I would like to thank Kevin Dilmore who was kind enough to fill us in on the genesis of the Star Trek Storytellers series. Kevin has always been generous with his time and patient with my Trek ornament obsession.
I also want to urge everyone to get to their local Hallmark stores to complete (or begin) their Storytellers collection. Beginning this weekend the entire Trek Storytellers collection is available for the first time and in under just three months the Storytellers will be leaving stores forever.
I hope you enjoy this peek at what it took to bring these ornaments to your tree.-HallmarkStarTrekOrnaments.com
You mentioned that you would begin taking question on the Storytellers beginning Friday. Well, I’m getting in line. If you have the time I’d love to hear as much as you want to say on the subject. Thank you for your time and patience with me.
Kevin Dilmore: Happy to help! Thank YOU for everything you do to raise awareness of what we do.
How are you involved with ideas and decisions in the Hallmark Star Trek line?
KD: Here’s a quick timeline for background. I started as a writer in Hallmark’s internal marketing and advertising studio in October 2005. In January 2013, I moved to our Writing Studio in the creative division. My friends and managers in the marketing studio learned quickly that I was a big fan of Keepsakes and migrated me toward supporting that business as much as possible. I began writing flyers and emails targeting Keepsake Ornament Club (KOC) members as well as heavy Keepsake purchasers. I also wrote all supporting materials for KOC including membership flyers and content for For Keeps, the KOC quarterly publication, which included articles, artist interviews and all sorts of fun stuff. I assisted with the creation of the 2006 Dream Book, the annual catalog of Keepsake Ornaments, and became the lead writer for the Dream Book for the 2007 through 2013 editions.
With all that I was doing, I became known to Keepsake artists and staff at all levels, and to this day call many of them my friends. By the time I was writing the Dream Book, I had been writing for Star Trek for close to 10 years as a contributor to Star Trek Communicator magazine (the publication of the official Star Trek Fan Club) and later as a fiction writer for Pocket Books. I had been asked to give my opinion on Keepsakes staff’s ideas for Star Trek ornaments and then later was asked to submit my own ideas. Given that Keepsakes usually works two years ahead on ornaments, and the first memories I have of weighing in on the line was with a couple of 2009 ornaments, that likely was when my first influences went all the way to the tree.
I do know that I was asked in 2007 about ways to support the 2009 Star Trek feature film given that we had no photos or information from the production. I knew Captain Pike was going to appear in it, so I suggested The Menagerie ornament. I also recall having a discussion with the leader of Keepsakes at the time when we first were making plans for attending Comic-Con International in San Diego. He wondered whether I had any ideas for a quickly produced ornament for that event from recent ornaments because we did not have time to produce an original sculpt. I suggested the Uhura repaint and that became his decision.
FUN FACT: I wrote the box copy for that ornament and I’m the person who screwed it up! I knew off the top of my head that Uhura wore a gold uniform in “The Corbomite Maneuver” but completely forgot that she also was on screen for a few scenes in gold in “Mudd’s Women.” Dang it! I’m still aggravated by that.
So ALL that said, in June 2022, I accepted a proposed rotation into a full-time role in Keepsakes to support the group’s editorial team. I’ve had a hand in strategic planning and editorial with seven assortments in the 2024 line, which includes dozens of ornaments. My role in planning Star Trek ornaments for 2024 is the biggest I’ve yet played. I even helped for the first time to present the line to Paramount approvers. That was a lot of fun.
How many of the PopMinded brands have the benefit of a super-fan, like you, being involved with their respective lines?
KD: When it comes to the Hallmark products that are produced as event exclusives in PopMinded packaging, they are produced by the same teams that make all of our other Keepsake Ornaments and Hallmark gifts. Hallmark is filled with super fans of many, many licenses. I’m not the only person involved in creating Star Trek products who is a knowledgeable fan of the franchise—not by a long shot. I’m just the hardest to ignore haha.
Can you remember whose idea it was for the Star Trek Storytellers?
KD: Keepsake Storytellers grew from the terrifically talented Keepsake Ornaments staff. One of the key triggers to Storytellers tripped when radio-frequency (RF) components dropped in price so substantially that they could be considered for affordable inclusion in a Keepsake Ornament (and other consumer products). I remember a conversation with Phu Dang on the Keepsakes engineering team about what would become Storytellers. He said he had devised a great capability for ornaments to interact but he doubted someone could come up with a story that would maximize that capability. I took that as a personal challenge and came up with the script for Star Wars Storytellers offered in 2017-19.
The first Star Wars Storytellers were in stores in July 2017 and within days I heard from my contacts at (now) Paramount asking when Hallmark would do the same for Star Trek. They knew darn well I would want a hand in that as soon as possible. Keepsakes staff did not want a Star Trek set to overlap with the first Star Wars set, so we aimed at a 2020 introduction and started working.
When did planning begin for the series and how does it compare with a typical ornament’s production?
KD: Mike Brush, then the editorial director for Keepsake Ornaments and a huge Star Trek fan, invited me to a brainstorm meeting for Star Trek Storytellers in July 2018. In this process, when I refer to “we,” most times that means me and Mike, and I will tell you that we would not have the set we have were it not for his leadership and story direction. I did NOT do this in a vacuum.
A Storytellers set is exponentially more complex to plan than a single ornament with a self-contained performance. Our intention with a Storytellers set is to create a compelling performance with any possible combination of participating ornaments. A set requires a separate script for each of those combinations, which can number into the hundreds.
What episodes were considered?
KD: We knew we wanted the set to include the primary seven characters as well as the U.S.S. Enterprise in tree-topper form. We knew we wanted a story in which each of the seven characters played a role that was important to the story. So, starting with the original 79 episodes, we cut to the 18 (by my count) that feature all seven characters. FUN FACT: Contributing to that number being low is Chekov’s absence from the entire first season and Sulu’s absence from many second-season episodes while George Takei was filming “The Green Berets” with John Wayne. Factor in scripts that have characters missing here and there means we’re dropping some favorites (“Space Seed” lacks Sulu and Chekov, “Devil in the Dark” misses Uhura, Sulu and Chekov; “Amok Time” has no Scotty).
Next, we needed to skip episodes with a lot of guest stars or even one strong guest star as we were not making an ornament for that character, and we also didn’t want to force the tree topper into standing in for the character with a lot of lines. Then we needed to look at episodes that drove action through dialogue more so than visuals; it’s just better for the experience. Then we trimmed back to the seven that we felt had the best representation from each of the primary characters.
The biggest internal challenge we faced was going to market with a Star Trek Storytellers set featuring characters wearing uniforms that were not their most familiar. We were able to convince everyone that fans would be able to sort that out.
How does one go about figuring out all the combinations of dialogue needed?
KD: Remember all those mathematics and algebra lessons in school? And how there always was some kid who would ask, “Are we gonna have to know this in real life?” Well, yes—if you’re going to write a Storytellers script. With eight participants, it wasn’t as simple as calculating 8! (That’s the factorial of 8, Star Trek fans, the product of all positive integers less than or equal to a given positive integer and denoted by that integer and an exclamation point.) With factorial eight, we’re talking 1 × 2 × 3 × 4 × 5 × 6 × 7 x 8 or 40,320.
No, I didn’t write that many performances because participants are not numbers. Consider a four-participant show. 4! suggests 24 performances but the 24 combinations of A, B, C, and D include redundant shows as the combo of A, B, and C is the same show as the combos of A, C, B; B, A, C; B, C, A; C, A, B; and C, B, A – follow me?
From the outside looking in, it seems as if you were tasked with writing dozens and dozens of independent stories that all had to stand on their own?
KD: Well, yeah. I wrote 295 unique performances for the permutations of Star Trek Storytellers. We had a pretty good feeling that if people were in for one that they would be in for all but we did it anyway. The greater concern I had was the possibility that an individual ornament might sell out. I didn’t want someone getting a jumbled mess because Spock wasn’t easy to find or something.
Did it feel like a writing project?
KD: Yeah, it did. A LONG one!
How much of what was originally envisioned was seen in the final product?
KD: We toyed with the idea (and for a long time) that there would be eight episodes represented in the set with each character as well as the tree topper participating in a very abbreviated version of each episode. Imagine going up to the tree and pressing each ornament’s switch and hearing:
Enterprise leads “The Enterprise Incident”
Kirk leads “The Ultimate Computer”
Spock leads “The Tholian Web”
McCoy leads “Spock’s Brain”
Scott leads “Friday’s Child”
Uhura leads “Who Mourns for Adonais?”
Sulu leads “Mirror, Mirror”
Chekov leads “The Deadly Years”
Well, I wrote them all. Ultimately, we discarded that because of sound-chip cost and because of the barriers we knew there would be in explaining how the heck that all would work to customers in the store. It came down to selecting ONE episode and we chose “Mirror, Mirror” because it’s a terrific story and frequently named as a favorite by fans.
The only scene I wanted in our “Mirror, Mirror” performance that didn’t make it to the final cut was Kirk and Spock walking past Chekov’s session in the agony booth. Not only would it have given the Chekov ornament more to do, it’s a great moment for our Kirk to show his humanity and the mirror Spock to get a critical piece to the puzzle of what’s actually happening. But, yeah, okay, Chekov howling in agonizing pain isn’t exactly a Christmas kind of moment. 😉
Was the Enterprise tree topper a part of the Storytellers series from the beginning?
KD: Unquestionably. Even before Storytellers was a gleam in anyone’s eye, a U.S.S. Enterprise tree topper has been our most-requested product from fans.
Has the series been considered a success by Hallmark?
KD: I’m told it is considered successful, yes, which makes me very proud.
Could the series have ended prematurely had sales been poor?
KD: Not once did I hear plans that included a contingency for pulling the set before releasing every piece of it should sales not meet expectations. For this to work, three years of work needed to be completed before the first ornament hit stores; every performance was pre-programmed into each ornament. In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say.
Is it possible Hallmark would revisit Star Trek and another Storyteller series in the future?
KD: I’m confident that Star Trek’s decades of episodes and feature films provides a wide base of inspiration for future Storytellers collections. We have two separate Storytellers collections from the same Star Wars movie, right?
What did I forget to ask?
KD: That I can’t answer! But should additional Star Trek Storytellers questions end up in the comments, I’ll do my best to answer them.
As of this writing there is no word of a secret hack to unlock Chekov howling in agonizing pain. Will update as new details emerge. 😉-HallmarkStarTrekOrnaments.com