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Star Trek: Voyager Writer and Co-Producer Bryan Fuller
Discussing Life After Trek
By Anna L. Kaplan
March 01, 2001
Bryan Fuller, now co-producer in his fourth season on the writing staff of Star Trek: Voyager
, is thinking about life after Trek. In the meantime, he discusses the seventh season of Voyager.
Fuller co-wrote the script with Kenneth Biller for 'Workforce Part One,' which aired February 21st, and co-wrote the story for 'Workforce Part Two,' airing February 28th. As originally envisioned, the crew and ship would have faced an even more devastating calamity. Fuller explains, ''Workforce' is a little different then the story that I pitched. I wanted the teaser, and the first act or maybe the first two acts to play out as Titanic. Voyager is going down, and as system after system is failing them the crew is scrambling to get into escape pods. We realize that this is it for Voyager.'
Fuller continues, 'The reason that the ship was having all its systems fail was that the warp core went offline. We had to eject the warp core. It exploded, created a shock wave. The ship was hit. There were microfractures all over the hull. The ship was uninhabitable because of antimatter radiation, and people had to abandon ship. They realized after they were in the escape pods, that there were microfractures in all of the escape pods and the atmosphere was being vented. They were doomed there as well. Everybody in the escape pods die. Of course we have a few characters off on an away mission, who can ultimately save us. After Chakotay [Robert Beltran] and Kim [Garrett Wang] and Neelix [Ethan Phillips] return from their away mission, they find the ship, the Doctor [Robert Picardo] on board, and they find the escape pods. As they realize that everyone is dead, in come the Kobali, from 'Ashes to Ashes.' They propagate their species by harvesting the dead of other races.
'So they come in and they are picking off the Voyager crew. Chakotay is helpless to stop them. What we realize is that the crew are now going to be turned into Kobali on this other planet. They are integrated into families, and situations where they are more like amnesia victims who are given new memories, new identities, and put into places in that culture. It's up to Chakotay to infiltrate the Kobali culture and get the crew out, and reverse the process that the Kobali use to transform other species into their species. So we would follow Janeway [Kate Mulgrew] as she is a wife and mother, and her family, as she slowly is getting attached to this new role. Paris [Robert Duncan McNeill] is someone's brother. Torres [Roxann Dawson] is a young mother. Kim's argument is to let them stay on this Kobali planet and have their lives, because they all have these new lives that they didn't have before. Instead of searching for a home, they'll have a home. Now that Voyager, without a warp core, stands little chance of getting back to Earth, they might as well let the crew be happy in the lives that they have now. Chakotay says that he wants his crew back, and he's going to get them back come hell or high water. There were all sorts of different kinds of tensions between the characters and levels to the story. The story as we filmed it was much simpler.'
Why did the story get changed? Laughs Fuller, 'Basically we were told that it was tasteless to kill the crew. I thought, 'Is it tasteless or is it fascinating? What is the audience going to do at the end of Act One when the entire crew has been killed?' We had to tone in down considerably. Instead of the Kobali, we had a race that abducts people and brainwashes them and puts them in factories to work as a labor force - basically the same story, considerably different execution.'
Still present in the two-parter is a romance between Janeway and a real person, Jaffen, played by James Read. Says Fuller, 'It's a sweet little story for her. She gets to explore this life that she never would have as a Starfleet captain. She gets to have a romance. She basically gets to be one of the guys, as opposed to the leader. She doesn't have the weight of responsibility on her shoulders, so she can explore relationships with people that she works with.'
Earlier in the season, Fuller worked on the two part 'Flesh and Blood.' Janeway gave the Hirogen holodeck technology at the end of the fourth season, two-part 'The Killing Game,' and they pushed the technology too far. Says Fuller, 'Jack Monaco came in last season and pitched a story that was a sequel to 'The Killing Game.' It was an interesting concept where the Hirogen had continued to expand the parameters of their holodeck technology to the point that their holograms were more than just photons and forcefields, as the Doctor would say. They rebelled against their repressors. Jack came in and pitched a story that was basically that, very clean, clear, simple concept. We took that and spun it into more of an epic story that had to do with the Doctor's seduction by a quasi-religious type leader. What would happen to the Doctor in a situation where he is being seduced by someone who is very much like him, someone who is a hologram that has evolved past his programming?'
Fuller explains that the current writing staff includes executive producer Kenneth Biller, supervising producer James Kahn, Michael Taylor, Rob Doherty, Raf Green, Phyllis Strong, and Mike Sussman, and of course Fuller himself. Some of these writers came on board just for Voyager's seventh season. Says Fuller, 'At the end of last season, we called in several freelance writers to find another staff member and they were given audition scripts. One was 'Repression,' one was 'Imperfection,' one was 'Critical Care.' Then at the beginning of the season they were rewritten and made into our first episodes.'
'Critical Care' was written by James Kahn, from a story by Ken Biller and Rob Doherty. Says Fuller, 'James Kahn was new this season and has turned out to be a great writer, and a great guy. He used to be on Melrose Place, so it was nice to have someone come in from the outside and bring a certain levity to the room.'
For 'Body and Soul,' the team of Phyllis Strong and Mike Sussman re-wrote the teleplay, although Sussman had helped write other episodes. 'That story was by Mike Taylor based on a pitch.' Laughs Fuller, 'We had someone pitch the idea of the Doctor being inside Seven of Nine. Actually there were several people who pitched that story. It's a very popular pitch. We had to go back to the first person who pitched it, and we bought it from them. Mike Taylor turned it into a story. Phyllis Strong and Mike Sussman came into rewrite it and did a fantastic job. That was definitely a coup for them, a very charming, light-hearted episode.'
Fuller talks about what fans can expect next. ''Human Error' is after 'Workforce,'' he says. 'That was an episode pitched by Andre Bormanis where Seven continues to explore her emotions after her experience in Unimatrix Zero. Brannon Braga wrote that with Andre Bormanis, and it's a wonderful episode. Then we have 'Q Two.' That one actually had an interesting history to it. Ken Biller pitched that in season three after he wrote 'The Q and the Grey.' At the time, [executive producer] Jeri Taylor nixed it. Season four, Ken wanted to do it again, and then Brannon and Jeri said once again no. Then season five, Ken wanted to do it again, and Joe [Menosky] and Brannon said no. Season six, Ken wanted to do it again, and once again it was shot down. Now that Ken is running the show, it got to see the light of day. If I were running the show there are a lot of stories that I wanted to do over the past few years that have gotten shot down that I would be bringing out of the closet into light. 'Author, Author' is next. Actually Bob Picardo came in saying he was going to pitch a book to Pocket Books on the life of a hologram, written from the Delta Quadrant. That sparked Brannon's imagination, and he said, 'Let's do an episode about that.''
In 'Author, Author,' Voyager establishes real-time communication with Starfleet, which allows much interaction, including the Doctor trying to sell his book idea. After that episode comes the last episode written by Fuller along with Michael Taylor, called 'Friendship One.' Says Fuller, 'Starfleet basically rings us up and says, 'When we first developed warp technology, we sent out several warp-capable probes to say hello to everybody out there. One was sent toward the Delta Quadrant. You are approaching its last known coordinates, so why don't you check it out and see if you can find it.''
Adds Fuller, 'Things are happening. We are winding down. They are doing the finale right now, and I just finished my last episode of the season.'
Of course, he couldn't say what is going to happen at the end. His last episode 'Friendship One' is episode 21, expected to air in late April or May. There will be three more episodes after that before the two hour Voyager finale.