Talking Space Command: Redemption With Writer/Director/Producer Marc Scott Zicree

Recently I spoke with Marc Scott Zicree about his career and his work as Writer/Director/Producer on Space Command: Redemption

 

How did you get started in the industry and what was your big break?

 

It’s a rather complicated question. In reality, I consider myself as being like a burglar working in a neighborhood – I have to keep breaking in and breaking in. As to when I got started in the Industry, it was more of a progression, from when I first saw Star Trek on TV when I was ten and subsequently met Nichelle Nichols and visited the Star Trek set, so when I read The Making of Star Trek at thirteen and first got the idea that I’d like to be a writer-producer in television, to when I attended science fiction conventions as a teenager and met and was befriended by great science fiction writers including Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, and George Clayton Johnson, to when I attended the Clarion Writers Workshop at nineteen and sold my first short story to Damon Knight (writer of the classic story, “To Serve Man”), so when I began writing The Twilight Zone Companion at twenty-one, to when my friend Michael Reaves invited me to collaborate with him on writing shows such as Space Ghost, Smurfs, and He-Man. And on and on. Like Blanche DuBois, I’ve relied “on the kindness of strangers” … who then became friends.

 

What is your writing process in terms of where you generate your ideas, write, and revise? Do you have a specific place you like to go, or is it mainly office-based?

 

Ideas come all the time, and I generally jot them down and file them for later reference. They can come from any number of places and sources, so I always keep a notepad in my pocket. As for where I write and revise, I tend to work at home – although I’ve had offices at various studios – but I can pretty much write anywhere. In fact, I once revised a pilot script I wrote for NBC while I was a passenger in a Jeep driving through the jungle in Thailand! I can write where there’s music playing and people are bustling hither and yon; it doesn’t matter. The only times I can’t write are if music has someone singing a tune I know (I start singing along in my mind) or if people start talking directly to me. Fortunately, most people see that I’m writing and leave me alone.

 

Looking at your work on Star Trek and Babylon 5, what were the biggest challenges, memorable moments, and triumphs?

 

The wonderful challenge and opportunity of coming up with stories for Star Trek – TNG and DS9 was to find a story that they had never done before that was profoundly meaningful to me, entirely original, told the truth from my life and experience, and expanded the Trek universe without breaking it. I feel very proud that I was able to do this both with “First Contact” on TNG and “Far Beyond the Stars” on DS9. As for Babylon 5, I’m very proud that when I developed the TV show Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, I insisted that the two producers, Doug Netter and John Copeland, hire a friend of mine they’d never heard of as story editor on the series. I’d worked with this fellow on a number of animated shows, including The Real Ghostbusters, but he’d never done live-action. I guaranteed him; if he couldn’t do the job, I’d step in and do it. His name was J. Michael Straczynski, and Doug and John were the producers he ended up developing, selling and making Babylon 5 with. So I guess without my doing that, B5 most likely never would have existed, which would have been a great loss for science fiction. Beyond this, I was honored to write for the show and studied their extremely efficient and high-quality production model in great detail, which has helped me produce Space Command. I also loved the cast and thought they were terrific. When I was producing Sliders during its fourth season at Universal, I took Andreas Katsulas, who played G’Kar in B5, to lunch at the studio. I was astounded to learn that I was the first producer who had ever taken him to lunch! What a brilliant actor. He died so prematurely; I would have loved to have been able to cast him in Space Command. But I have had the honor and pleasure of working again with others in the B5 cast on Space Command, including Mira Furlan, Bill Mumy, and Bruce Boxleitner. And I look forward to working with more actors from B5.

 

How would you compare/contrast Space Command: Redemption to the other entries in the series?

 

My goal with each two-hour Space Command storyline and the series as a whole is to tell a compassionate, truthful, and dramatic story that is fresh and inspiring – that helps us all to build a future worth living in. In this, each two-hour storyline has a different but linked theme that builds to an overall arc. In “Redemption,” the message is, “Don’t just assume that you’re the good guy and your actions are justified. Really look at the situation with fresh eyes and, if you’re on the wrong side, have the courage to change sides.” In the next two-hour story, “Forgiveness,” the theme is one of letting go of grief and rage and recognizing that forgiveness allows us to put aside the past, live in the present, and build the future. In the following story, “The Great Solar War,” the point is that in any war, the enemy is not the person on the other side of the conflict, but rather the very notion of war itself – and that one must have the courage to fight for peace and put aside the need for vengeance. And so on.

 

How did Directing become part of your resume and can you compare/contrast it with writing in terms of challenges?

 

First and foremost, I’m a writer. Producing and directing are ways in which I complete my work and get it out to my audience. But it’s more than that. I love so many aspects of the process – designing visuals and VFX, casting, working with actors, making decisions with my editor, acquiring sets, props, and costumes from other big-budget sci-fi TV shows and movies (Aliens, Prometheus, Cloverfield Paradox, etc.) to add expensive-looking production value to what we design and build from scratch. Now that I have my own studio filled with spaceships, giant robots, aliens, and spacesuits – a dream I’ve had since I was a child – I have complete control over the TV shows and movies my wife and I make. In that way, we’re craftsmen, working in a very expensive art form. More to the point, my bachelor’s degree was in Painting, Sculpture, and Graphic Arts from UCLA, so I have a very strong visual sense, and what I’m doing now really satisfies that. But everything starts with the script – if it’s not right, nothing else will hide that fact. So, Elaine and I put a great deal of effort into the writing. We also have table reads and allow our actors to have input at every stage; in fact, we consider everyone on our team to be our collaborators. Directing is very fulfilling, as you can see day by day how the script is taking form and becoming real and tangible, something you can share with the world. Additionally, we see every stage of production and post as an opportunity to rewrite the script and even reshoot or add new scenes as needed. In a few cases, using existing footage and ADR lines from our actors (sound recording of new dialogue), we’ve actually created entire scenes that we didn’t actually shoot!

 

What can fans look forward to with Redemption?

 

Anyone who’s loved Star Trek and Babylon 5 will love Space Command. It’s a meaningful, action-packed story that features characters and actors that the audience cares about, an adventure that spans the solar system, and an astounding amount of scale and ambition, which I believe really pay off. Not to mention over 1900 VFX shots! (But as anyone with their head on straight knows, it’s the characters that matter, not the visuals; the VFX serves the story, but it’s the people that touch our hearts.)

 

Do you plan to do any appearances at Conventions over the summer for the project?

 

We’ll be doing a panel and screening of new footage at San Diego Comic-Con. And I always take our Space Command investors out to lunch during the Con (Space Command shares are only $7,500 each, so our investors include everyone from billionaires to truck drivers). I’ll also be at the Rod Serling Symposium in Ithaca, New York in August and will most likely be at Star Trek Las Vegas that same month.

 

What do you have upcoming?

 

We hope to complete shooting the remaining six hours of Space Command this year, plus my wife’s film The Voiceless Roar, which I’m producing. In addition, we’ll be shooting the remaining two-hour pilots of The Showrunners Network, a slate of six new science fiction series I’m co-creating with the creators of The Expanse, Farscape, Defiance, Alien Nation, SeaQuest, and Cult, along with a new Rod Serling series I’m in talks with the Serling family about. Stars in these shows will include Armin Shimerman, Christina Moses, James Hong, Veronica Cartwright, Gates McFadden, Marta Kristen, Robert Picardo, Doug Jones, Michael Harney, Ethan McDowell, Barbara Bain, Francois Chau, Ethan Phillips, and many more.

 

 

 

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