In the documentary, Trekkies, an Star Trek/Paramount executive mentioned that Star Trek: The Next Generation is unique because it has an “Open Script Submission” policy. This allowed fans the chance to guide Star Trek’s fate in a superlatively creative way. According to Trek Today[i]—a (very) up-to-date fan site comprised of blog entries, paraphernalia advertisements, and episode summaries—the policy was cancelled in 2001 due to “legal reasons.” Before that, fans could submit two unsolicited scripts before needing an agent’s backing. The article also stated that nearly 99% of scripts were rejected. After watching the informative and compassionate documentary and witnessing the hoards of fervent fanatics committed to furthering the image of and discussion on the show, the collective enthusiasm is unsurprising. Jenkins’ article highlights the show’s themes of acceptance, gender representation, and feminist embodiment; these insights help explain how fan communities find catharsis in their opportunities to extend and influence the show’s universe.
In the wake of Star Trek’s “open script policy,” it’s easy to see how television continues to value and consider the voices of the fans from online sites such as Television Without Pity, as Andejevic examines in “Watching Television Without Pity.” The author also combats the age-old notion that TV is conducive to passivity; conversely, TV not only ignites erudite conversation but demands “intelligent” (35) viewer participation in myriad ways. A show will not flourish unless fans can aggressively consume it and assert their own opinions (after all, why were shows like Arrested Development and Family Guy resurrected and why was Felicity doomed after Keri cut her hair?). As Andrejevic acutely observes, shared-control bridges the “production-consumption divide” (33).
As social media becomes increasing integrated into our daily practices, have site like Twitter supplanted groups like TWoP by providing an even more immediate and universal medium for criticism and feedback? It’s evident that reality shows utilize Twitter activity surrounding the show to provide concurrent or extended narratives for the show. For example, some shows even broadcast fan tweets at the bottom of the screen as the show airs. Scanning tweets of a particular trending topic nicely and succinctly survey the consumers’ opinions. Since Twitter gives users—and presumably creative executives—the ability to assess the buzz surrounding a show, I wonder how TV moguls pay heed to what is expressed via Twitter. On the other hand, is a terse Tweet as esteemed as a loyal fan’s comprehensive examination/critique of a show? Does Twitter’s universality, accessibility, and sheer scale as a media platform dilute the voices of the fans? Do more restricted and specific fan site still provide an invaluable service for television?