There's something endearing about going into the family business. I know I buy all my pastries at Scarlatto and Sons Bakery. To that end, it gives me great joy to look back at certain episodes in the Star Trek canon and to notice a story credit by Nick Sagan, who celebrates his 42nd birthday this week.
Nick Sagan is, of course, the son of noted late professor, astronomer, author and scientific interlocutor Carl Sagan. Perhaps best known for producing the 1980 series Cosmos, Sagan was able to bring true science to the masses in a fun and engaging way without dumbing it down. After his death in 1997, NASA named the site of the Mars Pathfinder lander the Carl Sagan Memorial Station. Those of you with sharp eyes no doubt noticed a Martian commemorative memorial with the same name in the Enterprise episode “Terra Prime.”
But by “Terra Prime's” airing in 2005 the word Sagan already had Star Trek associations. Nick began his career bridging the world of science with entertainment as a young man during the final season of The Next Generation.
The planet's majority wishes to join the federation, yet a small but significant section does not. What's a good will Captain to do?
Another neat thing about “Attached” is when Picard and Dr. Crusher have devices implanted in their brains that transmit their thoughts to one another over psi wave patterns. It is exciting to watch them adapt to the technology, and also funny when some “overheard” thoughts are awkward. “Attached” is also a great episode for those fond of the Picard/Crusher romantic angle, and a fine lead-in to the eventual finale “All Good Things...”
Wait, what? Picard has a son? Well, I guess the term “oops” still exists in the 24th century. A former paramour of Jean-Luc's, Miranda Vigo, gave birth to a child after a swift but passionate affair.
Picard is able to rescue Jason Vigo, now a young man, and after a difficult meeting eventually form a bond. In the end it is revealed Bok spoofed Jason's DNA sequencing, and the two are, indeed, not related. The scenes between the would-be father and son are still quite touching, and one need not be a psychoanalyst to see how “Bloodlines” may be Nick Sagan's most personal story about a man following in huge paternal footsteps.
Sagan next transported to the Star Trek writer's room during season five of Voyager. He served as a story editor, which means that his involvement on all the shows of that year is mixed in to their primordial soup. He can, therefore, take at least a partial bow for “Bride of Chaotica!”
There are, however, five episodes from that season where he has sole or shared screenwriting credit.
If you are getting a sense that Sagan had a fondness for the mind-scramblers, you aren't mistaken.
In “Relativity,” Seven of Nine is recruited from the 29th Century to go back to the Voyager's pre-launch to seek out and defuse a bomb that will disrupt the timeline. How getting her to do this so that it itself doesn't also disrupt it is just one of the juicy morsels of confusing paradoxes. This is one to just have fun with, plus it also affords us an opportunity to see into the Voyager's past with a knowledge of its present.
With all of this cool sci-fi stuff under his belt, Nick Sagan has gone on to work on his own successful book series, adapting other properties for TV and film and working on Space.com. In terms of science fact, though, it is unlikely he'll top an accomplishment he made when he was 11.
When his father was a consultant to NASA and creating the Voyager Golden Record, a recording of young Nick's voice saying “Hello from the children of Planet Earth” was shot out beyond our sun's gravity and into deep space. If there was one thing cooler than being a writer for multiple episodes of Star Trek, that might be it.
So what was your favorite Sagan-penned Star Trek episode?
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.