SFX Issue 72

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Christmas 2000

SFX historical note: We're not sure what happened to the creator of the following show, but one of its stars has certainly made. We've put a YouTube link at the bottom so you can see what we all missed out on…


Pirate Television

Can you really make your own science fiction show? Read on…

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It sounds like a fanboy fever-dream – the idea of creating your own science fiction television series – and yet for one group of dedicated American fans, the application of guerrilla film-making techniques may actually have brought them to the brink of TV immortality.

Deborah Warner’s fangirl pedigree as a writer of pornographic Star Trek: Voyager fan-fiction might make her seem like an unlikely choice for a writer-producer, but her concept for a space pirates adventure series has gone from an unsold speculative script for Star Trek: TNG to an in-the-can 25-minute mini-pilot. Privateers is a classic pulp sci-fi concept, with the piratical verve and high adventure of Errol Flynn movies transferred to a landscape of seedy starports and ramshackle spaceships; a paper idea that became the real thing, Warner recalls, after seeing Steve Martin’s Bowfinger , which charts the misadventures of a penniless movie maker trying to shoot a film on the cheap.

Warner’s original ST: TNG script got her an agent and the suggestion of spinning it into its own series came soon after. Utilising connections through friends and, in many cases, just plain begging, Warner’s Dragoncor Productions team secured the involvement of Xena guest-star Karl Urban (Caesar And Cupid) to play the heroic Captain Aran Dravyk of the Privateer Rapier, and Star Trek alumni Walter Koenig in the role of the villainous Admiral Roka. A stunt team called Have Sword Will Travel provided the pirate crewmen, while visual effects expert David Duncan ( Space: Above And Beyond ) came on to direct.

Sets were handled out of back-yards and garages, with even casual visitors to the production press-ganged into working as extras or grips. Since the completion of their pilot, the Privateers team has been airing it at conventions and actively shopping the series concept across the United States, working to gather enough interest to green-light the show into production. Now in sight of the magic number, the Dragoncor team hopes to launch Privateers into a syndicated television run by the end of 2001.

Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.