In a much younger version of himself, Ashley Edward Miller used to set the VCR up every single day capturing the magic of the original “Star Trek” series that he could play back whenever he wanted.
Watching the voyages of Kirk, Spock and McCoy on the USS Enterprise inspired Miller to do many things. But never did he expect he would actually put words into the mouth of Leonard Nimoy, a legend in his own right. Miller however got to do that not just once, but twice on the Fox series “Fringe.” That included the most recently aired episode “Grey Matters,” which aired Dec. 10 penned by himself and regular writing partner Zack Stentz.
“It was certainly exciting, and it has been exciting that we’ve been able to have him” on the show,” Miller told Alpha Waves Radio in a show that premieres online Thursday. “We’ve actually written three [episodes] now, and had two air. Of the two that have aired, Leonard was in both of those episodes, and that is tremendously exciting for a geek to write for Leonard.”
Miller has lived a geek’s dream, not just writing for Nimoy, but for being a part of some memorable franchises throughout his young career. He started his career in 2000 on the syndicated “Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda” that starred Kevin Sorbo with his first episode “D Minus Zero.” He would go on to write 20 episodes in all, and during that time, even had a chance to pen an episode of “Twilight Zone” in 2003 that included two “Andromeda” actors, Keith Hamilton Cobb and Gordon Michael Woolvett, as well as Ian McShane, later of “Kings” notoriety, and Sean Patrick Flannery.
From there, he went to “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” on Fox, writing six episodes for that short-lived series, before joining the writing team of “Fringe” in the second season. Sadly, Miller seems to join projects that aren’t exactly scheduled on the best nights, as “Fringe” has languished in its new Thursday timeslot.
But it’s not just scheduling that has put a dent in network genre audiences this year. While genre movies such as “Avatar,” “Star Trek” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” have raked in more than a billion dollars at the box office, making science-fiction work on the boob tube has been trying.
“If I had $500 million to make ‘Avatar, and I took that money and spent it on a TV show, holy shit,” Miller said. “Look at ‘District 9.’ That movie gets a lot of props for being a lower budget … but that spectacle is still larger than what you can achieve on the small screen. That’s the reason why people go out to the theater. They go out for the bread and circuses.”
Television, however, is much more intimate, Miller said.
“It’s a more dramatic medium in a lot of ways,” he said. “You can’t color with the same crayons. You can’t even color the same page. The broad appeal is not there.”
Audiences tend to like television with minimal involvement, allowing franchises such as Law & Order to thrive, while deeply arced programming like “The Wire” had to be happy with its cult status.
But as much as Miller likes writing for television, he’s excited about the silver screen as well. He and Stentz are part of the writing team bringing the comic book character Thor to life. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, stars like Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo are already attached.
Translating a comic book to the big screen is tough, and sometimes changes have to be made, just as they will be for “Thor.”
“It’s about as close as you can reasonably expect it to be” to the comic book, Miller said. “Obviously, you have to make some adjustments, and you have to compress some things simply for the sake of being able to get a lot of information out and being able to create a believable fantasy world that intersects with ours.”
Thor, however, has a long history, and fans will come to the theater with all kinds of different expectations that will be impossible to meet. Miller and the writing crew for “Thor” pulled aspects of the characters from various comic book interpretations, and while Thor may not be in-line with any particular comic book incarnation, he will be “100 percent recognizable” to fans.
“Look at ‘Batman Begins’ for example,” Miller said. “It does actually play fast and loose with the history of the character, but at the same time, it brings in real cool elements from different intrepretations of the character and puts them all together in cool ways.”
There will be criticism of the project no matter what Miller, Branagh and the rest of the production team do. But Miller already has accepted it.
“I want people who love the character as much as I do to love this character in this movie, and I want people who have never been exposed to this character to love him, too, and understand why I love him,” Miller said. “And that’s all that matters.”
Miller’s complete 35-minute interview can be heard on Alpha Waves Radio Thursday beginning at 7 p.m. at AlphaWavesRadio.com. After the stream, the complete Alpha Waves Radio episode will be available in podcast format either at the site, or for free through the iTunes Store by searching for “Alpha Waves” in the store’s podcast section.
“Fringe” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.