Michael Piller (1948-2005)

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Ron Moore has written a tribute to Michael Piller, head writer of Star Trek: The Next Generation in its latter (and best) years. Piller died November 1 of a long battle with cancer. It gives an interesting picture of what it was like landing a job writing for that show and how writing for that show worked behind the scenes.

Piller didn't actually write many scripts, but many of the ones he did write were some of the best. His best known work might well be the two-parter "The Best of Both Worlds", in which Captain Picard gets assimilated by the Borg and then leads an attack against the Federation. He also got a story credit on "Unification", the two-part episode that featured Ambassador Spock and his work trying to reunify Vulcans and Romulans. He created Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which I think was the best Trek show, and he wrote a number of early episodes of that show, particularly a number of key episodes early in the show. He left (before it got really good) to create Voyager, which he worked with for a few years, but he mostly wrote scripts based on other people's stories for that show. One key story he did write fully was "Basics", one of my favorites of the whole series, in which the Kazon manage to take over the ship, stranding the crew all on a planet, and the holographic Doctor and Ensign Lon Suder have to retake the ship. Suder was a crew member turned murderer played by Brad Dourif (Grima Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Brother Edward of Bablyon 5's "Passing Through Gethsemane", the voice of Chucky in the Child's Play movies, and if those roles aren't disturbing enough check him out in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). It was Piller's last Trek episode. He left Voyager to work on his final Star Trek script, the ninth film Star Trek: Insurrection.

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