20 November 2007

Writers' Strike: Remember Riker's Leg?

Remember the last time Hollywood's writers went on strike? Perhaps you didn't notice. There was a strike back in the days when Star Trek: The Next Generation was being produced. That's why I remember it. The writers went on strike. This didn't seem to be a serious problem as far as the Star Trek producers were concerned. Fans were writing ST fiction all the time. How hard could it be? Perhaps they thought the quality of the professional writing was so bad that the audience wouldn't notice if there was no one to write the script at all. The producers thought they could cobble a script together themselves. Hence the episode of Riker's Leg.

Perhaps that rings a bell for you. Like me, you may not remember the correct title of the episode, but, if you are old enough, and if you were following ST back then, the phrase, Riker's Leg, says it all. If you are one of those who has picked up ST:TNG since then, and you've wondered about some of those particularly bad episodes, now you know the answer: The writers were on strike.

Hence the episode of Ryker's Leg. The story was that Riker had some terrible disease that started in one leg, was going to spread all through his body and kill him. His friends gathered at his bedside, sad and anxious, all through a bunch of flashbacks until it was time to end the show. Would Riker survive? We were supposed to worry. Instead, every one who watched it was merely puzzled. Why not just cut his leg off?

Indeed, in the ST:TNG universe, it had been established that anything short of decapitation was not a big deal. Therefore, again, why not just cut his leg off?

That single episode, dear reader, demonstrated the need for writers. That is why many of us who remember that time both laugh and wince at the thought of another writers' strike. Wince, because we're hoping we will never again be afflicted again with anything as bad as the episode of Riker's leg. Laugh, because we notice that a lot of shows will cease production this time around.

For instance, Buffy writer Joss Whedon's new series, Dollhouse, with Fox studios, is on hold because of the strike.

Interesting. It was difficult to locate the story of Riker's leg on the STARTREK.COM episode guide. I found it, though. It's called Shades of Grey, and the blurb says, "An alien organism invades Riker's brain." You have to read the synopsis to find that by 'brain' they meant 'leg'.

Or his brain is in his leg.

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