Leave the Thing Alone

Okay, Star Trek kinda got me thinking about this one as well.

Last night I dreamed about a boy and his pet stork. At one point they are stranded and the stork saves the boy by fishing for them both. It was a beautiful, realistic dream. The stork was a real bird that was inseparable from the boy. Visually, it was very cinematic.

The trouble starts near the end of the dream when my writer brain butted in. Storks aren’t long lived. The end of summer and the end of the dream should also coincide with the end of the stork. So I wrote in a poignant death for the pet stork.

That woke me up. I left the boy grieving at the grave of his pet. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I finally realized why – I had ruined the story. It should have ended with the boy and the stork daily reuniting after school. Time passing and new hurdles but life going on.

I rewrote it in my head and went back to sleep.

Lesson: leave the thing alone. It is okay to let the story end where it should. It is okay to end in the happy place in the middle rather than force it to the logical end. Happy endings aren’t unrealistic unless written badly. If all endiings were sad or depressing humanity would have committed mass suicide long since.

Good is just as realistic as bad. Dark and gritty are just more depressing, not more realistic.


This will bug me until I write about it. I once wrote two novels because of an idea that wouldn’t go away knowing full well I could never publish. My excuse then was ‘good practice’. Now it’s ‘get it out of the way so I can finish my own work’. Sad, I realize.

Anyway, I’m, one of the weirdos that watches the DVD commentaries. Worse, I’m one of the three people on the planet that liked Star Trek V. Oh, I knew the plot didn’t work and that the end was a mess but it had so many great vignettes that I loved it.

Anyway, the pain scene with McCoy and Spock was one of the ones that had made no sense to me. It came too late and accomplished nothing that I could tell. It also rang false and is one of the few I really didn’t like.

Anyway, listening to the commentary, I finally understood what was supposed to be happening.  And much too late and with no point to it at all – other than to get it out of my head – I know how to fix it.

Both actors had correctly objected to the scene and the studio had insisted on ‘fixing’ what the scene was trying to break – a rift in the family. The idea was that characters (not just Kirk and Co) would be convinced by Sybok’s philosophy – they ended up with Vulcan mysticism instead.

That part would have required a major rewrite – Sybok is a very sincere snake oil salesman – his theology is garbage and calling him intellectually gifted doesn’t improve things. Kirk, not Sybok, first realizes they’ve been had – so much for intellectually gifted.

But back to the scene. McCoy, in the movie, euthanizes his father ‘to preserve his (father’s) dignity. That rings so wrong on so many levels – first, it’s out of character and second it’s almost out of continuity – Star Trek usually finds better solutions than killing people for their own (supposed) good.

The fix – McCoy does euthanize his father but in a moment of weakness – a child, not a doctor, answering a parent’s plea. That would have fit far better with the rest of the dialogue and would explain McCoy’s continued agony over the event. He gave in – he made a mistake – and he can’t ever fix it. Release from that emotional pain might explain a willingness to follow Sybok – far better than Sybok’s snake oil ever would or the mind control element, for that matter.

Spock is confronted by his father’s rejection – but this is old territory and the movie quite rightly dismisses it. Spock long since moved on – we’ve seen his progression in both the series and the movies. But the idea was to develop a rift between the characters that meeting the false god would shock them into healing (I presume). Can’t get there from here, even without the studio’s meddling. The alternative of Sybok and Spock’s separation doesn’t strike me as a good solution, either. Sybok is a late addition – this would push the envelope past its development.

The fix – Spock’s initial rejection at Star Fleet Academy. This is hinted at in the series – or at least alluded to. We see Spock find acceptance in the crew of the Enterprise – acceptance he had not known before. He’d been rejected on Vulcan. He chooses SFA over VSA – we aren’t told why but it’s not hard to guess. He’s looking for acceptance – whether or not he’d have admitted it. But he doesn’t find it initially in SFA or SF – and that must have been quite a blow. He’s overcome it long since – but never, so far as we know, dealt with those feelings directly.  There’s an old wound there that Sybok could have reopened, would have been immediately difficult and yet ultimately, Spock could over come it.

The rift between them wouldn’t come from the philosophy but from what comes naturally to Kirk – rejecting the ‘freedom from pain’ that Sybok is offering. In the end, Kirk should learn that yes, pain is a good teacher but it’s a really bad companion while McCoy and Spock come to grips with learning from pain without repressing it (yes, I do see the irony there).

Ta da. All fixed. Since I don’t expect a call from Paramount I can safely leave it there without re-writing the screenplay and go back to my own business.

I plan to have True Slayers done by the end of the month.