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Star Trek: Excelsior Boxing Day Open Episode

THE WINNERS: July 1st, 2009

WINNER
Chris Chan Roberson"No One Gets Out Alive"Release: 26 DEC 2009

RUNNER-UP
Aaron J. Bossig"Necessity"Download/View PDF

HONORABLE MENTION
Martin Fisher"The Far Depths of Pain"Download/View PDF
Johnathan Huslage"Lockdown"Download/View PDF
Mike Murphy"Reunion"Download/View PDF


Thanks to all our finalists and to everyone who helped make this contest a success!




CONTEST RULES

What’s this all about?
Star Trek: Excelsior has one open production slot this year, for the December 26, 2009 episode. We could have written the episode ourselves, of course, but then we remembered Star Trek’s long tradition of accepting pitches from anyone with a gleam in his eye and a good idea in his head. Soon, we also remembered the great writers discovered by the Trek open submission policy: Trent Ganino ("Yesterday’s Enterprise"), Ronald D. Moore ("All Good Things..." and the new Battlestar Galactica), and others. The fact is, we realized, Star Trek fans are good at writing Star Trek.

Suddenly, an idea was born: instead of writing the episode ourselves, the Excelsior team has decided to fill our open production slot with a script written by a fan. We’re launching this open contest in order to find out who that fan will be.

If you’ve ever wanted to write for a Star Trek fan show—or for Star Trek in general—this is your chance.

Sweet! Can I enter?
Yes. The contest is open to all fans of all ages. Exception: if you’re under 13, you must have a parent’s permission, or your entry will not be considered. Other exception: Members of the Excelsior crew and regular cast are ineligible. So are the immediate families of the contest judges (Mr. Heaney, Mr. Keyes, Mr. Hennessy). This is for the obvious conflict-of-interest reasons.

What exactly are you looking for?
Ultimately, we’re looking for a standalone episode of Star Trek: Excelsior, roughly 40 - 60 minutes in length. The episode must center on members of the main cast (living or dead), and may feature no graphic violence or explicit sexual activity.

However, this episode will not be an official part of the Excelsior canon, so you are not bound to the normal rules of continuity. You can blow up the ship, set the entire episode in a parallel universe where the Borg have made an alliance with the Federation, make Dovan ascend to a higher plane of existence... anything you want! Of course, you could just tell a plain old adventure story in the classic Star Trek tradition, set right in the familiar Excelsior storyline. We expect a lot of both. What we’re looking for is good writing that draws us into the Excelsior universe and makes us really want to produce the script we’re reading. No more; no less.

Okay, I’m in. Where do I send the fifty-page Excelsior script I’ve written?
Not so fast. We have a total of seven people on the production staff, and most of them don’t even deal with scripts. Quite simply, there aren’t enough of us to read more than a handful of fully-finished scripts.

So how am I supposed to send you my great idea for a story?
We’re looking for what the television industry calls "pitches." These are quick-and-dirty explanations of what happens in your story, from teaser to end credits, including all necessary information to understand the story and its subplots. In the real world, pitch length varies, but we won’t accept any pitches longer than 503 words (because everyone always asks for three extra words!). Furthermore, we’ll accept a maximum of four pitches per entrant.

Your pitch is your foot in the door with Excelsior. It’s not like we have a particularly tough door to get into—we hardly have the fan base of a filmed Trek show—but you should make sure your pitch is well-polished, because it’s the first (and, sadly, perhaps last) thing that we’ll judge you on.

I’m okay with that. How do I submit?
Send your pitches to starshipexcelsiorcontests@gmail.com. We can read pitches straight from the emails, and we’ll also accept .doc, .txt, and .rtf files as attachments. .doc is preferred. .docx (from the new Word 2007-2008), however, is not preferred. We'd rather you not use it.

Also, make sure you include your name and an email where we can reliably and speedily contact you.

Once I’ve submitted all my pitches, what happens then?
Then you sit tight. Our Crack Pitch-Reading Team (which, at this writing, consists of Mr. Heaney and producers Alex Keyes and Mike Hennessy) will split them up. Depending on the number of submissions, your pitch will be read by some or all of us. Pitches that each reader flags as "good" will be sent to the other two. From that pool of "good" entries, we’ll select the Final Five.

Final Five?
I mean the five finalists. (Yes, I watch too much Battlestar Galactica. I don’t even like the show, but Alex and Mike are both huge fans.)

We’ll take the five most promising pitches and name their authors as our finalists. Those finalists will then be invited to submit complete scripts to Excelsior based on their pitches. They’ll have five weeks to write those scripts. From those final scripts, we’ll choose our overall winner and runner-up.

Is there a particular format I have to follow?
For the pitches, no particular format is required. For the scripts, there will be a required format, but we’ll give more information on that to the Final Five when they are announced.

What are the prizes?
The winner’s script will be produced as the Boxing Day Episode (subject to some additional editing as deemed necessary by the producers). The scripts by the runner-up and the three other finalists will be posted (with full crediting and attribution) on the Excelsior website for free viewing by the fans. No other compensation is involved.

What’s the timeline here? When are my deadlines?
If you’re reading this, then it means pitch submissions have opened. Start sending them to starshipexcelsiorcontests@gmail.com!

All pitches are due by 6:00 A.M. (CST) on April 16th, 2009.

Finalists will be announced on May 1st, 2009.

Finalist scripts will be due by the night of Sunday, June 7th, 2009. (Specific time to be announced.)

The winner and runner-up will be announced on July 1st, 2009, and the scripts of all finalists except the winner will be posted at the same time.

Then the winner’s script will fall into the deep dark pit that is production on Excelsior, we’ll fiddle around with it a bit more (as always happens during translation from word to sound), consult the writer some more to make sure we’re staying true to his vision, and, eventually, as if by magic, an episode will appear.

That episode will be released on December 26th, 2009.

You’re aware that you just set a firm deadline on a fan project, right?
Yes, we are. And, yes, we know that this we might as well just ask God to smite us with the Curse of the Exeter. We’re hopeful that, with this much advance planning, we’ll be able to release on time. Starship Excelsior has never in its history set a firm release date more than twenty-four hours before release, and that’s because we’re keenly aware that nobody who sets a release date ever seems to make it—but we intend to make this one.

What if one of your original five finalists declines to submit a full script?
If one of the selected finalists drops out of the contest or fails to reply to us in a reasonable amount of time, then we’ll invite another deserving pitch-writer to replace the original finalist. We want five scripts to choose from on June 7th.

What if you get fewer than five submissions?
Then, congratulations, you’re all finalists! I hope that doesn’t happen, though.

In the extreme case that we receive no submissions that we believe even approach the standard of quality we require to write a good episode, we reserve the right to cancel the contest. We really hope that doesn’t happen.

What are your judging criteria?
The short answer is that we’re looking for stuff that makes us say, "That’s terrific." The long answer is that we’re looking for a story that balances a great Excelsior-centric premise, solid use of characters, originality, "awesomeness factor," feasibility of production, and all-around good writing. Spelling and grammar count.

In fact, let me say that again: spelling and grammar count. A lot. Even if an idea is terrific, a writer needs to have excellent English skills in order to write for radio, or the idea is useless.

Will you steal my idea?
By submitting your pitch to this contest, you give us ownership of the story and the right use your idea without crediting you. We’re not going to, but we have to say that to shield ourselves from plagiarism charges.

Of course, suing us for plagiarism would be just about the dumbest lawsuit somebody could file, because there’s absolutely no money involved here—the prizes have no monetary value, the show has no budget, we have barely enough money for the servers, and, what’s more, Excelsior already exists solely because CBS Paramount has (generously) refrained from sending us a Cease-and-Desist order to date. We exist in legal limbo as it is, so filing a lawsuit wouldn’t accomplish much except give everyone an enormous headache.

(Thank you, Paramount, for suffering us to exist! We really do appreciate it!)

Why December 26?
December 26th is St. Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day to some), a day when normal relationships are traditionally turned upside-down. It’s also a holiday that doesn’t get celebrated nearly often enough in these United States, so we’re going to turn things "upside-down" and turn the audience into our writer’s room and our writer’s room into the audience for the day. Take that, Congress.

I get the feeling you want to tell me something else. Why is that?
Because I do want to tell you something else! I'd like to announce that I'm going to be taking off for a semester in Rome this Fall, and, in my absence, longtime crew member Mike Hennessy (Narrator; Cast Liaison; Post-Producer) is going to be taking over the day-to-day work on the show as the Executive Producer. I'll still be submitting regular-season scripts, but he'll be handling the recording and production on several episodes while I'm away from September through late January 2010, including this episode. A big congratulations and an even bigger thank-you to Mr. Mike Hennessy, everyone!

No purchase necessary to enter. Nor, indeed, is purchase possible; we don’t make any money off of Excelsior. Just send your pitches to starshipexcelsiorcontests@gmail.com before April 16th!

Let's see what's out there.

Sincerely,
James Heaney
Executive Producer