A Writing Enterprise
Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens came to Hollywood to write. While in town, they managed to tear down some common entertainment industry assumptions.
Common wisdom says husbands and wives shouldn't work together. But, they are a very successful and inseparable writing team. Industry tradition holds that you have to be 20 years old and fresh out of college to write for television. However, there's no way anyone fresh out of college could have piled up the credits this pair did before arriving in network TV. Finally, Hollywood insists that the nice guys finish last – while the Reeves-Stevenses get work as much for their professional pleasant temperament as their considerable talent.
As co-producers on Enterprise, the last production in Paramount Star Trek television franchise, they were part of a team charged with recharging a series that struggled in its third season. They helped to improve the show by leaps and bounds, though the ratings damage was already too late.
At first impressions, the Reeves-Stevenses seem an unlikely choice for such an important TV task as forging the plot-lines of Star Trek. They seem far too nice to have found so much success in Hollywood. They're the kind of polite, soft-spoken Canadians you'd expect to find running a bed and breakfast in Niagara – not writing screenplays, TV scripts, novels and non-fiction books.
"As writers, we didn't make changes to the show," Garfield said. "Executive producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga and show-runner Manny Coto planned the overall direction of the series and made any changes to the mythos."
"Our job was to provide good stories that stick to Star Trek continuity. It's to our benefit that we know that continuity after writing Star Trek books for 10 years. In TV, we're telling a more compact story with clearer rules. For television, we were writing a Star Trek tale in a more linear mode, but the themes remain the same – the ideas of exploration and an optimistic future."
He added, "Those themes played a big role with Enterprise because this world is still new."
Both writers said there was no over-riding plan or need to recreate Enterprise after its first three years.
"The entire team felt that it was more a matter of taking what had been established in seasons 1, 2 and 3 and making sense out of that rather than recreating the show into season 4," Garfield said. "In Next Generation, halfway through the series, they made a deliberate decision to invoke the name of Spock – finally naming a character from the original series. They wanted to establish that show as distinct before introducing other past elements."
"The same decision was made for Enterprise. If the first season had been so devoted to prequels and tie-ins, it never would have got on its feet for the same story."
Before being recruited onto the Paramount lot, the Reeves-Stevens wrote several Trek novels, including several with William Shatner featuring the continued adventures of James T. Kirk. On, their own, they're a pair of New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestselling novelists with dual fascinations with NASA and science fiction. Their books are published in the United States, Canada, and England, and in translation in Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Holland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, Spain, and the Ukraine.
In TV, the Reeves-Stevenses were staff writers for the second season of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World - the syndicated one-hour action-adventure series from New Line. For the series' third season, the Reeves-Stevenses returned as supervising producers on location in Australia. In other episodic work, the Reeves-Stevenses have written for John Woo's "Once a Thief," "The Hitchhiker," MTV's "Catwalk," and "Beyond Reality."
The team's experience in science fiction made them a natural choice for work on Enterprise: "It was easier for us to come into Star Trek than it might be for other sci-fi writers," Judith said. "Even though they are all very talented and very well-informed on sci-fi, they might not be up to date on all of the Star Trek continuity."
"While writing the Star Trek books, you explain events in the mythos that are still open to interpretation. Now, Enterprise is doing the same thing – such as explaining the origin of Klingon head bumps from the original series to the Star Trek movies."
Garfield explained that in Star Trek lore, what happens on screen is considered narrative canon, while anything in books, comics or video games is superfluous.
"It was a challenge for us to add to the ‘canon,'" he said.
Judith added, "Writing for Star Trek was interesting for us also because we'd written for all of the other Star Trek eras, but we hadn't written for these characters yet. We wondered how quickly we could get the voices of these characters. But, we had the ability to go down to set and watch the actors."
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According to Judith, there were other adjustments the pair had to make to their writing and working routine: "Well, we had to start getting up in the morning and going into an office. We obviously write our books out of our home."
Garfield added that Enterprise also offers a much faster process than their book work. The team has three books coming out this year, and the writing of one (Going to Mars) was a six-year process.
"Writing for TV is great for almost instant gratification because you write a script, and – five weeks later – it's on TV. During that process, you're coming into the office, working on a script and taking meetings only on the script you're working on. But, you watch the sets get built, watch the dailies, come in, etc."
"It helps that it was the 25th season of Star Trek in production," he added. "So it was a well-oiled system we were watching."
"The nicest thing for us was that we knew the people involved through writing the books over 10 years," Judith said. "We were talking to them about their jobs. We were able to see all aspects of the working company. We were able to ask questions that a writer working on a script might not be able to ask."
"So, we came on board as writers and co-producers, it felt as though we were really joining old friends."
Date Posted: May 19, 2007
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