|First Fiver Retrospectives: Zeke|
FIVE-MINUTE CARETAKER: A HISTORY IN PICTURES|
Only with a lot of words and no pictures
A This Just In Special Publication
It's June 2, 2000, and an employee of Penguin Books is leafing through a recent submission. He sets it down on the desk and sighs. "It's not that we don't respect your enthusiasm, Mr. Hayman," the employee says to the submission's author, sitting nervously across from him. "And this is an interesting concept you've come up with. It's even sort of funny. But it just isn't what we're looking for."
Colin "Zeke" Hayman would quickly get used to hearing this. The high-school senior submitted his parody, straightforwardly titled Five-Minute "Caretaker," to more than a dozen publishing companies in the summer of 2000. The responses were always negative: "No thanks." "We can't use it." "A book needs to be longer than three pages." "Too many registered trademarks." "Mr. Hayman, we only publish pornography here." Finally, when he was on the point of giving up, Zeke had a sudden brainstorm: why not give up? Publishing companies have standards, but anyone can post anything on the web. Perhaps this would be his route to fame.
Today, Zeke is indeed marginally closer to fame, and Five-Minute "Caretaker," his first parody, is five years old. More than that, it is a sort of founding father to a website of hundreds of "fivers," as the parodies call themselves.
"The thing to understand is that Zeke's purpose was different back then," notes leading fiverologist Dr. Brian Cutlass. "He honestly was trying to cut 'Caretaker' down to the smallest possible size without significant loss of information. Oh, he put jokes in, but most of the humour was supposed to come from the compression itself. That one Tom Paris line -- 'No. On second thought, yes.' -- sums the style up perfectly.
"Another difference is that Zeke was only writing to amuse his forum buddies. It wasn't till later, when he was doing Voyager's Season 7 episodes every week, that it started feeling like a duty to him. He didn't have to ramp up the humour with wacky subplots or cameos. And of course, since 'Caretaker' was the first fiver, he could use all the easy jokes without worrying about repeating himself."
The road has not been easy for Five-Minute "Caretaker." It had to spend the first six months of its life at Geocities, and it wasn't till even later that Zeke noticed a serious error in the text. (A Chakotay line had been attributed to the Caretaker.) But there have been upsides too. Five-Minute "Caretaker" now has two places to hang its hat -- FiveMinute.net and host site TrekNation.com. Several of its scenes have also inspired homages or followup gags in other fivers.
"The most obvious references are the direct line or scene transplants," explains fiver continuity specialist Hoser Prentiss-Rodriguez. "An early Kira fiver, 'Before and After,' cleverly revisited the Kes/Neelix scene in 'Caretaker' since that scene was revisited in the episode itself. More recently, Zeke used the 'We're alone' bit in 'Message in a Bottle' -- most 'We're alone' jokes are based on Janeway's actual speech from the pilot, but this one was a clear reference to the fiver. Later, the second EMH's appearance mimics the Doctor's debut in 'Caretaker.' There are subtler examples, too, like the first Paris/Kim scene in 'Non Sequitur.' And Janeway calls Chakotay 'traitorous Maquis insurgent man' again in the 'Shattered' fiver -- a nod so direct that even Robert Beltran noticed it.
"These do seem to come mostly from Zeke's own work, don't they? Normally I'd attribute it to his mile-wide ego, but I think it has more to do with his fondness for this particular fiver. He's on record saying that 'Caretaker' is still his favourite. Which is funny because it's nothing like the ones he writes now... for one thing, it was on time. Zing!"
According to Zeke, the story is a bit more complicated. "I have a love-hate relationship with Five-Minute 'Caretaker.' It is my favourite, because it started all this, and because it's still the best one ever at doing what a fiver is supposed to do. But by the same token, it's a constant frustration to me. It's 7K in size -- and that's for a two-hour episode. My one-part Enterprise fivers are rarely under 15K now. I like the way I currently write fivers, but I always get a twinge of guilt when I look at 'Caretaker.' It makes me feel like I've abandoned my Statement of Purpose."
Zeke will get no argument on this point from reader Edith Westmount, organizer of a campaign called 5MVers For Brevity (5FB for brevity). "Zeke has lost his way," declares Mrs. Westmount. "It's one thing to just write wacky comedy -- it's quite another to burn 60 minutes down to 5. Five-Minute 'Caretaker' was something unique. Readers like me were attracted by that. But what Zeke does nowadays, any schmoe can do. I've stopped even reading his Enterprise fivers -- you get five or six scenes in and then find out Reed and T'Pol are dating or Porthos is from Krypton. It's not worth it."
Some readers go further. "Zeke must go," says former 5FB campaign advisor Mary Sue Scrivener, reportedly fired for extremism. "His recent work brings shame on all that came before it. The hitcounts decline further every year, and crap like the Mayweather/Sato relationship won't get the young male demographic back -- it just cheapens the whole thing. Five-Minute Voyager has become a joke. It's no surprise that those who care about good comedy have moved on to other sites like Eight-Microt Farscape and 1980-Second Galactica.
"Zeke may have done good work in the past, but now he's no more than a hack who's been in the business too long. He's always talking about 'big things coming' and 'not your father's Five-Minute Voyager,' but nothing changes. And the others are no better -- power has gone to their heads just as much. Just look at the wacky Jim Kirk that IJD GAF writes nowadays. No, what this site needs is new blood. And like everyone else who says that, by new blood I mean me. Rally round! I come to save you all! Get ready for the new Five-Minute Voyager -- of, by, and for Mary Sue!" (Mrs. Scrivener proceeds to take out a notebook and start writing fiver scenes, all of which seem to involve Janeway and Chakotay making out.)
But whatever their opinions of what has come afterwards, everyone seems to agree that Five-Minute "Caretaker" is pretty good. According to Zeke, in a recent poll of 5MV readers, the fiver was given an average rating of π2 out of 10. "It's funny how that worked out," comments Dr. Cutlass. "Pi is a transcendental number, so it can't be the average of a set of integers, and its square can't either. Also, I don't remember anything about a poll being posted on the website. Or the forums. Or the LiveJournal. Makes you think."
"It's no surprise that Five-Minute 'Caretaker' is still popular," says Mr. Prentiss-Rodriguez. "There's something special about a pilot, the first of a breed. It doesn't really matter what the actual content is. Was the first Mega Man game all that great? Was John A. Macdonald a terrific prime minister? Was Iron Man's first armour remotely impressive? Were there more than a couple of good songs on Great Big Sea's first album? Not really. But these are all held in high esteem because of what they started.
"Five-Minute 'Caretaker' isn't the best fiver ever written. It's primitive, unpolished. But it started something Zeke couldn't get out of now if he wanted to. And as for the content, if nothing else, the 'Chakotay 1, Cardassians 0' thing has left its mark. Scores like it have appeared in 26 other fivers all over the site, not to mention a TJI and three panel discussion segments."
"Yeah, I stole that," adds Zeke. "I don't remember where I stole it from, but I definitely stole it."
Original fiver: "Caretaker" by Zeke