Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Star Trek / Loveboat Mashup And Soulmates Part III

This series of posts illustrates the thinking process inside the writer's mind. The exercise here is to target an audience and develop a jaw-dropping TV Series premise from a very vague concept.

I recommend reading previous Parts first.


As requested by some readers of this blog, I'm breaking this very long (abstract) post into parts to make short posts. If you don't like this approach, do please let me know.

I do want to tell a story in Part VI & VII, a story that could become a TV show. But first, follow this thinking, argue against it, find the flaws, find different data, concoct your own Concept, and generate your own premise as we work through this. This is an exercise, like a pianist practicing scales to prepare for a concert. Writing is a performing art. This is the exercise that makes the performance smooth. 

-----Part III----------
If science is the occupation of The Mind, what is the occupation of The Soul?

Why does the existence and efficacy of one imply the non-existence of the other?

Why does the stringent rule of evidence that is the backbone of science necessarily require that what can't be proved is not real or can safely be disregarded. 

Bacon was a philosopher.  His philosophy put a hard wall around "reality" and admitted inside that wall only what can be proved by his method.

A lot of his philosophy is strongly colored by his elementary education in "the classics" - notably Aristotle and the two-valued logic of either/or; the zero-sum-game which I've discussed at length in the Tarot posts.

A proposition is either true, or not-true.

I don't "live" in that world, but I play there on occasion.

I live in the world where Love Conquers All and where Souls mate. 

So we come down to 2 Television shows -- Star Trek and Loveboat (Gene Roddenbery and Aaron Spelling, and if you don't know Spelling's work, look him up!).

Star Trek is the really fascinating one of the pair because half the audience views it as "hard science fiction" and the other half (the vociferous, fanzine writing half) views it as sizzling-hot romance no matter what rules of reality have to be broken to achieve that.

But let's take Star Trek as an example of hard science fiction. That would fit Gene Roddenberry's conception of it as "Wagon Train To The Stars" -- he-man adventure beyond the edges of civilization, bravery and heroism prevail. 

Okay, it used a lot of non-sense science, a lot of technobabble.  But it also used some solid extrapolation of real science, proto-science, things just peeping over the edges of mathematics looking at the physics lab with great skepticism.  Today we're starting to take many of Trek's laughable innovations in stride (cell phones, etc).

The point was just to tell a good story about human beings coming up against unprecedented challenges and overcoming them.  That's what Science Fiction does best - go where no one has gone before.

Gene Roddenberry himself was a "Humanist" -- adherent to a philosophy that doesn't rely on God as the highest authority or The Soul as a component of human beings (or non-human ones actually).


It's a PHILOSOPHY, mind you.  But it's much friendlier to the scientific view of the universe than Tarot and Kaballah.

If there is no God, then you don't really need the hypothesis of the Soul.  Soul becomes a leftover piece of nonsense from a disproven worldview -- ancient superstition.

If there is no Soul, likely there is no immortality of any part of a human being. 

That philosophy can be used to define what "happiness" consists of, what the fruition of a lifetime can (or can not) be.

Hence we get all the episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series where The Enterprise Meets God and shows him up to be nothing but an alien with megalomania rampant.  That theme appears in the films as well.  All the ancient myths turn out to be nothing but aliens misunderstood, not the human spirit reaching for something higher and perhaps failing but still trying.

You see that also in the various Stargate Series -- which I absolutely adore, mind you, but that universe does not portray my own universe view (of herds of elephants amidst their habitat).

The Humanist philosophy frees you up to pursue the attempt to prove that all human experience is just brain chemistry and bio-electric phenomena.

And just as with the scientists and their elephant parts, there's no way to disprove the idea that all a human being is can be quantified by electrochemistry in the brain.  You can't disprove it because, as with the elephant, it's TRUE.

And besides that, if the people who adhere to that world view need to believe that there is no Soul, would we be doing them any favor in disabusing them of that notion?

Does a human being need to believe in the Soul in order to find and marry their Soul Mate? 

Do you have to know what you're doing in order to do it right? To become "happy?" 

Now let's look at Loveboat.

Again Wikipedia just to be consistent:

The Love Boat was an American television series set on a cruise ship, which aired on the ABC Television Network from September 24, 1977 until May 24, 1986. The show starred Gavin MacLeod as the ship's captain. It was a popular part of ABC's Saturday night lineup that included Fantasy Island until the latter show ended in 1984.

Unlike Star Trek, you don't even have to see an episode to know what it's about.  That's what filmmakers call High Concept. 

Star Trek had to be kind of fudged to sound like a "concept" - Wagon Train To The Stars. Star Trek was not about taking a group of space ships in a "train" and trekking off to the back of nowhere to found a new Earth colony every week.  The Enterprise was not the escort for colonists, as in the original TV Series Wagon Train.

You might ask why I keep dipping back to the 1960's and 1980's for examples of TV shows to dissect to find a "formula" that could solve our problem of The Romance Breakthrough Story.

It's not just that I remember these shows. 

It's that one of the first and oldest lessons writers learn is "study the classics."  Shakespeare made his name popular by modernizing the Ancient Greeks for audiences that wouldn't necessarily have that education down pat, but might wish they did.

Hollywood made it's name in film with a lot of "re-imagining" of history, particular "The Old West."

Stories that are old are new by definition. 

And a 30 year cycle is about right, simply for the turning of a generation's taste.

So if you're a beginning romance writer who's not familiar with classics like I Love Lucy and some of these other very old shows I've mentioned, netflix might be good for them -- try Amazon. Get to the 1950's Black&White (probably colorized today) sitcoms. 

With that education, let's take a look at the potential of Loveboat.

The ship's crew comprised the "ongoing characters" and the passengers changed from week to week.  The idea was to create an atmosphere where people could meet each other and start serious relationships -- but the show was "light comedy" -- full of the awkward humor inherent in strangers becoming intimate. The crew's plot-job was the facilitate matchups. (if you're studying TV writing, do note that Loveboat is a perfect of its kind CONCEPT - and virtually defines the notion "concept.")

Today, Loveboat could not get on the air without adding a lot (and I mean a lot) of sex and violence, real graphic sex just barely within the television code and brutal violence -- and a lot of screaming and noise.

But as I said, the cycle goes round and round.  It may well be time for a TV series without graphic sex, with real hot Romance, without violence, but with real adventure into strange new realms.

We, as Science Fiction and Paranormal Romance Writers, could accomplish this trick quite handily.

And again I'll leave off here and make you wait for Part IV because some readers prefer short posts. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. I hadn't intended to argue anything with this but since you instructed to "find the flaws" in the mashup theory, here's my nitpick:

    LoveBoat is too shallow and the romances too quickly concocted for any true, indepth, heartfelt, believable HEA. I always got the impression the hookups made on the LoveBoat were temporary at best. Watching LoveBoat as a teen made me feel greasy, icky and hopeless somehow.

    Where is the "HEA" in LoveBoat?

  2. Miss Sharp:
    You are of course absolutely correct! LOVEBOAT was a really "lowest common denomenator" TV show as it was broadcast.

    But that's the beauty of the "mashup" idea. Both elements have massive flaws, but the blend does not have to have those flaws (unless of course the "flaw" is simply the fact that it is/was a TV show).

    Star Trek itself was way too "shallow" and "unbelievable" for Science Fiction readers too.

    Would a non-shallow mashup make viable TV today?

    Is today's TV audience ready for novel-depth stories?

    If broadcast or cable TV can't gather such an audience, could a webcast do it?

    There are new venues opening up almost every second. Did you see Amazon is providing movies and TV shows via internet (I tried it; it works on my TV OK).

    The delivery system we need to invent or watch for will be the video equivalent of the Dime Novel.

    Cheap delivery will allow for small audience, which allows the story to go deep.

    If we're not ready when that delivery system appears, someone else will co-opt it and we won't get that "respect" boost for Romance we've been looking for.

  3. STAR TREK has also been described as "Horatio Hornblower in space," which is much more accurate (but maybe less familiar to TV executives).

    I watched LOVE BOAT regularly and enjoyed it very much. I remember some of the romances being light, comic, maybe not destined to last, but some others being deeper.