I watched an interview with Ira Behr, the writer and showrunner on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. He talked about his days in the DS9 writer's room. It was the 90's, and the early days of the Internet. Even in those days, Star Trek discussion was flourishing online.
Behr said the writers would come in talking about fan forums, and about complaints the fans had about the show. Behr told them to ignore it, and forget the fans. Behr went on to lament the fandom (though not fans as individuals, who he said he's had positive interactions with) and proclaimed that it was not for the fans to tell the writers what to do. He said something that I've heard from other franchise writers: that it's not the job of the writers to give fans what they want - it's to give them what they need.
It was challenging to hear this, even though I'm sure I've heard it in years past and probably agreed with it. But it did fly in the face of so much criticism I've heard of modern franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek in recent years. The fandom, who now have a loud voice online, are often complaining about the Franchises not delivering for the fandom, and even fighting with fans on social media and possibly criticizing/insulting them in the print media.
(I say “possibly” criticizing fans in the media because I think the print media will make headlines out of the most attention-getting stuff and the words of creators can have their meaning distorted or exaggerated out of context. But that's a whole other discussion).
So many fan critics have called for more FANS to be in the writers' rooms of these Franchises - as the studios seem to be turning away from this idea, and hiring writers who know nothing about the Franchises they'll be writing. How can these writers deliver quality stories for these brands when they know nothing about the brands or what appeals to people about them? It's a fair question!
Still, hiring writers who are fans - or more likely, pandering to fans can be a losing strategy as well. If any franchise surveyed the top superfans of whatever series they're working on and included their top 20 wants for the next sequel or season, you could easily end up with a mess.
Just as bad could be delivering the most recognizable surface elements of a Franchise - recognizable to general audiences, that is. See Star Trek Into Darkness for an example of this.
Sticking with Star Trek, Nicholas Meyer is the celebrated director of two of the best/most beloved Star Trek films (Wrath of Kahn and The Undiscovered Country). He has said that he knew nothing about Star Trek when he developed the scripts and directed the movies. He said he had scifi/Star Trek scripts but directed them as if they were submarine movies.
Meanwhile, Terry Matalas delivered a fanservice-heavy Picard season three with great success.
I believe the fanservice in Picard has a strong foundation of understanding the characters and world of Star Trek deeply, and delivering on a deeper level with the characters. That's the true fan service of that season in my opinion - the surface level stuff is nice, but would have been empty without that deeper knowledge - Matalas is a big Trek fan himself.
The early X-Men movies worked in a similar way - the creators may not have been fans of the comics, but they dug deeply into the comics to understand the fundamentals of those characters and that series. Same with several of the early Marvel movies.
I guess GOOD writers can ignore the fans because they will know what they're doing far better than most fans.
Bad writers who arrogantly snub the fans…and the franchises they're writing…will be less successful.
How many people are fans of seeing this lengthy article come to an end?
I'm with you!
See you next time!
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Banes at 12:00AM, May 11, 2023
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