There's one other aspect to consider in all of this, though. In a
way, Trek has created a false image of how a TV show operates. What I'm
about to say should not be taken as a slam at Trek...it isn't. This is
simply the truth, this is what they do. Sometimes it sounds less than
politic to say it, though....
Trek is constantly scrounging for new stories...for new ideas because
to some extent they've run out of ideas (at least, ideas that can be
allowable within the ST universe...their exec, Jeri Taylor, is probably
one of the very best writer/producers in town, and she could rip the lid
off that show if they'd let her). They've embraced/encouraged spec
scripts from anyone and everyone just to get stuff in the pipeline.
Compounding this is the fact that they're operating in 25 years of
history, meaning there's a lot they can't do for fear of repitition.
You have to understand...we don't have that problem.
At this juncture, if I so desired, I could close the front door to
the office, and never hire a freelance writer because *this story is a
NOVEL for television*. It's the story I want to tell. And each and
every episode has been sketched out already for a full five year run. If
you're putting together a collection of unrelated short stories, then you
solicit stuff all over the place. But if you're writing a novel, do you
ask people to submit ideas or stories? This show doesn't operate like
Trek...or like just about any OTHER show, for that matter. It's very
unique in that respect.
What I'm doing, however, is making sure that we employ freelance
writers for a minimum of 50% of our episodes. Most shows are almost
entirely staff written, by contrast. So far, though, all but one of our
freelance scripts work off stories I've developed and assigned to them,
as part of the overall arc of Babylon 5. This gets the writer in tune
with our show, so that they can then come up with their own stories and
I can free up that slot in the novel, or replace a less strong story with
a stronger one, thus strengthening the series overall.
When we start looking at specs, it won't be to look for ideas. Many
of those I've spoken to who've written spec Trek scripts don't really
consider themselves scriptwriters; their hope is to sell the basic idea,
get the credit, a little money, and so on. The only reason for looking at
spec scripts would be to find the very best *SF scriptwriters*, new or
established, who get our characters and the dialogue, to whom we could
then assign a story.
People shouldn't treat this show the same way as Trek; no other
series operates like that show does. Whether that's good or bad is
anybody's guess. All I can say is how *this* show works. We will
continue to do as much as we can to be open to new writers...one of our
writers this season has only written one other produced live-action
episode, and another has no live-action credits...but there are limits to
our resources, and our approach. We can't afford to field a huge reading
staff, and don't need one. It's just not the same kind of show.
Working this all out will require a solution of near Solomonic
proportions...but it will be worked out somehow.