“Tournament of Decision” – My Unproduced Star Trek: The Next Generation Script
After Selling to TNG, I Wrote a Second Next Generation Teleplay
“Aren’t you beginning to feel time gaining on you, Picard? It’s like a predator; it’s stalking you….” – Soran, Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek, you stalk me just as well. You’re always closing in on me. You track me like a hyperactive Klingon warrior on a never-ending, intergalactic hunt.
It’s true. Star Trek has followed me in some real way since I was a toddler. I recall watching Gene Roddenberry’s fantastical starship of the imagination at only four years of age. It’s just always been there for me. Inspiring tales of our noble USS Enterprise have been a big part of my life from the very beginning.
Eventually, I figured the only way to pay such incredible devotion back was to actually write for the show. Now, the stalked would stalk back.
In 1993, I sold my first Hollywood script to Paramount Pictures. It was a teleplay for Star Trek: The Next Generation, entitled “Shadowdance”, and became the seventh season episode “Homeward”, guest starring Paul Sorvino of Goodfellas fame. Sorvino played a Starfleet mission specialist, Nikolai Rozhenko, the human foster brother to the Klingon Worf, Chief of Security serving aboard Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s Enterprise 1701-D.
So, the sale had been made. After the contracts were signed and my episode was produced and aired, I was still attending college in New Jersey. During my class schedule, I started work on another TNG teleplay. This one wouldn’t sell. However, I’d like to share some of the particulars with fans, since what never was can be almost as interesting as what we got.
The Next Next Generation
I’d successfully written for TNG, so what happens next? Could I enlist in Starfleet itself? Well, why not…
I kept planning and thinking about what could be next for me with writing in Hollywood.
Star Trek: The Next Generation was ending its syndication run soon. It had become one of the most watched and successful syndicated shows in TV history. The seventh season would be its final television warp, so I had to finish my script and submit it in a timely fashion.
I still, despite trying my best to get one, didn’t have an agent. Representation in Hollywood is essential to getting your work discovered. Once again, I had to go through a speculative script submission process. This time, however, the Trek producers knew me.
Executive Producer Michael Piller essentially opened up the Star Trek writing offices to welcome writers without representation. The catch? You could only submit two scripts – unless you’d sold, as I’d done. Once you sold, the cap was taken off and a writer could submit as many scripts as they’d like.
My story, called “Tournament of Decision”, revolved around a super athlete. He’d be sort of a Michael Phelps aquatic star, a Mary Lou Retton gymnast combined with the pugilistic powerhouse of a Muhammed Ali or Mike Tyson. These aliens I called “Nemeans”, in honor of ancient Greek games held in the city of Nemea – similar to the Olympics. They could basically acquire any physically demanding skill within a few minutes simply by watching a pro at work. He could swim, fight, be a star archer, do gymnastics, you name it. This guy would make the front of a dozen Wheaties boxes!
Since he was a unique physical specimen, who better to have interaction with than Dr. Beverly Crusher. Played by Gates McFadden, Dr. Crusher always seemed to be overlooked during TNG’s run. Granted, she was Chief Medical Officer and certainly had her share of adventures. However, the focus too often was on Counselor Troi when it came to examining the Enterprise‘s medical personnel.
Crusher would monitor the Nemean athlete’s vitals and determine just how the aliens pulled off their wondrous physical talents. During the course of the episode, the pair of characters would become “close,” meaning the nature of their relationship could be interpreted either as friends or lovers (I love that kind of more multifaceted relationship between characters).
As happens in many Trek tales, the Nemeans were going through an intense political climate, with our hero smack dab in the middle of things. They were like Bajor: i.e., not a Federation member, and the conflict was an internal one, like the Kai and provisional government in DS9.
The script’s premise wasn’t particularly removed from reality, when the global political workings interfere with athletics. Look at the geopolitical complexities of our own world now; there’s a call for boycotting the Olympics being held in China because of COVID-19. Sadly, athletes who’ve trained for years – some for most of their young life – are caught in the middle, between yearning to compete and not wanting to become a political football for their nation to toss around and score geopolitical capital.
My unproduced Next Generation teleplay is but one of scores of other Trek stories which never saw the light of day. Ultimately, fans can count it as Dr. Beverly Crusher yet again being deprived of a mainline feature to more fully develop her way-too-often-neglected character.
An Emmy-Award-nominated screenwriter, book author and content producer, Will has written for magazines, newspapers, the web and for several highly respected TV shows, most notably for the Star Trek franchise. Will contributed story material which formed the basis for episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and he was one of the few freelancers to work on episodes for both of those landmark Hollywood shows. As well as having pitched to Star Trek: Voyager, he has also written multiple books, including Star Trek Essays, Star Trek Essays Volume Two & Volume Three, and Star Trek Sex. Find other articles written by Will at his Substack.