Minefield

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Title: Minefield
Creator: Teri Meyer
Date(s): June 1983
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Topic: fandom, profit, rumor, fandom gullibility, blame, gratefulness
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Minefield is an essay by Teri Meyer, the editor of Interstat. It was published in issue #68.

The subject of this essay was the leak and sale of a script outline, presumably pirated, for the third Star Trek movie.

The incident, and fan reaction, touched on the topics of canon, ownership, suspected hijinks by Paramount (and therefore fan manipulation), the big business of film making, and fans' supposed desperate desire to buy anything.

Content

Harve Bennett once described his experience making WRATH OF KHAN as "a series of minefields." With the rampant dispersal of an alleged ST III outline, it would seem the groundwork for another such is being laid. The results are obvious: studio personnel pay a heavy price and Star Trek fans are being ripped-off by the dealers involved in its marketing. At a time when some semblance of unity is desired, the dealers, in their eagerness to make a quick buck, drive an unhealthy wedge between studio and fan. Professing to be honest merchants, they prey on fan emotion and peddle their hot item with little remorse and even less regard for the consequences: legit outline or not, a multitude of fakes are sure to follow. It is a simple and easy task for a dealer to promote material with a Bennett name attached to it. It's even easier to slap a silly, but enticing 'confidential' stamp on it. It's easy because there will always be those people who will buy the material. The majority of fans, however, can see through these cheap dealer tricks. They are concerned more with the final product—they anxiously await the film. They do so because they know, like an outline, the script will undergo many changes before the cameras begin to roll. They also do not cherish the thought of being cheated with written works that, if not fakes, are pieces obsolete and, therefore, meaningless. Crass attempts at undermining Bennett credibility will fall short as well with many fans. One needs only to have read this man's incredible list of credits—the producer/writer's track record speaks for itself. Within these pages we have indeed read letters from those fans searching for a philosophical, spiritual revelation in Trek. Perhaps we should start first by looking where it is sometimes not. Our fandom. Instead of making hasty predictions of movie gloom and doom, we should direct our attention to what is the real injustice here: the slick and illicit sale of another man's name. We fans are so quick to demand our rights and even more swift in demanding that they be respected. There's no question about it; the importance of those rights come crying home when it is our name abused or our published works copied and sold without authorization. What about the rights of the Star Trek production family? Where is that revered IDIC now? —Teri Meyer

Reactions and Reviews

Maybe I'm confused. Or, really ignorant. But it was news to me to see that an "outline" of ST III is being passed around. Did someone dig into the back pocket, and pay for this? In times like these? Have we not learned that "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it?" It was not so long ago that all hell was breaking loose prior to the release of STII. And the rumors flying were not all out right lies. Some were more dangerous half-truths. See Allan Asherman's book. Throwing tinfoil into the radar sets was a condoned policy at Paramount. Stop and think, this has happened before! Don't let it happen again. Not to you. Before shelling out money for any item related to STIII, meditate on the words of Montgomery Scott. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." [1]
Your point about fans according others the same rights they demand for themselves is well taken — if, in
 fact, the alleged script outline is "unauthorized," Is it totally off the wall to wonder whether Bennett himself might have leaked it as a trial balloon? After all, he did change the plot for TWOK after getting some rather strong fan reaction to a preliminary version of the script. If I were a savvy Hollywood producer and knew my audience had strong feelings about the material I was using, I think I might be willing to risk getting their input. (The leak & distribution of the above were not authorized by the Bennett ofc.--Ed.) In any case, even if distribution of the script was unauthorized and therefore a wrong against Bennett, our purchase of it and comments on it don't violate any rights of the copyright owners that I'm aware of. This brings up another issue which lurks between the lines of your commentary, Teri. It's whether fans have any business at all trying to influence a STAR TREK filmscript before it reaches its final state on screen. You seem to suggest — or assume — that our only legitimate role is to comment on the film after its release. "The majority of fans," you write, "....are concerned more with the final product [than with the script outline]—they anxiously await the film." "Don't interfere with Bennett's efforts to make a STAR TREK film," you seem to be saying. "Leave him alone and trust him until he delivers the final product." Isn't this like saying, to consumers concerned with (for example) automotive safety, "Don't interfere with GM's efforts to make cars. Trust Ford to do what's best." In other areas of our lives, we accept without question that consumers should have a voice in how goods and services which affect us are produced. Consumer participation implies no disrespect for the producer — it merely recognizes that consumers and producers do not always have the same interests. A hundred other influences will go into making the final version of the STAR TREK script — why shouldn't ours be among them? Commenting on a script outline is an excellent way to give the producers specific, constructive input and to point out problems in the script before they become major obstacles to our acceptance of the new movie. Don't forget that practically everyone on down to the second camera person now has script approval rights in ST III. Pressure from us may even be helpful to Bennett, as a counterweight to some of the other pressures he's under (from studio execs, for example). Personally, I'd like to see us fans have some script approval rights of our own, but that's wild-eyed radicalism, right? At least, I think fans deserve an opportunity for "notice and comment" on a proposed ST script outline — can anyone tell me why not? Remember, no one else can represent to Bennett our interest in STAR TREK — not Nimoy, not the cast, not even Roddenberry (unfortunately, Paramount will never give the Great Bird enough power effectively to monitor their treatment of his creation). We owe it to ourselves and to other fans to be ardent consumer advocates. [2]
Bravo for speaking up in Commentary, Teri. I do not totally agree with you, however. No fan buys any Trek material under compulsion, at least not the coercion that you implied those self-professed "honest merchants" must use. You and I are certainly in agreement that those early scripts are likely to be poor indicators of any released version of a movie, but I cannot see that any fan who buys one is being "ripped off," assuming that alleged script does indeed have a studio source. Why should .such a dealer feel remorse? For taking money from a willing buyer? A basic principle of a market economy such as ours holds that value is not established by people like you and me who do not want the item, but by those willing buyers who are fully informed of the uses of the item, or in this case, of the utter lack of usefulness of the item. If the buyer lets his/her emotions dictate a greater need for the script than we patient fans feel, that surely is not the fault of the sellers. To indict them with such emotionally loaded language as "Rampant, ripped-off, quick buck, prey on, and cheap dealer tricks" shows more about how strongly you feel the need to wait and see than it shows about those who sell studio cast-offs and the contents of unguarded wastebaskets. Let's agree that those early scripts do not mean much, and that our greater patience puts us in a clearly superior moral position, and then restate that old Roman warning: Caveat emptor; let the buyer beware! Wastebaskets are notoriously poor movie critics, and even worse prognosticators. (You are right. My statements were emotionally loaded and I apologize. They were the result of, among other things, a dealer doubling his price when offering the outline to less-knowledgeable fans. -- Ed.) [3]
It's very unfair of you to allude to "cheap dealer's tricks." Dealers did not steal that outline- Someone had to distribute it to the dealers in the first place, and that someone had to be from Paramount. Teri, you don't know: it could have even been Mr. Bennett himself! Believe me, dealers are just like the rest of us; they just want life and happiness, and couldn't be bothered trying to "drive a wedge between studio and fan" or "undermining Bennett's credibility"~he does that so well himself, by his own literary efforts- Selling the script to a few hardcore, con-going fans is not going to diminish Paramount in any way, no more than all the other movie and TV outlines for sale. If it diminishes Mr. Bennett, it is only because it is such a very terrible piece of writing; being the first version submitted to Paramount is no excuse for such inadequacy. Sitting here, as I am, beneath Paramount's great Brontosaurian tail, fearfully waiting for ST III to emerge, I want to know just what kind of...uhh substance is going to fall upon my head: I don't like nasty surprises, and I have a strong moral objection to supporting the prostitution of Star Trek. The "immorality" of selling that script positively pales against a similar "slick and elicit sale of another man's name" and creation: that of Gene Roddenberry and his original Star Trek. How can any fan feel they owe any loyalty to Paramount or Mr. Bennett, given that Star Trek is morally not their possession at all, and that they are presently destroying everything that made it unique and great? If there is any injustice here to be railed against, that is it! Yes, the script outline is obsolete, but never meaningless, since it accurately presages the essence and quality of the final script: very slick, very glossy—and empty, meaningless, and completely contrary to everything that made Star Trek what it once was. [4]
[the editor of Interstat responds to the above letter]: Editor's reply: Having never stated who was responsible for the outline's theft, my comments last issue were aimed at the "dealers involved in its marketing." I am confident that the dealers who read that, also understood it. "Life and happiness" notwithstanding, I repeat: The real injustice here is the slick and illicit sale of another man's name. Support of the Star Trek production office does not constitute support of an
entire corporation, nor does it mean that a fan's loyalties to Star Trek are
perverse in nature. I have sympathized with producers Roddenberry and Bennett
because they must deal with what seems like two opposing teams: a studio which has
never truly understood Star Trek and a fandom whose varied interpretations of Trek
are both mind-boggling and demanding. When Gene Roddenberry elected not to produce
Star Trek II, Paramount offered the project to Harve Bennett. Like Roddenberry,
Bennett's dedication to producing quality Trek was evident in his final product--
THE WRATH OF KHAN; and Roddenberry's approval of that film is the inclusion of his
name within the credits, "What a privilege for a filmmaker to have an audience that pays attention." In light of that good will, we should respectfully return the compliment to Harve Bennett by not judging, with destructive intent, the man's wine' before its time. [5]
From Sally F:
Yes, at least one fan did pay for it (the ST III outline)—me. I, too, adopted Judith Gran's thought that this was a "trial balloon" and wanted to try to guess what elements might appear in the final version. Just because something is unauthorized doesn't mean it's totally false (take a look at Susan Sackett's un authorized release of Spock's demise in ST II, to see what I mean). It looked good from the action approach; but there are a number of big holes in the rationalization of some of the plot—such as Spock's "transcendent state," and that the Romulans would totally abandon their ship. If it is a "balloon," I hope Harve listens to our criticisms, and does something about them in future drafts. [6]
From Daniel W:
I hang my head in shame. Your commentary made me realize how stupid it was of me to buy that outline whether it is the real McCoy( no pun intended) or not. You made an excellent point on how things are quite often changed between the story outline and the actual filming. I guess I succumbed to temptation. [7]
From Elaine M. B:
In all the brouhaha over the ST III outline the current rumors are prattling about, many people seem to be forgetting something very basic. If Teri is correct, and this outline was not deliberately leaked, or officially distributed, then it was stolen. Buying a copy of this pirated outline is the same thing as picking up a toaster or a watch, dirt cheap, from the back of a station wagon which is parked in the lot for half an hour at noon. That's receiving stolen property; and as far as I am concerned, anyone who buys that outline and believes it deserves what she/he gets. [8]
From Eric A. S:
I must also agree with Teri, that the problem with the Star Trek III outline is not that it is out and about, but that it has become the slick and illicit sale of another man's name. Who in fandom would condone the reproduction and sale of another fan's zine? Who would allow a dealer to get away with it if they knew? Who would even condone the reproduction of the zine (regardless of profit) without the permission of the author or editor? Doesn't Harve Bennett at least deserve the same basic consideration? And what of the Star Trek III script (soon to be pirated, I'm sure)? When does its reproduction and sale become more than the violation of ethics? [9]
From Michele A, who addresses a fan named Barbara P. G:
I can't really believe that you advocate buying stolen property (the ST III outline) so easily. Would you buy a bicycle that you suspected was stolen? Would you advocate that purchase because you've always wanted a bike? Come on. Let's show some degree of scruples around here, especially in print. You say you have a "strong moral (my emphasis) objection to supporting the prostitution of Star Trek," but you don't seem to mind exhorting the purchase by dealers of an unauthorized outine and then the sale of that outline to ST fans for sometimes double the price. Harve Bennett did not authorize its distribution; therefore, to buy or sell the outline is theft. Even if he had, there would be no way to find that out for sure, and the buyer must still assume its distribution was unauthorized. Barbara, your moral rationalizations in the name of" life and happiness make me shudder. [10]
From Barbara P. G:
George Takei, at Shoreleave Con, said that this script was scrapped when Paramount discovered that it had been bootlegged out and xeroxed—probably, he said, the copy given to ILSM. But I sincerely hope that it was more a matter of the Triumph of Good Taste. [11]
From Gail P. E:
Perhaps your "Minefield" commentary was emotionally loaded, but amidst it all was a whole lot of truth. We Trek-fen must decide how far we are willing to compromise our values for the sake of inside infor mation about ST productions. Your occasional commentaries are enjoyable; after all, you do have an editor's prerogative of expressing your opinions just like the rest of ST fandom. I admire your restraint and wonder if it is necessary to bind and gag yourself from time to time? Teri, for providing us with a place to air our criticisms, differences and praises uncensored, merci beaucoup! [12]
From Barbara P. G:
Really, Michele! Your comments are a bit distorted, to say the least! Dealers who sell the outline "for sometimes double the price"? WHAT price?! Being a "pirated" script (as we presume), it has no set price. It is whatever price each dealer chooses to set- And aren't you being just a little holier-than-thou? Can you honestly say that you have never read a pirated script yourself or seen a pirated tape, or perhaps even bought one? Then don't attack my "moral rationalizations"; look to your own. Also, one finds it difficult to feel too concerned about someone who has all the weight of Paramount's Brobdingnagian legal department behind him. If they wanted to prosecute the culprit who pirated that outline (and do keep that in mind please; it was not the dealers who did the pirating), I'm sure they would have absolutely no difficulty in doing so. That is their decision to make, their business—not yours. And if paramount were only more honest and forthcoming with the fans, this problem of thievery would be mitigated. [13]

References

  1. from Mary A. S in Interstat #69
  2. by Judith G, from Interstat #69
  3. from Mary Ann D, from Interstat #69
  4. from Barbara P. G, from Interstat #69
  5. from Teri Meyer, from Interstat #69
  6. from Interstat #70
  7. from Interstat #70
  8. from Interstat #70
  9. from Interstat #70
  10. from Interstat #70
  11. from Interstat #70
  12. from Interstat #72
  13. from Interstat #73