Blood and Fire

As the story goes, in 1986, shortly after Paramount announced the creation of Star Trek: The Next Generation, somebody at a convention asked Gene Roddenberry whether this new Star Trek would include any gay characters. Gene Roddenberry immediately replied that yes, it would indeed.

Hearing this, David Gerrold, best known for writing the TOS episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”, set out to write a screenplay, “Blood and Fire”, for Next Gen which included a gay character. Gene Roddenberry approved the script, and the studio execs balked at including anything of that sort on a show which children might see at 4:00pm in some markets.

Twenty-two years later, Star Trek: Phase II filmed the episode, taking place in the TOS timeframe. This past weekend at Shore Leave, Phase II presented a “wet copy” of the episode. (Many of the visual effects were missing, others were preliminary. Likewise, the audio track had yet to be cleaned up.)

All in all, it was a good episode. The acting was dead on and the story was compelling. The main storyline centers around a thinly-veiled reference to AIDS, but as a general threat instead of something limited to the gay community. Whether there any members of the crew were gay was incidental to the story. (Indeed, if the point of the episode was social commentary by having a gay crewmember, that end might have been better served by a different story.)

One particularly memorable scene involved a call for blood donors. I saw a preview of that scene in February at Farpoint and my thought both times was that it would make a fantastic stand-alone “commercial” for any convention’s blood drive. Talking to Executive Producer (and Captain Kirk) James Cawley afterward, I learned that this scene had been written that way on purpose. Part of the reason was because when the AIDS crisis first began, people stopped giving blood for fear of getting AIDS. (Here in the 21st century, some twenty years later, everyone knows that donating blood is safe, right?) And the other reason for writing the scene that way? Well, apparently there’s some outside interest (not just me) in creating a blood-drive commercial from it!

About my only complaints with the episode are that some of the humor seems a bit heavy-handed at times and it has so many sub-plots that some of them don’t get adequate attention. The episode is still in post-production, so it’s possible some of that will be edited or augmented, and having subplots can be quite a good thing.

The episode runs in two parts, each somewhere around 50 minutes long. (I didn’t check the time, so perhaps someone “in the know” will leave an approximate runtime in the comments.) Part 1 is planned for release sometime in October, though this is (of course) subject to people’s schedules and other production vagaries which might impact a fan film. No release schedule was mentioned for Part 2.

I look forward to seeing the final version.

The rest of this post contains potential spoilers; you’ve been warned.

Some things to look for in the in episode:

  • Of all the people to whom you might mention a daughter! We now have an a point for arguing that Captain Kirk is the father of a member of Captain Picard’s bridge crew.
  • Spock just can’t seem to win arguments with the medical staff.
  • I hope they don’t try to show the Sparkle Dancer. Showing people’s reactions to it leaves the visual up to the viewer’s imagination and avoids falling short of expectations.
  • A certain rogue division of Starfleet makes an appearance.