A Letter to Writers of Long Term Franchises

Note:  This was written back in 2013 and originally posted on a website called Bubblews.  Since the site has been taken down, I feel free to repost it here.  I re-read it and sadly despite the time alot of it is still valid for several TV and film writers/directors/producers when it comes to long term projects like Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who and Game of Thrones.  JJ Abrams is no longer part of Star Trek, but has moved on to a franchise he did enjoy (Star Wars), but Steven Moffat is still head writer on Doctor Who, although it seems to be close to the end of his run.

Also as an update, I have seen Into Darkness since I wrote this, but that is a rant for another day and mostly focuses around the character of Christine Chapel.

I’ve recently been seeing quotes given by people working on popular sci-fi series that give me pause.

The first is one by JJ Abrams, the director of Star Trek: Into Darkness.  JJ has produced a couple series that I have enjoyed (Alias and Fringe) and some I haven’t (Lost) and I did enjoy the first movie and have yet to see the recent one.  However what made me pause was the fact that Abrams came out and admitted he didn’t like Star Trek until he worked on the movie, and that he was making a movie the rest of movie population could enjoy.

I’m trying to think positively about that, even though it makes me wonder why he choose to accept the job if he never liked the show and his producer partner hadn’t even seen it.  I am going to assume for a moment that he actually wanted to make a movie that Trek fans could enjoy even though it was made into a sci-fi action film that people who don’t like Star Trek could enjoy.  But a lot of people are wondering just how much respect for the original show did he actually have to be involved in this project.

The second comment that made me pause was by Steven Moffat, the main writer of Doctor Who in recent years.  Now I have had issues with his writing recently, but I was a little off guard when he admitted at comic con that he wrote for himself.  (I can not find a video of this for proof)

That could be taken innocently, that he writes to make himself happy, and he doesn’t write to make someone outside of him happy.  But several fans have seen it as ‘I don’t care what fans want or think.’ This is a little more problematic for me.

There seems to be this growing disrespect for those who are longtime fans of a franchise.  The opinion of those who spend their money purchasing products related to the franchise are not considered.  Beyond the simple economic problem here – if the consumer is unhappy he will stop being interested, stop purchasing, watching, the show loses advertising revenue, the people paying the bills stop wanting to pay them and the show comes to a finish – we also have the problem that these shows are not in a vacuum.

People write fan fiction for themselves all the time.  Many of those do keep their works to themselves.  They needed to get the idea out and now that they have, they are fine with it resting on some hard drive for all eternity.  Others like to post it online for others enjoyment.  But fan fiction is not something you are paid for.  Or at least it hasn’t been, though many have attempted to change that.

Science Fiction is a community.  You need to respect the fans and at least consider their wants and desires when you are writing, or directing or participating in the franchise.  Star Trek is turning 50 soon; Doctor Who is celebrating it this year.  That’s at least 3 generations of fans, possibly more.  People who have grown up with these shows, people who love them more than you might expect.

Change of course is good.  Like I said before, these shows are not vacuum shows.  They develop change, they alter as they grow.  But the person who is directing the change within the show needs to respect what has come before as they develop what is to come.

And I think if you don’t respect the fans, the ones who have been with this show longer then you have been, or might be, then you have no business directing the future of that show.

Respect your fans.  You don’t have to counter to their every whim that would be chaos. (If you’ve ever witnessed a ship war, you understand what I mean)  But listen from time to time.  Write for them even as you write for yourself.  Respect what they love about the show while adding your own tastes into the mix.  And make sure the fans understand you respect these things, because both of the above gentlemen are having trouble with that.

Don’t be the jerk who’s taken the toys away from the other kids and say “UH AH, IT’S MINE!”

There needs to be mutual respect.

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