If you're going to launch your own film project, why not reach for the stars? That's the thinking of science fiction veteran Marc Scott Zicree, who has banded together a team of artists and loyal fans for Space Command, an entire franchise of sci-fi films. BFTV recently sat down with the TV scribe of Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Sliders fame to get the briefing on Space Command and what fantastic stories we can look forward to exploring.
"What's got me excited about doing it, I grew up with Star Trek and Twilight Zone and Outer Limits," explained Marc, who co-created the project with Neil Johnson. "With all of them there was often a sense that good people could band together and actually accomplish something for the common good. A lot of the current crop of sci-fi, it's very bleak, very dark. It's very, very grim, whether it's Defiance or Battlestar Galactica or Elysium. I wanted to go back to a hopeful vision of the future."
What he came up with was not only a sci-fi epic in terms of starships and aliens, but a multigenerational story about multiple families involved in the exploration of the solar system and beyond. It wasn't going to be one movie, but a half-dozen of them. Why aim for such large-scale storytelling where most would be content with one arc or two? "Because I come out of television," he continued. "Because having written for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5, I like a big canvas. I like to be able to really cover some ground.
"In television, it's about the characters, it's about taking a journey with specific people. In my own life, I never met my grandfather. So then that had a ripple effect on my dad, and that had an effect on me. I was interested in the cause and effect between generations.
"And also, when you create something, you're following in the tradition of great sci-fi movies and shows, but you're looking to see what hasn't been done before, and what will make this something people will want to watch and be engaged in. There hadn't been a generational story. The closest would be in Star Wars, with Vader and Luke."
He took his sprawling vision directly to science-fiction fans, who pledged more than $200,000 via Kickstarter to help make the series of films. Yet unlike many crowd-funded projects, Marc and his team took several extra steps to make their backers an actual part of the franchise. "I've always been very collaborative and I've always liked that two-way communication," he said. "Then once we started succeeding, I thought, 'How can we build on this?'
"Some people who are backers are part of our team in terms of visual effects. And then I had this wacky idea of having a talent search where people anywhere in the world could audition for two of the lead roles. In the end, I ended up casting four [people]. And one of the actresses, she auditioned for a male role and she was so terrific that we created a female captain of a sister ship [for her]."
The backers are joining a roster of folks pulled from science fiction history, including Marc's wife and co-producer/co-director Elaine Zicree, composer David Raiklen, and actors including Mira Furlan (Babylon 5), Armin Shimerman (DS9), Bill Mumy (Babylon 5) and Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager). Marc wrote the scripts for Space Command occasionally with certain people in mind. "I sort of collect these people," he said. "For instance, when I saw the pilot of DS9, I thought Armin was just terrific."
Yet for all the fantastic in Space Command, Marc also wants to keep the franchise relatable. "I'm looking for things that make us connected to our world," he added. "Bob Picardo plays a Muslim. It's just an aspect of his [character's] nature. I thought that'd be fair and appropriate. There's a lot of ethnic diversity, a lot of racial diversity; two characters are in a lesbian marriage."
"The thing I'm really proud of is that I'm giving a lot of characters an ability to grow and age and reflect on themselves and the world around them. There are two characters who are very long-lived, and so they basically cover the time frame of the story, which is 150 years," he explained. "I'm proud of the fact I've created a big, complicated story. I think it'll be a very moving story. I think people will be very engaged in the story that we're telling.
"Just like all the shows that I love, it's about the characters," he continued. "When I wrote the Star Trek: New Voyages episode [with Michael Reaves], "World Enough and Time," the one that got nominated for the  Nebula [Award], all the original characters all spoke differently. They all had different viewpoints. They all had very distinctive attitudes and points of view and ways of speaking. Really good characters are specific individuals. They're not interchangeable."
So when and how can we expect to start our journey with Space Command? "The first one will probably be about a year from now. The plan is to shoot the first three back-to-back. We're definitely doing Blu-Ray and DVD and downloadable content," Marc said, adding that then "We're going to see what affiliation makes sense. My view is always, let's have it be of quality. I want it to be good rather than fast."
"Every day is just enormously exciting," he told us, explaining that it's not too late for other folks to sign on and get involved. "If people want to be part of this, volunteers are more than welcome. They can be part of this adventure as much as they want to be." If you're interested in helping with the project, you can find more information at the end of this article.
And when he's done with the production of these half-dozen films, what's going to make it all worthwhile? It's not to have the next mega-billion-dollar Hollywood machine. "My goal really is a qualitative one," said Marc, who learned from the likes of legends such as Harlan Ellison, Ted Sturgeon, and Ray Bradbury. "My goal is to have it be wonderful. I want it to look great. I want the actors to be terrific. I want the writing to be truthful. I'm really aiming high."
"Every time you write, you have a chance to say something that's unique to yourself, and affect [your audience] and change them for life, and I take that obligation very seriously," he told us. "I'm already hugely proud of what we've accomplished with Space Command. It's a big project, but I like challenges. I've always liked challenges. I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing."