Jack Trevino Talks About His Experience Of Writing Two of DS9′s Most Memorable Episodes
8 February 2005
For many people Star Trek: Deep Space Nine boldly took character development and story arcs where no Star Trek series dared go before . The show is as fondly remembered for its stand alone episodes as it is for the Dominion War Story arc, one firm favourite being the Season Four episode Little Green Men’ , written by Toni Marberry and Jack Trevino.
Sci Fi Pulse recently caught up with Jack Trevino to talk about Star Trek’s ‘Roswell’ inspired story , which to this day still manages to raise eyebrows and get a few good belly laughs from old and new fans alike , and he also gave his opinion on a number of other Star Trek related issues.
How did you come up with the ideas for ‘Little Green Men’ and ‘Indiscretion?’ How much of a split was the creative involvement between yourself and your writing partner for the episodes?
“LGM came one night as I worked on an assignment for a college class I was taking at the time. When I studied, I liked to keep the TV on in the background. Unsolved Mysteries was on and they did a story on the Roswell Incident. The widow of the pilot who flew the alien bodies to an Air Force based described what he had told her. She said the bodies were little, with big heads and sunken eyes. My head snapped around and I said to myself, “That sounds like Quark!”
“For Indiscretion, a scene in, I believe it was, “The Maquis” had always stayed with me. When Dukat took charge of a situation that Sisko was having trouble with, Kira, for one brief moment, looked at Dukat with admiration. I thought it would be strange if Dukat ever needed to call on Kira for help. Then after I saw “Cardassians,” I thought it would be even stranger if Tora Ziyal turned out to be Kira’s half-sister. How could she hate her own sister?
“As far as writing, both [co-writer] Toni [Marberry] and I fleshed out these ideas into stories with multiple plot lines and endings. Then we pitched them and as the pitch unfolded, the writer that we were pitching to, would pick up on the plot and where ever they went with it, we adjusted accordingly. We worked well together, knowing that we discuss any ideas we had openly and honestly. That is a must when two people work together.”
You were probably among the few successful fans to have submitted a story to the producers of a Star Trek show; can you tell us what the experience was like and how it all unfolded?
“I started that quest back in 1990, when several of the staff at work would
discuss the new Star Trek series (TNG) during the lunch hour. We all said we could write better episodes. One day, I read that TNG would accept your
script if you simply followed their guidelines and signed their release form. A bunch of us said we were going to do it, but I was the only one who followed
through. I sent off my first spec script, “The Truth,” which was about Wesley Crusher going to Starfleet Academy and messing up big time. In fact,
another cadet almost dies because of Wesley’s arrogance. Anyway, it came back rejected.
“Ironically, an episode called, “The First Duty” came out about a year later and in it, if you recall, Wesley messes up big time, a cadet does die and Picard tells Wesley, “The first duty for any cadet is to the Truth!” I said to myself, “This is what I was saying in my script!’ Howeve , not to be discouraged, I wrote a second one called, “Co-existence,” but that too was rejected.”
“Then my wife showed me the local Sunday paper that had an article on two local women; Toni Marberry, a local TV producer and Donna Cromeans, a playwright. They had successfully sold a concept to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I called and arranged to meet Toni. She explained they had sold the concept for the episode of TNG’s, “The Next Phase.”
“About a year and a half later, we collaborated on some stories and after our
second pitch, we sold “Indiscretion” and “Little Green Men,” all within two weeks of each other. The next year we sold a third story called, “Quorum,” which, regrettably, remained un-produced. In any event, because of the episodes, I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful and gifted people in the world of Trek.”
When your initial pitches were accepted by the studio, how much time did you spend with the writers and what was it like to work with the writers and producers of the show?
“We spent most of our time talking to the writers/producers on the phone. The pitch sessions usually lasted about 30 – 45 minutes. Rarely, did a session last an hour. They called later and provided notes on what they had in mind to see in the episodes and we were given 7 days to complete the stories. For “Indiscretion,”
“I was able to attend the story break at the Hart Building on the Paramount lot. In attendance were Ira Behr, Ron Moore, Rene Echevarria, Robert H. Wolfe and an intern who took notes. It was quite a thrilling experience. And, I would like to point out these gentlemen have all gone forth to produce many more quality television series and movies.”
I have recently watched ‘Little Green Men’ again and I noticed a lot of visual references to 1950′s Science Fiction B Movies. For example in many scenes all the military personal seem to light cigarettes in every scene, was that part of your original idea, or was that added as your story evolved?
“Our original idea was to have Quark involved with some shady Ferengi (are there any other kind?) and he was an unwilling passenger on a ship that gets hurled back through time. Sisko and crew have to go back and rescue Quark, the lone survivor, as well as retrieve the other dead Ferengi bodies. We had all the typical characters assembled; the professor, the nurse, the military, etc. Rene Echevarria, who had taken the initial pitch, had visualized Quark being interrogated under heavy lights (a scene that made it into the script). Then Ira and Robert decided that Nog and Rom should be there as well. The smoking was their idea.”
For ‘Indiscretion’ you chose a more serious topic. Was it always your intention to use Gul Dukat and Major Kira for that episode, or did you play around with pairing other characters off first?
“That was always a show for them. I told Toni that to increase our chances at selling a story, we needed to approach the stories by bringing them from outside characters into our main characters. Thus Dukat’s problem became Kira’s problem.”
If you had opportunity to write for Enterprise what characters would you most like to work a story around and why?
“Since receiving these questions, the news of the cancellation of Enterprise has been released, however, had it continued, I would have loved to write for Hoshi, Reed and Travis. There were many stories that could have utilized their acting talents (not saying the big three were not deserving, only that more stories with these characters could have balanced the series out a little better). Oh, I almost forgot Phlox – now he was an enigma full of all sorts of possibilities.”
What’s your view on the current state of the Star Trek Television and Movie franchise, do you feel that many fans are perhaps being a little harsh and critical of the new show, or do you think the criticism is justified, what do you think would improve and strengthen the franchise?
“I believe Enterprise was a calculated risk. The management felt Trek needed to go in a new direction. They had a vision and they stuck to it. Unfortunately, there were many fans who thought it was going to be more associated with Kirk and Spock’s universe, so they were not ready to view Star Trek in this way. Many fans were upset, so they turned it off. Possibly, it might have worked if it had been just a new dramatic science fiction show on the problems of early space travel. But one can speculate for days and not really come up with the answer. As far as fans go, there will always be fans that love a show and those that hate it. You will never be able to please all the people all the time. Someone will always be disappointed. You just have to give it your best. This last season of Enterprise reached out to the original series’ fans. The stories have been well written and it is obvious the writers are reaching out to those fans who had left it off their viewing list.”
We have had a number of rumours regarding an 11th Star Trek Movie . One rumour claims that the studio has turned down Rick Berman’s idea for a prequel, whereas Berman has refuted this and said that his idea is still in the works. Many fans feel that a Prequel would not work well as a movie . What’s your view?
“That’s difficult to say one way or the other. I believe that a story, whether it be a prequel or sequel, must be one that a movie viewer would like to see over and over again. Therefore, it should not be too difficult for the non-Trek fans to follow. Case in point : Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home . That was a movie that utilized the original series’ cast, yet all the fans needed to know was that if Kirk and company weren’t able to get those whales back to Earth, everything would be lost. But most of all, it was a pure adventure that entertained.”
Having worked on two DS9 episodes one of which ‘Little Green Men’ has become a firm fan favourite, would you say that a movie of DS9 or perhaps a movie comprising of characters from all 24th century trek shows would work, and , if you were to be writing it , where do you think you would start . Which characters from other Trek shows would you as the writer want to pair off?
“Very difficult, very difficult to answer. Too many characters might prove to be too overwhelming to the average viewer. With too many players, the viewer might get confused or just decide not to watch it all together. But again, give the fans a good story and it wouldn’t matter if you have two or ten major characters.”
What projects do you currently have in the works, and how has life been for you after your DS9 experience?
“I have written my first article for the Star Trek Communicator magazine (although I am listed as Gary Trevino, not Jack Trevino – an oversight that the editor assures me he will correct in the next issue) . The article can be found in issue #154, with Brent Spiner on the cover. It’s entitled, “Futures Past” and it covers a fan-based effort called Star Trek: New Voyages.
“The producer’s mission is to bring all new adventures involving Captain Kirk & crew to the screen, or in this case, your computer screen. I suppose their mission began back in 1969, when to the dismay of its legions of fans, Star Trek’s five year mission was prematurely cut short. In its last episode, “Turnabout Intruder,” Captain Kirk walks off saying these cryptic words, “If only…..if only.”
Since that night, many fans of the original series have expanded upon that question, “If only… if only the five year mission would have continued, what fantastic adventures might we have seen?”
“Questions like these had been bouncing around in the minds of producers James Cawley and Jack Marshall when they finally decided to end the speculation and bring New Voyages to the screen. They have two episodes already produced, “Come What May,” and, “In Harm’s Way.” I have the distinct honour to be co-writing the third episode, along with another Star Trek writer, Mr. Ethan Calk (DS9′s Visionary & Children of Time). I hope everyone will pick up a copy of the Communicator, read the article, then go to their website. It can be found at www.newvoyages.com . The effort is non-profit and all of us involved volunteer our services – all for the love of Trek – and that’s a pretty good reason, don’t you think?
“Co-writing the DS9 stories has given me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful and gifted people in the world of Trek. I consider all the people associated with New Voyages to be in the same category as those in the television and movie industry and, in case you couldn’t tell, I am extremely excited to be part of this historic series.
“It is my understanding that New Voyages will have a table at this year’s Grand Slam Convention in Pasadena, California on March 11 – 13, 2005. If you are able to attend, please look for us as I’m sure Jack Marshall and James Cawley want to meet as many fans as possible and introduce you to their exciting series.
Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to answer these fascinating questions.”
Sci Fi Pulse would like to thank Jack Trevino for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.