Actually, we've already *had* ST...

 Posted on 1/13/1996 by STRACZYNSKI [Joe] to GENIE

Actually, we've already *had* ST vs. B5 in sports; our softball team has
played both the DS9 and Voyager teams. We lost to Voyager and whomped the
hell out of DS9.

Here's what was given to the Paramount people, as best I can recall at
this time, I'd have to check the correspondence to be sure: the script for
"The Gathering" pilot movie; eight to ten pieces of original conceptual
artwork done by Peter Ledger helping to explain the concept and giving
character sketches; the series "sell" bible which has NEVER been released to
any writer, it was *only* intended as a device to help explain to studios and
networks the direction and nature of the show; lengthy backgrounds on all of
the characters, and descriptions for the overall direction of the series, and
synopses of about 22 or so planned episodes taken from the overall course of
the planned series. There was a LOT of material.

But let me clarify and reinforce something I said on CIS and elsewhere: I
don't believe that either Berman or Pillar would deliberately take B5 material
and use it. My *only* concern was that in the initial stages of development,
which always receive a great deal of "guidance" from studio execs, that the
execs who DID have the material might have "guided" them in our direction, in
an attempt to co-opt what we were doing for WB/PTEN, because there's great
animosity between those two studios, and out of a desire to protect their
franchise and eliminate any competition by basically absorbing it.

Sometimes it does bother me, and I wonder about what the heck's going on,
when I see the only other space station series doing a big arc about alien
forces infiltrating earth government, and brewing civil war on Earth, at the
*exact same moment* that we're doing it on our show; earlier, later, fine, but
that they'd do basically the same thing at the same time feels like another
attempt to co-opt what we're doing on this show. (Not copy; co-opt, which
happens all the time. Remember Deepstar Six? And another underwater monster
movie released about the same time? Those were both *direct* attempt to co-
opt The Abyss by coming out first. It happens all the time. When Ghost was
in heavy development, every studio in town was scurrying around looking for an
after-life movie to put out fast...I know because I got called in and asked to
come up with something by a major studio...I declined.) If you kinda know the
direction someone else is going, you try to jump ahead and get there first, so
that the other either loses impact, or is considered simply an imitation.
(Which is one reason why DS9 was hurried through post production to get it on
the air a few weeks before B5's pilot, I suspect.)

Are we being co-opted? I dunno. When I hear that there's a red headed
woman character on DS9 named Leeta (prounced the same as Lyta); when I see
them doing the same kind of arc we're doing but getting it out a little
earlier, I will confess it does give me pause sometimes. I try to think the
best under these conditions. For now, I'm asuming it's all just coincidence.

(Oh, and as for scripts vs. production times...we are generally far ahead
of most shows on scripts, about 4 episodes ahead of production at any moment.
So this next batch of scripts was probably written around August, at which
time they're circulated over town to agents and the like as part of casting.
So I find it *highly* improbable that these DS9 episodes were written in June,
knowing how close to the wire they tend to run over there.)

And, really, on another level, it's clear that they weren't ripping off
B5 with this two-parter...I will defend that to the death by virtue of the
clear logic that they're *really* ripping of SEVEN DAYS IN MAY. As for the
timing...well, we'll see.

(This is something else that happens a lot in TV; a writer will say,
"Okay, let's do FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX with Jessica Fletcher in the Henry Fonda

Finally, re: Jeri I have to disagree. Though we don't talk
as often as we should, or as I'd like, in large measure I think because of the
perceived awkwardness between ST and B5 right now, I consider her not only a
friend, but one of the best writer/producers in town. This isn't widely
known, but she was my exec producer, with David Moessinger, on JAKE AND THE
FATMAN. We worked together very closely, and I found her to be an immensely
talented woman, very dedicated to quality storytelling, ethical and strong
willed and generous to a fault. When she and David resigned from Jake on
principle, over some stuff that was happening quite unfairly to them, I quit
with them, even though it was my very first real network major gig, and my
agent thought I was nuts. I don't do this for everybody. I did it for Jeri
and David because they are good and decent people, because I cared about them,
and because they were *right*...and they're two of the best writers I know.

If there's a problem with Voyager -- and I'm not saying there is, because
I haven't seen enough of it to form a valid opinion -- it's due to the
situation that has always pertained to ST: they make the writers there write
with mittens on, and won't let them cut loose with the kinds of stories they
COULD do, for fear of doing something controversial that might hurt "The
Franchise." I've said it elsewhere and will repeat it again: I know the folks
they've got over there, and if Paramount ever backed off and let them do what
they're *capable* of doing, they'd blow the doors off of SF television.

So long story made, I don't think B&P at DS9 are sitting there
cribbing B5 plotlines from the original material provided to Paramount. I
think they would refuse. They are ethical individuals. Are they playing a
little at co-opting us, which is kind of more accepted in town? I don't know.
I think you could make a compelling argument on either side. But I don't know
the truth any more than you do, and if they say not, then I'm prepared to
believe them. And as for Jeri, anybody here goes after her, has to go through
me first.