Primitive Culture: A Star Trek History and Culture Podcast

Primitive Culture is a podcast dedicated to a deep examination of the connections between Star Trek and our own history and culture. In each episode, Duncan Barrett and his guests take you on a fascinating exploration of how our world inspires the franchise we love—and how that franchise inspires us.


episode 108: I Want to Direct NOW!

Robert Duncan McNeill on Star Trek's Directors' School.

To Star Trek fans, he is Tom Paris, the cocksure pilot of the USS Voyager. But in Hollywood, Robert Duncan McNeill is better known as a different kind of helmsman. From his first day of filming on the Voyager pilot "Caretaker," McNeill declared his intention to take a shot at the director's chair, following in the footsteps of fellow Trek such as stars Jonathan Frakes, Levar Burton, and Leonard Nimoy. Two years later, when Frakes was forced to pull out of shooting the third-season episode "Sacred Ground," McNeill got his chance. It was to be the first of eight Star Trek episodes he directed, four on Voyager and four on Enterprise, and would lead to an illustrious career working on everything from Dawson's Creek to The Orville.

In this episode of Primitive Culture, host Duncan Barrett is joined by McNeill to look back on his time at the Star Trek Directors' School, and to consider how those early experiences helped shape his career. We discuss the limited scope for auteurist flamboyance when playing within Trek's strict sandbox, the varied approaches that hired guns brought to the Voyager set week by week, and how the deftly handled comedy of "Someone to Watch Over Me" helped prepare him for his most recent work on Resident Alien and Turner & Hooch.

Intro (00:00:00)
Eyeing Up the Chair (00:02:27)
In Berman's Box (00:12:15)
Voyager (00:27:25)
Enterprise (00:45:50)
Tom Paris Returns? (00:58:49)

Duncan Barrett

Robert Duncan McNeill

Duncan Barrett (Editor and Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer)


 2021-07-19  1h3m