Marc Scott Zicree, “Mr. Sci-Fi” part 2: More from the Final Frontier, the new adventures of “Space Command” and beyond…

Here’s the link to part one of my two-part interview with “Mr. Sci-Fi” Marc Scott Zicree:

Marc Scott Zicree, “Mr. Sci-Fi” part 1: From the Twilight Zone to the Final Frontier…

And now, part 2 picks up with Marc Zicree’s experiences making an exceptional episode of the online fan film series Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase II, “World Enough And Time” (2007), his exciting, new, self-produced series, “Space Command” and the future of the medium:  

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Q:  The online “Star Trek New Voyages/Phase II” fan film, “World Enough and Time” starring George Takei (the original “Mr. Sulu” from TOS).  You wrote and directed that episode?

MZ:  One of my strengths is that some people are very hierarchical, and they look upon the fans with derision.  They think of themselves as these muckety-mucks who work in TV or movies and they wear a chip on their shoulder and they’re arrogant and they need to be, like you know, hosed down or something.  But I don’t.  I see everyone as my peer.  My collaborator.  I’m a fan, for god’s sake, and that hasn’t changed.   So my fanbase is the same as me, and I treat them with equal respect.  And I look for opportunities to create meaningful work.   I’m still going by what Harlan taught me, which is that television is the most powerful art form we’ve ever created.   It has the most power to reach people, to move people, to change people.  And you must not waste your audience’s time, you mustn’t waste that opportunity, the possibility.

So I was on a panel at a Star Trek convention at UCLA, a one-day science fiction convention, and they had a panel on Star Trek.   I was on the panel with Ron D. Moore (showrunner/writer) and Ron B. Moore (visual FX supervisor).  And also Walter Koenig (TOS’ Chekov).  Basically people from all the different versions of Star Trek.   And this was just when “Enterprise” was winding down, and it hadn’t found the popularity with fans that DS9 and Next Gen had.  And so, JJ (Abrams) announced he was going to do the movie (“Star Trek” 2009).   

So some of the audience asked Walter, ‘what’s the future of Star Trek?’    And Walter’s answer was so peculiar and surprising that after the panel, I sat down with him for an hour.  I said, “Tell me all about this.”  He said there was a professional Elvis impersonator named James Cawley, and he was a huge Star Trek fan.  And he’d basically taken the blueprints to build all of the original Star Trek sets in upstate New York (now the “Star Trek Tours” in Ticonderoga).   And he was shooting his own Star Trek episodes, and putting them online, and was getting more viewers than Enterprise was getting on UPN (the former United Paramount Network).   And I said, ‘wow.’  

Walter was about to do an episode, playing Chekov in an episode that Dorothy Fontana (writer/story editor of TOS) had written (“To Serve All My Days”).  I said that’s really interesting, and I went online and I’d watched the sequel that they’d done to “The Doomsday Machine” (“In Harm’s Way”), which was one of my favorites of the original.  And it had William Windom, and Melachi Throne, and Barbara Luna who were in the original Star Trek.  The visual FX were great, the costumes were great, the sets were great.   The professional actors were very solid, the other actors were kind of obviously fans.   But I loved it, it was great.   It was done with the right knowledge and affection for Star Trek, and everything that I thought Enterprise was, at some points, lacking.   Because the people doing Enterprise were kind of burnt out on Star Trek.  When Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Judith Reeves-Stevens came aboard, and took over in (Enterprise’s) 4th year, it got much better but by then it was too late.   

 

So when I watched that episode that was the sequel to “The Doomsday Machine” I thought, this is great.  And I also thought how I could make it better.   They were shooting in mini-DV and so forth.   Now back in the ‘70s, they were going to bring Star Trek back as a series, it was called “Star Trek: Phase II.”  And Paramount spent a year building sets and buying scripts.  And they put millions of dollars into it.  But then Star Wars came out, and they decided to do the movies instead of the series.   At that point, my friend Michael Reeves, who got me into television in the first place, he’d gone in and pitched.   He pitched two great stories he really wanted to do.   One was about McCoy’s wife.  It was where she’d died years earlier, and unbeknownst to McCoy she was cloned.   The clone is now grown, and she is a scientist.  She is brought aboard the Enterprise to do an experiment, and McCoy has to work with her, and she’s the spitting image of his wife when she died and she doesn’t know him at all.   It was a great story.   

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A more savage, 30-years older Hikaru Sulu (George Takei) is beamed back to the Enterprise, along with his daughter Alana (Christina Moses).

And the other story he pitched was a Sulu story.  Sulu becomes marooned on an alien planet for 30 years and becomes “John Carter of Mars,” has a daughter, and in an instant he’s back on the Enterprise where it’s only been a moment there but 30 years for him.    And Michael’s story ended differently than what we did with “World Enough and Time.”  In his version, we get to spend 30 years on that planet with Sulu, we get to see the life that he’s built.   And the devil’s bargain is that they can reconstitute him younger but he’ll forget the wife and daughter he has on the planet.   And he makes that devil’s bargain to save the Enterprise, and he doesn’t remember them.  In the interim, in the years since that, they’d done “The Inner Light” on Star Trek: The Next Generation where Picard has a whole life on an alien planet and it was too similar.  I wanted to do it on the Enterprise and bring the daughter there and see the relationship he had with his daughter.  And have the daughter encounter all of the Enterprise characters, and I wanted a very different kind of ending.   

And so, I called Michael, and said, “Hey, you want to write the script together, and do it for these guys in upstate New York?”  And he said, “Sure.”   Because we’d written things together, like “Smurfs”, you know, and we’d been friends for 30 years and I called the boys in upstate New York, and I said, “Michael Reeves and I both wrote for Star Trek Next Generation, and we’d like to do this story with George Takei, and I’d like to direct it.”    And they said, “Sure.”   And I said I’d like to shoot hi-def instead of mini-DV and they said “If you can get the cameras,” which of course I could, so I said, “Great.”   Then I went to George Takei’s house, and I typed up the three pages of the storyline as I intended to do it.   And I said (to George), “You never got the brilliant Sulu episode you deserved. You’re a brilliant actor, you deserve a great Sulu episode and this is it.  I want you to read these three pages and tell me if you can do it.”   He read it, and said, “I’m in.”  And that was great.

So then, it was very interesting, his agent got him next and said, “Well, George can’t say yes unless we have a script.”  I said, “You don’t understand; we won’t do the show unless George does it, because we’re not going to write the script unless George is aboard.”  And then it was up to George to trust me on that.  I’d known George ever since I’d interviewed him for “The Twilight Zone Companion,” years earlier, and so he trusted me, and he said okay.  It was very funny, because when Michael and I wrote the script that I dropped off at George’s house, he said, “Is this the same story you wrote in those three pages?”  I said, “Yes, George.”   *laughs*

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With new technology and FX, the gap between fan-made and professional productions is rapidly closing.

So then we spend six months building a production team, and all of my department heads, because I wanted to bring it up to the level of a network show.  I said (to) Michael, “Don’t step back from a bigger network show.  Write it exactly as you would for a network show.”   So we came up with that set-piece in the beginning, when they fly a shuttlecraft onto that damaged Romulan ship, and it just falls apart around them.  Because I knew we had to start with an action set-piece because so much of it was going to be talk.   And so, we start with an action set-piece.   And I knew that it was going to be…major major effects.   

My wife Elaine is also a wonderful director.  She’d been an actor and director off-Broadway.  So we flew to upstate New York, and we sat down with the regular cast of Star Trek: New Voyages.   The regular cast were not professional actors.  So what we did was we flew up months early and took them to what we called Actor’s Camp.  We took them through various improvs, various scenes, and various things to get a sense of who was the strongest actor among them.  They were all great people, but I was going to write the script and I had to know how to write for them.   The actress who played Uhura (Julienne Irons), she was a professional actress, so I gave her a scene with George Takei, because I knew she’d be wonderful.   And the one who played Spock (Jeffrey Quinn), he was wonderful too, a really good actor.   

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James Cawley’s Captain Kirk attempts to disarm a savage Sulu (George Takei).

As for James Cawley, the one who played Kirk, he was a very handsome, dynamic man, but the challenge for him was to be in the moment emotionally, not be an imitation of Shatner.  You want to be really in the moment.  That’s what we were talking about with him.  So I was going to cast the daughter out of L.A.  I actually cast the actress who was the lead on a show, a science fiction show on Showtime, and just months before we were going to shoot she had to have surgery, so she couldn’t do it.   Elaine said, “Don’t worry, we’ll have auditions and someone even better will come through the door.”    And Christina Moses came through the door.  She’d been an actress in New York, onstage, never done TV or film, and she was the most amazing actress I ever saw in my life.  So I cast her as the daughter.

Then Iain McCaig, my friend who’d designed Darth Maul and Queen Amidala (for the Star Wars prequels), he’d been my designer on “Magic Time”, a project I did as a TV pilot and a series of novels.  Subsequently he’d designed Rocket Raccoon for “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Thanos.  He’s worked on “Harry Potter.”  Designed Rey for “The Force Awakens.”  So he’s one of the top designers, and we were very close friends, had a similar aesthetic.   So I asked him to design barbarian-Sulu and his daughter.  So he did the look that George had, and the look that Alana had, which was spectacular.   What Iain said to me is that he doesn’t design the look of the character, he designs the biography of the character via the look of the character.  So he thinks what the life was.  So he had these talons and things that you’d use in a barbarian world.  

So then Michael and I wrote the script.  I brought my DP (director of photography) and certain department heads from Hollywood.  My goal was to integrate the fan crew with the Hollywood people because initially when we got there, it was like two camps; and my idea was to integrate them.   So what I said is, we set up a monitor where anyone who’s not on set, waiting to do other tasks, could watch the dailies as we’re shooting them.  And they started seeing spectacular dailies that we were getting, amazing scenes.  And they came together, and began to coalesce as a unit.

Q:  Nothing against the other episodes of Phase II, but “World Enough and Time” is by far and away my favorite of that series.

MZ:  Mine too, and again it was because my goal was to make it like a TV episode that you’d watch on NBC or anywhere.  And also there was the issue of, are we doing a show from the 1960s, or are we doing a show that could be aired now?  I was always… we are doing a show that can be aired now.  It was not nostalgic, at all.  If we were to do a Star Trek now, this is what it’d be.   And that’s why I had the wraparound on the Excelsior (Sulu’s ship, later in Star Trek’s timeline), because the idea was that this is taking us to the Star Trek universe that’s gone on since the original series as well.  So I wanted to bookend it with him, and it was the last time George had played Sulu, it was the last time Grace Lee Whitney had played Rand, it was the last time that Majel Roddenberry had done the computer voice.   So I was very aware of the history, and what I was up to, and that was even true of the aspect ratio.  Because the issue was, do we do 4:3 like they did in the ‘60s, or do we do 16:9 like television is now?  I was adamant that we do 16:9.  This was not a recreation of TV in the ’60s.  So, that was great.

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Grace Lee Whitney’s “Janice Rand” serving alongside Captain Hikaru Sulu (George Takei) one last time…

We got stunt people from “Pirates of the Caribbean” (movies).   Our stunt coordinator had actually doubled for B’lanna Torres on Star Trek: Voyager.   And she’d brought a friend of hers who did sword work for “Pirates of the Caribbean”, so these were the top, top people working in Hollywood on that episode.

Q: You’d told me yesterday that you told George, at one point during shooting, that he was playing the role ‘too civilized’ too quickly; since he was supposed to come back to the ship as a barbarian.

MZ: Yes, because he was supposed to be a barbarian.  It was the scene where he was being debriefed on the Enterprise about the 30 years he’d lived there (on the alien planet), and he was kind of doing it as Sulu, the Enterprise officer.   And I said, no no, no.  I said, “He’s a different man.  He’s just been 30 years on that planet.   When he left the Enterprise as a 30 years younger man, the Enterprise was his home.  Now his daughter is his home.  That’s the only thing he cares about, that’s the only thing that anchors him, he would die for his daughter.   He’s a different man, he’s a fiercer man, he’s a less humorous man, he’s a different guy.   He’s not an officer on the Enterprise anymore.  And even that scene where they say, “Should we give him a shave and a haircut and put him in an Enterprise uniform?”  And of course, it’s no because he’s not that man that they knew.  That was the idea.  It’s interesting because when we see him as the captain of the Excelsior, he’s back to being the Sulu we knew in a way, but he’s a sadder, more melancholy version because he lost that daughter.  He has the memories.  It’s that was really fun, full circle.   But when I gave (George) that note, he understood.   He was that guy.   There was a scene I wrote, and it was very deliberate, where he’s walking through the Enterprise corridors and the officers are looking at him (as a barbarian) like, “What the f—k is this??”  They try to say, “You don’t need those weapons,” and he says, “No, I do.”  He keeps the sword, he keeps the dagger.  He’s not…safe, essentially.  He’s not that guy.   And I thought that was very important, because of this relationship with his daughter.  And also he mouthed off to Kirk, “I expect you to behave yourself, Captain. That’s my daughter, you know?” (*laughs*)

Q: Sulu has a very different relationship with his daughter in that episode.  He’s no longer an underling officer, he’s a father looking out for his daughter.

MZ:  Exactly.  The first scene I wrote, I was walking down the street, and the scene where Alana basically calls Kirk on his shit, it was the first scene that came into my head instantly.

It was like,“My father told me about you.”  “What did he tell you?”  “That you’re alone.”  “He told you I was lonely?” “No no, there’s something else that you carry within yourself.  Always a girl on a different planet.  Except there was one who was different. Her name was Edith.”   And that’s referencing “City on the Edge of Forever,” and he’s wounded by that, he says,”Your father shouldn’t have told you about that.”

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Christina Moses is simply amazing as Alana.

The whole thing with Alana, is that she has no interest in facade. Every conversation is to get to the heart of that person.  So she just takes him apart.  Cracks him like a lobster, you know?  And that was deliberate, because that was a conversation that we never would’ve had on the original Star Trek.  But that’s how she’s going to be the person he falls in love with, because I view this pretty much as a sequel to “City on the Edge of Forever”; but in this version Kirk tells Edith ‘you have to die to save everyone’, and she chooses to, so this is the difference between that one.  When we premiered it, I called Harlan and said, “I’d love for you to see this”, but he couldn’t; he has such animus towards Star Trek that he couldn’t.  

But it’s funny because I said to George when we were on set shooting, I said, “A year from now we’ll be screening this at the World Science Fiction Convention in Japan, to an audience of several thousand and field professionals.  I’ll be speaking English, you’ll be speaking Japanese, and a year later we’ll be nominated for a Hugo (award).”   And that’s exactly what happened.    We were nominated for the Huge and the Nebula, and no independent project had ever been nominated for those.  We were up against Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica…Pan’s Labyrinth.   And we only lost the Hugo by 80 votes.

It’s always an evolution for me, seeing the new model emerging, because my doing “Far Beyond the Stars”…I knew CBS and Paramount were never going to give George Takei his great Sulu episode, they just wouldn’t.   Because of the way television and film works.   They always want the new cast, the young thing.   When we did “World Enough and Time” George Takei was 69 years old.  He lifted weights for months, and lost 15 lbs. to get in shape for that role.   He doesn’t look 69.  I hope I look that good (at 69).  So I knew he’d be spectacular in that episode, and Christina Moses is spectacular,  and there was not a dry eye in the house.  

I was told when we screened “World Enough and Time” that Japanese audiences do not give standing ovations, well they gave us one.  A man came up to me afterward, speaking Japanese, tears streaming down his face and I knew what he was saying even though I didn’t speak Japanese, how moved he was by it.  And I always tear up at the end of that episode too!

Q: Me, too!

MZ: I’ll tell you one last thing about “World Enough and Time”, the end moment with Alana where she knows she’s going to die, and she’s on the bridge, I hadn’t figured out what that final moment would be.  So in the script it said, she looks at at Kirk, she looks at Sulu, I couldn’t figure it out.   When we shot the scene when she’s in the corridor, when Kirk is taking her for her stroll, she spins around, and she brings her arms around like this (does a gesture of arms embracing)… she holds the moment.   So, for her death on the bridge, I just said, “Do that!  So amidst all of the things blowing up, all of the tumult and all of that, I did the shot in slow motion, so she looks around… and she sees the crew in slow motion, and she sees Spock, and she sees Kirk, and then she holds it all.

Q: When she sees her father, as a young man—

MZ:  And he doesn’t know her.

Q:  He’s a stranger to her.

MZ:  And then Michael and I were writing it, and I said, “How do we have the memory of Alana come back to Sulu?”  Michael said to me, because he’s a great writer too, he said to me, “The mind-meld.”   When Spock did the mind meld with (older) Sulu, he gets all of his memories.  When he sees young Sulu, he says “I can give you the memories, but you also have the grief.”  So Sulu agrees to that.  I said “That’s great, that’s so great!”  So again, you can see the creative process of coming up with things, like we’ve never seen that, and it’s spectacular but on an emotional level, because the greatest Star Trek episodes hit you in the heart.

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Q:  From Star Trek to your latest opus, “Space Command”; I had the privilege of seeing the first half hour of it last month at San Diego Comic Con 2018, and I really enjoyed it.   Tell me all about it.   Where did the idea came from, its development…everything that you can.

MZ:  Again, it stems from the fact that I’ve never seen my audience as anything other than my friends, my allies, my collaborators.  I mean, it’s just…I’m the same as them.   Because I’ve been running this Roundtable in L.A.  for writers, directors, actors, producers, and editors, and we’ve created this tremendous compassion all over Hollywood, and from all around the world.  I felt it was very important to write stories of compassion.   And whether it’s “Far Beyond the Stars” or “World Enough and Time” or any of it.  My inspiration is Rod Serling, my inspiration is all the writers on our shows.   Certainly Gene Roddenberry and certainly Rod Serling were not cynics, they had hope for the future.   Their shows were their way of saying there are dark times, certainly, things we have to conquer as human beings, but we can come together.  We can make a better future.  “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”, the great Twilight Zone episode shows we can turn on each other, or we can destroy each other but we can be better as well.   It’s a cautionary tale.  It’s not Serling saying we’re doomed to that, we aren’t.    

So there was a period a few years ago where you had “Battlestar Galactica” “Oblivion” “Elysium” and all these different shows.  All of them were very dark, very dystopian.   Some of them, like “Oblivion”… I really liked “Oblivion.”  I loved “Battlestar Galactica” but I wanted to see a show now that did what Star Trek did back when I was a kid, to inspire and be hopeful.

So (New Voyages) really showed me that there was a new model emerging, because fans around the world were learning how to do makeup and visual effects and build sets and they were getting to a level where they were really close, particularly “World Enough and Time,” were coming very close to a professionally made product.   Also, because of crowdfunding, I heard of it at the Roundtable in L.A. where I mentor people, I started to hear a lot about crowdfunding.   And there were all these negative movies and TV shows.  I mean, I love Battlestar Galactica but, you know, no one ever had a birthday party on that show.   

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Marc Scott Zicree directs Billy Mumy (“Lost in Space”), Mira Furlan (“Babylon 5”) and an energetic young cast in “Space Command”; a return to a more optimistic (and altruistic) vision of the future.

So, I wanted to do something hopeful.  I wanted to do something that wasn’t rose-colored glasses or nostalgic, but was really talking about today but in a hopeful way, just like Star Trek did.  I mean, the Vietnam war, the Civil Rights movement, and the riots in the cities were all happening during Star Trek.  Nuclear armageddon, the Cold War.  But still Roddenberry, Rod Serling and all of those writers were saying no; we have to see the compassionate voice, we have to say we can take action.  We’re not helpless against the tide of cynicism and despair and fear.  Nowadays we have that exact same problem.   So I think it’s vital for us as writers who are reaching millions of people to say something more sane.  To say something that can actually make the world a better place.  I don’t think that’s a vain aspiration, I think that’s vital.  So I came up with the idea for “Space Command.”

Many of my friends are showrunners, and several of them said, “Why don’t we team up, go to the networks and go get a pilot deal?”  And I didn’t want the networks to cut me off at the script, or cut me off at pilot, and they would own it and then no one would never see it.   Because why should I?   *laughs*

Q: Excactly.

MZ:  “World Enough and Time” cost us about 100 grand out of pocket, because the sets were already existed, etc etc etc.  But we did something that was just astonishing.  Those 700 effects…that was more than any TV show would have in an hour.   And Ron Fullerton and Lee Stringer and Doug Drexler were giants in the field.   They’d worked on Star Trek and Babylon 5 and so forth.  And they went in and did some of the shots, and Ron Fullerton and Lee Stringer oversaw the day scope, and that’s how we got our VFX.    So with “Space Command” I thought I’ll have a crowdfunded campaign and we’ll see.  I’d never raised money before, but I thought, let’s try because I trusted my audience.  I trusted that they would want the same kind of programming that I would.
So I basically did a startup video where I said, ‘this is who I am, and this is what I stand for, and this is what I want to do, and these are the actors I want to have in it.’  Because I’d talked to all of my actor friends like Armin Shimerman, and Ethan Phillips, and Doug Jones, and I’d said, “Can I say that I reached out to you on this project?”  And they said yes.   So that’s what I did.

Our target was modest, it was $75,000 to raise in two months.  We raised that in three days.  Then we kept going, and we raised $221,000.    We’d opened a warehouse, converted it to a soundstage, built sets.  But I realized as I got into this that it was going to be more difficult.  That it would cost more money, because there were 1,900 visual effects shots in the 2 hour pilot.  I immediately sat down as soon as the campaign was over, I viewed the first half of the 2 hour episode before I did the Kickstarter campaign.  When the Kickstarter campaign had over, the vision had grown, so I wrote the first 8 hours of the 12 hour season.   But I needed to raise more money, so I selling investment shares at $7500 each, because I wanted a low enough number that anyone could participate.  I didn’t want to have to just go to millionaires and billionaires.  I wanted it to be like we’re all making this together.   And people from all around the world gave me another half million to continue working on “Space Command.”  

Then the Kickstarter campaigns, we got one going now for post-production, and people are sending in money.   Because one of the things I’ve discovered is the new model is transparency, authenticity…you can share with them, the struggles, and how hard it is, as long as you are consistent.   These people know that the person working hardest on “Space Command” is me!   And that’s fine.  That’s as it should be.   I haven’t dropped the ball.

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Marc Zicree introduces the “Space Command” panel at San Diego Comic Con 2018.

Q: On “Space Command” you wear  several hats; writer, producer, director—

MZ: Creator.  My wife Elaine is actually writing/directing/producing with me.   She actually directed “World Enough and Time” with me, although she said, “You can have the directing credit, because I was thinking because maybe I’ll end up directing TV.  Who knows?”   She’s a wonderful director, and I love directing with her.   In terms of the writing, I write first drafts and maybe she’ll tweak them, and it becomes a major amount of writing and I give her full credit.  If it’s a word here or there, then whatever, but she’s definitely my partner and producing partner as well.   

But we’re just having a wonderful time.   Every actor I approached said yes, and Doug Jones, Mira Furlan (“Babylon 5”), Bob Picardo, Bill Mumy (“Lost in Space”), and on and on.   My goal was to make it as good as any show I’ve ever seen, and not step back from that.   And if it’s difficult who cares?  If it takes longer than I wanted it to take?   That just comes with the territory.   But now I have to build credibility with the executives.  They’re not the same as the audience, they’re not the same as the fans, at all.   And they have a totally different set of priorities.   Here’s the thing; they’re working a job, and they have to make money for their corporate parents.  And often, they’ll put on something of quality and it’ll fail.  Then they’ll put on a piece of shit, and it’ll succeed.  So they know that the quality is not a determination of success or failure.  If they say yes to the wrong thing, they can lose their job.   So, I’m aware of that.  My answer to that is not to put them in control of me; because by doing that, I can do exactly what I and my audience wants.   

The audience gives me suggestions.  I don’t have to listen to them, but if it’s a good idea…I don’t have to make the change if I don’t agree, but if it’s something like someone said, “Do you have foreign languages in space?”  They meant foreign languages that we have here.   I remembered that Mira Furlan was Serbo-Croatian and I met a young actress who was Serbo-Croatian, they’re (playing) mother and daughter and so they’re speaking Serbo-Croatian.   Other people are speaking English.

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Robert Picardo as Yusef Sekander in “Space Command.” 

Q: You also have Robert Picardo playing a Muslim.

MZ: Yes, I have Robert Picardo playing a Muslim because I think Muslims are treated very badly in American media, and I wanted him to be a fully rounded character.  The fact that he’s Muslim is…I’m Jewish, I have friends who are Catholic, it’s spirituality but it’s…

Q: It’s incidental.

MZ:  Right.  It’s as if I put a thing on my forehead that says ‘Jew.’  It’s like, that’s not a great idea for a lot of reasons…. *laughs*… but I have a friend named Yusef Sekander, whom I named Bob Picardo’s character after, he’s from Afghanistan.   He actually came on set, he showed Bob how to pray accurately as a Muslim.  And there’s a funeral scene, a Muslim service, and I wanted it to be accurate.  It’s on Mars, but I wanted it to be accurate.  Again, it’s having respect.

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The whole thesis of Space Command is that we reach across boundaries and barriers, we see the command being everyone, including the artificial humans, like what Doug plays.  It’s very important the heart of humanity…compassion.   For me, villains are those who lash out.  Heroes are those who reach out.   It’s that simple.  So, it’s been a very long journey but a very good journey.

I’ve written the first 8 hours, I’m going to write the entire 12 hours very shortly.   And I’ve been rewriting scripts as we go because I’m learning more as we go.   But we shot the first two hours, we shot 40 minutes of the second two hours, we’re going to shoot the rest of that November/December.   The first hour of Space Command will be at the International Drama Summit in London in November, and we’ve sent the first half hour of the two-hour pilot for backers and investors, and then I’ll go wide with that in a few weeks.   I’ll try to get a lot of people to watch it, because that’ll help.

Again, I’m very gratified because people have responded, and I didn’t know if the executives would treat it seriously that people gave me money, that I financed it though my audience, but they do.  It’s very meaningful.  The fact that they actually paid me money…I’m like CBS All Access; hey, you want to see this?   Send some bucks.  *laughs*

Q:  And I’ve no problem with that, either.  I’m a big fan of crowdsourced films.  I like Star Trek Continues.   It’s almost like video a la carte.  Whatever you want, you just pay and you get it.

MZ: Exactly, exactly.  I’ve just sold a new book called “Greenlighting Yourself” from Silman James Press.   It’s going to come out next year, and it’s about everything I’ve been doing.   Because the new model is that the audience finances the shows.   I think that’s definitely going to happen. 

The next big project I have after Space Command is something I’ve created called “Showrunner’s Network.”  And it’s basically where I’m teaming with six major showrunners to create six new series and the audience will finance all six pilots as a slate.  And we can go to Netflix and we can say you have to pick up all six of these.  And Rockne O’Bannon (“Farscape” “ALIENS” “Defiance” “SeaQuest DSV”) is aboard.  I’ve talked to my friend Mark Fergus (“Iron Man” “The Expanse”), he and his partner Hawk Otsby.  I’ve a number of friends of that caliber that want to come aboard.  So I’ve all six.  And I’ve been generating ideas.  I’m up to 280 ideas.  So I send in my collaborators and we see what sparks.  And then, off we go.

Q:  Well Marc, I’ve taken a good dose of your time.  Thank you so much.

MZ:  This is part of my philosophy that you act with compassion toward everybody, it’s in your work, it’s in your life.  When I was 10 years old, I saw Ray Bradbury give a talk at a library, he was the first author that I’d ever seen in person.  He said, “Ideally, your life and your work and your art should all come from the same place.”  Then years later when Ray became friend and mentor, he said, “Looking back upon a lifetime, you see that love was the answer to everything.”  He was a great guy.

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On that note, I am pleased to say the same of Marc Zicree; he’s a great guy, and a true “Mr. Sci-Fi” in every sense.  Spend any time with him at all and his optimism, both for a positive future and for willing his dreams into existence, is contagious.  Hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I enjoyed getting it. 

If you wish to donate toward “Space Command”?  Here’s a link to do so: Kickstarter.com

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