'Dead Zone' Will Satisfy Trek Fans, Says Piller

By Caillan
May 20, 2002 - 1:34 PM

Deep Space Nine and Voyager co-creator Michael Piller guarantees Trek fans will be impressed by his new television series, The Dead Zone.

"I believe the quality of the show will satisfy them," Piller told Steve Krutzler at TrekWeb. "The word of mouth will begin to go around, and if this sounds familiar it's because it's the same strategy we used looking back on the third season of TNG, which is when of course it grew into a phenomenon. The word of mouth gets out and people say 'you really should be watching that show'."

During his time on Star Trek, Piller realised the value of the female demographic. "You look at the numbers for Next Generation and it did something that third year shows very rarely do-it increased viewers week by week by week by week," he said. "Do you know who those viewers were mostly? Women. Because most of the audience for sci-fi, particularly space, was male; they couldn't get women into the tent. Suddenly we started doing stories that appealed to men and women."

The writer-producer plans to use this approach to secure ratings success for The Dead Zone. "The title might scare women away, but I think if you can get people to watch this show with someone they love, the end result is going to be a much broader base of an audience than the typical sci-fi/genre piece."

Based on the Stephen King book of the same name, The Dead Zone chronicles the life of Johnny Smith, who wakes up from a coma with amazing psychic powers. Anthony Michael Hall stars as Johnny, with DS9's Nicole deBoer (Ezri Dax) as his former fiancée, Sarah Bannerman.

Trek veterans Joe Menosky and Michael Taylor have joined the writing staff as executive consultant and co-producer, respectively. "He thinks on a different plane than the rest of us," Piller said of Menosky, responsible for Trek episodes such as 'Darmok' and 'Scorpion.' "Having worked with him on Trek, knowing what he's capable of, he was one of the first people I called when I got a pick up and he has been remarkably effective."

Piller was similarly effusive about Taylor, writer of the Hugo-nominated 'The Visitor.' "As you read scripts every week, this writer or that writer would jump out at you, and Taylor was one of those people. Joe [Menosky] recommended him to me very highly and I had read his material. So I essentially gave him an assignment to see how he could do and it turned out to be one of our most remarkable episodes about what happens when Johnny the psychic is called for jury duty."

Overall, Piller is immensely proud of his work on The Dead Zone. "You're going to see the same kind of smart, ambitious, adult, storytelling that I did when I was running TNG, DS9, and co-running Voyager. The ten episodes that we've put into production so far rival any ten consecutive shows that I ever did on Star Trek in terms of their ambition and effectiveness and I just think that anyone who likes good, smart science fiction is going to like this show."

The Dead Zone premieres 10:00pm June 16 on the USA Network. The full interview, in which Piller also reflected on 'Star Trek: Insurrection,' can be found here at TrekWeb, while more information on the series is available at the official web site.

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