There are indeed times that TREK has been, to varying degrees,
Paramount's only real profit-maker. It is, in essence, a license to print
money. Put the ST symbol on something, and it sells.
Which is, fundamentally, the reason behind DS9 in the first place. One
thing I've kind of avoided was talking much lately about DS9, even though I've
been hearing a *lot* from people inside Paramount lately. But the one
overwhelming fact is this: TREK is what's called in this business a
"franchise," like McDonald's or Burger King. (In more general terms, a
franchise is a cop show, or a doctor show...you get the idea. Every studio
or network looks for a certain number of "franchise shows" before then setting
out to look for New Stuff.)
Anyway...and I know some people are going to yell at me, but this really
is the truth...DS9 is basically a fiscal repackaging of TNG. For the
1) Stations don't like to get one show that runs too long, over the six-
seven year mark. It becomes unweildy for them, and the cost of buying a big
show package is just a lot larger.
2) A series only begins to make money for the studio when it goes into
full-syndication (meaning they stop making new episodes and just rake in the
cash). This is particularly true when a show has been on the air for a long
time. See, each year, programmed increases in salaries and other areas go up
and up and up. By year six, you're paying a HELL of a lot more than you paid
for year one.
So how are they saving money by doing a NEW series?
3) Pay scales for production staff and cast are always lower for a new
series. It's sort of the studio Going Rate. Apparently a number of TNG
production people have been told that if they want to stick around after TNG
is finished, and go onto DS9, they're going to have to take cuts in salary.
Actors fees will be lower overall. So you're starting at a lower baseline,
and the really expensive show (TNG) is now over, and in full syndication,
earning back some money.
When you take all of that into consideration, and factor in the fact that
the series takes place in the same universe, with the same basic scenario,
same races, same Federation, even some of the same characters, what you come
down to is essentially this: that DS9 is a repackaging of the same thing,
under a different name, for basically economic reasons. There is no sudden
new vision behind it, it's just a less costly extension of the old show.
Which is not to say it ain't gonna be a good show. It might be a very
good show. If it is, that's terrific, the more good SF around, the better.
It's important for anyone reading this to make that distinction: this issue is
completely apart from quality, it's strictly economics. This is the reason
there IS a DS9. Where they go from that point _ good, bad, or indifferent _
is another discussion entirely.
There's nothing wrong with re-selling the same show to somebody under a
different name if you liked the original show in the first place.
Which is really all I can say, or have to say, about DS9 at this
juncture. I already heard that they're going to push for January. I also
know that it's going to be just about impossible for them to do that (plus the
marketing folks at Paramount would much prefer the show debut in February,
during Sweeps). This is in some degree an effort to beat B5 onto the
And from what I hear, that's going to be next to impossible. They only
got a good, workable draft in about a week or so ago (and, to be fair, I hear
from my sources there that it's "pretty good," and that's fine), and it just
takes *time* from that script to sets to casting to the shoot itself. One
concession to time, apparently, is that there's going to be a LOT of time
spent on the Enterprise, since those sets are already finished and available,
so it'll be more like an expanded TNG episode than a real pilot. It's what
they already do there: the Enterprise encounters a new situation, a new
location, deals with it, and moves on. The difference is, we will now have
characters who remain on that place and follow them.
The only way they can beat B5 to the air is if they really go toward
making it an extended TNG episode, and make the EFX as minimal as possible.
Which is, after all, their purview. It's their show, and their right. If
they want to do it with hand-puppets, that's their prerogative.
I was going to go on originally and talk a little about a small shoot
tomorrow (a film for the marketing guys on B5, which with luck I'll be able to
bring to cons), and some casting stuff, but this has already gone on longer
than I'd anticipated. Next time.