It is so difficult to choose an angle to praise someone for whom you have the greatest respect. This is my gift to one of the twentieth century’s most talented writers. This is a name that only a few of the most privileged have got to use in person. This is a name that so many have read on their television screens and simply shrugged off as so often producers and writers are.
Michael Piller was relatively unknown to me until the beginning of last year, sure I had watched the special interviews with him and noted him for a strange presence that seemed to speak to me and until recently, I never knew why. It was not until the middle of last year when I opened a book that had been on my shelf for what seems like decades without being touched, The Making of Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Held within the pages of this rather non-descript book are little jewels of information that someone wanting to write drama for episodic television, especially Star Trek cannot live without! I learned that Michael ran a program to make it easier for young screen writers to get started! The news couldn’t have been better, but I was twelve years late reading the book, seven years late for writing for Deep Space Nine and unfortunately seven months late to impress Michael Piller who had died the previous November.
I stopped thinking about it for a while as for most of 2006 my Star Trek interest lay dormant but around December my interest peaked again. I had to do something about “this writing thing” of mine which was fast becoming my life. I would speak to members of the Star Trek family about their experiences with Michael and they would always tell me of a gentle man, somewhat gruff to those he didn’t know, but with a towering intellect. None of this was getting me any closer to Michael, and without sounding crazy that is what my heart most wanted. I knew deep down that I had to get to a place that I could receive this gift that I was sure Michael had left for me. The answer came to me with a sudden jolt, I should contact Michaels ex-assistant, Eric Stillwell. I did a little research and came up with a method of contact and within 24 hours I was talking and interviewing Eric. We spoke of our mutual admiration for Michael and his work and after 5 hours on the phone Eric told me of a book that Michael had written chronicling his experiences writing Star Trek’s 9th feature film, Insurrection.
What had seemed cloudy the day before began to reveal itself before me, all of this was for a purpose! When Eric told me of the book, and that it was one of Michael’s final wishes that the book be made available to the public for free online I told him that I wanted to be the one to be involved. That would be my gift to Michael and in some way, I believed it would be Michael’s gift to me. It was decided in those early hours and we are in the producing stage now. The book will delight Star Trek fans and give new, relevant insight into the creation of a Star Trek feature screenplay.
I invite you the new crew to continue the voyages that Michael Piller began. It is to us that he committed his legacy. With his overwhelming spirit Michael empowers us to boldly go where no one has gone before!
-Sebastian Prooth. Copyright 2007.
This following is an excerpt from the book that remains unpublished and its ownership unsettled. The book is secure in my possession. I am of course referring to the book mentioned in my tribute to our hero, Michael Piller.
“Rick Berman wasn’t sure that I’d want the job. The first thing he said when he came into my office was, “Don’t say ‘no’ until I finish talking.” And when he finished talking about his hopes for the next Star Trek movie, he asked me if I would be interested in writing it, and I surprised him by saying ‘yes.’ It may seem odd that anyone would even consider passing on a chance to write a feature film, but Rick knew I’d been moving away from the Star Trek franchise for the last couple of years.
I had been in space with Rick for almost a decade. We first met at a lunch with Gene Roddenberry and Maurice Hurley, the head writer of The Next Generation during its first two seasons. Hurley was leaving the show and thought I might be a candidate to replace him. I wasn’t hired at that lunch (Rick and Gene had already hired another friend of mine, Michael Wagner), but I did agree to write a script for the coming season.
My agent was furious. Writing a free-lance script would look like I hadn’t been able to find a staff job. No show would ever hire me as a staff writer again, he said. But I really wanted to write a Star Trek script so I ignored my agent’s advice. Today, in his lovely new home, he’s happy I did.” –Michael Piller.