The Pitch Of A Lifetime: One Enterprising 'Star Trek' Fan's Big Chance
Like many Star Trek fans, Michael Chang Gummelt wants the legendary franchise to return to TV. And like many fans, he has a lot of ideas about what such a reboot should look like.
But Gummelt also has something no other fan does: a meeting with Paramount to pitch his concept.
He envisions a serialized show, set 200 years after the original series, in which a crew sets off to explore the Andromeda galaxy. Gummelt, a video game programmer and designer, has been working on the idea for nearly two decades. He has written entire episodes and series arcs, and has published them online.
Other fans have published scripts online. But a naming coincidence brought his site to the attention of Paramount, the studio that produces the Star Trek movies — and they invited him to come make his pitch.
Gummelt is the first to acknowledge that pitching to a movie studio is a long way from making a TV show a reality.
"I'm not going to get my hopes up, because I know how the industry doesn't generally do things this way," he says. "But I'm gonna do my best, and I've got nothing to lose."
A pitch is, of course, a sort of test. And since this is a Star Trekreboot we're talking about, there's an obvious question: Is there any chance this might be a Kobayashi Maru scenario — one with no way to succeed?
Gummelt laughs, and channels Captain Kirk.
"I don't believe in no-win scenarios," he says.
On how he got the attention of Paramount Studios
Well, it was kind of luck, I'll be honest. This is an idea I've been working on for maybe 20 years off and on. I figured, well, the 50th anniversary is coming up and I haven't heard anything about a new show; let me write up my idea.
I had started the script; I finished the script. I had put it online, like, last year in January. And I named it Star Trek: Beyond. I bought the website, I put it all up there. And then a year-and-a-half later, Paramount decided that's going to be the name of their next movie. ...
So I think they came across me and they were like, "Uh, hey, you came up with the same name. How would you like to come in and pitch your idea?"
On the premise of his show (since renamed Star Trek: Uncharted)
The show takes place about 200 years after Kirk — about 100 years after The Next Generation, if that's a more familiar thing. It's really about modernizing Star Trek — about taking Star Trek, the same spirit of the original series, and if you were to take that same spirit and invent it now, what would the show look like?
So the idea is to make it a modern show with a modern format about modern themes; a diversity that feels modern now; technology that feels futuristic now. And sociopolitical themes that are current now. That's the real aim of the show. ...
[The ship] is a new Enterprise, a new prototype Enterprise that is built just for this mission.
Basically the idea is that the Federation, after a great war, has spread out across the galaxy now; there is no new frontier. But then they get this message from Andromeda that says, basically, "Hey, come check us out."
And they're like, "We've gotta do this," and they dig up this crazy old scientist ... and build this new ship.
I've wrote about five episodes, including a pilot. And I wrote a series bible for it and a bunch of background information. So it's all up there in my head; I've even got seven seasons of story planned out for it.
On why he feels like we need Star Trek on TV, even with the new rebooted movies
Star Trek movies always tend to have to be action films. They have to be self-contained stories with really high stakes. And that really limits the kind of storytelling you can do. I don't think you can get the breadth of stories and depth of character development that you can get on a TV series.
But I think Star Trek is also, when it's at its best, is a cultural force for good. It shows a progressive, optimistic future; it shows diversity working together. It shows tolerance. It's inspired generations of thinkers and creators, artists and scientists. I think that's probably the most important thing about Star Trek, is its effect on culture.
On his dream outcome for this pitch
I'm pitching to Paramount because they're the ones that discovered it because of the movie tie-in. But I know that they don't have the rights to produce new Star Trek TV series; CBS does.
But my goal is to meet with them and personally try to impress them on how this is a good idea — how this is good for the franchise and how this is good business-wise — and get them excited about it enough that they'll then say, "Hey, CBS, you should listen to this guy," and get me a pitch meeting with them.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.