08:32:42 on May 27 2002
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JUNCTION POINT: NOT JUST ANOTHER PBeM RPG!
Junction Point is a freefloating space station that is located in that
dark area between Gorn, Tholian, and Klingon space, within a whiff of
the Romulan Empire. K7, as we call it, is adjacent to Sherman's
Planet, where, just 76 years before, the tribble incident took place.
We're set in the year 2380, after the Borg encounters and the Dominion
War, at the very end of the ST-TV timelines. This is a very fastpaced
game composed of a solid base of experienced and expert players, some
of them professionally published in the SF-Fantasy genre. Our location
is junction.the-fgn.org and we're always ready to welcome a few
new players into our warm and friendly community. If our roster appears full at the positions that interest you, don't
let that discourage you from joining. There's enough posting for
duplications in Senior Officer positions and the imagination's the
limit on civilian and other personnel.
We're expecting to be around for a long time, so if you come, plan to stay! We can be reached by clicking Contact Administration or Joining the Game on our site.
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By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: TrekWeb Features
Written by Steve Krutzler
His is one of the most prolific names ever to grace the pages of STAR TREK: Joe Menosky. Getting his start on THE NEXT GENERATION with episodes like "Darmok," "First Contact," "Time’s Arrow," "The Chase," and "The Nth Degree," Menosky contributed a couple stories to DEEP SPACE NINE before becoming a powerful influence on STAR TREK: VOYAGER.
Partnering with then co-producer Brannon Braga on episodes like "Scorpion," "Hope and Fear" and "Timeless," Menosky built a resume full of some of the series’ most unconventional installments. From the comedy "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy" to the inspired "Distant Origin," the wacky "Voyager Conspiracy," and the penultimate "Year of Hell" and "The Killing Game," Menosky has forged a reputation for creative thinking and originality.
In fact, he was the first person former TNG, DS9, and VOY executive producer Michael Piller called when he needed some out of the box thinking for his new USA Network series THE DEAD ZONE.
"Michael made me a unique offer," Menosky told TrekWeb for this interview. "When we first had lunch about The Dead Zone, I told him that I was not inclined to take a full-time staff position on any series. Television staff jobs leave no time for reading or study, no time for anything because you are in full-on execution mode. But talking about the story possibilities for Michael's new show was fun, and because he had no writers on staff at the time, he really needed somebody as a sounding board. So we figured out a way for me to stay independent but still be involved," the scribe says of his executive consultant position on THE DEAD ZONE.
But Menosky’s creative energies haven’t always been appreciated by everyone. We decided to ask him about one of the more interesting NEXT GENERATION scripts he penned – "Masks" – which has always seemed to pester mainstream STAR TREK fans with its imaginative qualities.
"This is a quote from the book DEEP SPACE AND SACRED TIME: STAR TREK IN THE AMERICAN MYTHOS – ‘The final season TNG episode "Masks" is a tour de force of STAR TREK's mythology about mythology.’ And what follows is a discussion of the episode that sets up the themes of the rest of the book. In another book by another author, THE MEANING OF STAR TREK: AN EXCURSION INTO THE MYTH AND MARVEL OF THE STAR TREK UNIVERSE, you'll find another in-depth analysis of the same episode. I've read similar comments in other sources. Does that mean these people are somehow deluded if they can find ideas in ‘Masks’ that are worth citing," the writer wonders.
Menosky says the underlying premise of the episode is still sound in his mind: "I don't think the premise of an alien pantheon getting downloaded into the ship's computer and then trying to play itself out according to ancient symbolic patterns is a stupid idea," he explains. "Obviously, it IS a stupid idea for an episode that expects to win over a majority of American Trek fans (the Italian fans love it, don't ask me why). But that's not why I wrote it. I doubt there's a single fan who would write a piece of fiction to please an audience -- you do it because you have an idea you're excited about. Trek writers are no different."
But he admits the way "Masks" turned out wasn’t exactly how he envisioned it. He says he was so disappointed with the changes made to his script that he’s never seen the finished episode.
"My own negative reaction toward the EXECUTION of the idea -- which is another matter entirely -- precedes that of the fans. I hated it before you did," he says while revealing the story behind the episode’s genesis. "I wrote the first draft while living in Italy, and was so unhappy with changes in the script that were made in-house at Paramount that I could never bring myself to watch the produced episode. Would my original draft have worked any better? Probably not. Sometimes what's on the page can never be translated successfully to the screen. That's likely the case with ‘Masks.’ But you'll never convince me that the underlying ideas were trivial and that the attempt should not have been made. Or that having been made, it was a complete failure. Dull, stupid television does not generate paragraphs by thoughtful individuals who love STAR TREK enough to spend years of their lives writing books about it."
One of the DEEP SPACE NINE episodes he received credit for wasn’t even written by him. The sixth season entry "Time’s Orphan" was spawned from a pitch Menosky had originally suggested for use during his days on THE NEXT GENERATION.
"I pitched a story on TNG about Worf's young son stepping into a transporter and reappearing moments later as a terrifying adult killer, scarred and scary, because he had spent fifteen years in some alternate realm where he had to fight nonstop to survive. The Klingon home world times ten. So Worf has to deal with his suddenly adult child who has been brutalized and become brutal. It was about fathers vs. sons and nature vs. nurture, and I think it ended with the realization that there was no going back and no solution," he says of the original idea. "But it would have also meant getting rid of the kid for good, which Michael Piller ultimately didn't want to do, though that was being talked about as an option at the time, and may have been the reason I came up with the notion in the first place, I can't remember. So it went away, and years later, after I had left TNG and then returned to Voyager, DS9 said they were going to do a version of it, and they far too generously insisted that I have a story credit because one of them had remembered my original pitch," Menosky says of the episode that he never ultimately saw.
But VOYAGER is where the writer ultimately shined in the STAR TREK universe, penning or collaborating on many of the series’ most memorable episodes. "Equinox" was one such outing, and one that generated equal cries of disdain and excitement from fans all over the spectrum.
"Brannon had a saying, ‘fun to write, fun to watch.’ ‘Equinox’ for me was excruciating to write so I expect it was not so fun to watch. In my opinion, it was just a mess, and not a happy, crazy, operatic mess like ‘Year of Hell’ which is probably my favorite of our two-parters," Menosky relates of the action-packed tale in which Captain Janeway is brought to the brink of her own value system when faced with the ruthless Captain Ransom of the U.S.S. Equinox.
He continues, saying stories have a way of boxing you in once you set the ball in motion.
"When you work in television for a few years, you start to realize how much you are at the mercy of the stories themselves, the premises that you come up with. Some ideas carry you all the way. ‘Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy’ was like that. I came out of the staff meeting when we finished that story break practically giddy with anticipation because I just knew I was in for five days of scriptwriting paradise and the end result was going to be good. In that case, the story itself becomes your friend and collaborator, it is rich enough to support you and keep feeding you ideas as you execute the script -- and you'd have to be an idiot to screw it up. With ‘Equinox’ it was just the opposite. Nothing you come up with feels right, you're trapped by your own premise which just kind of sits over in the corner and rots, and you have no escape because the episode is due, there's nothing else that can go in its place and abandoning it is not an option. Nothing to do but stagger to the end. I said earlier you'd never convince me that ‘Masks’ was a complete failure. I don't need any convincing for ‘Equinox’," he offers unequivocally.
But the episode may have been ahead of its time. Heavily criticized for its "reset button" ending in which Janeway’s villainous actions are glossed over in exchange for familial stability, Menosky suggests a new interpretation that puts a new spin on the controversial episode.
"Maybe that torture scene was amazingly prophetic considering all the current talk about whether otherwise good Americans should torture terrorists to save lives. That was pretty much Janeway's dilemma. In fact, it was EXACTLY Janeway's dilemma. And I'll bet that the otherwise good American would go home after the torture session and straighten the family photo -- or plaque -- on the wall, then take the dog for a walk, since oblivious "normality" is something that's all too easy to reestablish no matter what you've done. Yeah, that's it -- we were three years ahead of the curve," Menosky asserts with irony.
Whether all of his STAR TREK episodes are remembered as radically innovative, stylistically indulgent, or horribly misguided, there’s no doubt that Joe Menosky is one of the most original thinkers to write for modern STAR TREK. It’s that passion for genre entertainment that he brings to his new position on Michael Piller’s THE DEAD ZONE. In this series, Johnny Smith’s (Anthony Michael Hall) psychic abilities act as the vehicle for storytelling and Menosky’s script “Enigma” puts a new twist on the time travel devices many TREK fans might be used to.
"Due to the nature of Johnny's psychic power, it's not quite time travel. The concept is different. When he makes physical contact with an object or person he can sometimes see scenes and events from that object's or person's past or future. But he isn't visiting the actual past or future, only looking at a record of it. Sometimes he finds himself in a scene as a sort of omniscient observer, but sometimes he takes the first person point of view of somebody who lived the experience -- which is how we did ‘Enigma’," he says of the script in which Johnny falls in love with someone in his psychic flashes.
"The story is about what might happen if you suddenly were witnessing a series of events from 1940s Manhattan, seeing through the eyes of a rakish womanizer as he finally falls in love. You have no ability to change anything, you can't function at all independently in those scenes, you are only along for the ride so to speak. But would witnessing those events firsthand have an effect on you? Especially if you were lonely and isolated? That was the premise for ’Enigma.’ It was interesting to figure out because you are helping to create the rules of the series as you go along, and hopefully some of that quality will come through to the viewer."
Menosky says THE DEAD ZONE is trying to be something different and his goal is to bring the unexpected to the audience, just as he did in his work with STAR TREK.
"I do think genre formats -- science fiction, fantasy, and horror -- are always at least potentially more interesting than mainstream television. The best you can ever do from even the very best mainstream TV is great drama or hilarious comedy. Nothing wrong with that. But the only place to find unexpected ideas and images per se is in genre. Hopefully, DZ will become that kind of place."
Another way Michael Piller has set out to ensure quality and enigmatic writing is by hiring DEEP SPACE NINE and VOYAGER writer Michael Taylor as a co-producer. Taylor’s first STAR TREK script was the critically-acclaimed and fan favorite "The Visitor," in which Captain Sisko is caught in a subspace pocket only to emerge having missed a huge chunk of his son’s life. The episode is widely hailed as one of the best of the entire STAR TREK franchise. Taylor told TrekWeb he was attracted to the third STAR TREK series’ willingness to push the limits of TREK characterizations, particularly with the Sisko character.
"They were going against the grain with the character of Sisko -- a single black father raising his son in space, though you wouldn’t think in racial terms in the 24th century. But, in the 20th century it occurred to me that this is not something you see often on television, the single black parent raising a kid," Taylor recalled from his DEAD ZONE office in Los Angeles. "Then I guess something perverse occurred to me: what if he was forced into a situation where he couldn’t be there for his son, and I think that resonates on a lot of levels, where people don’t disappear into subspace pockets routinely but, nonetheless, kids grow up in what seems to be a foreshortened amount of time and it becomes a procession of snapshots from baby to toddler to young kid to young adult and then they’re gone. So that sort of metaphor was always there."
Taylor also contributed the story and first draft of another highly praised episode later in DS9’s run, "In the Pale Moonlight." This episode, which features Captain Sisko faced with a rather grim choice in the midst of the Dominion War, was recently hailed by TV Guide as one of the top 35 best STAR TREK moments. Taylor says it was the opportunity to explore the dark side of a Roddenberry-style hero that intrigued him with this tale.
"DS9 had a slightly different take on the whole STAR TREK enterprise as conceived by Mr. Roddenberry," Taylor says. "I think the notion is that even if it’s the 24th century the moral universe isn’t necessarily any more black and white than it is now. In a show like that, a heroic character must nevertheless balance the needs of the many against the needs of the few (to borrow another TREK phrase). The reason it works is not because Sisko is a non-STAR TREK figure, is un-heroic, or does this sort of stuff all the time, but because it is so against the grain for him and he is a Roddenberry hero and yet under tremendous pressure and to save many, many lives he must make very difficult decisions that within the immediate context are not very moral, immoral in fact, Machiavellian you might say. But he has to save lives in a larger war. I think that tension setup by what we know about him through all these years of the show and what we see him having to do [makes the episode great]."
Taylor got to depart further from the traditional STAR TREK format with VOYAGER episodes like "Bride of Chaotica!" and "Relativity."
”[Bryan Fuller and I] had a blast writing ‘Bride of Chaotica!’ We just watched Flash Gordon serials and from those old shows popped right into our script. ‘Relativity’ was a lot of fun too, playing with the whole notion of time travel sort of in a post-modern way," he says of two episodes that parodied the whole STAR TREK mythos in their own unique ways.
VOYAGER also provided Taylor with one of his favorite episodes, "Counterpoint." Of the script he says, "I liked Counterpoint a lot because it’s where the captain has a romance and, sort of in the end, it showed us just how lonely her job is and gave us a foreshadowing of why she had to stay alone throughout the rest of the series."
These days Michael Taylor has entered THE DEAD ZONE and is committed to bringing his years of STAR TREK experience to this newest series. In fact, he won the job after writing a script for executive producer Michael Piller, "Unreasonable Doubt."
"I had just been called in and sat in a waiting room for five days and didn’t get to serve on a jury, but I had the idea to pitch the sort of twelve angry men and a psychic," he says of the inspiration for the show where Johnny serves on a jury and puts his unique psychic abilities to work.
Taylor says the script makes innovative and plentiful use of the main character’s visions. "There were a lot of visions in the story that don’t necessarily tell him what is happening but suggest that there may be more going on there than the jurors appreciate from the evidence. He also has visionary flashes into the minds of the jurors themselves and that’s as big an element in the deliberations as well. So it adds up to quite a lot of visions and one of the problems of the script was keeping it simple enough and boiling it down to its essence and I hope we were able to do that."
A recent visit to the set in Vancouver during the filming of his episode really hit home for the scribe just how visually innovative THE DEAD ZONE is trying to be. "In one vision Johnny sort of finds himself playing murderer and murder victim in the same shot, sort of showing a certain debt to THE MATRIX perhaps, but it’s pretty damn cool and there’s a lot that’s pretty cool visually about this show. I was just in Vancouver watching the show being filmed and some of the things -- whether visions or reality so to speak -- it wasn’t how they were filmed so much but the context. We filmed some crimes taking place that seemed very real and it doesn’t seem like something you’d see on any other television show."
After several years writing for ensemble STAR TREK shows with more or less equal attention paid to the various characters, Taylor says the prospect of stepping into a more hero-based series isn’t limiting at all, owning to THE DEAD ZONE’s unique premise.
"Our’s is a show with a hero and a very good cast around him but he is the hero of the show. I don’t feel overly constrained by that because DEAD ZONE is, like STAR TREK, a very flexible and far-ranging show. Johnny’s paranormal gift is as good a vehicle for storytelling as the Enterprise or Voyager or the DS9 space station ever was. It literally takes him places, into the past into the future, into other people’s lives and as a result we can really tell a broad range of stories. We can have a lot of fun with it.," he says.
Taylor says a script he’s currently working on, tentatively titled "My Dinner With Dana," will take place almost entirely in one room between two characters, but without those physical limits.
"I am doing a show with just a couple of characters in a room talking and I find that very challenging but I don’t find it limiting; the limit is within yourself if anything, but not in the format. My Dinner With Dana will get deeply into our key character and another character and it’ll be surprising and I hope it’ll be surprising. I’m just beginning to figure out what’s happening myself!"
At the end of the day, Taylor says STAR TREK fans will like this show because it has the potential to travel just as far as any Federation Starship.
"There is something of the STAR TREK tradition in this show -- and not just because we have a few STAR TREK people working on it -- it’s a show that is trying to boldly go different places. Johnny’s gift is like a starship, it takes you places, it’s a wagon-train somewhere," he says, borrowing Gene Roddenberry’s famous pitch line for the original STAR TREK. "For fans who like to zoom around space, sometimes it’s nice to plant your feet on the ground; I know as a writer I get a kick out of writing a real jury room in a real town in Maine and yet still having that same freedom to explore as the STAR TREK characters do. We have our own little starship going here, it’s just in Johnny’s head!"