ATQ42: How should I revitalise an old show such as Star Trek?

How should I go about revitalising an old series (for instance Star Trek) that I want to write about?

Tim
Screenwriter

Bad news on this today I'm afraid.

I've tried to find the upside in doing something like this, but I can't find much.

The bottom line is that I wouldn't recommend you doing this, apart from your own enjoyment and to practise your craft.

I don't know of a UK TV production company or broadcaster that would touch a project like this, as the rights are not free.

I don't know of an agent or script reader that would be impressed by a project like this, no matter how well you pulled it off.

People are looking for new writers with strong original voices, but you can't really get a grip on a writer's voice when they are writing in a world they didn't invent, for characters they didn't create.

In fact, I would even suggest that submitting such a project to a standard TV production company or an agent could actually do you damage, as it would probably make them mark you down as (rightly or wrongly) a writer who doesn't have original ideas, and who hasn't got much idea how the business works.

Big Finish Productions

Having said that, it's not all bad news - there is the occasional production company that specialises in this kind of thing.

Most notably a production company and publisher called Big Finish.

They produce CDs, downloads and books.

As it says on their website:

"We are perhaps best known for our Doctor Who ranges of plays (with its various spin-offs) but we also produce a wide range of audio drama featuring the characters from Sherlock Holmes, Blake's 7, Dark Shadows, 2000 AD (Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog), Terrahawks, The Avengers, The Prisoner, Survivors, The Omega Factor and more."

They are at: https://www.bigfinish.com/

Should you send your stuff to Big Finish?

This is what Big Finish do:

But even there, sending them your material cold is a bad idea.

It says, very loudly and clearly, on their website:

"Big Finish is not currently accepting any unsolicited scripts or storylines for any of our ranges. Please do not send these to us, as they will be deleted without being read.

From time to time we may invite submissions as part of a story competition, which will be announced in our news section, via social media on Facebook and Twitter, and in the Big Finish Podcast."

But writing these things is fun

I entirely understand the desire to write an episode of a show you have loved.

I personally spent about four years back in the 1990s writing (more correctly TRYING to write) Doctor Who novels for the Virgin New Adventures of Doctor Who series under Peter Darvill-Evans - while Paul Cornell, Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts, Matt Jones, Simon Winstone, Gary Russell, Justin Richards, Andy Lane - and a certain Russell T - did considerably better!

Obviously all these people made it into the industry, and obviously Russell T Davies was aware of the New Adventures when he was setting up his own rebooted Doctor Who, but I really don't recommend this as a strategy!

There a lot of fun to be had in writing tributes, or re-imaginings, of a much-loved show, and can be good practice, so long as you move on after a while.

In terms of getting you through any of the bigger doors in the industry it's pretty much a non-starter.

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Becoming a screenwriter
ATQ41: “What is the preferred amount of episodes for a TV serial?”

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1 Comment
  1. This (fan fiction) is exactly how I started. But ‘started’ is the operative word. It was just for fun, and at first it wasn’t formatted properly because, well, I didn’t even know what a screenplay was. I simply wanted to write more about what happened at the end to (in my case) a single character in the original film.

    But three sequels to my favourite film later, I started to wonder how I could see the movie version. So while writing these three massive tomes taught me in a few months the esoteric formatting of screenplays, spreading the word over the next several months taught me how the business worked: No, typically, the creative forces in the industry don’t want to see sequels or spin-offs to things for which the rights aren’t owned or available.

    And this was even though I wrote ‘what happened next’ types of stories, not boring ‘remake’ sequels, in which the same story occurs, say, with a different villain in a different city!

    But after much frustration in the fruitless commercialization venture, and even the expenditure of some considerable funds, at some point you have to decide what is more important: This single project, or the act of writing stories.

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen some writers dwell on commercializing their fan-fiction for years and years, and then giving up completely.

    I was lucky, through a twist too complex to describe here, to had to put my endeavor on the fan-fic material on hold to await a decision, and it was in that hiatus that I dove into my first original story.

    Seven years and 48 screenplays later, I’ve never regretted it, in spite of not yet having broken in or even achieved representation or option/sale. Heck, when (not if) I finally do succeed, at least I will have a pretty substantial repertoire to show people!

    Incidentally, what happened to those sequels I wrote?

    It wasn’t terribly difficult to rework them into three original stories, once I made the complete break from the source material. Mind you, the resulting works are not my best stories. And it proves that I was not completely immune to the depressing but necessary circumstance of abandoning those works-from-the-heart. I would expect that we’ve lost some great storytellers through the years for precisely this reason — they got disgusted about, or hung-up on, a fan-fiction project, rather than diving in and producing their own stories.

    Now, we’ve been talking ‘specs’ here. If you have an agent in Hollywood (not sure if it’s the same in the UK), they may very well put you in touch with broadcaster’s opportunities to write specs on existing shows.

    And in one final irony, the weight of past success, and having a high-profile agent, may let you break any rule in the book. The original film to which I wrote my unauthorized sequels? Two successful HW writers recently penned a pilot for a series version, and the agent got it to the rights-holders. It got accepted and is, I believe, just entering series 2.

    So, strange things can happen.

    But it’s far, far more useful to just write your own story, don’t you think?

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