Michael Piller Talks 'Voyager' and The Trek Franchise
18:10:00 on February 16 2002
The latest issue of Cinefantastique magazine, just out in the U.S., features an exclusive interview with Voyager and DS9 co-creator and former executive producer Michael Piller. Here are some excerpts:
"The whole idea of exploring space is a metaphor for exploring ourselves," Piller told journalist Anna L. Kaplan. "When Voyager did that, I think it did very well. I think Seven of Nine stories gave us some insight into humanity and the meaning of humanity that the series sorely wanted. It had its moments. But when it did the exploding spaceships and space-monsters and so forth, the problem is that that's what everybody does in science fiction. I think that reduces Star Trek to being no better and worse than other science fiction shows. I have always encouraged the writers to try to find the human elements, the moral and ethical dilemmas. I think there was less an appetite for that after I left. I think in a sense that there were some people who felt, again trying to explain the ratings issue, that that was an ambition that was too lofty for a broad-based audience. I disagree with that."
"I thought Voyager was less focused over the years but certainly had fine moments, and certainly is a proud achievement for everybody involved with it. But I guess what it comes down to is that Star Trek: The Next Generation was a phenomenon. It was the only show of its type at the time. By the time you had Deep Space Nine and Voyager, you had reruns of all these shows running. You had an all-new show running twice a week. You had science fiction shows on cable and syndication and network, and the science fiction pool is a fairly narrow audience to begin with. It's an extraordinarily loyal and smart audience, and it's one that advertisers really want, but everybody came after the Star Trek audience. I think we started being not only in competition with other people but in competition with ourselves and our own reruns. I think the fact that the franchise has been on the air on television now for, what, twelve years, has a lot to do with it. I think that there was a certain chemistry on The Next Generation - brought in large part by the casting of Patrick Stewart as the anchor man, with great work by everybody but most particularly Brent Spiner - that was just hard to recreate. There was a certain chemistry on Deep Space Nine that I thought worked very well as well. But again, for whatever reason, audience just did not gravitate to that as much as The Next Generation. I think Deep Space Nine, frankly -- because of the great story telling... week after week on that series -- will be discovered over time, the same way the original Star Trek was. I think Voyager has held its own."
Piller, who runs his own television development firm -- Piller Squared -- is currently in production of the USA Network series 'Stephen King's The Dead Zone', set to premiere this summer. Stay tuned to TrekWeb for all the details on 'The Dead Zone' as its debut approaches.