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The Trek Nation - André Bormanis

André Bormanis

By Salvador Nogueira
Posted at November 12, 2002 - 12:40 AM GMT

André Bormanis is currently a story editor on Enterprise, and is responsible for the series' next episode, 'The Communicator.' In this interview he talks about finding the series' voice, future plans for the show, and more with Salvador Nogueira, editor of the Brazilian web site Trek Brasilis. This interview is a translation from the original Portuguese, and is published with permission.


Trek Brasilis: Many people tend to criticise Star Trek's status as a 'good science fiction show,' saying that science is not consistently treated by the franchise, ever since the Original Series. Being both a Trek writer and a scientist, could you tell us what you think is the real relationship between science and Star Trek, and how that relates to 'good science fiction?'

André Bormanis: Star Trek has never tried to teach science, or stay rigidly fixed within the boundaries of science as we understand it today, but it clearly inspires lots of people to get more interested in science and technology. Many of the scientists I know and have worked with over the years have cited Star Trek as one of the main things that got them interested in science as kids. It was certainly a big part of what got me interested in science.

TB: More than any other Star Trek series, Enterprise seems to be an 'author series' - creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga are responsible for most of the stories of the show, and many of the scripts. Do you agree with that? And if so, does this make it difficult for a regular writer to get any significant input into the series?

Andre Bormanis: Rick and Brannon have clearly shaped and guided this show from the beginning, and are responsible for most of the stories we've done. But the writing staff has a great deal input in the development of stories and the evolution of our characters, and of course the staff is responsible for writing most of the scripts we film.

TB: Still on the same subject, the scripts from everybody (including yours) were much rewritten along the first season by the producers? And what is this situation right now?

André Bormanis: When a writer finishes the first draft of a script, he or she gets notes from Rick and Brannon and makes the suggested changes. If the script still needs work, Brannon will get more directly involved. This is the way it works on just about any television show.

TB: So far seven episodes exhibited in the second season, and none penned by André Bormanis. What can you tell us about the work you've been doing so far in Season 2?

André Bormanis: I wrote the script for 'The Communicator,' and contributed some important ideas to the story. I'm trying to develop another story now for my next script. I've also been helping with notes and polishing duties on some of the other scripts this season, helping out in the 'story break' meetings, where the staff sits down to work out the scene-by-scene details of a story, and taking story pitches from free-lance writers.

TB - Counting 'The Communicator' - which seems to take off from where 'A Piece of the Action,' from TOS, left us - many other Enterprise segments look a lot like other series' episodes. Just to put some examples off the top of my head, there's 'Strange New World' (somewhat like 'The Naked Time,' or 'The Naked Now'), 'Oasis' ('Shadowplay'), 'Vanishing Point' ('The Next Phase', 'The Inner Light') and 'Precious Cargo' ('The Perfect Mate'), that have a sense of déja vù. Is there a deliberate intention on the producers' part of going back to those stories to give them a new twist, a new approach, using Enterprise's fresh point of view?

André Bormanis: Given that over 600 episodes of Star Trek have been produced, it would be hard not to find similarities between Enterprise episodes and shows from the other series. The premise of 'The Communicator' actually came to me when I lost my cell phone a few months ago. I wasn't thinking of 'A Piece of the Action,' but of course there is a parallel there.

TB: What is your personal position regarding fan feedback from the internet? We know Braga reads some of it, Berman looks like he doesn't pay attention. What about you?

André Bormanis: I read the fan pages as often as I can. When their comments and opinions are well-founded, I definitely pay attention, and try to use that feedback to improve my own conception of Enterprise in terms of what seems to be working and what isn't. Some of the fan reviews are incredibly thoughtful. A woman named Michelle Green, for example, reviews every episode of the show, and while I don't always agree with her, she writes very insightful, interesting critiques. That kind of feedback helps me see the show from a different perspective, which is quite valuable to me as a writer.

TB - We're now, from a production point of view, half-way through Season 2. Do you think Enterprise has already found its voice? Or the show is still searching for its tone and direction?

André Bormanis: I think we've found our voice. I'm not sure I can summarise it in a few words, but Enterprise is very much a show about people, explorers, who are very accessible, personable, noble but not perfect, in many ways like astronauts and other adventurers today. We have a somewhat lesser focus on the science fiction and space travel elements of previous Star Trek series, but now that we have a better sense of the personalities of our crew, I think you'll be seeing more of those kinds of stories.

TB: One of the most interesting things for fans so far has been the revisiting of species seen or mentioned in the Original Series. We've been presented to the new Andorians, and Brannon Braga hinted that we'll probably meet the Tellarites. How do you feel about the work done with those species so far? And which do you think will be back?

André Bormanis: I love the Andorians. I think they're great. Part of the fun of Enterprise is the opportunity to see how humanity first encounters some of the aliens that became familiar to the audience on previous series. If we can come up with good stories for the Tellarites or the Orions, I'm sure we'll see them.

TB: Chris Black has recently been promoted to co-executive producer. John Shiban came in as co-executive producer. In those two cases, the title lives up to the definition of function, or is it just a mechanism within the industry to give them higher status and paychecks? In other words, are they really bosses to you, and Phyllis and Mike and the others, or are they colleagues that happen to have a higher title?

André Bormanis: We're all writers, we all work together. Brannon of course is the head writer, and Chris and John have somewhat more involvement in the production aspects of the show, but the titles mostly indicate seniority. Chris and John have been full-time television writers for seven or eight years. Mike and Phyllis are in their fourth season, and I'm in my second.

TB: Even if they're not effective as executive producers, to have four formal executive producers in a series is an event that is, to my knowledge, unheard of for Star Trek. Is there any buzz inside the studio concerning another Trek project, perhaps a new series, that would justify this enlargement of the "big hitters' team"?

André Bormanis: Not that I'm aware of.

TB: We had several writers from the first season that are not in the series anymore. Notable losses are Fred Dekker and the couple André and Maria Jacquemetton.. Was it the producers' decision to not maintain them?

André Bormanis: In the television business, writers frequently move from show to show. It's rather uncommon to remain on a show for more than a season or two. Whether or not a given writer stays can depend on a number of factors, and I really don't know all of the details of why particulars writers have stayed or moved on, so I don't feel that I can speak to that.

TB: Besides your work as a writer, you also serve Enterprise as story editor and, informally, science consultant. It sounds like a very intense job! Could you tell us about the routine of André Bormanis aboard Enterprise?

André Bormanis: There is no routine, as such. Every day is different. Much of the time I'm coming up with ideas for new stories. Some days I do a little research on a 'tech' element in a script. Fortunately, we don't do as much tech on Enterprise as we did on Voyager, so that usually doesn't take more than a couple of hours a week. Story breaks typically consume half a day for several days, and we break a new story every other week, on average. When I'm writing a first draft script, I'm left alone for about two weeks to do nothing but that. The rest of the time is spent giving notes or helping polish scripts as we get them ready for production.

TB: Enterprise seems, along with Deep Space Nine, the series with more potential to dive into the politics of Star Trek - given that a United Federation of Planets should emerge in a decade from the beginning of the series. In your opinion, has the series already began to explore this potential? Will it further explore these issues?

André Bormanis: I'm really not terribly interested in the politics of the Federation. Political stories tend to be a little dry and academic. Plus I'm too depressed with the state of American and world politics to want to get into the subject that much anymore!

TB: Enterprise relates much more with NASA and the current space program than the other shows. Who is the major NASA fan among the production team that keeps providing us with those clues to our origins in space, as the scene where Archer's crew answers to questions sent by students from Earth, much like today's astronauts aboard the Shuttle do?

André Bormanis: As someone who used to get paid by NASA to do space science research, as well as a NASA fellowship recipient, I'm obviously a big NASA fan. So is our scenic arts supervisor Mike Okuda. Mike Sussman grew up in Florida and has a deep interest in today's space program. Rick and Brannon are the ones who wanted our characters to feel more like contemporary astronauts, and both of them are major supporters of NASA.

TB: Talking about NASA, don't you think some scenes like Gagarin, Mir Space Station or Sputnik are missing from the opening sequence?

André Bormanis: It would've been nice to see something from the old Soviet program, which provided so much of the impetus for the American space program.

TB: Were you a Star Trek fan before you got involved with the series? If so, how has becoming involved professionally with it changed your appreciation of the show?

André Bormanis: I loved the Original Series as a kid, watched most of Next Generation when it came on the air, saw all of the movies on opening day. Working on the show has made me appreciate how incredibly hard it is to produce 26 hours of television every year. It's a miracle we get it done at all, let alone do it so well.

TB: On the other hand, how do the friends and colleagues you've made during your career in Physics view this transition of yours, from real science to science fiction?

André Bormanis: Most of them are quite envious!

TB: Brannon Braga was once considered somewhat a 'rebel' inside Star Trek. Does he still lives up to this reputation?

André Bormanis: I'm not sure if the word 'rebel' is accurate, but he is incredibly creative and passionate about the show. He views Enterprise as an opportunity to both reinvent Star Trek for a 21st century audience (which has become a little jaded about space travel) and take it back to its roots in the spirit of the Original Series.

TB: I heard Gene Roddenberry was very selective when it came to approve new episodes for The Next Generation - the episode had to be in line with Star Trek's spirit. How do you, from the production team, deal with that in Enterprise? Is there a conscious effort to maintain such a spirit?

André Bormanis: Rick and Brannon both have infinite respect for Gene, as do we all. We always want to do shows that Gene would've been proud of. I hope that we are.

TB: We've seen a lot of Vulcans in Enterprise. But none of them uses that familiar hand gesture. Why? The producers don't like it?

André Bormanis: In the interest of trying to take a fresh approach to Star Trek, we want to be careful about using elements from earlier series that have become something of a cliché. The Vulcans of the 22nd century are not quite as open-minded or tolerant as the Vulcans of later eras. When and if we do the salute, we want to do it in a context that makes it feel special, not routine. And if you think about it, I'm sure Spock did it all that often maybe half a dozen times? In 'Fallen Hero' we did hear V'Lar say 'life long and prosper.'

TB: Although the producers claim Enterprise is a more 'down to Earth' series from the Star Trek family, ironically we don't see Earth too often. Are there any plans, for the future, to involve Enterprise in more important tasks on behalf of Earth government, both giving a better sense of purpose for the ship and a more significant glimpse of Earth's position in interstellar neighbourhood?

André Bormanis: The purpose of Enterprise is exploration. It's the Lewis and Clark expedition of the 22nd century. Since the whole premise is that we don't know what's out there, it's a little hard to have more specific plans, or stake our claim on new (to us at least) planets. We don't want to go back to Earth for awhile, because we want the audience to continue to have the sense that Enterprise is farther than any other Earth ship has travelled. The crew has to improvise at times because when they left Earth they have very little idea of what to expect.

TB: How much does the writing team study to avoid continuity mistakes concerning data established in the other series? Is it up to each writer or is there anyone who checks out the scripts after the writers finish them?

André Bormanis: We all try to watch continuity. After five series and ten movies, it's more than any one person can keep track of. We refer to the Star Trek Encyclopedia and watch tapes of old episodes when we're not sure of something, but we still make mistakes now and then.

TB: When are we going to see a Brazilian as a senior officer and an important function aboard the ship?

André Bormanis: We rarely mention the nationality of crew members. In the 22nd century, Earth is unified, and nationality is not nearly as important an issue as it is today. I'm sure there are at least one or two Brazilians on Enterprise, and many more in Starfleet. Brannon Braga's grandfather, incidentally is Portuguese.

TB: There's an old rumour since Voyager about a possible homosexual relationship in Star Trek. What is your personal opinion about it? Do you think it would be a wise move? Would you write it? And, if so, which characters would you use?

André Bormanis: I would hope that by the 22nd century homosexuality is not stigmatised as it so often still is today. Since it is a social and political issue in today's world, if we were to address it on Enterprise, we would probably want to do it in a way that speaks to the issue in some interesting, unexpected way. I'd be happy to write such a script, but I'm not sure which characters it would involve. It would really have to depend on the story.

TB: Although the studio dropped its policy of receiving scripts from fans, would it be possible to somehow pitch a story that could serve as inspiration or an idea for a future episode of Enterprise?

André Bormanis: I hate to disappoint you, but unless you have an agent, we can't take a story pitch from you. If you've written scripts on your own, you can send them around to agents and if they like your work, they'll take you on as a client. That's how I got started.

TB: The ratings from Enterprise show the series hasn't repeated the success achieved by other Star Trek shows - even Voyager had better numbers in its first seasons. Don't you think the public is tired of Star Trek, specially because the producers' promise of 'fresh air' for Enterprise is not becoming a reality, given some new episodes look like recycled concepts created for the other series?

André Bormanis: Ouch! Actually, I think our numbers this year are better than Voyager's numbers from its last couple of seasons. I worry less about our ratings than just trying to write the best scripts I can write. With all the different cable and satellite channels, there is a lot of competition for viewers these days.

TB: Up to what point is the future development of the show planned?

André Bormanis: We really don't have an over-arching plan for the series, or even the season. We basically take if episode by episode. As a writer, I'm much more interested in seeing where the show is taking me, how its evolution is guiding my imagination, rather than trying to dictate from the beginning exactly where it's going to go at the end of its run.

TB: With all we see in terms of design for Enterprise - the uniforms, the transporter effect, the overall look of the NX-01 and its shuttlepods - the series looks like it was made for the 24th century, not the 22nd. Is it possible that the 21st century Star Trek, in an attempt to reinvigorate and re-imagine the future, lost its own tradition and sense of history and chronology?

André Bormanis: I think you may have a point in terms of the ship's exterior, but I think the interior does a wonderful job of balancing two conflicting needs: a) to suggest the future of present-day space technology, and b) to suggest a ship that exists in the past of all the others. If we tried to make the ship look too 'retro' we'd run the risk of making the show seem like a throwback to the 1950's or 60's. I doubt Klingon space technology evolves very quickly. Like the Russians, who have been flying essentially the same Soyuz capsules for the last forty years, the Klingons found a design that worked and stuck with it.

TB: You've been working for Star Trek during the last three series. What do you think are the main differences between the writing teams of DS9, Voyager and Enterprise?

André Bormanis: I can't say I see many differences. All the writers I've had the good fortunate to work with have been fun, talented people. I've learned a lot from all of them.

TB: We all know the producers had some risky decisions, as putting the Ferengi into the mix or bringing the Romulans in a way some considered offensive to what had been established before. What do you think of the way the producers are dealing with all this? If the decision would have been yours to make, would you take the same route?

André Bormanis: I think we've dealt with it extremely well. Had it been up to me, I might not have brought the Ferengi into the mix, but I still think that was a fun episode. We were very careful of course not to reveal the appearance of the Romulans, or suggest that T'Pol understood that they are distant cousins of the Vulcans.

TB: What is the best thing about working for Star Trek? What about the worst?

André Bormanis: The best thing is the opportunity to work with a group of very talented people to create exciting and inspiring stories for our audience. Science fiction writer David Brin told me recently that Enterprise is currently the only show on television that suggests our children are going to be better than we are, will make this world a much better place and do great things that every person can be proud of and participate in. I think that was the essence of Gene Roddenberry's vision for Star Trek, and I'm glad to be a part of that. The worst part is the pressure and the long hours!

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Salvador Nogueira is editor of the Brazilian web site Trek Brasilis. This interview is a translation from the original Portuguese, which can be found here at Trek Brasilis. Huge thanks go out to Salvador for sharing this interview with TrekToday!