HOLLYWOOD, CA - After eight years, Star Trek is returning to the small screen -- with a new TV series based on the fan production Star Trek: Excelsior. But current listeners may be surprised at the changes Paramount plans to make to the audio series.
"This is a great day for fans everywhere," announced James Heaney, executive producer of Star Trek: Excelsior. "It will be a day long remembered. The wait for this day has felt infinitely prolonged. We will be working with Paramount Pictures to -- oh wait, it's a good day to die too. And it's one of those days when everyone lives. That should cover it.
"Anyway, Star Trek: Excelsior is becoming a real Star Trek show. We're ascending to canon! And all it took were a few minor adjustments to everything."
In the audio series, Captain Alcar Dovan commands the U. S. S. Excelsior on a mission of discovery. Dovan, a blue-skinned Bolian with a troubled past, takes command after the original captain's death.
The televised series, however, will star George Takei as Captain Hikaru Sulu, a human.
"You win, all right?" announced executive producer Elaine Asmit. "We're making the damn Excelsior show. Don't get cocky. If we had any better ideas, and if certain special-interest groups weren't so marketable these days, we'd just have let you keep whining."
The audio series is set in the 2380s aboard the top-of-the-line Sovereign-class starship Excelsior. The TV show will be set in the 2290s, and the starship, while similarly named and equally advanced for its day, will instead be Excelsior-class.
"This is strictly a cash-in," emphasized Ms. Asmit. "It would be a waste not to capitalize on the movies with a TV show, especially since we have J. J. Abrams' name to put on it. He won't be involved with the show, but that's only one less season than he usually sticks around."
The audio series has many supporting characters, such as Lt. Lorhrok, Ensign Yubari, and Simon Wesle-- er, Westlake. None of these characters will be returning for the TV series. Instead, Tim Russ will be reprising his role as Tuvok; the actor's graying hair will be explained as part of a rebellious phase the character is going through. Comedian Louis CK is in talks to play that one guy from "Flashback" who looked like him.
"The cast understands," said Mr. Heaney. "A voice actor isn't the same thing as a stage actor. Most of them don't look a whole lot like their characters anyway... even though I've told them it would improve their performances. 'The audience can't hear it,' they say. Yeah? Well, they can hear inauthenticity! But no, apparently realism isn't worth a little time in the makeup chair. Larry I can understand, but come on, Sam! Spots are easy!"
While the producers promise exciting, action-packed stories, Paramount nonetheless expects to spend considerably less on the Excelsior series than on past Star Trek programs.
"We're going back to model work," explained Ms. Asmit. "We still had the old Excelsior model lying around; all we needed to do was snap off those styrofoam fin things they attached for Generations. So we're covered for the 'ship flying by' shots, which make up 90% of any given episode. For shots with other ships, we'll need CGI, but we've found a way to save money there too. You guys won't notice a little watermark on the screen, right?"
Mr. Heaney describes himself as "overweeningly confident" about the show's chances. "Hey, it's a few weeks before airing and we haven't been canceled yet, so we're already doing better than some shows. But if I can be serious for a moment... Star Trek has grown into one of our civilization's great mythologies. Its messages of hope and adventure have touched countless lives; it can't be suppressed and it can't be bought (dammit). Being a real part of Trek for the first time is a profoundly humbling experience.
"What? Oh no, not humbling for ME. Now bow down!"
"We all have high hopes for Excelsior," said Ms. Asmit. "Not high in terms of performance or quality, but high in terms of profit. We plan to spend so little on this thing that we can't not make money on it. Although frankly, even if we don't, it'll be worth it to shut Takei up.
"Now what's this audio-thing you keep mentioning?"
Reactions to the Star Trek: Excelsior announcement have largely been enthusiastic. TrekToday has pledged to post any and all news about the series when room can be found between StarTrek.com reposts, DS9 re-reviews, and ads for overpriced licensed merchandise. Reviewers such as Tim Lynch and Jammer have promised to "think about" covering the new show. (Added Jammer: "DVD sets might help grease the ol' wheels, if you get me.") FiveMinute.net is probably doing a thing. Even evay of TripHammered briefly expressed interest in making a spinoff site, but was disappointed to find that the Excelsior series, while quick to hammer characters, rarely allows them to survive.
Reactions to the announcement have been pouring in from all corners, like the sand that drowns one of the villain's henchmen in the live-action Jungle Book movie. Family-friendly Disney film, this paper's ass.
"Excelsior!" shouted comic book magnate Stan Lee. "That is the word that Paramount has stolen from me. I'm suing for five million dollars and/or a cameo. My legal team will be delivering the papers as soon as they've got their costumes on. Let this be a lesson to you, Paramount: if you want to rip someone off, wait till they're dead! Ha ha!" Mr. Lee's lawsuit against the estate of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow remains pending.
"Say, didn't Sulu's first officer turn out to be Janice Rand?" asked actress Marina Sirtis. "How are they going to manage that now that Grace Lee Whitney is 83? I guess they would have no choice but to recast her with someone younger. Maybe someone who has Star Trek experience, to ease the transition... and who hasn't had work since her last project fell through... yes, someone like that... will you excuse me for a moment?" (This reporter lacked the heart to inform Ms. Sirtis that Paramount has already cast Gates McFadden.)
"I'm hanging around for a while -- not because my name is on it or anything, but just to make sure they don't interfere with my own plans for Sulu," remarked brilliant, award-winning flavour of the month J. J. Abrams. "See, he's on the ship for the next three movies, but in the one after that he has his own ship called the Excelsior. ...Hmm? Yes, I know, but it's really clever how we get there. Also, he's way younger."
"I've already written the novelization of the pilot," said author Diane Carey. "Yes, I know the pilot itself isn't written yet, but I'm long past the point of needing to wait."
"They're replacing a Bolian with a human? That's blatant denial of his racial identity! Talk about needing to be educated! RACEFAAAAIL!" shouted every single goddamn person on Tumblr.
"Ha ha ha ha HA HA HA!" laughed actor George Takei. "At last my time has come! For many years a fan campaign fought to make me the star of a new Star Trek series, a prospect I always found oddly appealing. Paramount has had several fine opportunities before. The one that really burns me up, even now, is Enterprise. In their creative bankruptcy, the producers decided to make a prequel series with characters coldly calculated to capitalize on original-series nostalgia. And here I was with just the thing, but they made up their own!
"We all know what happened after that: decline, cancellation, and highly profitable reinvention. With my help, they could have avoided all of it. Now at last they have wisely seen the wisdom of my wisdom, and they have made the wise decision, while in no wise contemplating the whys and wherefores.
"Now don't get me wrong, I'll miss these last few years of pursuing homosexuality as a full-time career, but it was high time I returned to acting. Lately I've been feeling a certain... wistfulness. An impulse to return to the art form in which my greatest skills lie. It is a strange sensation, almost a magnetic force. I don't know precisely what it is, but I call it 'Bill Shatner has been acting again', and I am ready to follow it wherever it leads.
"To my doubters, I have this to say. You counted me out, didn't you? You thought I was a has-been, an old-timer, a washed-up long-gone hyphen-connected phrase? So you say -- yet here I am!
"And to Bill, I have this message. Very soon, when you least expect it..." At that point the interview got weird.
Meanwhile, voice actor Larry Phelan, whose place in the series has been taken by Takei, released a brief message for the press. Most of it is unprintable, but it sounds really growly and badass.