Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stardurst : The Lost Story Behind the First Draft of Star Trek Insurrection

The December 1998 issue of the british DreamWatch magazine featured an exclusive interview with the late Star Trek writer/producer Michael Piller, in which he talks about his first draft for the script of Star Trek Insurrection, then titled Star Trek Stardurst. Here are excerpts from the article.

Piller's one-line pitch to Rick Berman was simple : do the flipside of Apocalypse Now - "The Heart of Lightness" if you will - as a source of inspiration.

"I wanted to start the picture off with Picard at the Academy and we see what a rowdy young man he was" Piller said "He's really not the same Picard we've grown to respect and admire. So we show him in a relationship with one of his best friends, who gets him into trouble. We bring Boothby back to get him out of trouble and answer that great Star Trek question that was set up in the series about Boothby's history with Picard, and what trouble he did get into."

"Then we would flash foward to the future, where Starfleet sends Picard on a mission 'up in the river' to a strange unknown galaxy. There he finds his old friend who has seemingly gone berserk, striking ships, and creating all kind of havoc in the Neutral Zone. So Picard is forced to go off after his oldest friend, and when he gets there, he discovers his friends looks exactly the same way when we saw him in the opening sequence. It's then revealed that this planet has a magical younthful affect on the habitants. When Picard discovers his old friend has discovered a conspiracy to steal this planet from the people who lived there, ultimately Picard joins him to fight the good fight. At the time I think it was against the Romulans."

"At that point, Rick started losing confidence in the story," Piller said "His biggest problem was he felt Patrick would have a serious problem with the fact that Picard didnt get to be a true hero and that he wouldn't get to swashbuckle until he turned into a young man. And what you're basically saying there is, your lead character is an old man. When I heard that, I had a hard time arguing."

Berman then wondered : "What if Data were the guy in the planet ?"

"I knew a good idea when I heard one, and it seemed to work, because sunddely Picard is sent to find Data and fundamentally he's sent to kill him, just like in Heart of Darkness," Piller said "We went down that route a long way and our whole Fountain of Youth story fell away. We had a very serious drama in which Picard is forced to kill Data during the first half of the movie only to discover that Data had in fact been defending a defenceless people. So Picard takes up the gauntlet and fights the good fight. This was not fun and light, but was a meaningful story. The studio liked it quite a bit as well."

One executive did have some serious concerns about the direction Insurrection was taking, feeling it was too dark. The nail in the coffin was when Patrick Stewart called and said he didn't like it at all either.

"Patrick basically said 'It's dark, it's not fun, it's dreary and it's not entertaining'" Piller said "Then he sent a very eloquent letter saying all the reasons why he didn't want to do this story. We realised then we wanted something fun. I told Rick that if he wanted to salvage some of the work we had done for the last four months to throw the Fountain of Youth thing back at Patrick. So Rick called him and Patrick thought it was 'marvelous'. He said, "Darling, it's terrific. It's exactly what everyone is interested in, with youth culture these days'. So all that energy that was expended went off in strange new directions."

The full article can be found in issue 52 of DreamWatch magazine.