August 9, 2015 at 12:24 pm #1726
So there’s a new documentary hosted by William Shatner about the conception of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the power battles and bloated egos involved behind the scenes. There’s a lot of stuff I wasn’t aware of, and it kind of explains why the first two seasons weren’t particularly good. What I found interesting was that the 1st season finale, The Neutral Zone, was going to kick off the storyline encompassing the entire second season with the Borg invading the Alpha Quadrant and the Federation and the Enterprise gathering together allies from across the quadrant to ultimately destroy the Borg, which would happen at the end of the season. But the writer’s strike that year pretty much destroyed that plotline. And Maurice Hurley was dealing with unhappy actors and proposed they would destroy the Enterprise and kill the crew, and the show would change direction and a new ship and crew would try to find out what happened to Enterprise.
I haven’t heard a lot of these stories before, and Shatner seems to be good at pulling information out of everybody. They also put together that Roddenberry, famously an atheist, created Q – a literal God as a character on the show and how strange a notion that was. It’s a great albeit short documentary (only an hour long – I could watch several hours of this stuff). I recommend it.August 9, 2015 at 3:52 pm #8080
I loved Chaos on the Bridge. Some of the same ground is covered, in more general and gentle terms, in the official TNG Blu-Ray documentaries, but the “official” accounts don’t give you batshit crazy stuff like David Gerrold fantasizing about chunking Roddenberry’s overzealous attorney out the nearest window, or Ira “future DS9 showrunner” Behr talking about how Roddenberry wanted Risa to be a place where everyone’s fondling everyone else until Rick Berman pulled Ira aside and said “Um, just forget what Gene said and write your script. It has to be broadcastable.” 😆
I think Maury Hurley had a thankless, herculean task in keeping the first two seasons plugging along as well as they did; the second year is actually one of my favorites of the entire show.
And as good as Shatner was about squeezing people for info, we still didn’t get the on-the-nose answer about why Gates McFadden was out at the end of season 1. It’s a pity Diana Muldaur didn’t enjoy her time working on TNG; as it turns out, she likely wouldn’t have stuck around anyway.August 9, 2015 at 9:08 pm #8081
So, why did Gates McFadden leave the show? I don’t know the real story (mainly because I never liked her or the character she played and didn’t give much of a damn).August 9, 2015 at 10:28 pm #8082
That’s just it, no one’s ever come out and said anything. Not even Gates. There are plenty of theories (Hurley didn’t like her performance, no one could get a fix on her character from a writing standpoint, one of the executive producers was sexually harrassing her, she wanted time off to do a movie and the producers didn’t wear that request well), none of which anyone has ever nailed down and said “yes, that’s the real reason.” Everyone has a different story.August 10, 2015 at 1:19 am #8083
She never seemed like a good fit to me, although several of the actors felt the same way. I guess having Diana Muldar fitting in even worse helped them make up their mind to bring her back. Maybe they didn’t want the “Yeoman Rand” problem of tying down the captain with a romantic interest.
It seems that more and more I find out about Roddenberry, the more he comes across as a really flawed person with a lot of megalomania. He used to brag about having slept with pretty much all of the female guest-stars on the original show, things like that. And him trying to hold on to some kind of power over his creation at the end of his life just made everybody miserable. It would have been interesting to see the show in alternate timelines if (a) he had been given free reign over the program and for his utopian vision of the Star Trek future, and (b) if they had done the show without him and they kept the dedicated staff and didn’t fire thirty writers in the first year alone.August 10, 2015 at 4:53 am #8084
Yeah, I’d love to look at the planning documents for whatever Paramount cooked up before Roddenberry was officially brought on board – just to see what was bad enough to bring him out of his “wasted” retirement.August 11, 2015 at 1:39 am #8085
It sounded like he didn’t join the new show because their ideas weren’t good, it was because he created Star Trek, got ignored until Paramount wanted to make movies, gets brushed aside in the film productions by the end, and now they want to create a new show based on his creation without him. Nobody wanted to work with him since he’d always been problematic, but his bitterness and his ego wouldn’t let them do the show without him.
I would like to think that The Next Generation would have done perfectly fine without him. The first two years where he worked on the show were considered the worst in the series run. And Lord knows how many good writers they fired in that amount of time, because they didn’t stick to Roddenberry’s bland utopian ideal. The Next Generation is my least favorite Trek show – I’d rather watch Voyager than TNG again. It’s mainly because Voyager’s characters at least had some personality and inter-personal conflict. I have to wonder how the show would have turned out without Roddenberry’s input, where everybody gets along and there’s no conflict or tension. I would have liked the show a lot more if the characters weren’t all one-dimensional and were well written and there was proper progression between episodes without hitting the Simpson’s “magic reset button” every show.September 8, 2015 at 7:56 pm #8086
Last week Melinda Snodgrass mentioned that she was interviewed by Shatner for the documentary and she said Mr. Shatner is a very sharp fellow who did not shy away from asking tough questions. In fact, he put her on the spot a couple times. She said all that in an admiring way and mentioned that they both shared a love of horse riding and actually rode together once.September 21, 2015 at 3:40 pm #8087
Oops, here’s an old draft I saved and forgot about a month ago. A bit wordy but it has some good points.
No doubt Roddenberry was old school about TNG: relying heavily on the premise that each episode stands on its own and you can mix the order of the episodes and no one (except ardent fans) would care. Despite that, some of those episodes were pretty decent (but some others were also god-awful: neck wrigglers, for example).
What was particularly annoying about that format was the inability of the characters to remember important events – stuff that would change someones life or career – from even the previous episode. Sometimes I would scream “What are you doing? Don’t you remember you did the same thing last time? Don’t you remember what happened? Idiots!”
But long story arcs of some form are inevitable, even for a show as episodic as TOS. You can clearly see the relationship between Kirk, Spock and Bones evolve over the course of the series. It had to since that was what made the show so successful.
Set design of TOS – along with prop design – changed radically over the first season. It must have been a little confusing for first time viewers to see the evolved set in the series opener, “Man Trap” and then see the early set design two weeks later with “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. Watching the show in production order makes a lot more sense just for the sake of the set design changes.September 21, 2015 at 4:55 pm #8088
The last sentence of that draft was “Without Roddenberry in the first two seasons I think the”… what? What did I think? I forgot. That’s why the post sat there in draft for a month.
So what do I think the first two seasons would be like sans the great bird of the galaxy? The more I think about it the less sure I am. In fact, I don’t think TNG would have happened at all without Roddenberry. Without Gene meddling in the first season, it probably would have been canceled before season two.
Remember that TNG became a series because of Roddenberry’s success with Wrath of Khan. Gene grabbed that chance and built the series. If he let go of the reins shortly after getting greenlit for the series, I think it would have fallen apart. Well, if another strong personality took over in Gene’s absence, it would continue. Who would that be? Hard to say but the show would look and feel completely different, I would think.
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