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STAR TREK: Ronald D. Moore, Part VII
In our final installment, the writer-producer discusses the future of TREK.
By Anna L. Kaplan
February 02, 2000
'Tell me why there are no gay characters in STAR TREK,' says Ron Moore. 'This is one of those uncomfortable questions I hate getting when I was working on the show, because there is no good answer for it. There is no answer for it other than people in charge don't want gay characters in STAR TREK, period. This stuff about, 'How would you know? Maybe there are lots of people walking through those corridors that are actually gay. What would you have us do? Show them holding hands? That would be ridiculous. Our regulars don't hold hands,' which its own kind of a sad commentary on the state of human relations, that they can't even hold hands. Just think about what it would say to have a gay Starfleet captain. It would mean something in STAR TREK. It would mean something in science fiction. It would mean something in television. Why isn't STAR TREK leading the way anymore, in the social, political front? Gene always said, whether this is true or not, that he saw STAR TREK as a way to explore social issues, without the networks catching on. Because it was all couched in space aliens, and ray guns, and space opera type stuff, it gave him a chance to explore these other issues.'
Ron Moore does not believe that STAR TREK is dead. He asks, 'What's the worst that could happen to it? In some ways, the worst would be the best. It would just get taken off the air, and they won't make movies for a long time. They won't do anything for a long time. But it will definitely come back. I mean, we are kidding ourselves if we really think that Paramount is every going to stick it in a dustbin some place and never open up that can. They are going to mine it forever. It's Paramount's baby. It's their property to do with, as they will. I know for a fact that the high level executives at Paramount, right up to the high level executives at Viacom, regard STAR TREK as one of the crown jewels of the entire company. They have said they want this to go for another thirty or forty years. They want STAR TREK around, which is marked contrast to the way Paramount was in the '70s when they just couldn't be bothered, and never saw the potential of STAR TREK, no matter what the fans said. Now, all they see is potential. They are always going to own it. Let's say the next movie comes out and it's a colossal flop, and the next series doesn't make it out of year one, which is unimaginable. That is truly the Titanic situation. Okay, Paramount cuts their losses and fires everybody. They clean out the soundstages; they give up the production offices, and they sit on it for ten years. Then some executive will come in, and say, 'We still own the rights to that STAR TREK franchise. Let's get that going again.' They'll bring in some people, and they will start it all up again, because that is the nature of a studio. It's a given that it is going to keep coming back.
'Time away can really only help. It's becoming irrelevant. It's not part of the national conversation anymore. It's not cropping up in jokes on LETTERMAN. It's not part of pop culture in the way that it really was dominating pop culture for awhile. It should permeate the national consciousness if it's really working, if it's hitting on all cylinders. It's not. It's like, VOYAGER, so what? That's the attitude. The next movie is going to be a big 'so what' unless they can really deliver something that is different. The reviewers that begin their reviews with, 'Pretty to look at, but just another episode up on the big screen,' is death. That is just writing the epitaph of the movie. They wrote that on INSURRECTION, and some of them even wrote it on FIRST CONTACT. There is nowhere to go from that, because people can see it on television all they want.'
Moore also wonders why Paramount doesn't make better use of its TREK collection of movies. He says, 'I've never quite understood why they don't exploit their library of STAR TREK better. They have yet to release any of the movies with commentary tracks, or deleted footage, or behind the scenes stuff like everybody else is. You would think they would be on a big project, licking their chops, and going, 'Look at all this stuff we have in the archives.' On STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE alone there's God knows how many hours of footage that was never seen by the public. Robert Wise is still alive, and he should do a commentary track on the film. Right now DVD is still a niche market that's going to break out, but it's going to break out. You have one of the richest franchises in history; you've got this fanatical following that will buy almost anything and loves the behind the scenes stuff. Put out GENERATIONS on laser disc and don't even show the sequences that we cut? Put them on. People want to see them. I'm not saying, re-cut the film. Just stick it at the end. You let the audience watch the deleted scenes, and yeah they'll probably go, 'I see why they cut them, but it was interesting. It was kind of fun to watch that. I would pay extra to see that. It's just kind of basic business sense.'
Rick Berman has said repeatedly that the audience should not see the cut scenes from his movies. Explains Moore, 'On something like that, it's pretty much his say, because he was the producer of those movies. If he doesn't want to go there, they are not going to shove that down his throat. But as far as the older movies, we are [still] really close to the 20th anniversary of THE MOTION PICTURE. They could have done something. You don't have to re-release it in theaters. Why couldn't you issue a collector's DVD edition of THE MOTION PICTURE with tons of other doodads and charge people for it? They'd lap it up; people would just grab it. Wise could talk about it. I'm sure Nimoy would be happy to talk about the films he directed, and Shatner, God knows, loves to talk.'
Speaking of the originals, Kirk and Spock, Moore notes, 'I know there's this whole school of thought [that] they should bring back Kirk; they should bring back the original series characters and do them in another movie. I don't think you can bring back the original series characters unless you are going to recast them. Can you really imagine doing another series, calling it STAR TREK, and doing the adventures of Kirk, Spock and McCoy with other actors? Not really. If you want to recast the original series and do STAR TREK, put Kirk back on the Enterprise and he's young and studly and there is Spock, and McCoy. You redo the uniforms and make them more hip, but begin with the five-year mission. That would be a kick. It would be a kick, but can you honestly recast William Shatner? I think people would burn the studio down and probably rightly so. If you are not going to do that, you are just indulging in nostalgia. It's strictly nostalgia to bring those actors and put them in the uniforms and send them through their paces one more time. It's just nostalgia, people trying to recapture something.'
Moore laughs, 'The only way you can do it is if you let go of those actors. You really say, 'Take a deep breath. We are going to revisit the old show, but we are going to do it with a whole new cast, and we are going to try it all again.' It's sort of like Bond: Roger Moore is gone; Sean Connery is gone; this is Bond and you just accept it. But I just can't see that working. I just can't.'
Wouldn't Shatner and Nimoy pitch a fit? Says Moore, 'Oh my God, I just can't even imagine. They would have, like, one shot of each of them shaking their heads: 'I can't believe they are doing this.' It would just be this media thing, and the fans would picket, and it would be a nightmare. Majel [Roddenberry] would lead that charge, too. I don't think you can go there now, because now you are just too far down the line. You could do it thirty years from now, when they are all dead, when people are really looking and saying, 'Wouldn't it be really great to do an old series. Now we could recast it.' You could try it in twenty, thirty years, because then they would kind of become Sherlock Holmes and Batman and Superman and all the rest that aren't tied to just one actor.'
Moore reveals his true roots as a fan, talking about casting rumors in the past. He recalls, 'They did talk about that back in the '70s. There was a brief blip whereand it probably was never true, but there was a rumor I rememberwhere they were going to cast Robert Redford, and I want to say Paul Newman, as Kirk and Spock. It was a big rumor in the mid-'70s that they would recast the roles with them and do it as a movie. It probably had no basis in reality. But people were just foaming at the mouth in fan circles. It was just madness, madness! 'YOU CAN'T DO THAT!' If they had done that, everything would have been different. It might have worked, but we'll never know.'
At this point, Moore is enjoying life at home with his wife and baby, fielding offers and working on his own projects. He just finished writing a script for GvsE, and says, 'I've signed up as an executive consultant on the cable show GvsE for the second half of their season. It's a wacky little show that's going to be migrating from USA to Sci-Fi Channel in March. It's a fairly limited gig, mostly giving notes, helping them to break stories, that sort of thing. There's something about it that I like.'
He adds, 'It's been nice that people have called and offered me projects, and have said surprising things, [like] 'I've followed your work for years'from people that I have never met, that are in the business. It just flummoxes me. I just don't even understand that there are people who even know who I am outside the Hart Building [at Paramount]. I always felt like I was writing the show for me and my buddies and my friends, and that it was our little thing. I am always surprised that people know who I am. I was just a writer on a TV show, and STAR TREK is just this different kind of an animal where people actually know who the writers are, which is shocking. It has been gratifying and nice that people did watch the show, and did like the work I did.'
Moore has been following the Internet chatter about this series of interviews. In answer to the question, 'Why have you spoken out and why now?' he says, 'At first, I was very reluctant to talk about any of this. Like I said in my farewell posting, I felt like my personal trek had come to an end and it was time to move on. But I had this nagging sense of unfinished business that kept gnawing at me, and so after several months went by I decided to give my opinion on the current state of the TREK. I've spent a great deal of my life thinking about this odd little franchise in one way or another, first as a fan and then as a writer-producer, and it's hard to watch it go in a direction that I believe is fundamentally flawed without saying something. I'm sure some people will think I'm just out to grind an axe or to exact my revenge. If they want to believe that, fine. But I happen to think that there's virtue in speaking honestly and critically about STAR TREK if it's going to continue to surviveor at least if it's going to survive in a form that's thought-provoking and meaningful. I love STAR TREK. And to coin a phrase, I want it to 'live long and prosper.' All I ask is that it tries harder to live up to its own reputation for quality drama and storytelling.'