Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Star Trek / Loveboat Mashup And Soulmates Part VII

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 post into parts to make short posts. If you don't like this approach, do please let me know.

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 VII-------------

Last time we ended off mulling over the form of Romance that we could use for a hard-SF-TV series.

To get beyond the concept of a Star Trek / The Loveboat mashup to an actual premise, we have to pick one.

To complete this exercise, you should run it through with every choice.

So I'm going to "think big" and run this through for a long-running TV series. 

Let's choose an ensemble cast structure of 2 interlaced love-triangle Situations.

For an HEA to deliver a real gut-punch, the seeds of the solution must be planted right at the beginning of the story.  The solution must be inherent but invisible to the characters.  Suspense is developed by letting the viewer/reader see what the characters can't see, and the punch is delivered when the reader/viewer doesn't see the "real" solution coming but recognizes it as valid once it does arrive.

What really happens with a TV show during production is that decisions made before get changed on the fly, actors come and go by contract or happenstance, ratings and network executives make decisions that affect story direction. 

The less you establish, the better chance it has of materializing in development. 

So we need to ask why hard-SF folks would be averse to a Star Trek / Loveboat mashup.  Because they don't want their "hard" science view of the universe muddied up?  Because they're still adolescent boys who can't face their own emotions?  They want "girlz" not a Soul Mate?

OK, then we need a playboy character, a Kirk who can always "get the girl" -- someone all the girlz still swoon over.

He is determined not to get caught by one girl. 

So we know what happens to him.

Two girlz he is absolutely smitten with (but does not consciously know it) arrive in his life during the pilot episode. The "Bible" for this show will delineate how these characters mature into women of power and drag him into maturity too. 

OK, then the second triangle is two boyz and a girl, likewise being hammered into men and a woman. 

Notice when talking about creating an SF world in Part VI, we talked about physics.  Now we're talking about characters.

SF generated the plot parameters -- interstellar civilization where Earth didn't invent the space drive.

Romance is generating the story parameters -- 6 PEOPLE in a tangled Relationship. 

To be a genuine Romance, the love-element has to generate the plot. But that's what the Science element has to do.

So we need LOVE to become a SCIENCE.

THE SOUL IS REAL is the unthinkable concept I'll use here.

IF THIS GOES ON... -- the "this" might well be the computerized dating services matching people up by "compatibility" or other parameters, applying cold equations to creating couples.

WHAT IF... after Eath's ecology has been fine-tuned by aliens, NEW ALIENS turn up in this galactic association.

What if the NEW ALIENS run "The Loveboat" -- an interstellar Cruise Ship where, for a consideration, you board to find your Soul Mate (for real, not a scam, but of course everyone thinks it's a scam).

Remember the X-Files? 

One Character-triangle believes (all 3 for different reasons) that the New Aliens are running a scam and have been set to prove that, to uncover the truth.

The other Character-triangle is totally committed (all for different reasons) to believing (regardless of evidence) that the New Aliens are actually matching Soul Mates into couples. 

"The Enterprise" is a ship built by Earth humans but not necessarily near here; run by an Alien who runs the engines (think FARSCAPE without the multitude of aliens). 

Our "The Enterprise" is a law-enforcement vehicle not an exploration vehicle.

The ship is assigned (by Earth's authority) to investigate and resolve all kinds of mysteries and crimes here and there around the galaxy, each week a different problem.

Our Ensemble of 6 are assigned to our Enterprise by various Law Enforcement agencies on Earth, and their job is to police Earth citizens (some of which may not be human) operating in the galaxy.

But like Sherlock Holmes, Our Investigators deal with a "Scotland Yard" - a central law enforcement organization among the member Worlds, so we have permanent ongoing recurring characters. 

OK, The Pilot Episode has Our Interstellar Scotland Yard begging the services of Our Investigators to determine if a crime is being committed out-back-of-nowhere at the edge of organized space.

They are following a money trail, or more likely a movement of some commodity (or say high-explosives capable of destroying a star?). Something HUGE is draining the economy, and it just can't be legal.

They find, in the opening 2-parter, that a human/alien colonized world is being visited by this New Alien ship that charges impossible fees for a couple-month long Cruise out beyond the backwater.  People return to the colony in couples and REALLY DO live happily ever after (not drugged, not brain-washed, not tricked -- for real.)

People elsewhere are selling all their possessions and moving to this colony to buy passage on that Cruise.

Of COURSE some human criminals will exploit this new thing, keep it secret, charge huge fees to agent passage on this ship - pump up the rumors, and fake some "happy ever after" couples. (kind of like a snuff-fight ring)

But the New Aliens are for real, and when Our Six get done with the opening episode, diplomatic relations have been established with the New Aliens who now can send Cruise Ships into organized space and exploit other planets.

The series is generated as 3 of our 6 take one side of the matter, and the other 3 take the opposite view.  As our "Enterprise" is sent here and there over the next episodes, the New Aliens keep turning up -- never a crime to be pinned on them.

Our "Enterprise" carries a forensic section like the TV Show "Bones."  Only this one has some alien science to draw on. Maybe a research-sickbay operation like the TV show House.  These folks plus our 6 investigators are 'cargo'. There might be a detachment of Marines aboard from time to time - have to allow for some action scenes.

The forensics specialists from Earth are of course there to try to "steal" (figure out) the science behind the alien space drive that Earth is not allowed to know. 

Our "Enterprise" has a Captain and Crew - but not a big crew.  Possibly only 4 people, plus robots and AI -- Captain, Astrogation, Engineering, Communications. These guys are "Navy" -- Marines are cargo until they're needed.

As the Vulcan civilization (or Dr. Who's Gallifrey) was never revealed early on (and a disappointment once revealed), our New Aliens and their Soul-centered technology view of the universe remains a total mystery, and largely irrelevant except where the 6 square off to "prove" one view or other other (it's a scam vs it's not). 

We never establish whether the Soul or any particular view of God is "real." If we deal with ghosts etc., it is as in our everyday reality -- there it is, but you'll never know if it's "real." 

The final episode will sort the 6 out into Soul Mated couples -- perhaps not with each other.  That would depend on the "chemistry" among the actors.

So there's one exercise -- not digested and presented as a "pitch" at all, just some inchoate notes such as a writer would make just to remember "an idea." 

Now, do that for yourself with other choices. 

Be sure to JOIN the "SF" and the "Romance" to the "Plot." 

That takes a philosophical QUESTION (such as "Is The Soul Real?") that forms the lynchpin joining science to romance.

Remember, "Love Conquers All" has the inherent conflict of Love vs. SOMETHING PREVENTING IT - love has to have something to conquer or you don't have a Romance.  The way I've set this one up, Love is conquering Skepticism. Pick something you like better. 

Oh, this mashup thing needs a title.  What would you call it? 

Mobile Lab

Soul Slingers

Business As Usual

Gone a-Conquering

The Schadchen

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

ps: BEWARE. there are so many writers who aspire to sell a TV Series that there are any number of "schools" to teach the "secrets" of selling to TV. The following one might actually be legit, but think about what the roaring crowd looks like from a producer's point of view.


  1. Oh, this mashup thing needs a title. What would you call it?


    Though of the ones you listed, I like Soul slingers and The Shadchen. Or maybe The Shadchen Ship (though that sounds more like an episode title name than a series name).

  2. "To be a genuine Romance, the love-element has to generate the plot. But that's what the Science element has to do.

    So we need LOVE to become a SCIENCE.

    THE SOUL IS REAL is the unthinkable concept I'll use here."

    That's what I'm working on right now in Sweet Bytes. I touched on it near the end of Crushed. What if an Empath formed an empathic bond with a regular human and then encountered a Telepath?

  3. Miriam:

    Good brainstorming for a title! Keep it up.

    KimberAn -- oh, yes, we need lots and lots of these, especially aimed at young people who will grow up with an interest in the subject.