STAR TREK: THE FINAL FRONTIER REDUX
I’ve threatened to do something like this on countless occasions. But nobody believed me, and rightly so, because in the entire history of Star Trek: The Final Frontier, I’ve only gone back and tweaked a handful of episodes, and even then… the changes were minor. You probably couldn’t even see the differences if I told you (and if I could remember, because at this point, I certainly don’t). But “Strange Counterpoints” has always been a bit of an enigma. I’ve always boasted that it’s easily one of the best, most-pivotal moments in TFF’s history, yet the actual quality of the written word was noticeably below the TFF standard. Granted, Season One was—in general—not as well written as Season Five, but “Strange Counterpoints” always seemed to stick out like a sore thumb, even if episodes like “In Pursuit of Justice” were, arguably, even more crappily written. So I finally decided to rectify that error, and some seven years after its initial release, “Strange Counterpoints” is at long last the episode it should be. The writing still isn’t perfect by any means—given the source material, it was rather difficult to straighten out some of the mess. But it’s a definite improvement.
At its very core, the episode is exactly the same. I’ve just taken the time to embellish upon the episode. Substantially. The original episode clocked in at 12,673 words. That was about average for TFF back in 1999. The new and improved version is 14,661 words—about par for the course during Season Five. So what, exactly did I do with those 2,000 new words if the episode is exactly the same? The devil is in the details. While TFF seemed well-written back in 1999, I can assure you—it was not. Take this passage, for example:
After tapping a short sequence of commands into the computer, sending it all the targeting and dispersion data it would need to complete the task, Keller touched the large button labeled ‘fire,’ and then sat back in her chair to watch the fireworks begin.
The beam was a terribly luminescent shade of salmon, and forced Keller to temporarily shield her eyes from it until they could adjust to the intense light. They never completely adjusted, however, as each time she looked away, Keller found an annoying spot in her vision where the beam’s rays had temporarily stunned the rods and cones in her eyes.
Still, spots and all, it was an incredible sight to behold. The swirling beam drove into the distortion like a hot knife through butter, generating a hurricane-like maelstrom around its shrinking perimeter.
“It’s working,” Keller said as she glanced down at the sensor display. “The distortion’s size is down to ninety-five percent… ninety… eighty-five…”
Pleased that her course of action had turned out to be superior after all, Keller finally allowed herself to gloat. She smiled deviously at Christopher for several seconds, basking in her own evil satisfaction. But to her dismay, the moment was cut short by the computer’s urgent call.
The above passage essentially embodies most everything that was wrong with TFF back then. It was often too wordy for its own good. This was to give the illusion of length. Instead, it often provided some rather long and ultimately confusing passages that wound up saying nothing at all. Check out the rods and cones in the second paragraph—totally unnecessary. Another thing I liked to do was use big words that nobody was even remotely familiar with; this particular section isn’t much of an offender, but while redoing the episode, I stumbled across a few words whose meanings were lost upon even ME. This gave TFF a bit of fake-eloquence. But honestly, who uses words like “lexicon” in everyday language? Who even knows what “lexicon” means? (Well… in the most basic sense, it means... uh… “language”). So when it came time to completely redo “Strange Counterpoints,” the biggest task was to simply iron out all of these little crinkles. You’ll note that I’ve strived to keep as much of the original text intact—you know, for posterity—it just flows a lot better now. I’ve also added a lot of new detail and description to the episode—and that’s the bulk of the new material. In places, it’s only one or two new words, but they certainly make all the difference. Ah… and I’ve also deleted all references to the color salmon. That’s an example of fake eloquence. “Pink” is just as descriptive and sounds so much better than some ridiculous fish reference in the middle of deep space. Salmon has NO place in deep space. End of story.
Anyway, the passage below is from the redone episode. You will duly note that it plays out almost exactly the same as the scene above… only better:
With a few quick keystrokes, Keller sent the computer all the targeting and dispersion data it would need to complete the task at hand. Once it successfully processed the data, the computer chirped, and Keller tapped the large reddish button on her console labeled ‘FIRE.’
A blazing beam of ragged pink light suddenly shot away from the shuttle. Keller was forced to avert her eyes for a moment while they adjusted to the intense light—but they never did, and each time she looked away from the beam, she found a terribly annoying spot in her vision.
Still, spots and all, it was an incredible sight to behold. The pulsating deflector beam drove into the distortion like a pestilence, generating a wispy, hurricane-like maelstrom around its shrinking perimeter.
“It’s working,” Keller said as she glanced at the sensor data flittering across her computer console. “The distortion has shrunk about fifteen percent.”
Christopher nodded his approval. “Good.”
Infinitely pleased with herself—and her little victory—Keller allowed a devious little smile to creep across her face. Christopher certainly took notice, but before either one of them had a chance to react, a few shrill sensor alerts blared from the computer.
I have always said that “Strange Counterpoints” is THE episode that defines The Final Frontier. In retrospect, that sentiment might not be entirely true, because most episodes of TFF are nothing like this. That being said, “Strange Counterpoints” is easily ONE of the defining episodes. I think if I had to pick one specific episode to say, “Yeah, this is exactly what The Final Frontier is about—this is THE defining episode,” I’d have to go with “Meridian Dance” in Season Two. It has some pretty deep character development, huge space battles, an intricate plot, some nice political machinations… “Meridian Dance” has everything. So THAT is THE defining episode (and one of the best episodes ever).
Getting back to “Strange Counterpoints,” it really was revolutionary for
its time. In order to establish TFF as
something more than Just Another Star Trek Fan
Fiction, I knew that I had to take some creative risks. The previous episodes, while acceptable, were
fairly conservative. They did little to
challenge the standard Star Trek Fan Fiction mold—in fact, they fit within that
mold quite nicely. While occasionally
interesting, the plots were nothing special; the characters were generic—you
could have very easily swapped them all around and nobody would have
noticed. This was not a trend I wanted
to continue, so with “Strange Counterpoints,” I set out to create something
that challenged the Star Trek norm. I
wanted to do something that had NEVER been done—but instead of coming up with
some newfangled technological gizmo, I decided to keep things really
simple. The episode would use only two
characters. ONLY two
characters. Deep Space Nine came close do doing this with Dukat
and Sisko with “Waltz,” while
This episode also started to develop the characters of Christopher and Keller. Previous episodes only managed to hint at their personalities. This is when I started to really flesh these two out, and make them actual people. The original 1999 version of the episode did a fairly decent job of this; it sent Christopher and Keller on the journey they needed to take and ultimately got them to where they needed to be for their relationship to bloom in later episodes. But there were some things that were just a little off. Christopher’s engineering knowledge was a bit much; Keller was a bit too cocky. And both uttered some ridiculous lines that were WAY out of character (or just WAY stupid). In the 2007 revision, I’ve smoothed out these kinks. Christopher is a bit more reserved when it comes to his engineering skills; Keller isn’t nearly as cocky. And the WAY stupid lines are gone completely—though I think some moderately stupid lines managed to survive.
For this newly updated version of the episode, I also started to flesh out how the characters actually looked, physically. But just a little. For a very long time, I tended not to describe our beloved heroes in depth, instead leaving the vast majority of those details up to the imagination. But by the time Season Five rolled around, I had a pretty clear picture of everyone in my head, and started to provide actual descriptions; thus, I decided to gently reinforce that in the earlier episodes now that I had the chance. Most male readers don’t quite agree with the look I’ve chosen for Alan—blonde hair, blue eyes, a bit of a pretty boy. But I think it’s logical. First, Alan is NOT a gruff and tough manly man—that’s Lucas. Second, I felt very strongly that Alan should simply BE different from Picard and Kirk, etc. He didn’t need to be a clone. If Alan Christopher was to be the heart of TFF for five years, he needed to be his own person. So I consciously made him atypical from any starship captain we’ve seen in the past. He’s got a wicked sense of humor. He’s very lax. And he’s a blonde-haired, blue-eyed pretty boy. (So… yeah, he’s an exact clone of me). The women seemed to like it. (Definite clone of me).
This 2007 revision also corrects many of the glaring errors that were in the 1999 original—most notably, Alarin III. Way back in 1999, Alarin III was a Class J planet. I had intended for that to mean “J is for Jungle,” but little did I know, Class J planets were already established (in “Starship Down” [DS9]). “J is for Jovian.” As in… a gas giant. Yeah. Slight mistake. And while I am often willing to overlook Mr. Roddenberry’s official rules, I am not so willing to overlook the official continuity. Thus, the Class J planet has been redesignated Class L.
Another terminal error that has apparently plagued MANY of TFF’s earlier episodes is the character of “Ramsey.” While going through Season One to edit/proofread/embellish, a mysterious character named “Ramsey” has shown up all over the place, often times in the same episode (and even in the same scene) as a completely different character (both male and female versions of Ramsey have existed). I don’t know how or why this happened, but… it’s insane. It’s a brain fart of epic proportions. Complicating matters is the fact that Jason Ramsey—the character I intended to actually be named Ramsey—is referred to as Jason Stinson on several occasions, in several different episodes, including “Strange Counterpoints” (it has been changed to Ramsey for the 2007 edition). I also glimpsed a Jason Brantley reference somewhere down the line. Interspatial anomaly? Section 31 cloning project? Author stupidity? The world may never know…
In 1999, I didn’t exactly go out of my way to drop little Easter eggs into the episodes. As such, there were NONE in “Strange Counterpoints.” But in Season Four, and especially Season Five, I inexplicably started dropping them left and right. I might have gone overboard a little bit… but many of these references were obscure, so maybe not. Anyway, “Strange Counterpoints” is now home to a handful of little Easter eggs, most of them related to Stargate SG-1. I’m a latecomer to the Stargate universe. VERY late, since SG-1 is already done and over with. But I’m catching up on DVD; currently in the midst of Season Five… so you’ll note a lot of SG-1 episode titles litter “Strange Counterpoints.” I know that I added a few of them, but the only one I can remember off the top of my head is “Between Two Fires.” That’s the one where the Goa’uld wipe out the Tollan (I just love how the Asgard wanted the Tollan to corroborate the claim. O’Neill’s response was dead on). Too bad I couldn’t wrench “Wormhole X-treme!” into the text.
So, that’s “Strange Counterpoints.” It is perhaps one of the most anomalous episodes of TFF known to exist. The plot is ultra simple. It uses only two characters. It’s almost entirely self-contained. It’s unlike any other episode, yet it somehow demonstrated the very best that TFF has to offer. I guess different really is good.