star Trek fans, Fuller having actually written for the franchise and Singer wanting to, possibly, take s stab at taking it over. At that time ENTERPRISE had either fizzled out or was in the process of and the various parties were already circling the property with a mind to taking over. The big front-runners, at least as the rumor media reported it, were Singer and Abrams.

So the Big Guys wanted to throw in something great but none of them had the time to actually do it. All they could agree on was the title: FEDERATION. They were all engaged in big projects at the time and literally couldn't peel off enough brainspace to dig on on Star Trek, as much as they might wish to. So Rob suggested bringing in a contractor, yours truly.

"That all sounds great," I said. "But what's in it for me?"

I was a freelancer at the time with no big credits to my name and I wasn't looking forward to doing a bunch of work without some sort of payment. As much as I love STAR TREK and the work of these guys, they weren't MY friends and I saw no good reason to just do them this little favor for free.

"You'll be on staff, instantly, if the series goes," says Rob. "And you get to make up anything you want."

"Anything?" I said.

"Anything," he said. Rob had told them about me, about the way I think about the Trek Universe and how I'd always said I'd approach the series, given any sort of a shot at it. "The only rules are "Make it interesting. Make it relevant. Shake things up. Make it Star Trek."

That was good enough for me. Awesome. I got to work and, about a week later, had what is now called The Singer Pitch for STAR TREK: FEDERATION.



I never met the Bryans or Chris. No one ever modified or gave me a note on my work outside of Rob himself who only insisted that our new captain be named Kirk (I was against that but I caved) and that our intelligent ship's computer not be called M.A.J.E.L. (he caved on that.).

The awesome Michael Okuda had been brought in to do the designs and update the tech.



We exchanged a couple of emails, very generic stuff. And then it was done.

It was a great pitch. I'm sorry, but it was. AWESOME. I'm extremely proud of it and, had things gone the way everyone wanted, I would have been absolutely thrilled to take the promised staff job and let the others take full credit for the work. But, as we know, the pitch did not happen. Mr Abrams is driving now and all the Big Guns have moved on to other things.

So I don't think there's a problem laying out the actual facts here.

It was fun. I think it would have made for a compelling TV series that would have pleased not only Star Trek fans but the massive non-Trekkie audience which was my primary goal with the thing.

Anyway. That's it. That's what actually happened. Anything you read anywhere else that doesn't line up with this is not accurate.

Thanks for the use of the hall.

Currently have 20 comments:

  1. J.R. LeMar says:

    Dude! Please allow me to humbly kiss your ass for a little bit:

    I just saw this pitch on another site a couple of weeks ago, and was planning to ask you about it next time I got on Facebook (been purposely staying off it for awhile), since I saw your name attached to it. When I saw your name, I instantly noticed a few things that I assumed you were responsible for (not realizing you did the whole thing), namely characters like Sergai Kenyatta and Doctor Chen. This was one thing ST was never as accurate @ portraying, that I knew you'd be aware of, namely: ethnic diversity among humans. Although, even then, you probably didn't go far enough. Whites are the minority on Earth in 2011, by the time they get to the 23rd and 24th century, Starfleet should be dominated by Asians & Hispanics, and by the time they get to the 30th century there probably wouldn't be any Whites (@ least no "pure" ones) left. The only sci-fi entity that I thought really got it right was the remake of The Time Machine, where the guy went thousands of years into the future and all the regular humans who were left looked like descendants of Tiger Woods. But, obviously, I'm sure a Star Trek show with a completely non-White cast wouldn't ever get picked. But, still, it was a good start, and I'm sure you would have had some homosexuals characters in the show, as well.

    But, really, I agree, it was AWESOME. That is EXACTLY the kind of show I was hoping for after TNG ended. I remember when Enterprise was announced, I immediately thought that was a mistake, I didn't want to look back, I thought they should do a show set another 100 years after TNG (although 1000 years is even better).
    And the way you layed it all out, with the future status of the Federation, the Klingons, Vulcans, Ferengie, etc. was brilliant. I would have been hooked on this series.

    Now, a few MINOR little things that I would have changed: The new villains, "The Scourge." The name is a little too cliche, you might as well call them "The Bad Guys," so I would have come up with something else. And the lead character, Alexander Kirk. That seems like it's trying a little too hard to tie it in to previous Trek's, with a new "Captain Kirk" (whether he's actually related to James T Kirk or not) that's the kind of thing I'm surprised that they didn't do with TNG, but instead they went with a character who was completely different from Kirk, so I would suggest doing the same thing here. The only way it might work, is if you did it in a way that could be inferred, but wasn't obvious. The failed movie pitch for "Star Trek: The Beginning" had the lead character be an ancestor of Jim Kirk, named "Tiberius Chase". I always liked the sound of that name, so you could have used that for the lead character.

    But, other than those minor quibbles, I loved it. I really wish you could have done it. I loved the Star Trek movie reboot (despite my initial reluctance of going backwards, but since this was a reboot, it's also new), but I do miss having Trek on TV. And a show like yours seems perfect, since it's so far ahead of current timeline, it wouldn't interfere with it. TNG was on TV while they were still filming movies based on TOS, so they can do both @ once. But, oh well.

    Now I think you should rework it a little, to remove the Trek references, and write it as your own book series that you can control.

  1. Geoff Thorne says:

    Looking at it now, I'd say there are a few things I'd change and calling the villains THE SCOURGE is one of them. All pitch documents are is a "best guess" query. People far above my pay grade would have modified the HELL out of it by the time it got to filming, if things had gone that far.

    As for cannibalizing it, well, yes, I've started. there are stories in two anthologies, out right now, that take place in what would have been this universe.

    TRUTH METRIC in the SPACE GRUNTS antho and THANKS TO CAPTAIN GO in the WORDS 2 MUSIC antho.

  1. J.R. LeMar says:

    Looking over the blog again, I seemed to have missed the part where you said you didn't want to use the name Kirk, but the other guy insisted. I had just ordered 5 of your ebooks on Amazon (Kindle = Best Invention of the 21st Century) an hour ago. I'm going to look for those two anthologies now.

  1. Anonymous says:

    What is the big idea of having gay characters? WHO in the hell wants to see this? No one does except the usual gay loving agenda people. They attitude is that everything made now should incorporate gay people. It doesn't. So they can kindly phuck off.

    A new series would of been good. Having Abrams do that last mess he calls a "Trek" film was a horrible idea. So many plot holes and it just was nothing short of Star Wars Episode whatever.

    Another stupid Trek film that has gone backwards is nothing to look forward too. It is just goes to show you that Hollywood is out of ideas.

  1. Geoff Thorne says:

    Here's the "big idea" of having gay characters: Gay people exist. They make up a significant percentage of the human population and they are, traditionally, greeted with attitudes like yours through no fault of their own. Attitudes like yours lead to mistreatment, discrimination and, sometimes, violence and murder.

    If you take a look at the picture of me at the top of this page, you'll see why something like that might seem familiar, why that sort of bigotry might, y'know, bug someone like me.

    Just as other minorities have been negatively treated by the majority population over the years the LBGT community has gotten the very short, unpleasant end of the stick for, what is it, centuries now? Enough. It's enough, already.

    There is no "agenda" at work here except a desire that a group of people not be treated poorly because of what they are.

    I have known gay people all my life; I have gay family members and, for a show as progressive as Star Trek has always been, it's obscene that not ONE gay character has shown up in modern Star Trek.

    As for the Abrams film, I loved it. Some, a VERY small number of people, don't. That's life. But Star Trek is not a church. It's fiction. Not everyone likes every story. No need to get upset or cruel about it.

    If you don't like it, don't watch it.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Thorne,
    too bad they never went for your pitch. I miss Star Trek. Enterprise sucked except it started getting better in its final two years. Never did like Voyager with a few two-parters as notable exceptions.

    I'm not going to have decent sci-fi on TV soon. Stargate Universe was axed, which while no classic, and not as good as SG-1, was dark dramatic TV. I enjoy Fringe IMMENSELY but I don't predict it lasting to season 5.

    I wish there was a new Trek on the air somewhere, probably SyFy, though most of their programs now are stupid or lightweight fluff.

    and Amen on your promotion of gay characters, though in recent shows I do feel they've been shoehorned in in an unnatural way. For example, asking some man "Hey your HUSBAND knows somebody who can..." and it's totally out of place. It must be hard to write proper recognition without dipping into making it too obvious

  1. Geoff Thorne says:

    I think the way to create diversity in a TV show is simply to show the world as it actually is.

    I also miss Star Trek on TV. it was born there and, frankly, that's where I think it's best. And I was sad to see STARGATE finally go as well. Those guys had a really long run and some of their seasons were really stellar.

    And I miss Firefly. I think, if it was starting now, it would find a nice home on SYFY. FOX was never the right place for it. Ah well. The wheel turns. We still have SANCTUARY.

  1. Manchops says:

    I'll say this: FIREFLY was the worst thing to happen to scifi fandom in many years. Saw your pitch, felt it was a FIREFLY clone, so I'm kinda/sorta glad nothing ever came of it. Could see that you had put in some serious thought to the subject and I can appreciate that like anyone else can, so kudos to you for the contribution. I, too, miss Trek on the small screen, and I think it'll get back there someday ... I just don't want anything that even remotely resembles ENTERPRISE ever again.

  1. Geoff Thorne says:

    Well, you "felt" wrong. There was nothing, not one tiny bit of FIREFLY in the FEDERATION pitch. I wouldn't "clone" anyone else's work and never have.

    FIREFLY was great but it was in its own little niche. I make up my own stuff, thanks.

  1. J.R. LeMar says:

    I never watched Firefly, though I've meant to check out the DVD's. I should get around to that, to see for myself. And, I agree, although I loved most of the movies (including the Abrams film), I think Star Trek works best on TV.

    BTW I just recieved my copy of SPACE GRUNTS (had to order in print since they're not available on the Kindle yet), I'm @ work so I've only been able to skim through it a bit. Looks like my kinda thing, so I just ordered Space Sirens and Space Horrors too. And hopefully my copy of Words to Music, which I'd already ordered, should arrive soon.

  1. J.R. LeMar says:

    Just finished Captain Go. Man, this is some good stuff. The best thing is that even though I know the concept was based on your ST pitch, this didn't feel like an ST story with a few details changed. Both in this and Truth Metric it felt like a brand new original concept. You did a good job of filing off the serial number, so to speak. The only thing I could guess was from the ST pitch is that I assume the "Mercanti" are what "The Scourge" would have been? That's a pretty frightening enemy.

    And in the course of these two short stories, it felt like it was part of much larger universe. I know you're busy with your TV stuff, but if you ever get around to writing a full novel in that world, you can count me in for a copy.

    And I ordered the Firefly series on DVD. Got a 3-day weekend coming up, so I'll watch it then.

  1. Geoff Thorne says:

    Thanks for that. Yes, you can consider the Earth vs Mercanti conflict very very similar to the Federation adversary. I may write a novel or two in this universe.

    One of the things I did remove was teleportation a la the transporter in Star Trek. No jaunt belts either. and the "aliens" in this story are really just modified humans, engineered to better fit the worlds they/we colonize. The fist REAL aliens humanity has met (aside from animals and flora of other worlds) are the Mercanti.

    And what they ultimately are hasn't even been hinted at. I've got another story in the works for a new anthology that will take us back to the story of the APEX trying to get home. Not for the faint of heart.

    Do me a favor– and this is for anyone who's buying my books or books I've contributed to on AMAZON or SMASHWORDS- please leave stars and comments behind. The way the micro presses rise is via word of mouth but, if people don't leave their comments and stars behind, there's no word to spread.

  1. J.R. LeMar says:

    When I finish the entirety of each anthology I'll post some reviews on Amazon (I figure I should review the other writers, too). But I'll try to get a specific Stories Of Geoff Thorne review on my blog sometime next week, where I'll cover these two short stories plus Dreamnasium.

  1. Geoff Thorne says:

    can't ask for more than that. thanks. you don't have to be nice but always be fair.

  1. Anonymous says:

    "I did not base it upon any prior works. It was not influenced in even the slightest way by any military scifi or other TV series either in pitch form or what might have been on the air at the time. it came, entirely, out of my head and my love of the Star Trek franchise." Are you sure? Almost the whole thing sounds kike a mash-up of everything that's been done in the last few years. Anyone that respects Star Trek would follow Gene's idea of a bright future, not this morose depressing future that modern writers are intent to perpetuate.

  1. Geoff Thorne says:

    LOL.

    Well, I'm sure enough to sign my own name to it instead of being "anonymous."

    What you, and a lot of Trekkies, frankly, fail to understand is that STAR TREK is not a church and it was not ever meant to be anything more than a thin veil over Gene's desire to grapple with social issues of his day and to tell a few great scifi adventure yarns

    Since you're not me, and don't know me, you have no ability to question my motives or anything I say vi a vis what I would have put into FEDERATION, given the chance.

    You've basically just called me a liar and don't have the balls to sign your name to it.

    It was not a "mashup" of anything. It would not have been depressing and dark. It would also not have been about navel-gazing and reinforcing "fan" comfort zones by simply regurgitating the Trek tropes hey find familiar and safe. I don't care how long you've followed the franchise. YOU were never the target of this pitch. The mass audience was, just as it was when Gene did the original series.

    Start Trek was never about itself. Whenever it became about itself it sucked. Whenever it's about filling in story gaps or serving some stupid notion a bunch of "fans" have about who should marry whom, blah blah blah, it becomes pat, pedantic, boring.

    Whenever Star Trek is about that, it sucks. Star Trek, GENE's Star Trek GOOD Star Trek, is about us. The viewers. And not just the ones who call themselves Trekkies.

    I printed your mealy-mouthed post because it's the sort of thing a lot of "fans" might say and, frankly, it shows a complete lack of understanding both of what I was attempting to do and what Gene was attempting to do.

    Next time, grow a pair and sign your name to it.

  1. J.R. LeMar says:

    I definitely agree that one of the problems with the Star Trek franchise had is its tendency to constantly look inward, in which the stories of Star Trek started to be primarily *about* Star Trek, instead of about the world today, in allegory, as the original TV show was. This has been reflected in some of the hardcore fans, similarly to many of the fans of Marvel and DC comics seem to be mostly interested in decades-long continuity @ the expense of moving forward with the characters. I’ve seen some of this attitude in the online responses to your Federation pitch. I’d see people complaining that the new Captain can’t be “Kirk” because James T. Kirk had no surviving children, which assumes that he was the very last man with that last name, which is ridiculous (plus, your pitch never specifies that he was a direct descendant of Jim Kirk anyway). Or someone else said they liked the idea, but that it should either be earlier or later than the 30th Century, because we already saw some 30th Century characters appearing in “Enterprise”, ignoring that those character were time travelers, and therefore may have been from an alternate timeline anyway. And a few other little things like that. Instead of the primary focus being on telling good new stories, they just want to make sure that every single thing connects to what came before.



    This is why I think JJ Abrams made the right approach, with the reboot, because in order to survive it HAD to be accessible to casual Star Trek fans, and even non-Star Trek fans, not just the hardcore Trekkies. And I think your pitch also worked well in that regard, by jumping so far ahead in the future, it’s able to stand on its own, without the need for any direct knowledge of earlier Trek stories, that newer fans could have jumped on. I think it still could work now, because it wouldn’t contradict anything established by the new movie timeline.

    I also think one of the things that helps make Star Trek special is that it's an optimistic future, as opposed to the various dark futures that we see in some other fiction. But I think your pitch still fits that criteria, as the quest to recapture the old spirit of the Federation, with this newly commission Enterprise, is a hopeful mission. So that works for me.

  1. J.R. LeMar says:

    It’s also interesting to see some of the accusations of copying other sources. I hadn’t seen any of Firefly when this first posted, but now I’ve seen the whole season plus the movie, and I don’t see any similarity between it and Federation. Now, if I were to compare it to any pre-existing show, it would be Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. The idea of a Captain of a legendary starship trying to rebuild the “Commonwealth” in the far future could be seen as a similar idea to a new Enterprise trying to revitalize the Federation. That’s not to say that I think you got that idea from Andromeda, it just points to the fact that sometimes different people can come up with similar ideas independently. And “ideas” are a dime a dozen anyway, it’s what you do with them that counts. Zorro and Batman (& The Shadow and dozen other characters I could name) are technically the same idea, wealthy playboy by day/masked vigilante by night, but it’s the execution that makes them unique.



    I’ve been working, off and on, on my own potential sci-fi book series for months. Geoff, I know you saw the album I posted on Facebook of the crew of the “Apollo 1300”, which is some of the concept art I’ve commissioned of my characters (who are mostly Asian, for reasons which I explained in my very first comment above – and maybe half of the crew will be gay or bisexual). While working on my stories I also have been doing research on other sci-fi series, in order to see how others handle various themes, and sometimes I find out that something I was thinking of has already been done. Sometimes that means I scrap it, or I just try to rework it a bit. A couple of little plot points I had in mind turned out to have already been done in Asimov’s Foundation series (which I never read) and the Halo video game (which I’ve never played). And, for the record, one I idea I had from the very beginning was that my crew-members would be wearing special suits that are made of computerized cloth with microscopic nanites woven into them. These suits offer protection by reading and responding to the wearers body. For example, if it gets cold, the suits keeps them warm, if it gets hot, it cools them down. The suits repel water and keep them dry if they’re out in the rain. And so on. It also reacts to their threat levels. If it notices their hearts beating faster, the suit will switch from being soft like cloth, to becoming hard like steel, to protect them from physical harm. Now, when I read “Truth Metric” I couldn’t help but notice your descriptions of the BIORB suits that the Apex crew wears is kind of similar to my idea. So all I can say that I hope you’ll take my word for it that I’m not ripping that idea off from you. Shoot, if anything, I’m ripping it off from Marvel’s “unstable molecule” superhero costumes, I think that’s where it first occurred to me.

  1. Geoff Thorne says:

    don't be silly. while i don't borrow or steal stories and concepts from other people, no matter what you do there will be some overlap of concept when dealing with similar scifi situations.

    vampires drink blood. Aliens have different cultures from the ones we know. Clones don't behave exactly the way their originals do, etc. Nobody owns these concepts; they're just crayons in the box.

    there are only a few solutions to problems that space suits solve so, you know, do your thing.

  1. J.R. LeMar says:

    Right now my biggest hang-up is that I can't decide whether I want to have humans interacting with different alien civilizations, or to just have it be about several different human governments who have spread out among the galaxy and are in conflict with each other. I'm leaning towards aliens (I've already got 6 species mapped out), but I go go back and forth on it. There's pros and cons to each. One thing I always noticed about Star Trek (& Legion of SuperHeroes and other sci-fi franchises) is that, by sheer coincidence, humans and all the other alien civilizations always seem to be @ the same technological level of development. Y'know, everyone has the same types of starships, with the same "warp speeds" and shields, and weapons, etc. I'd assume that civilizations that started earlier should be farther ahead than others, while the newer ones are farther behind. I figure that I can get around having to explain that if I just have it as they're all humans from Earth who spread out in different directions of the galaxy @ the same time, and then continued to develop mostly along the same pace, with some a little ahead of the others (such as nations on Earth are today).

    But then again, I really do like playing with aliens.