November 23, 1987
Paramount gave Star Trek: The Next Generation go-ahead for another season in first-run syndication last week. So far this season the Gene Roddenberry production ranks fourth among all first-run syndicated programs with a 10.1 national Nielsen rating for its four weekly telecasts (beginning weekend of Oct. 5). The Next Generation is produced by Paramount's network television division at more than $1 million per episode. It is carried by 227 stations, many of them affiliates. Star Trek's debut in syndication this year was accompanied by news that number of affiliates in it lineup, especially ABC affiliates are using program to pre-empt Saturday prime time network programming on regular basis.
December 7, 1987
For week ending Nov. 22, Paramount's Star Trek: The Next Generation was third highest ranked show in syndication for second consecutive week with 12.7 Nielsen average audience rating. For week ending Nove. 15, Star Trek had 12.1 rating. Star Trek became third highest-ranked show in syndication on season-to-date basis as of week of Nov. 15. Third place flip-flopped weekly between World Wrestling Federation and The Oprah Winfrey Show. In season-to-date ratings (from debut of shows through Nov. 22), order is Wheel of Fortune, 17.1; Jeopardy, 13.3; Star Trek: The Next Generation, 10.9; World Wrestling Federation, 9.8; and The Oprah Winfrey Show, 9.2.
Frakes feels at ease on new 'Star Trek'
A zillion miles into space, on the bridge of the Enterprise, Jonathan Frakes pulls off his burgundy and black Starfleet jersey as soon as the cameras stop filming.
"This is the last week of our third season and, boy, you can feel it," said Frakes, who stars as Cmdr. William Riker in "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
This was this year's 26th show, the end of 75 hours of filming.
"The show's come a long way," he said. "It would be great to go back and redo the pilot knowing what we know now. The actors have all settled into their roles. The writing's gotten so good. We've relaxed into our characters and their clothes. The new ease is captured on screen."
It's easy to understand Frakes' point. The series is the most popular dramatic show in syndication.
The series is at its best when the Enterprise's crew plays out its own relationships, emotions, ambitions and failings against a background of exotic aliens and new worlds.
Gene Roddenberry, who also created the original series, split up the Capt. Kirk character when he devised the current series. Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, played by Patrick Stewart, became the authoritarian Kirk. The adventurous side went to Frakes' Cmdr. Riker.
Riker is the second-in-command, the bold leader of the Away Team, which does the exploration or fighting away from the ship. There is an undercurrent of a romantic relationship Counselor Deanna Troi, played by Marina Sirtis.
"Gene once said he thought Picard and Riker and Wesley Crusher, a teen-age crewman, combined all the elements of Capt. Horatio Hornblower at different ages," Frakes said.
Hornblower was the 18th-century English seaman who rose from midshipman to admiral in the adventure stories and books by C.S. Forrester.
Brent Spiner using Data in his favor
The week of Oct. 29 will mark a milestone in the history of America's love affair with the captain and crew of the USS Enterprise. On that date "Star Trek: The Next Generation" boldly goes one step beyond the original "Star Trek" series with its 80th episode (Captain Kirk and his crew filmed only 79 segments).
No one is more surprised at the syndicated series' continued success than Brent Spiner, who plays Lt. Commander Data on the show.
"When I took the role four years ago, it was just another job," says Spiner. "I figured we'd do a pilot and then go home. I really thought the odds were against us because people were initially reluctant to accept a new `Star Trek.' Now here we are 80 episodes in."
Spiner is also amazed that his character, an android possessing super strength and an incredible memory, has become so popular.
"When I was initially cast as Data, my biggest fear was that he has a very small canvas to paint on," explains Spiner. "I thought I was going to get locked into playing something very restrictive."
"But as it's turned out over the years I wind up doing something other than Data - or during Data playing at being something else - least once or twice a year.
Surprisingly enough, Spiner's fan mail is mostly from women intrigued by Data.
"I get a lot of romantic mail," he says. "They're just curious about my availability or they're telling me about themselves, their problems and how difficult life is for them."
"But the letters are really written to Data," adds Spiner, who is single. He believes women are fascinated with Data because "he's a really accessible personality. He's vulnerable and innocent and there's a feeling that he's somebody who would be kind - that's why he would make a good partner or somebody to tell your troubles to."
How much of that on-screen vulnerability and innocence can be attributed to the man off-screen?
"Marina (Sirtis, his co-star on the show) says of all the characters on the show I'm the closest to my character. But I do think I'm innocent as Data."
"I think I'm as big a sap as Data is," says Spiner, who admits to being a sucker for a sob story. "I tend to believe everything that's told to me."
This is the fourth season for "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and Spiner has two more years to go on his contract. But he can't foresee how he could continue on after that.
Spiner isn't worried about life after "The Next Generation."
He started out as a singer, and says, "I did 25 Broadway shows in New York before I did the series."
One thing that won't help Spiner break out of the Data mold is the album of standards he started recording on his hiatus.
"I'm calling it `Old Yellow Eyes if Back,' says Spiner in all seriousness. "And I'll be made up as Data on the album cover."
"I needed to do something over the hiatus and it seemed the most accessible thing to be doing in my own time."
DEAR STACY: Is there a logical system behind the star dates on "Star Trek: The Next Generation?" Are they consistent with the star dates on the old "Star Trek"? - Glen S., New York.
DEAR GLEN: No, the old and new "Trek" dates do not correspond. Yes, the "Next Generation" dates are figured systematically - but it's not a scientific star date system. Here's how it works: the first number, four, represents the 24th century. The second number, also four, means that "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is in its fourth season. The rest of the numbers relate to the day and hour of "Star Trek: The Next Generation's" current TV season. It gets v-e-r-r-r-y complicated. Because the series only gets 43 minutes of each hour due to commercials, time is measured in 43 minute hours.
Stacy Jenel Smith - Tribune Media Services
April 1, 1991
NEW `STAR TREK' NEARS SHOW 100
"Star Trek: The Next Generation" has beamed past its predecessor, with more than 94 episodes filmed, and will celebrate its 100th show with its captain trying his hand at a new helm - that or director.
"It will be my first ever venture into television direction, so it's going to have a double significance for me," said Patrick Stewart, who plays the refined but tough Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
The British-born, Shakespearean-trained actor, who will continue in his role as captain of the starship Enterprise, was in New York to promote a new Public Broadcasting Service series he is hosting called "The Shape of the World."
The series, which begins tonight, tells the epic story of mapping of the globe.
The trim 50-year-old actor said that the 100th episode of the new "Star Trek" will deal with Lieutenant Worf, the Klingon who heads security aboard the Enterprise, and problems with his home planet.
It has not yet been decided if Stewart will direct more than the 100th episode, which is expected to air in May.
There were only 79 episodes of the original "Star Trek," which was first broadcast in the late 1960s and developed a cult following.
The Original Just Keeps Going
The earlier series, which introduced the unforgettable characters of the pointy-eared Mr. Spock and dashing Captain Kirk - not to mention the household phrase "Beam me up, Scotty" - is still a hit through syndication.
(The popularity of the new series is demonstrated by the fact that San Francisco's KBHK (Channel 44) airs each episode twice, at 8 p.m. Saturdays and 10 p.m. Sundays, and starting today will broadcast "Next Generation" reruns at 6 p.m. weekdays.)
Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures has announced that yet another film based on the series, "Star Trek VI" is beginning production with an expected release date next year.
"The Next Generation" is currently rated third among syndicated television programs, after "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy."
Stewart said that one of the advantages "The Next Generation" has over the original series is the use of advanced special effects. But, he said, the real popularity of both Star Trek series stems from the same reason.
"It seems to satisfy a fundamental need in many people for an affirmative, optimistic view of the future," he said.
Dreams of Adventure
Stewart seems to have been a perfect fit for both "Star Trek" and the PBS series. Growing up in a working-class neighborhood in the north of England, Stewart said, he longed for adventure and would pore over silk maps brought home by his father, who had been in a military parachute regiment.
He later found adventure through acting and was a member of Britain's Royal Shakespeare Theater for 20 years. His TV credits include such BBC series as "I, Claudius," and he also appeared in David Lynch's film "Dune."
In the cast of "Star Trek" for four years now, Stewart said he has become irritated by questions "implying that I was somehow slumming, going down market from having been a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company."
He once told an interviewer, "not only was it not slumming, but all of my years of speaking blank verse and sitting on thrones and wearing tights and striding the stage of the RSC was nothing but a preparation for sitting in the captain's chair of the starship Enterprise."
Stewart recalled that one of the last roles he played with the Royal Shakespeare Company was King Henry IV.
"I do find there is really a direct parallel between playing such a role to shifting to the captain's chair of the USS Enterprise. In fact," he added, "there are those who would say sitting in the captain's chair on the USS Enterprise is far more important than sitting on the throne of England."
San Francisco Chronicle (Datebook, page E1) - Gail Appleson - Reuters
Case Study #54: Paramount Pictures Corp.
"Star Trek: The Graphics Generation"
For television viewers, the Paramount Pictures Corp. series Star Trek: The Next Generation provides a technicolor vision of the future. That vision owes much to two Mac IIs with 8 megabytes of memory, one Mac SE, and a battery of software and hardware for creating on-screen graphics and animation.
The show's three-person graphics department uses conventional pasteup techniques to generate control panel displays, explains scenic art supervisor Mike Okuda. "We made a conscious decision early on not to attempt photorealistic animation, like the Enterprise in space, on the Mac," says Okuda. "The hardware is certainly capable of it, but there are still things for which conventional techniques are more appropriate."
But complex graphics brought up on a spaceship computer screen - such as a recent episode's 3-D image of an alien starship with data in an "alien" language running on monitors on the Enterprise's navigation deck - is probably a simulation created on the Mac. "Using the Mac saves us time," says senior illustrator/technical consultant Rick Sternbach: "We can change a graphic in minutes; with conventional animation it would take a few days."
And, says Okuda, the Mac-based system has not meant a sacrifice in quality. "We can significantly exceed National Television Standards Committee (NTSC) video resolution," he says. "I generate the stuff at 1,024x768 pixels, much higher than normal. On the Sony GDM 19-inch high-resolution monitors, we're able to display it at 24 frames per second - the speed of film. We use the sync channel of the Spectrum/8 board from SuperMac to drive a Panavision field-frame synchronizer so that the motion-picture camera we use on the set is running in sync with that. We can then record it directly with virtually no visible scan lines." As Sternbach explains, "If the computer and the camera are not running together, the image is degraded - you get a roll bar running through it." The Spectrum/8 board communicates the rate of the Mac's display to the Panavision field-frame synchronizer, which makes the necessary adjustments to the camera.
Okuda has also made extensive use of a RasterOps ProVideo 32 board to output animation graphics directly to NTSC video. Such graphics are generated at 640x480 pixel resolution, but Okuda feels that the convenience of going directly to tape outweighs the loss of resolution. Static graphics are created in Adobe Illustrator 88 1.9.3, printed out on an Apple LaserWriter, photographed, and backlit.
Some files are created with MacroMind Director 1.01 or SuperMac's PixelPaint 2.0. "I don't usually use PixelPaint Professional, because even though it is superior, it runs more slowly," Okuda says. Sternbach uses Paracomp's Swivel 3D Professional 1.5.73L to develop the shapes of some spacecraft and to create concept renderings for the show's model builders. Letraset's LetraStudio 1.0 is also in the Star Trek arsenal. "LetraStudio has some typefaces that I haven't found elsewhere," says Okuda, "and it also does some nonlinear distortions more easily than Illustrator."
Producing graphics for an episode every seven working days puts Okuda's team on a tight schedule, but he doesn't rely on trainers to save time. "We just figure it out as we go along," he says. The group relies on sneakernet to transfer data: "I'd like to change to a network," he says, "but anything I want to do involves a learning curve, so I tend to choose the easiest solution."
Okuda said other production facilities, such as The Post Group and Warner Television, are beginning to move toward the Mac, but he encourages buyers to investigate their options. "I think the Macintosh is a very good solution, but buyers should also look into, perhaps, an Amiga system. I don't personally prefer it, but it has a definite financial advantage."
Mitzi M. Waltz
End User: Paramount Pictures Corp., Los Angeles, California
Application: Star Trek special effects
Hardware: Macintosh II (2), a Mac SE; Sony GDM 1901 19-inch high resolution monitor (2); Syquest removable hard drive (3); SuperMac Spectrum/8 video board (2), a SuperMac Spectrum/24 video board, RasterOps ProVideo 32 video board; a Panavision field-frame synchronizer; Koala Technologies MacVision; Apple LaserWriter IINT
Software: Paracomp Swivel 3D Professional, MacroMind Director 1.0 and 2.0, MacroMind Accelerator, MacroMind 3-D (prerelease), SuperMac PixelPaint 2.0 and PixelPaint Professional, Adobe Illustrator 88, Adobe Type Manager, Letraset LetraStudio 1.0, Microsoft Excel 2.2 and Word 4.0, Aldus PageMaker
70 Case Studies of Technology Solutions: A Supplement to Publish Magazine.
May 5, 1991
TREKKING TO THE TOP
The carpeted bridge of the starship Enterprise was suddenly invaded by several dozen bald and sandaled beings attired in burnt-orange robes. Intrigued by the Lucite-and-halogen spectacle, they wandered about quietly, gently touching the flashing consoles, pointing to the padded chairs on which the famous starship captain and his officers usually sit and whispering among themselves in what seemed to be an alien language.
But they were a good deal less alien than the outworlders who usually beam up to the set of Paramount's Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was a delegation of Tibetan monks from the Dalai Lama's monastery in India. And they were transfixed by the sight of actor Brent Spiner, who plays the series' popular Pinocchio-like android, Data.
Studying Spiner's skin, swathed in gold makeup, and his eyes, glinting gold from his contact lenses, the monks were curious: Was he man or machine? Their curiosity seemed satisfied, however, when some of them shook hands with the impish actor, whose makeup rubbed off on their palms.
Spiner quips that smudging has prevented him, until a recent on-screen entanglement with guest star Michele Scarabelli, from being kissed as much as he'd like. "I fear when I die, they'll find traces of this makeup in my blood," he says.
In Spiner's four years on the show, he's gotten tired of inquiries into his humanity. (There are some who, in fits of extreme cognitive dissonance, simply will not accept that Spiner is human, causing great distress for both him and them.) But he schmoozed patiently with the monks. And "when the bells rang out for `quiet on the set,"' recalls Spiner, "these people did professional quiet."
The monks-who appeared to mesh better with the scenery than did the previous day's visitor, Marilyn Quayle-had been invited to the Paramount lot to attend a taping of Cheers. But they made it known that as much as they liked Cliff, Norm, Frazier and Lilith, they and their spiritual mentor, the Dalai Lama, were big-league Star Trek fans. This cheers series creator Gene Roddenberry, a 69-year-old Texas-born former airline pilot, flack for the Los Angeles Police Department and head writer of the famous `50s TV western Have Gun Will Travel.
For Roddenberry, Star Trek in any of its manifestations-the first, or "classic" TV series, which ran from 1966 through 1969 and survives in daily syndication throughout the world; a short-lived animated series that premiered in 1974; a spate of high-grossing feature movies launched in 1979; and the now 4-year-old TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation-has always been more than mere entertainment.
"It has become a crusade of mine," says Roddenberry, "to demonstrate that TV need not be violent to be exciting. I'd often felt that no one was catching on. But if the Dalai Lama likes us, I suppose the message is getting out."
A stocky man with a silver mane and a quick smile, Roddenberry now fancies himself the invisible conscience of a universe of the imagination that has taken on a powerful existence entirely beyond the confines of his mind. "I finally feel I have become a philosopher, junior grade," he says. "There's hardly a subject you could mention I haven't spent time thinking out while writing Star Trek scripts. You spend years dreaming up strange new worlds, and they build up into something quite real."
Roddenberry considers his greatest fest to be that nearly 25 years after the original series inauspiciously debuted on NBC (and after network execs deemed the first pilot too cerebral), Star Trek lives on-with a vengeance. Indeed, as Star Trek: The Next Generation, it had become one of the most widely watched shows on TV, reaching 12.4 million households nationwide-a 13.1 ratings-during the February sweeps. (Cheers, a network show, was seen in 19.9 million households-a 21.8 rating.) Though this is, in fact, a smaller percentage than watched the old series, TV has since become sufficiently fragmented by cable and video to make this a consistently impressive, and eminently profitable, showing.
Winner of seven Emmies and a Peabody Award, TNG is even endorsed by the national organization Viewers for Quality TV, which prizes wholesome TV fare. It has become, asserts Paramount, the No. 1 one-hour show for men 18 through 49. Women like it less, though they prefer it to such past and present network powerhouses as Dallas, Murder, She Wrote and Designing Women. In a telephone survey conducted this year for Paramount, 99% of the respondents had heard of Star Trek, and 53% said they were fans.
Star Trek has certainly evolved light-years beyond the frequent punch-ups and photon torpedo blasts that characterized the original TV series (which, Roddenberry insists, was itself less violent than virtually every other dramatic series on the air at that time). Death and strife have not been entirely banished from the universe some 400 years hence. But the new show, which is set some 85 years after the old series transpired, generally eschews violence and bluster for diplomacy and intellectual guile, explains Roddenberry in the slim "bible" he created to guide the show's writers. "Show a somewhat better kind of human than today's average," he writes on Page 3 of the Writers'/Directors' Guide for the 1989 season. "Our continuing characters are the kind of people that the Star Trek audience would like to be themselves. They are not perfect, but their flaws do not include falsehood, petty jealousies and the banal hypocrisies common in the 20th century."
Phasers are rarely set to kill. The new Enterprise-a plush, high-rent hotel in space-seeks out its new worlds gingerly, fearing, with a politically correct `90s sensibility, that outright human interference may irrevocably muck up physical and cultural ecologies.
Thankfully, individual characters are instead permitted to grapple more decisively with their own internal demons. In one compelling fourth-season episode, for instance, starship Capt. Jean-Luc Picard-a Frenchman played by 50-year-old Briton, Royal Shakespeare Company veteran Patrick Stewart-struggled to overcome the humiliation of being mentally dominated by a race of quasi-omnipotent, hive creatures. His second-in-command, Will Riker (played by actor Jonathan Frakes), has learned to recognize that an apparent lack of personal ambition reflects genuine career satisfaction and competence. Ship counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) has survived the temporary but highly traumatic loss of her empathic powers. And android Data has realized that becoming human is a slow process even for a quick study who may otherwise prove immortal.
Gone, however, is the crusty banter that characterized relations among the original series' Capt. Kirk (William Shatner), his logic-bound and ironically charismatic, pointy-eared Vulcan science officer, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and his irascible shipboard doctor, Leonard (Bones) McCoy (DeForest Kelley). Internal conflict among the new crew has been relegated to its recurring poker game, reflecting Roddenberry's newfound conviction that tomorrow's space explorers will have forgone petty bickering and jealousies in the workplace.
By limiting the boundaries of what Star Trek characters can and cannot do, Roddenberry has set before his writers a unique, and occasionally insurmountable, challenge: how to generate genuine human drama on TV without drawing on the baser motives-greed, lust, and power-that appear to drive other TV characters.
Few writers have successfully adapted to this format. In fact, Roddenberry's efforts to enforce his Pollyannaish vision of the future-during the first season, he virtually rewrote the first 15 episodes-caused many writers who might otherwise have had to be dynamited off a successful series to run screaming into the night. It was simply too difficult for them to sustain one man's dogmatic view of the future.
First-season writer Tracy Tormé recently described his growing discomfort with these constraints during his brief tenure on TNG to Cinefantastique writer Mark Altman. There was an atmosphere, Tormé said, of "We can't do this, and we can't do that" instead of "Hey, we have a big success on our hands, we have a loyal audience no matter what, so let's take some chances."
(Indeed, the writers' bible contains an entire list of "thou shalt not's", which includes the admonition that "We are not in the business of toppling cultures that we do not approve of. We are not `space meddlers."' Item 10 on the list urges writers to "Beware of spaceship battles: They cost enormous amounts of money and are not really as interesting as people conflicts.")
Tormé, who claims to have been groomed for a top position on the in-house staff, recalled once having had to change a blue-skinned Andorian character to another species of alien at the last moment. On the old series, he said, Andorians had antennae. But in TNG, insisted one producer, "we don't do antennae." These apparently smacked too much of vintage pulp science fiction, which, stripped of its pretensions, is really what Star Trek has always been.
The idea of creating drama without conflict also seemed beyond the reach of most writers, who chafed under Roddenberry's rule that "Regular characters all share a feeling of being part of a band of brothers and sisters. As in the original Star Trek, we invite the audience to share the same feeling of affection for our characters."
"I think the show was unbelievably static," Tormé said. "All of these characters like each other all the time, and for me that was a real big disadvantage." It made, many fans have complained, for bland viewing.
What was needed-and what Roddenberry ultimately got despite the Writers Guild strike that nearly crippled the final episodes of the show's first season and the next season's first episodes-were writers who could not only accommodate but become energized by the challenges of his restrictions. If conflict could not arise among the characters, it could be imported from the universe they were made to inhabit.
According to executive producer Rick Berman-who with executive producer Michael Piller is widely credited for having improved the series' dramatic quality during the past two years by making that universe more detailed, layered and Angst-ridden-Roddenberry was probably correct to have adopted a hard-line approach.
"The show needed a helmsman who would set a strong course," says Berman, a 45-year-old producer/writer who served a two-year stint as development executive at Paramount before TNG. "By rewriting the first 15 scripts, Gene set the course for the rest of us."
Those who most comfortably settled into Roddenberry's universe learned early on how to flesh out the new characters while balancing them with the fact that they actually amount to little more than individual facets of a single, mythically potent Odyssean protagonist. In Star Trek-and Freudians (one of the many schools of academics to have milked the series for doctoral theses) believe this was as true for the original series as it is for The Next Generation-the Enterprise, not its crew, is the hero. Despite the haimishness of both series, this, in fact, may be the key to the series' immense durability. As long as there is a universe to explore and a spaceship to explore it, suggests Roddenberry, there will be a Star Trek.
TNG survived its birth pangs largely because Paramount, spared the whims of an interfering network, had committed to a mulityear run. There were few assurances that lightning could strike again. But Paramount was prepared, recalls John Pike, the studio's president of network TV, to let Roddenberry work out the kinks until the series, like most others, hit its stride a season or two down the line.
It was willing to do so because, over the decades, Star Trek has shown itself to be a vigorous golden goose, generating immense profits. What Roddenberry originally pitched as a "Wagon Train to the Stars" has become omnipresent: a corporate gravy train for Paramount so ubiquitous in syndication and crafty in its merchandising as to appear virtually unstoppable. Indeed, the studio refers to it as "the franchise."
The original series has been "stripped"-broadcast daily in most major American markets-since the early `70s and watched more and more by people who never saw its first run. In its fourth season, TNG surpassed the original's output of 79 episodes. It, too, is being stripped in syndication even as new episodes continue to be produced. According to Cinefantastique, this is because the show, which allegedly costs more than a million dollars an episode to produce, runs at a sizable deficit. However, Berman denies this is the case and says that TNG does better than break even.
At Paramount, only the foolhardly or the legally well-represented engage in debates over what defines profitability. The five Star Trek movies alone, however, have grossed more than $400 million in box office receipts. The 1986 film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, for instance, has earned $110 million in gross receipts and did an equally brisk business in video rentals. Directed by Nimoy and written by writer/producer Harve Bennett and writer/director Nicholas Meyer, its pro-whale theme, comedic tone and contemporary setting attracted filmgoers who would not otherwise have gone to a Trek film.
Even the wildly overbudget ($45 million) Star Trek-the Motion Picture, the first in the series, which opened in 1979 to a poor critical and box office reception, has managed to turn a profit. At Paramount, such achievements are seldom scoffed at.
There is also a whole range of subsidiary merchandising to consider. The Star Trek novels published monthly by Simon & Schuster's Pocket Books (a division of Paramount)-with plots alternating between the "classic" series and the new show-frequently reach the top of the New York Times bestseller list. They alone generate close to a million dollars a year.
And even the Franklin Mint, which to date has only issued collectible Hollywood tie-ins to The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, conducts a brisk trade with high-end Star Trek "tchotchkies", including 25th-anniversary commemorative coins, pewter models of the various Enterprises and even ornate chess sets costing nearly $1,000. Timex offers a complete line of Trek watches. Associates National Bank, headquartered in Dallas, even offers Trek credit cards.
Licensing fees for these and other marketing schemes go back to Paramount, which has come to regard Star Trek as a "tent-pole" capable of propping up the studio when times are particularly hard. Although Paramount won't supply actual figures, the vehicle, in its assorted guises, may have already generated as much as a billion dollars in revenues. With the studio now beset by sinking profits and vicious infighting, such performance is deeply appreciated and, according to a piece in Variety, heavily relied upon.
Star Trek and TNG are seen in some 40 countries including southern Lebanon, where Roddenberry's credo of non-violence has yet to take hold. But despite being as pervasive as Madonna and perhaps as enduring as Mickey Mouse, Roddenberry's format seems to play best in America.
Fragmented by modernity, Americans appear starved for meaning, community and the promise of a better future that Trek attempts to deliver. "Unlike most soap operas," says John de Lancie, who appears as a mischievous but lovable omnipotent alien called Q, "Trek is also about something. It seems to have a higher appeal, and people actually have a sense it might presage a better future."
Roddenberry's wide-eyed, highly idealistic view of the future is remarkably free from war and disease, racism and sexism. This largely utopian vision was certainly the major attraction of the old series, in which the feisty Capt. Kirk, played with hammy exuberance by Montreal expatriate Shatner, policed the galaxy with decidedly un-Canadian gunboat diplomacy. And it remains so today, although an equally bald-headed captain (fans still joke about Shatner's increasingly unwieldy hairpiece) now commands a kindler, gentler Enterprise. Capt. Picard is no interstellar "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf.
This became evident when, at a recent convention n New York attended by 2,000 Trekkers, Shatner and Stewart shared a stage for the first time. Someone asked how Capts. Kirk and Picard would have handled Saddam Hussein. One would have gone to war; the other would have opted for a mixture of vigorous negotiations and diplomacy, backed by sanctions, if necessary. "I'd have told him to drop dead," said the blustery 60-year-old Shatner, who was always ready for a fight in the old series and who regarded his frequent sexual conquests as de riguer for the protean hero.
"As for Capt. Picard," quipped Stewart, who has not always been comfortable with his alter ego's occasionally long-winded and sometimes inactive-to-the-point-of-somnolent leadership qualities, "he would still be talking."
The new Enterprise ostensibly shares the same mission as its predecessor, though the now-famous preamble is gender-neutral, promising to "boldly go where no one has gone before." However, according to J. Michael Straczynski, a co-host of KPFK's Friday-night science-fiction radio talk show, "Hour 25," the new show is more reserved, "which may make for interesting science fiction but not for very compelling stories."
For some, in fact, Trek has always rhymed with "yech." In a recent exchange on the computer information service and network CompuServe, science-fiction writer Mike Resnick instructed a would-be Star Trek writer on the inherent drawbacks of plowing someone else's literary field. His comments gave vent to the disdain that many still feel for the series in its various formats. "Novelizing someone else's characters," declared Resnick, "is secondhand writing and requires secondhand thinking. I can think of no quicker way to stunt an embryonic writer's professional and artistic growth than to hand him a secondhand universe and a fully drawn set of characters and tell him to go to work writing yet another thirdhand adventure for readers who find comfort in the continual retelling `of what is essentially the same story'."
"Star Trek has the virtue in this world of being illiterate," acknowledges writer/director Meyer, now directing the current feature, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which is slated for a Christmas release. "America is now an illiterate society, with no particular oral tradition," he observes. "Myths have to be served up in a new way."
Talk remains central to Trek, says Meyer, who once told a film class that the classic series was at heart a radio play, not a TV show. Meyer demonstrated this by running an episode of Star Trek without the picture. The class was able to follow Trek merely by listening to it.
What Trek offers to those who can get past its "high-Trek" terminology, says Stewart, "is the kind of narrative power that our earliest ancestors knew around their first in the cave. It's what kept people together. It's what gave meaning to their lives. It's what validated them, or placed them in time and space. It still does."
The old series dealt liberally with any number of noble and socially relevant themes of the `60s, tackling racial prejudice, the alleged irrationality of religious worship and even (in one of the more abysmal third-season episodes) the hippie phenomenon. Although somewhat more restrained, politically, than its predecessor, TNG has also tackled complex human issues, including terrorism and drug abuse.
It has even explored the dangers of excessive "Trekishness" in a particularly wry and whimsical episode about one man's addiction to fantasy characters created in the ship's "holodeck," a 24th-Century virtual-reality simulator. The protagonist, a 24th-Century schlemiel, had fabricated imaginary but otherwise tangible replicas of the series' main stars-he was too inept to deal with them directly-during work hours. In his holodeck fantasies, they actually fawned on him.
Marina Sirtis, as the ship's empathic counselor, Troi, and a sensual subject of these fantasies, seemed to be the only one to discern the true carnal nature of this illicit dalliance and was suitably shocked at the invasion of privacy it represented.
The more self-aware Trekkers, whom Shatner once admonished to "get a life" on an episode of Saturday Night Live, may well have realized that they had become the butt of this gentle parody. The rank-and-file probably were not, for which Paramount may be grateful. The people who have shaped such plots over the years for TV and film have learned that Star Trek fans are best left unprovoked.
It was the fans, in fact, who are credited with saving Star Trek from cancellation after both its first and second seasons. The network didn't understand the show, remained unimpressed with its numbers and had moved it to a dreadful Friday-night time slot that assured its demise. The Trekkers waged a letter-writing campaign of unprecedented proportions (some insist at Roddenberry's behest) against NBC, which relented by assuring a subsequent season. Although many of the final season's shows, says Straczynski, might have best been dropped off a pier, the added year of production afforded the first series enough episodes to permit its survival in syndication.
The sheer power and durability of the Trek phenomenon did not become evident, however, until the early `70s, by which time Star Trek conventions were providing Roddenberry and his cast members with a new kind of livelihood. Fans wanted the series back, and Roddenberry tried valiantly to accommodate them, first with an animated series featuring the voices of some of the actors, and later with a revamped TV series with the original cast, to be called Star Trek II.
Ultimately, plans for TV's Star Trek II gave way to an overpriced and generally stolid feature movie produced because of the overwhelming success of George Lucas' Star Wars and released in 1979 as Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That film, directed by Robert Wise, begat a more economical and dramatically successful trilogy of films that concluded with the popular Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which Shatner commandeered (Nimoy had directed the previous two), is widely regarded as the weakest of the feature series. Fans who saw it were generally too numb to do anything but wring their hands. Attend they did, however, despite bad advance word of mouth.
Still, when Paramount began contemplating TNG in 1986, it was far from certain the heavens would smile on this latest attempt to reincarnate Star Trek. Studio execs worries that the series might fail in its attempts both to capture the old audience and to attract new fans.
"There was great eagerness to do Star Trek on television," recalls Paramount's Pike. "But it was an anxious time, too. You don't want to be the one to screw up the franchise." For one thing, it was thought that bringing Trek back to TV might saturate the market, softening the demand for more movies. "Prior to TNG," says Bennett, "people who loved Trek could watch reruns, and once every two years they could go to the theater and get a bigger dose of Trek, and you'd have a feeding frenzy." Too much Trek, executives feared, could prove as bad as no Trek.
But working in favor of the series' return to TV was the high cost of making the movies: By Star Trek VI, Paramount was paying Shatner and Nimoy $4 million a film (though not up front, according to a recent report in the New York Times). Increasingly strapped for funds, executives realized Star Trek would become more profitable if reincarnated as a TV series with a cast of relative unknowns. Because Paramount could produce and market the series, there was no need to cut a network into the proceedings-a boon both for the front office and the creative staff. TNG could boldly go where Star Trek had never gone before: directly into syndication heaven.
TNG has succeeded nobly in distinguishing itself from the old series and the feature films. There is hardly a Vulcan in sight on the new show. Once-vile Klingons, humankind's formerly implacable warlike interstellar nemesis, are now in a loose alliance with the Federation, and one, the Enterprise's tactical officer, Lt. Worf (played by Michael Dorn), actually serves in Starfleet. Children and families populate the decks of the new starship, leading, one assumes from the little seen of them, normal family lives with sedentary vocations.
Aboard the Enterprise, there has evolved a mutual admiration-and-support society sometimes so impossibly nurturing that some fans have come to concur with the series' renegade writers that, try hard as it does, the new show is simply not as interesting as its predecessor. Missing, they say, is the successful interplay of characters. Straczynski says, however, that he has observed a fair amount of what he calls "revisionism" among once-ardent fans of the old show: "Some are now saying the old show wasn't that great-it was a little bombastic, the effects weren't good, the characters were flat."
But Straczynski has also noted that TNG-unlike the old show-has yet to foster quite as pervasive a cult. "People don't watch it with as much attention, or rewatch it as much as the old show. The old Trek shows still hold up after 1,000 times. The new show, I hear the fans say, is interesting enough. But there isn't enough meat there."
Marina Sirtis lauds Roddenberry's universe for its unusual (in television) racial egalitarianism. The original series is often touted for having facilitated TV's first interracial kiss, between Shatner and Lt. Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols. Three of the new show's principal players are black: among them, recent Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg, who signed up for regular appearances as Guinan, the ship's bartender, because Trek had inspired her at a low point in her career.
Roddenberry's original bible also evinced a fascination with 24th-Century sex that has not, perhaps thankfully, been explored fully in the show. Nearly an entire page of the booklet was devoted to the sexual obsessiveness of the Ferengi, a race of silly-looking Micky Mouse-eared alien bad guys who occasionally provide comic relief. An early episode of the series-one of the few permitted to reflect his prurient interests-depicted members of the crew caught in the throes of overpowering amorousness. For some cast members, who feel the show took chances in its first year no longer easily taken, that episode remains a favorite.
Indeed, the human universe of TNG remains dominated by monogamous relationships or by on-board abstinence. "One of the things we are always wrestling with," Berman says, "is that because this show has existed within the confines of the AIDS era, promiscuity is not a good thing to promote. Kirk seemed to sleep with someone in every episode, but that's more `60s than `90s."
Relations among the cast members can be characterized as familiar, protective, and even intimate. This, too, is in stark contrast to the original TV series. Though they have grown more cordial toward one another as their career interests have appeared to merge-they have contracts that indicate what one gets, the other gets-Shatner and Nimoy were never the best of friends. And Shatner has only once-while directing Star Trek V-tried to hide his disdain for his supporting players, whom he has reportedly characterized to associates as the "Seven Dwarfs."
In part, relations among the new cast may be better because Roddenberry, and now Berman, have deliberately-and perhaps fruitlessly, given the popularity of the vehicle-tried to prevent the characters from emerging as stars.
Star Trek: The Next Generation ended its fourth season of production at roughly the same time that the Star Trek VI movie began shooting. The original cast appears to have accepted the notion that the movie will probably end its now-25-year mission. Indeed, Meyer's script-described as a perestroika-esque story that details the breakup of the Klingon empire under a Gorbachev-like leader-appears to suggest as much. Their television counterparts, meanwhile, have two years left in their contracts, leaving some to ponder what comes next.
Although the show's still-burgeoning ratings don't yet suggest the possibility, "The Little Starship That Could" may eventually run out of steam, and the actors themselves may grow weary of their roles, especially if they perceive a danger of being as terminally typecast as their predecessors. They realize that the 150-or-so episodes they do will probably follow them throughout their lives. Having seen what that did to the careers of the former cast-most could not get decent film work after the series-not all relish that prospect.
There is talk at Paramount of reviving the feature-film franchise by adopting the casting and format of The Next Generation, and the last installment of the classic movies reportedly links the casts of the old and the new Treks. The search for a new tent-pole is clearly on. It remains to be seen, though, whether TNG has the mettle to keep Trek-and Paramount-chugging along.
"One of the ways any culture will be judged by history," says Stewart, "will be by the quality of its entertainment. In this business, one can never attempt to see into the future-although it's what we're attempting to do on a daily basis. I don't know what people will say of this show 100 years hence. But Star Trek has maintained its grasp for 25 years. Where are we going?-if there are still any of us left to inquire-will continue to be asked then."
Whatever happens, Dorn, who is virtually unrecognizable without his Klingon makeup, appears eager for any Trek-related work that comes his way (he plays his character's own great-grandfather in the upcoming feature film).
"If what happened to the first cast is called being typecast," Dorn says, "then I want to be typecast. Of course, they didn't get jobs after Trek. But they are making their sixth movie. Name me someone else in television who has made `six' movies!"
LA Times Magazine - Sheldon Teitelbaum
June 17, 1991
Brent Spiner, who plays the android Data on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," says fame is tough on the face.
It takes more than an hour to apply the gold-laced makeup and contact lenses that transform the actor into Data, a pale, yellow-eyed machine that wants to become a man.
Cast members sweat in their form-fitting wool costumes, and Spiner says he can't even scratch because his hands and face are covered with powder.
Spiner uses a kerosene-based cleanser to remove the cosmetics.
"I must swallow a gallon of kerosene a week. One day I suppose they'll find all my organs have been pickled," he said.
June 19, 1991
A TV Enterprise is on the wane
The question of whether Lt. Worf decides to leave the Enterprise for good isn't the only cliffhanger in tonight's season finale of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
There's also the more pressing question of whether 1991-92 will be "Star Trek: The Last Generation."
"It probably will be our final year," predicted co-star Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander William Riker, during a recent visit to New Orleans. "At the end of the season, they'll have more than 200 episodes altogether including the old show, and that's plenty."
Plenty for Paramount, that is. Diminishing returns begin to set in after stations have 200 episodes in the bank - enough to run five nights a week for 10 months before they start repeating.
WNOL-TV [the local Trek station] and about 150 other stations around the country have a library of 179 "Star Trek" episodes - 80 of the old series starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy as Kirk and Spock, and 99 of the new starring Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard. The 100th episode airs at 9 tonight on Channel 38, with another 22 [seasons are 26 episodes] episodes ordered for next season.
After that, it's anybody's guess whether the series will continue - and if so, with who on board. The original cast members' contracts expire after next season, and producer Michael Piller conceded in an interview earlier this year that "we can't replace some of these people."
One who would like to see it continue is Frakes, whose biggest success as a television actor before "Star Trek" was the seven-week soap opera bomb "Bare Essence."
"I've never had a job that's lasted four years," said Frakes, an accomplished stage actor. "I consider myself lucky to be part of this group." Onscreen, Frakes is about as loose as a 2-by-4 - Joe Friday in a space suit. In person, he greets a visitor in faded blue denims and an open-collar Hawaiian print shirt and says, "We're forever trying to allow a little more Frakes into Riker."
"The writers had painted me into a very militaristic, staunch, by-the-books character. But I didn't like the stiff quality...I'm always looking for places to inject a little humor into the character."
He'd also like to inject a bit of family into the series, if the producers could ever find the right role for his wife, soap actress Genie Francis.
"We had our first date in New Orleans," Frakes says. "This place has special meaning for us."
Although they had met and worked together in 1983 on "Bare Essence" - Francis played perfume tycoon Tiger Hayes, Frakes her conniving competitor Marcus Marshall - their romance did not blossom until they co-starred in the miniseries "North and South." They began dating while filming a miniseries in Natchez, Miss., and are now a bi-coastal couple, with Francis taping "All My Children" in New York while Frakes makes out with Martians in Hollywood.
"I've been trying to keep the Riker-Troi relationship alive," he says, referring to the Enterprise's shapely "empath," Deanna Troi. "We repeatedly exchange what we like to think of as meaningful glances."
"But the writers insists [sic] on sweeping our romantic feelings under the carpet. They're keeping us available for alien affairs."
"On The Air" - New Orleans Times-Picayune - Mark Lorando
June 22, 1991
`STAR TREK' BOLDLY GOES TO 100TH EPISODE
Any moment now, they should be popping intergalactic champagne corks on the deck of the new Starship Enterprise.
It's time to celebrate, time to walk like a Romulan.
After all, Star Trek: The Next Generation long ago won over skeptical Trekkies. And now, closing out its fourth season in first-run syndication with a cosmic Klingon cliff-hanger, this glossy, high-quality successor to the original Star Trek space odyssey has become a major TV success story.
Capt. Jean-Luc Picard and the other new kids on the trans-warp block have already boldly gone where Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock never went. And that's way beyond the 79 episodes of the original, only moderately successful Star Trek, which aired in 1966 to 1969 on NBC. Picard & Co. passed that fateful mark last fall.
In fact, this week's season finale marks the 100th episode of The Next Generation. Get your milestone mojo working.
And talk about being beamed into the ratings-blessed ozone. During the recent May sweeps, Star Trek: The Next Generation became the first show in four years to tie Wheel of Fortune as TV's No. 1 nationally syndicated show.
That's a pretty impressive accomplishment, scoring a Vanna-equaling ratings triumph without a pointy-eared Vulcan assistant in sight.
What's more, The Next Generation-set in the 24th century, 85 years after the journeys of Kirk, Spock and the original Enterprise crew-is the classiest hour-long drama series in the history of first-run syndication. And it's been a phenomenon of sorts right from the start in 1987.
There were dire predictions back then that the hard-core Star Trek faithful and obsessive Trekkie fundamentalists would never embrace this bold new creation from producer-writer Gene Roddenberry.
What, no Captain Kirk? No Spock, no Bones? Heresy!
And who's this bald-headed British mope with the fancy-schmancy name? A guy called Jean-Luc is giving all the orders? Sheesh.
But the fussy speculation proved to be just so much misguided media flapdoodle. Instead of the standard cheap-and-cheesy look of syndicated shows past, Roddenberry and Paramount brought forth a distinctive, network-quality TV series with lavish production values, first-rate writing and a top-notch cast.
Boston Globe - Mike Duffy (Knight-Ridder Newspapers)
Klingon role is a dream come true for Dorn
When actor Michael Dorn was young, he watched the television series "Star Trek" and imagined how neat it must be to act in such a show.
"It's like my life has come full circle...and then they stick the head on me," he told a crowd of some 900 "Trek" fans yesterday, some of whom had greeted his arrival with the chant "Worf! Worf! Worf!"
For Dorn now plays the character of Worf in the syndicated series "Star Trek: The Next Generation," the first member of the fierce intergalactic race of Klingons to serve in the United Federation of Planets Starfleet corps.
And that means the 38-year-old actor, when clad (as yesterday) in a yellow shirt and blue jeans, often passes unnoticed in a crowd, lacking the carapace-like forehead, furrowed and bearded face and stringy hair of his on-screen makeup job.
In fact, Dorn told fans gathered at Shore Leave 13, the latest semi-annual gathering of "Star Trek" and other science fiction fans at the Hunt Valley Inn in Cockeysville, in a future episode of the show he may play two roles - one as Worf, the security chief of the starship Enterprise, and another as a handsome human, as he is off the set.
"I am amazed. It doesn't seem like there is any end to it, and it's gaining momentum," said Dorn of the "Star Trek" fan phenomenon as he prepared to sign autographs after his hourlong talk. Worf's deep, almost guttural voice is almost the actor's own.
Dorn sat with actor George Takei, who played Commander Sulu in the original "Star Trek" series and all five of the "Star Trek" movies. They were featured guests of the three-day convention, along with Michael Okuda, the scenic art supervisor and tech consultant for both "The Next Generation" series and the "Star Trek 6" feature film due out in December.
All, however, were mum about many details of the film's action, beyond its subtitle, "The Undiscovered Country."
"Any one of you might be a spy for Paramount, and I like my job," joked Okuda, who hosted a slide show which detailed the amazingly meticulous world created by the "Star Trek" productions.
And Dorn told fans he wouldn't say much because as a movie viewer, "I would like not to know what's going to happen."
"It will be wonderful," he added, however, acknowledging he is in the film in spite of the supposed time lapse between the fictional casts. (Reportedly, he plays the grandfather of Worf.)
Dorn said he has been to 60 or 70 fan conventions in the four years that "Star Trek: The Next Generation" has been on the air. (It is seen here at 10 p.m. Wednesdays, with multiple repeats, on WBFF-Channel 45).
He has had roles in the series `CHiPS,' the film "Rocky" and in advertising as the Viceroy cigarette man. But he said the scope of joining the "Trek" scene recently came home to him at a dedication in Hollywood of a building named for Gene Roddenberry, "Trek's" creator and producer.
Present were both first and second series and movie production and cast members.
"I looked around at all these people and said `They've been doing this 25 years.' And then I thought, `25 years as Worf? It's going to be a little rough."'
At the convention this weekend, a locally based Michael Dorn Appreciation Organization was holding events, and a fan club of the fictional Klingon people was also recruiting members.
"People like to get out of the human character when they can't be what they'd like to be in reality," said Tom Scheuer in explanation of the group's fascination with the warrior Klingons.
Known when in costume as "Lord Krell," Scheuer said the New York-based Death's Hand Battle Fleet club (rough English for the Klingonese "Mortas-t-Kamse"), "is one of the biggest Klingon organizations in existence" and has been functioning for some 15 years.
[Baltimore] Evening Sun Staff - Steve McKerrow
Boldly Going Where No Show Has Gone Before
Hard to believe that a lot of people thought that a sequel to Star Trek as a series wouldn't fly back in 1986. But Paramount was able to convince station execs that it could. The original deal was barter (i.e. Paramount gets to keep x minutes of commercial time for themselves) for first-run and cash for later strip runs. The deal ensured the 223 stations that they didn't have to worry about nurturing a show only to lose the strip rights.
In its four year run, it has demonstrated continuous growth, prime demos, and programing applications as both a weekly and a strip. And now, with stripping mode in full gear, Paramount is beginning to reap significant profits from the cash end of the deal.
60 of the 223 stations are stripping the series currently: 12 in access, 19 in prime time, 17 in early fringe, and 12 in late fringe.
Its demo appeal is younger, more male than your average syndicated show. This has helped stations command a premium rate for their local barter time. "It's beyond Trekkies now," said Steve Goldman, exec VP of Paramount.
The show commands a healthy $90,000 for a 30 second spot, or a total per episode national ad revenues of almost $1.3 million. That covers a large portion of the show's $1.7 million per episode production costs, which are up from the $1.3 million when it premiered. The barter spots originally sold at $70,000 before ratings began to grow.
One key element of its financial success was Paramount's strategy of selling it internationally only in home video while holding back the tv rights. It created an additional revenue from a new window. Paramount has sold the series in 60 countries, and says the strategy didn't cut into the revenues for the overseas tv rights. Sources say that Paramount earned $200K to $300K an episode from home video sales. Ultimately, it expects to earn an additional $225K to $400K an episode for the overseas rights once most of the 100 or so world markets are covered.
Exec Producer Rick Berman says the 100 episodes made so far came from about 200 stories whittled down from 1000 ideas. Mr. Berman says that there has been relatively low turnover in his staff, which he terms as being "nearly obsessive about making a high quality television show."
Paramount officials duck the question about ending production after 1992-93 season. "It would have to be for reasons other than ratings," says Greg Meidel Paramount's exec VP/general sales manager.
Once ST shuts down, Paramount is expected to follow the series with a SPINOFF series to recapture the time periods. "We have discussed-and it hasn't gotten any further than the discussion stage-the idea of doing companion shows, shows that might be referred to as spinoffs," says Mr. Berman. But look for a plan for a feature film based on ST:TNG to emerge before any tv series spinoff.
*Only 1 original episode aired due to the writer's strike
[Source: NSS Cassandra Ranking Reports: (ratings/share)]
July 22, 1991
Boldly not going
Although original Star Trek, and Paramount Domestic Television's latest incarnation, Star Trek: The Next Generation, consistently achieved high ratings, critical praise and even cult status with viewers, neither has fared well at Emmy time. For fourth consecutive year, Star Trek: The Next Generation, which garnered slew of technical nominations, was shut out of performing, writing, directing or outstanding drama series categories. "I don't want to sound like sour grapes, but Star Trek has certainly deserved more recognition in the series, acting, writing and directing categories," said John Pike, president of Paramount Television, whose network production division produces Star Trek: TNG for syndication. "Basically, we submit nominations for most technical and creative categories, but I really believe most voters think series from the broadcast networks are the cream of the crop. As far as budget, production value and the performances of Patrick Stewart [Capt. Jon Luc Picard], Jonathan Frakes [Cmdr. Will Riker], Brent Spiner [android Data], Michael Dorn [Worf] and Marina Sirtis [counselor Troy], I'd put this against any network series."
Original Star Trek (NBC, 1966-69) received technical and top series nominations, but came up empty-handed at award time.
October 8, 1991
AN ENERGY BEAM is fired from space, cutting through the atmosphere it begins to burn and tear through the ground, knocking over trees while people attempt to flee from the destruction.
The architect of this attack on a peaceful planet? Not the robotic Borg, not even a Romulan commander - it was accomplished by Rob Legato, 35, a former Ocean Township [New Jersey] resident, working as effects director on the syndicated television show "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
Combining actor's work with animation, special photography techniques and special effects, Legato works the magic that makes the high technology of the futurist television series come to life.
"We're pretty proud of the effects," said Legato, who has worked on the series since it premiered in 1987, and who has even directed two episodes - "Ménage àTroi" and "The Nth Degree."
Some effects can be very simple, while others are complex - like the planet attack scene described earlier, which will air on an episode later this season.
Actors on the show routinely appear and disappear using the transporter device, or portray members of many different races that share with humanity the television show's concept of the future.
Gigantic ships maneuver through the starry void of space, orbiting strange and colorful planets and sometimes engaging in futuristic combat.
The goal is to create in the minds of the viewers the illusion that what they are watching could be real in the future, Legato said.
Legato described one example from the series in which the actors open a door and step out onto a ledge, from which the audience can see a huge power station in the distance.
"In reality, the power station was only 18 inches tall," he said. "Our job was to make it look like a real ledge and for it to look like a 100-foot tall power station."
Legato graduated from Ocean Township [NJ] High School in 1974.
While he admits he watched the original Star Trek series - which aired on NBC from 1966 to 1969 - occasionally when he was growing up, he wasn't a very big science fiction fan.
"It's pretty amazing the support there is for the series," he said.
When he meets fans of this show and they find out what his job is, they constantly ask him questions about the actors, the plots and what's in store for their favorite series.
"There was a plumber who came to the house to do some work. When he found out what I do, he just started to ask questions about the show. We spent the whole day talking," Legato said.
This is Star Trek's 25th anniversary year, and the latest film with the old USS Enterprise crew "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" is scheduled to be released in December.
To tie the old series in with the new show, Leonard Nimoy, who created Mr. Spock - the Enterprise's Vulcan first officer in the original series and the six movies - will make a guest appearance in two episodes to be known as "Unification 1 & 2", to be aired in November.
"When I was very young, I loved movies," Legato said. "I was intrigued by how movies worked and how the different stunts and special effects were accomplished. I knew I wanted to be involved in movie making," Legato said.
After graduating high school, he continued his education on the West coast, at the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif.
After graduating he began work in television commercials.
His first job on a television series was visual effects director for "The Twilight Zone" series, during that program's second season.
After the series was cancelled, he found that the producers of the new Star Trek series were looking for someone with experience with this type of science fiction program.
"I had the experience they were looking for," Legato said, and he joined the series when it began in 1987.
His father, Dominic J. Legato and his mother Teresa, Eisele Avenue, in the Wanamassa section of Ocena Township [NJ], are very proud of their son's accomplishments.
His parents said they watch "Star Trek: The Next Generation" regularly.
"When he was only 5 years old, I can remember him telling me how he wanted to go to California and make movies. That's what he did," his mother said.
Legato, who now lives in Pasadena, Calif., with his wife and family, said he would like to do more directing in the future, and try his hand at movies as well as television.
From the Asbury Park Press - John A. Harnes
November 4, 1991
`Next Generation' visit keeps Spock fans beaming
BEL AIR, Calif. - Live long and cross over, `tis the way to make Star Trek fans happy, Leonard Nimoy has learned.
When he told a recent Trek fan convention of his plans to appear in a two-part episode of the syndicated TV hit STTNG, airing this week and next, "The place went totally crazy. It told me there was a tremendous pool of emotion there.
"I really was not in touch with the extend to which the fans were disturbed by questions of loyalty. It's like a family feud: Those who don't watch the new show feel left behind; fans of the new show are tired of being accused of being disloyal. So there's a sense of closure, of validation, of being part of the body of Star Trek for all of them."
Spock-Nimoy as peacemaker, as ambassador of good will. How logical. And how timely.
Nimoy, 60, has a big stake in the Trek phenom, now marking its 25th anniversary. A star of the first series and director of two Trek movies, he first came up with the idea for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, out December 6, which in part deals with a peace-keeping mission to the Klingon Empire. Spock also gets a love interest, a Vulcan officer played by Kim Cattrall.
"This movie says we're finishing our mission, to give us a sense of completion and let us say goodbye."
When he brought the movie's idea to Paramount's then chief Frank Mancuso, the studio head suggested a Next Generation episode to "dove-tail" with Trek VI. "It would give a sense of connection between the two crews."
In the two-parter, Spock is 130 and has confounded the Federation by embarking on a dangerous unauthorized mission to the oppressive planet Romulus. Part I is a mystery and a quest for Spock; the second episode puts him at the center of the action, with an open ending that could mean more adventures for Spock.
For now, Nimoy is satisfied. "I started on the TV show, went through the films and ended up back on TV. It also comes full circle in terms of Spock's humanity and the idea of bringing together and being present at the reordering of worlds."
He had resisted appearing on Next Generation before this because "it never seemed the time was right." But he's a fan of the new series.
"It's very thoughtful, and I'm delighted by that. When we made the original, there was a tug from areas of the network to make it more of a monster-of-the-week show. We generally managed to get around that, but the don't have to worry about it. I think they do a terrific job of maintaining a level of ideas and sophistication."
USA Today - Matt Roush
December 2, 1991
`Star Trek' tops `Wheel'
`Next Generation' beats game show for first time to take top NSS spot for week ending Nov. 17
Star Trek: The Next Generation, went where no regularly scheduled syndicated series has gone, at least in the past five years-it beat Wheel of Fortune in the ratings. According to the Nielsen Syndication Service program rankings (Nov. 11-17), Star Trek was the number-one show for the week with an average 15.4 household rating. Wheel of Fortune was number two, with an average 15.0 (Star Trek is a one-hour first-run weekly show, while Wheel is a strip.)
According to Paramount research, it was the first outright with for Star Trek: TNG since its debut in 1987, although it tied Wheel last May. The episode that beat Wheel was part two of an episode featuring Leonard Nimoy reprising his role from the original series as Mr. Spock.
Jeopardy! was the third-ranked show for the week with a 13.3, the Oprah Winfrey Show was fourth with an 11.4 and Entertainment Tonight was fifth with a 9.4.
It's unclear exactly how much Trek was helped by the Spock episode. The show has been the beneficiary of a lot of press coverage recently. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Star Trek's debut on NBC, and just over a month ago series creator Gene Roddenberry died. In addition, the sixth "Star Trek" theatrical movie, set to open in theaters this week, is also getting a lot of coverage. As to syndication, Paramount hopes to capitalize on the success of the show with the possible launch of a spinoff first-run companion next season (Broadcasting, Nov. 25). For the season, Trek is up 16% to an average 14.1 rating.
December 15, 1991
`STAR TREK' COMMANDERS HAVEN'T VEERED FROM THE ORIGINAL MISSION
It's hard for some "Star Trek" fans to imagine a universe without Gene Roddenberry.
When he died in October, it must have seemed like the Starship Enterprise lost its captain.
But Roddenberry, the creator of the `60s NBC sci-fi series and its `80s reincarnation, "Star Trek: The Next Generation," had his No. 1 in charge.
Meet Rick Berman, executive producer of "The Next Generation," the man who, in fact, has piloted the series for the past two seasons.
Fear not, Trekkers, the man at the helm has a firm grip on the wheel.
Berman, who's been with "The Next Generation" from its Emmy-winning start, recently offered what must come as comforting words for those who fear for the future.
"Staying true to Gene's vision is a very specific task, which is involved in every single thing we do," he said.
The fact of the matter is, however, that Berman has been steering "The Next Generation" for more than two seasons.
"Gene's involvement in the show was total during the conception of the series," said Berman. "He created the shows, he created the bible [the outline of the show]. It was his story. It was his idea."
But, Berman continued, "In the second season he began to step away. And by the third season his involvement was quite a bit less."
Mutinous words from a traitorous second-in-command? Hardly.
"We were very close professionally and very close personally," said Berman of Roddenberry, who 25 years ago launched the USS Enterprise on a mission that has continued on television and in movies ever since.
The original crew, Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (James Doohan) and their 23rd-Century comrades, were succeeded in 1987 by Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Cmdr. William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Lt. Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton), Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) and Lt. Cmdr. Data (Brent Spiner) of the 24th Century.
And, dare we say it? "The Next Generation" has outperformed the previous generation on many, if not all, levels. Now in its fifth season-the original lasted three-"Star Trek: The Next Generation" has become one of the most successful hours in syndication history, garnered multiple Emmys, and recently was named best syndicated series by the nation's TV critics in a poll conducted by Electronic Media.
Yet Berman is the first to say he's not a fan of side-by-side comparisons.
"I don't like the sense of competitiveness," he said. "There are people who run contests-`Which show do you like better? Which captain do you like better?'-what's important to me is they're two entities that are connected."
There was, perhaps, no better example of that spirit than the recent two-part episode featuring Mr. Spock and a mind-melding with Capt. Picard.
The original "Star Trek," Berman said, "was created by `60s people for a `60s audience" and were it not for the mythological aura surrounding those shows, he noted, it might be more apparent that they don't hold up so well.
But the universe Roddenberry created has remained consistent, which is one of the reasons, Berman said, "I have not attempted to change the show in any dramatic fashion."
He thinks "The Next Generation" has a more serious edge than its progenitor, which was "a lot more fun and more swashbuckling and sexy than our show is, but I think the television in the `60s called for that."
The Hartford Courant - James Endrst
February 17, 1992
HOUR DRAMA BOLDLY GOING TO FIRST-RUN
High deficits and uncertain back-end futures on networks are sending a new crop of hour dramas to first-run weekly syndication
The major Hollywood studios, besieged by average continuing series production deficits of over $300,000 per episode (and upwards of $600,000 per episode for first-year series) for hour-long dramas supplied to the broadcast networks (Broadcasting, Feb. 10), are turning to first-run weekly syndication, panning for the kind of gold Paramount Domestic Television has found in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Over the last five seasons, most off-network dramas have gone the cable route, but in the last month, Paramount rolled out it Star Trek: Deep Space Nine spin-off and a revival of The Untouchables followed by Rysher Entertainment's The Highlander and Claster Television's Catwalk.
Other traditional network suppliers, such as Warner Bros. and Stephen J. Cannell Studios, have drawn up similar blueprints to capture what is apparently a newly revived syndication marker for hour-long dramas. The jury may still be out on the current (domestic and international) profitability of Cannell Distribution's Street Justice (with The Renegade as companion piece on fall 1992) and LBS/All American's Baywatch; however, the flurry of 1992-93 series projects could usher in a watershed transition away from a network-dictated licensing arena in favor of what distributors claim is a financially and creatively less restrictive free-market approach in syndication.
In the weekly category, according to competing syndication advertising agency sources, Paramount's four-year-old Star Trek: The Next Generation has established the high-water mark in per-episode production cost for hour dramas, while still generating a very healthy 40% return on investment ratio. It is a formula that the Hollywood studio hopes to surpass with the new spin-off.
Although national advertising rates in the barter market have declined 15%-20% due to the recession, several New York media buyers said TNG episodes have commanded, on average, $115,000 per 30-second spot (and as high as $150,000) in the fourth-quarter upfront market. With seven minutes of national advertising inventory per episode, which translates into 728 advertising avails for 52 weeks (double-runs included), the show records upwards of $90 million in gross ad revenues annually, says one source.
Paramount officials have readily admitted that production costs are in the range of $1.2 million to $1.4 million per episode. After subtracting production costs for an entire season-from $31.2 million to $36.4 million for a full complement of 26 episodes-net front-end profits are estimated to be in the $30 million-$60 million range annually.
When Paramount originally launched sales of TNG in 1986, the follow-up to the original network series (NBC, 1966-69) was considered a largely untried property, so independent stations-some of which were lower-power UHF's-were able to pre-negotiate a "self-perpetuating" package deal for the back-end repeats in addition to the complement of 78 off-network Star Trek episodes. According to the source close to Paramount, the TNG back-end episodes tabulated a $700,000 national cash license fee, or roughly $70 million added to paramount's coffers for the nearly 100 episodes it has produced for stripping thus far.
"You can bet this time around, Paramount will not be nearly as generous with the back-end terms," said the source of the current back-end negotiations for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and The Untouchables, which will have January 1993 broadcast debuts.
It is the source's estimate that when all is said and done, Paramount will amass $900,000 to $1 million per episode in cash license fees for the back-end repeats of Deep Space Nine, while The Untouchables may extract only $500,000-$600,000 on the back end.
The third revenue stream, and possibly the most difficult to quantify, is international sales. For most other first-run hour action-adventures, overseas broadcast sales are often considered the most crucial element to reaching profitability on the front end, but TNG, which is cleared in over 80 overseas markets, it is considered icing on the cake.
Only after a new management team was put into place by Paramount Pictures Chairman Brandon Tartikoff was development initiated last fall on Deep Space Nine and The Untouchables, but it was just enough time to have presentation ready for last month's INTV and NATPE conventions. Given the brand recognition and track record for the Star Trek franchise, Paramount Domestic Television President Steve Goldman developed a more aggressive marketing plan for that series and The Untouchables.
Similar to the original TNG contract, DSN is being offered on a seven-minute national/five-minute local barter split for the first three years, but national ad load increases to seven-and-a-half minutes, while the station's local ad split declines to four-and-a-half minutes.
The Untouchables, on the other hand, has a similar seven/five split for years two and three of the front-end, but nonetheless Paramount is dictating a seven-and-a-half/four-and-a-half split for year one of the barter term and the remainder of an extended front-end term.
Goldman said that the extra 30 seconds of national commercial time will help cover the higher $1.3 million to $1.5 million production costs on Deep Space Nine and The Untouchables (whose production budget will be pushed up, since it is a 1930's period piece). If The Untouchables generates close to a 7 rating (TNG averages a 10 rating), suggested the source, the extra 30 seconds of national commercial time could translate to over $5 million in additional revenue annually.
Bart McHugh, a senior executive at DDB New York, suggested that the Paramount programming is characterized as "upper-tier" commercial time among media buyers considering where to spend retailers' national advertising budgets.
"Let's face it, syndication is still considered the weak stepsister to network, when it comes to national buys," McHugh said. "Most of the other non-Paramount syndicated hours are considered lower-tier buys, less than half what Next Generation gets in the upfront and scatter markets. But at least the studios don't have to put up with huge production deficits because of the network license fees. Lower-tier players can still come up winners going the syndication route."
Tighter production budgets for Warner Bros. Domestic Television's Kung Fu: The Legend Continues and Time Trax (for the independent station-led Television Consortium), which are intended to be budgeted at $730,000 per episode for both series (see story, page 26), are reflective of the cautious approach toward first-year series sold in the upfront market for January 1993.
Both Cannell's Street Justice and LBS/All American's Baywatch are produced at $800,000 per episode, with each generating 4-5 ratings nationally ($30,000-40,000 national as rates), but it is the international sales that help those syndicators turn a profit on the front end.
March 14, 1992
SPACE ODYSSEY: Talk about boldly going where no one's been before. Next week's installment of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" has Jonathan Frakes' Commander Riker character falling in love with a member of an androgynous race - a full-blown romance in which "they explore whether or not they're going to be able to do it," according to executive producer Michael Piller. How's that again? "As they're riding alone together in the shuttle . . . this person turns around and says to Riker, `Tell me about your sex organs.' Riker is also fascinated and asks questions," says co-exec producer Rick Berman.
Fascinating, too, is the casting process the "Next Generation" team went through on the episode, which Berman and Piller describe as "a show about sexual intolerance." Melinda Culea plays Frakes' love interest and some two dozen actresses play other inhabitants of her planet. Berman says they tried not to let perceptions of what the public would find acceptable "influence us too much . . . but having Riker engaged in passionate kisses with a male actor might have been a little unpalatable to viewers."
San Jose Mercury News - Grapevine - Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith
April 5, 1992
IN STEP WITH: PATRICK STEWART
BORN: July 13, 1940, in Mirfield, England.
PERSONAL: Married to Sheila Falconer, 1966-90; two children.
THEATER: Includes Treasure Island, 1959 (debut); A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1971 (Broadway debut); Anthony and Cleopatra, 1978; The Merchant of Venice, 1978; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1987; A Christmas Carol, 1991.
TV: Includes I, Claudius, 1976; , 1979; Smiley's People, 1982; Playing Shakespeare, 1983; Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1987-.
I casually had referred to Patrick Stewart and his crewmates on the Enterprise as "Trekkies," and Mr. Stewart was swift to correct me. "My colleagues resent being called Trekkies," he said, as crisp and in command as if he were in uniform as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard. "Trekkies are the audience. We are the actors."
This was while Stewart was in New York playing all 35 characters in a version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol on Broadway, and I'd called him one Saturday morning at the Regency Hotel. "This role is like running a marathon, and it takes about the same time [just over two hours]," Stewart said. "I take a beating, and I keep telling people how old I am. Ancient." (He's actually only 51.)
If you wonder what the skipper of the Enterprise was doing playing Scrooge and Tiny Tim and all three Christmas ghosts on a New York stage, you might also inquire why a classically trained Shakespearean actor-and an Englishman at that-is impersonating a space-age star traveller with a French name in command of the Enterprise. The answer, of course, is that Stewart is an actor, and these were both irresistible roles.
He got the part in Star Trek: The Next Generation against the odds. As Stewart tells it, he was doing a literary reading put on by an English professor at UCLA when Robert Justman, who was then the show's supervising producer, just happened to be in the audience. Justman turned to his wife and said, "We've found our Captain."
Last year, as Stewart's fifth season in command premiered, TV Guide found the situation sufficiently intriguing to inquire in a cover story, "It's Kirk vs. Picard: Experts and fans debate who's best."
The scriptwriters seem to have a more lighthearted sense of humor about the whole thing, said Stewart: "In one episode, the name `Kirk' comes up on the Enterprise computer, and I go right by. It doesn't mean a thing to me."
Stewart and his crew make 26 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation each year. "My day begins at 4:45 a.m.," he said. "During the spring hiatus of 1991, I discovered this concept of vacation. I went off to Fiji for three weeks and found it not an unpleasant thing. I might go to Alaska this summer. I put on two performances of A Christmas Carol there, and my friends promised me an aerial tour so I can pick a place to retire to."
"Retire?" I asked. "Well," he said, "my contract is up in 1993, and I'm planning to do classical theater, Lear and Macbeth. I'm the right age now to play the heavies." Does that mean au revoir to the Enterprise? "I'd be balmy to do that," he said. "But if we do a sixth season, we might work something out."
Stewart, who is divorced, lives alone in Los Angeles. "I settled there three years ago and am quite content," he said. "My son just graduated from Cal Arts." Not wanting to be crass, but still curious, I said something to the effect that he probably was making more money on Star Trek than in any of his other acting jobs. "You're absolutely right," he said, not at all annoyed. "For 10 weeks in London, I played George [the leading male role] in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on a West End stage [equivalent to our Broadway]. The other day, during a break in filming Star Trek, I sat down and figured it out. I make more money during a break on television than I made in those 10 weeks."
Parade Magazine - James Brady
April 13, 1992
It's hard to get to know Brent Spiner (TV's Data)
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla.
Even without the glossy makeup and yellow contact lenses of his Lt. Cmdr. Data character, it's hard to know the real Brent Spiner.
"It's not a concern of mine that the fans know who I am because the me that I am, even at conventions or doing interviews or whatever, is not really me anyway," he said last week from his Paramount Studios trailer in Los Angeles.
His hair, for example, is dyed regularly to maintain the continuity of his anemic-looking android character on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." He's even amused that the folks at "Entertainment Tonight" give the wrong age when it's his birthday.
"If you look at ("Entertainment Tonight"), they'll say 37 . . . I don't know where they got that number, but it's fine with me," he said.
Age is such a sensitive issue with Spiner that he argued the insignificance of his real age - which he doesn't like talking about - during the interview.
"I've had the benefit of being in this makeup and people trying to guess what I look like, how old I am, all that kind of stuff."
And even when he's out of character, Spiner said, he feels obligated to be a character with the press and the public.
"I just think there's a pressure always whether you're doing an interview or a talk show situation or on stage doing a convention to be at least entertaining. And I'm not sure that Brent at home alone is a very entertaining person."
Unquestionably, the suave, bespectacled Spiner delighted a crowd of about 1,000 enthusiastic Vulkon 92 conventioneers and fans who gathered last weekend at the Altamonte Springs Hilton Inn to hear him speak and answer questions.
"I'm going to answer your questions as honestly as I can, but sometimes I'll be lying," he joked, before taking their questions. "But there are two areas I'd like to stay away from: `Star Trek' and my personal life."
Dressed in black and bearing striking features not unlike that of his television character, Spiner told the crowd about the 75-minute makeup process he goes through at 5:45 a.m. each day of shooting the nationally syndicated program.
"And then Patrick (Stewart, who play Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on the show) comes in and runs a dry mop over his head."
He described the constant cutting-up the actors do every day on the set as "one long improv that's only interrupted by having to do scenes for the show. The best part of this job is that we go to work every day and have fun."
Spiner, deluged by camera flashes and rounds of applause, wouldn't offer much insight on the coming two-part season cliffhanger of "Next Generation."
"I think it's really going to be one of the best shows we've done. And it features one of my favorite characters - Data."
The State - Columbia, S.C.
Orlando Sentinel - Debra K. Minor
June 7, 1992
Q: Is it true that Gates McFadden was absent from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" during the second season because she was fired? Does she get along with the rest of the cast?
A: The official announcement at the end of the first season was that McFadden had left the series "to pursue other career options." (Diana Muldaur was brought aboard as the starship's doctor.) McFadden has since maintained that the news she wouldn't be returning was a surprise to her. "I got a call from my agent saying that they had decided to go in another direction with the character. And that was literally all I heard."
She was equally surprised to be asked back for the third season (after the chemistry between Muldaur and the rest of the cast failed to develop). "I certainly missed working with my fellow cast members."
Celebrity Question - Tribune Media Services - Stacy Jenel Smith
`TELEVISION' Sunday supplement - San Jose Mercury News
June 7, 1992
Q: As a big fan of Wil Wheaton of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Stand By Me," I'd like to know what he's up to now. Can you fill in the blanks? - Christine Monahan, Madison, N.J.
A: Wil Wheaton has made guest appearances on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" since leaving the cast of that popular TV series in 1990. He also has done the films "Toy Soldiers" and "December," plus a made-for-TV movie. The 19-year-old Southern California native recently decided to postpone college and continue with his successful acting career.
Walter Scott's Personality Parade - Parade Sunday Newspaper Magazine
August 31, 1992
Stewart's role fits him like a Starfleet uniform
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Somehow when actor Patrick Stewart casually compares the role of captain on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" to royalty, it doesn't seem farfetched.
"I've often said that sitting on the captain's chair of the Enterprise is rather like sitting on the throne of England," he says. "And probably marginally more important."
After all, this Shakespearean actor turned "Star Trek" icon made headlines in July when he was chosen "most bodacious man on television" by a poll of TV Guide readers. In a field of 10, Stewart garnered 54 percent of the vote, a mandate many politicians can only dream of.
As any futurist knows, Stewart is moving into his sixth season as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on the popular syndicated series.
"I can no longer now discern a connection between Patrick Stewart leaving his dressing room and Jean-Luc Picard walking onto the set. The man has become so ingrained for me and such a lot of me has gone into him and much of what he stands for and what he believes in represents my own beliefs and opinions."
Stewart recalled hearing about a commercial-pilot school that used Picard's flight-deck style to illustrate how to "remain cool and controlled and personable and available and accessible, even in times of crisis."
"I'm an actor playing a role, but it is surprising though gratifying to find that the role influences aspects of everyday life in this particular way."
On the down side, Stewart said, "After 5-1/2 years, not every episode, not every scene can be utterly exciting and different. Clearly, we're going to be going over familiar territory."
As his alter ego Picard, Stewart never leaves the comfortable confines of the Enterprise. Off the set, however, Stewart's career appears to be fueled by high-octane dilithium crystals.
Stewart stepped behind the scenes to direct two episodes of "Next Generation" and will direct a third in a few weeks. He won the role of Daddy Warbucks in "Annie Goes to War," the film sequel to "Annie," due to start filming in Europe next spring.
Mary Jo Griffith - Orange County Register
June 18, 1993
`Trek' Finale Has Real Star Power
World-renowned physicist Hawking plays himself
LOS ANGELES - Stephen Hawking goes where no world-renowned physicist has gone before when he makes an unprecedented guest appearance Sunday in the sixth season finale of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (11 p.m. on Ch. 3).
In his dramatic television appearance, Hawking, who is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak, plays himself, alongside series regular Brent Spiner, who portrays Lt. Cmdr. Data.
At the start of the show, the android creates a poker game in the holodeck between himself and computer-generated recreations of Hawking, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton.
"He's not a bad actor. Under the circumstances, he's quite wonderful," Spiner said. "It's a wonderful opening to the show, and it's television history. I don't believe that Einstein did a `Bonanza.' This is the equivalent of that. I can't Imagine anything like this ever happening before or after.
"When I heard about it I couldn't believe it. Someone at the top of the science world doing episodic television? I don't know if anything could top it.
"I was intimidated in the presence of someone that bright," Spiner continued. "You're reluctant to make a fool of yourself. There's a heightened element because it's difficult for him to communicate. For him to answer requires more work than you want him to do.
"He speaks through a computer. The conversation was brief. There was more conversation going on through eye contact. He was eager to do it and excited and pleased to be there. He was enjoying himself."
Afflicted with Lou Gehrig's disease while in his early 20s, Hawking went on to develop insightful theories regarding the origins and destiny of the universe, which are explored in his best-selling book and resulting film, "A Brief History of Time." A home video version was released earlier this month.
During a special VIP screening of this video, Hawking visited Paramount Studios, which produces "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and expressed an interest in seeing the set of the Emmy-winning syndicated series. After getting a tour, he asked to be in an episode. The producers immediately agreed to his request.
Sunday will be a cliffhanger that will be picked up with next season's premiere episode. And there's a very good chance that season may be the last.
"We'll do one more season and go right into production for a feature," Spiner explained. "Paramount is planning to so several ("Star Trek: The Next Generation") features and let `Deep Space Nine' carry the television end of it and probably pull is from television.
Spiner, who had worked primarily in theater prior to "Star Trek: The Next Generation," said the huge success of the series has been a "surprise. I thought what would hold it back was (the original) `Star Trek.' You can't catch lightning in a bottle twice."
Wisconsin State Journal - Diane Joy Moca - Los Angeles Daily News
June 18, 1993
They chose to accept their mission
`Star Trek' fan clubs use theme for charity
If you aren't a fan of science-fiction television shows such as "Star Trek" and "Deep Space Nine," you probably still have heard the USS Enterprise spaceship.
But even if you are one of these shows' most committed fans, you probably haven't heard if the USS Hyperion and the IKV Wicked Fortune - even though they are less than a light year away, in Madison.
Both are imaginary starships used to identify local "Star Trek" fan clubs.
Wicked Fortune is a Wisconsin flagship for the Klingon Assault Group, a national not-for-profit organization that expounds the virtues of the hostile Klingon race portrayed in "Star Trek" television series and motion pictures. They do so by hitting the streets and airwaves dressed as Klingons to raise money for local charities.
The Hyperion is the flagship for Starfleet Command, and unrelated but similar national organization that attracts local "Star Trek" fans and enlists them to discuss science fiction and conduct community service. But they do son on behalf of the United Federation of Planets, the interplanetary governing body of the "Star Trek" genre.
In the original "Star Trek" series, Klingons were enemies of the United Federation of Planets whose appearance mimicked humans, with only slight differences in skin tone and facial features. Through motion pictures and in later TV series, their appearance transformed to reflect their hostile, warrior origin.
Laurie Tauchen, president of Madison's Klingon Assault Group, said she became involved in "Star Trek" fan groups because it allowed her to overcome her shyness and cultivate her imagination. Tauchen collects "Star Trek" memorabilia and designs costumes that reflect Trek TV shows and movies.
However, she said, there's more to the group than fandom.
The group calls itself the Klingon Assault Group because it is the group's aim to assault hunger, poverty and other community problems. As they complete missions, in the form of conducting community service, group members are rewarded with promotions and honorary titles.
Tauchen is known among group members by her Klingon name, K-Shara vestai Takken, which indicates a rank of lieutenant commander.
"We don't just talk about Star Trek," she explains, raising a hand-painted Klingon eyebrow. "We talk about Star Trek and do good things for the community at the same time."
At last summer's Taste of Madison celebration, Tauchen said the group collected more than $1,700 and 150 pounds of food for the Southern Wisconsin Food Bank in less than nine hours.
The group also raised money for Big Brothers/Big Sisters and volunteered to assist Wisconsin Public Television during its 1993 pledge drive.
"It is fun to pretend to be someone sinister for a change," Tauchen said. "We can adopt a persona that is very different from who we are and it is a lot more fun."
Presently, the Klingon Assault Group has 16 members in the Madison area, and Starfleet Command has eight members.
Jeffrey Santabaaka, commander of the Hyperion, said Madison's Starfleet Command is struggling to recruit enough members for community service work. Although his group plans to assist the local Red Cross and Salvation Army, he said they are spending most of their time recruiting members and trying to create a positive image locally.
"We do a lot of social events in order to obtain trust," he said. "We don't want people to think that we are crazy. We are not. We just use `Star Trek' as a means to express ourselves."
Although Starfleet Command has been operating nationally for more than 15 years, Madison's starship Hyperion began in March 1993, almost a year after Wicked Fortune.
Santabaaka said his goal is to establish a strong city chapter and then work on establishing other groups in the Milwaukee area. He said one of the biggest things groups need to overcome is the stereotype of being solely a "Star Trek" sult.
"Some people consider `Star Trek' a religion, but that is unfortunate," he said. "We don't always talk about `Star Trek' and that's OK. The main criteria is just to enjoy it, not to know everything."
· Anyone interested in joining the Klingon Assault Group can call Laurie Tauchen at (608) 233-1554. Jeffrey Santabaaka of Starfleet Command can be reached at (608) 238-3406.
Troy Janisch - Wisconsin State Journal
June 18, 1993
Learn more through `Starfleet' bulletin board
Have trouble telling Klingons from Vulcans? Can't figure out how a transporter works?
If so, then you are behind the times - about 300 years off, to be exact. The "Star Trek" genre, depicting life in a few centuries, is one of the hottest topics among science-fiction fandom.
By linking up with the local bulletin board via a computer equipped with a modem, Madison-area Trek fans have instant access to hundreds of sounds, pictures, fact sheets and games devoted to the series.
Matthen Schultz, the board's operator, is a zoology student at UW-Madison and, obviously, a "Star Trek" devotee. Like many others - many, many others - Schultz, 22, said he was hooked as a kid watching original "Star Trek" re-runs with his older brother.
As his interest in science fiction grew, so did his interest in computers. In May, he combined his interests and began the electronic bulletin board.
"Computers and `Star Trek' go hand in hand," Schultz said. "For a lot of people, `Star Trek' provided us with our first glimpse of what the future would be like. It gives is an opportunity to look in the future - something that everyone is interested in."
When he created the bulletin board service, Schultz said, he tried to keep everyone in mind. For novices, the service offers a detailed history of the "Star Trek" universe and a "who's who" of characters from the original series, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Deep Space Nine."
For more advanced fans, the service has on-line databases detailing races, planets and technology; and the system is text-based, so it can be used by any type of modem-equipped computer.
In its first four weeks, the services's two phone lines received more than 100 calls from fans ranging in age from 13 to 50. But if the number of calls increases as much as Schultz believes it will, he may have to add for lines by the end of the first year.
Either way, he said, the board has become a great place for science-fiction fans to meet.
To use the Starfleet Command BBS, at (608) 231-1703, callers can use any modem set at 8 data bits, 1 stop bit and no parity.
When they use the board for the first time, fans are asked to choose a "Star Trek"-related nickname. Schultz said that allows users to take the name of their favorite sci-fi characters and to remain anonymous if they choose.
Troy Janisch - Wisconsin State Journal
June 18, 1993
Group studies Klingon language
They study long hours and pore over exotic and obscure markings just so that they can bark, growl and spit at each other during their infrequent meetings.
Lawrence Schoen, one of their high priests, says:
"It's like any hobby. There is a certain appeal to being able to speak in the language of a race that never existed in a distant, imaginary galaxy sometime in the indefinite future."
"HIham HISlaH. oH Klingon Hol."
Translation: "True. It's the Klingon language."
Schoen is a assistant professor at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. He describes his field as psycho-linguistics, and he is the founder and president of the Klingon Language Institute. He also edits a scholarly journal called HolQeD, which means "linguistics" in Klingon. (The word is a combination of "Hol," meaning language, and "Qed," meaning science.)
The institute has upward of 200 members. When they get together they say, "tlhIngan Hol Dajatlha?" ("Do you speak Klingon?").
"Some people are very, very serious about this," said Schoen, who says he is not a fluent Klingon speaker. He formed the institute mainly for fun and because he was curious.
The Klingons are a warrior race that people the "Star Trek" movies and television episodes, including "Star Trek: The Next Generation," a syndicated series. They believe in strength, honor and loud, vulgar-sounding speech. It is almost impossible to say anything substantial in Klingon without spitting on your listener.
The bible of the Klingon language is Marc Okrand's "Klingon Dictionary" (Pocket Books), which sells for $10 in most bookstores. Besides the English translations if Klingon words, it contains grammatical information and a pronunciation guide. There is also an audio cassette "lesson" on the market, and the KLI offers a free, 11-lesson correspondence course to any terrans who ask for it.
Linguist Okrand created the Klingon language for the 1984 film "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock."
Schoen, 33, confesses to watching a lot of "Star Trek" while growing up, but says he is not a fanatic. He does not go to "Star Trek" conventions and he doesn't wear rubber, pointed ears like the Mr. Spock character.
He was teaching in a small college near Chicago about a year ago and learned that he would be a victim of a staff reduction there. He sent out resumes and began waiting for replies. While doing that, he decided to study Klingon to keep his mind off his mailbox.
"It was something to do while waiting for answers," he said.
Schoen studies the language and puts out the quarterly journal because he enjoys it.
"It's a sort of intellectual game," he said.
Using computer bulletin boards, he began searching for other Klingon speakers. He found so many that he formed KLI, a nonprofit operation based in Flourtown, Pa. It costs $5 a year to join, or $15 if you want to receive HolQed.
Okrand purposely made the language difficult. In English the usual word order is subject-verb-object. Klingon reverses that. There is no distinction between adverbs and verbs.
· People interested in joining KLI can write to HolQeD at Box 634, Flourtown, Pa. 19031-0634. Schoen asks for a stamped self-addressed envelope. He doesn't want to be "Qut" (vulgar) but he doesn't have the "Huch" (money) to buy a lot of stamps.
July 10, 1993
Endurance pays off for `Trek' plot writer
MONROE (AP) - The Star Trek Enterprise is frozen in time. A phaser blast from an enemy vessel, milliseconds from blowing a universe-size gap in her heavy-duty hull, is also suspended in space time.
Does the Enterprise crew subtract itself from this grape-in-the-Jello-o state without becoming intergalactic salad?
The story idea for the starry drama was formed by Monroe's Mark Gehred-O'Connell. His next out-of-this-world story is written for the future of the future generation, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."
While Gehred-O'Connel began trying to write a Star Trek thriller in early 1991, his efforts to sell a script to the movie moguls in California started 13 years ago. A public relations writer for Mercury Hospital in Janesville by day, Gehred-O'Connell's more creative ventures have been hashed out in his spare time.
For the most part, the PR writer has sent his work to the powers-that-be without any outside help.
"Finding an agent to represent you is hard as it is to find a buyer for a script," he said.
While a friend had recommended a manager to him, the aspiring TV/movie writer fared on his won until several years ago. He then answered an ad put in Writer's Digest magazine by a writer's representative. The woman turned out to be the same manager already recommended to him.
"It seemed as if I already knew her," he said. Although they have never met face-to-face, Gehred-O'Connell credits his manager as an instrumental force, along with his wife, Beth, in reaching his goals.
"The two of them kept me going," he said.
When his manager mentioned putting together some work for the Star Trek production in February of 1991, Gehred-O'Connell did. While the initial star-dramas he sent weren't accepted, they were a wedge in the producers' door.
"The scripts what people write and send in for them are treated as resumes," he said. Gehred-O'Connell then developed four story ideas and pitched them over the phone.
"Wendy (his manager) told me they had only one rule: A writer only gets one chance," he said. None of his work was accepted that day.
A year-and-a-half and seven sales pitches later, Gehred-O'Connell hadn't sold a story.
"I figured as long as they kept inviting me back, I'd keep coming back," he said. "Each time I came a little bit closer."
Although he demolished the one-chance rule, the rejections were disappointing. Gehred-O'Connell found, however, that by the next morning, more ideas were sprouting in his imagination.
March 1 was the day the directors told him that his last chance had truly arrived. The Next Generation was heading into its final season and story slots were quickly being filled.
Three weeks after his pitch, still waiting for a "yea" or "nay," he arrived home to a 7-year-old son yelling, "Dad, dad, you've made a sale."
Short on time, the directors bought Gehred-O'Connell's story and filled in the script themselves. The writer, however, doesn't feel short-shrifted. "That was really, really exciting," he said. "He just took my idea and ran with it. It made me really proud that my idea" fueled the plot twists. "And then he said `Mark, I want you to keep thinking of more ideas.' "
Six weeks later, a story for the show about a future version of Star Trek, "Deep Space Nine" was accepted. This time Gehred-O'Connel is fashioning the entire story and is anxiously waiting to hear who writes the script.
May 6, 1994
"GET THAT BLOODY camera out of my face!" Patrick Stewart blares at an Entertainment Tonight crew that has come to tape a segment on the command bridge of the starship Enterprise. Stewart is in the midst of filming the very last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation-the series signs off after seven seasons, with a two-hour finale the week of May 23-and the most beloved TV baldy since Telly Savalas is clearly in need of a stress pill. In space, it turns out, sometimes people can hear you scream. Of course, some backstage strain is inevitable whenever a hit series comes to the end of its run. But on the Next Generation set in late March, you could practically cut the tension with a phaser beam. One reason for the edginess is that the show isn't really ending at all-it's metamorphosing immediately into a movie franchise. Just four days after Stewart wraps the TV finale, he and his costars will move down the Paramount lot to Stage 7, where they'll try to make their cathode-ray characters fly on the big screen. This first Next Generation feature film, titled Star Trek: Generations and costarring classic Trekker William Shatner, will arrive in theaters this Thanksgiving (see story on page 23).
Another cause for crankiness: Nobody here seems to have a clue why the show is being canceled. "I haven't been given any reason that holds water," says Jonathan Frakes, who plays swashbuckling Commander William Riker. "Maybe [Paramount] thought they couldn't do the movie and the TV show at the same time-although I don't know why the movie had to be made this year. Some of us kept hoping there would be an eleventh-hour reprieve, that Paramount would realize how much money the show has made for them and change their minds."
Paramount's decision to cancel the series is rather odd. Next Generation has been a warp-propelled profit machine from the start-and is still the highest rated syndicated drama in the history of television, with 15 to 20 million viewers a week. It has spawned two spin-offs, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (now in its second season) and Star Trek: Voyager (which will debut in January 1995 as the flagship series of Paramount's planned fifth network). This year, Trek productions have taken over almost a third of Paramount's 30 soundstages, making the shows the biggest deal here since Cecil B. DeMille himself churned out pictures on the lot. Cancel Next Generation now? At the height of its success? Most illogical.
"All I can tell you is that the decision to end Next Generation after a seven-season run was made at least two years and two Paramount regimes ago," says Rick Berman, an executive producer for the show since its October 1987 premiere. "This plan has been around a long time, since before the studio asked us to do Voyager. You'd have to ask Paramount why they did it."
Paramount's answer: "It's always tough to cancel a series that's doing as well as Next Generation," says Joel Berman (no relation to Rick), the studio's executive vice president of domestic television. "But the bottom line is that a successful feature-film franchise can be more profitable than a TV series. We thought it was time to launch Next Generation as a movie franchise, and we didn't think we could do the television series at the same time. Why would people go to movie theaters to see Next Generation if new episodes were available on TV every week? The movie wouldn't be as special."
Not everyone is broken up over Next Generation's cancellation. In fact, some cast members seem positively blasé about it. "Right now I'm in plain old denial," says Brent Spiner, who plays Lieut. Commander Data, the android science officer who isn't programmed to experience emotion. "I have absolutely no feelings about it whatsoever. I'm serious. To me, it's just another season-ender, like all the others."
As with the previous season-enders, the plot of this final episode is being kept top secret. Only a few enticing details have been leaked to outsiders: The story will involve Stewart's Capt. Jean-Luc Picard Quantum-leaping through three time periods-his present (around the year 2370); his past (he'll pop back to the show's 1987 premiere episode, "Encounter at Farpoint," where that cosmic wisenheimer Q, played by John de Lancie, is still holding humanity on trial for its crimes against itself); and his future, in which we get to see what happens to his shipmates 25 years down the line (Geordi La Forge becomes a best-selling novelist, Worf is named governor of a lowly Klingon outpost, and Data inherits the mathematics chair held by both Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking at Cambridge University).
"It's a bookend to the whole series," de Lancie says. "It's really a wonderfully poignant conclusion. It should he an amazing thing to see." It's certainly been an amazing thing to film, requiring three weeks of nearly round-the-clock production." It's been crazy here these past few weeks," says Gates McFadden, who plays Beverly Crusher, the Enterprise's doctor and token single mom (she ends up commanding her own medical ship in the future). "Last Friday I was on the set for literally 23 hours. These have been inhuman hours. People are just exhausted."
And it's not only the work that has been tough. "Psychologically, I think everyone is trying to detach themselves from the show and each other," says Marina Sirtis, sounding like her character, Counselor Deanna Troi, the Enterprise's touchy-feely onboard therapist (apparently, her future is too grim to reveal). "People are subconsciously being pissy on the set so that it won't hurt so much when the show is finally over."
"We're a family in crisis," adds LeVar Burton, who plays La Forge, the blind engineer. "This is the end of seven years of shared experience. You can't end something like this without pushing people's buttons. It's going to bring up strong emotions, and everybody is going to handle it differently."
One of those emotions, no doubt, is fear. Right about now a lot of these actors must be contemplating the less-than-stellar non-Federation careers of James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and most of the rest of the original Trek TV cast (who, according to a slew of new tell-all bios, weathered a few family crises of their own). Will any of the Next Generation crew ever again play a role that doesn't require a space suit? "I think we'll all be dealing with that problem for the rest of our lives," says Frakes. "I'm just glad I've become a director. I'm hoping that will keep me from falling prey to it. But I'd be naive to pretend that wasn't a possibility."
Actually, there is some reason for hope. McFadden has already been signed for a 20th-century part in Mystery Dance, a comedy-drama pilot for ABC. And Spiner has reportedly negotiated an antitypecasting clause in his new contract with Paramount: He'll do the bigscreen Generations only if the studio casts him in a nonandroid role in another film. Looks like Data's positronic brain is good for more than computing dekyon fields and space-time continuums.
It's midnight on Stage 18, where Patrick Stewart is filming his final scene as a TV spaceman. Several days have passed since his blowup on the bridge, and he seems to have loosened up considerably. Between takes he chats warmly with the crew, sips tea in his director's chair, and leisurely peruses a newspaper.
There have been rumors that Stewart is the reason that Next Generation is going off the air-that he had grown bored of the role and wanted to leave. ("Totally untrue," says Rick Berman.) There have been rumors that Stewart has been less than cooperative in some aspects of filming this last episode, supposedly refusing to loop segments on weekends. ("Totally untrue," Berman insists.) There have been rumors that other cast members are getting fed up with Stewart's supposed prima donna-ism on the set. ("Totally, totally untrue," Berman says.)
"This last episode is very complex and demanding," the producer says. "That's why Stewart's been less patient with outside stuff. He's been working 14-hour days in three different wardrobes and three different makeups. He's in every damn shot. He's totally fried."
Stewart himself offers his own burnt-out take on the end of the series. "For me, the timing is perfect," he says in a phone interview (on-set, in-person interviews with him are strictly verboten). "I had been increasingly feeling that I'd given the best of my work on the series. The last two years especially have found me feeling intense restlessness. I needed to go on to something else.
"This is the toughest job I've ever done," he continues, "except maybe when I worked on a building site unloading cement blocks-that was marginally more difficult. And the last three months have been especially tough, culminating with this epic two-hour special. There were moments when I thought I wouldn't be able to finish the episode, I was so tired. And yes, it did lead to some outbursts like the one [with Entertainment Tonight], for which I apologized personally to everyone concerned. It was turning into a three-ring circus with press on the set every day."
But tonight on the soundstage, as he puts the finishing touches on the space age of his television career, Stewart looks downright mellow. When the scene is finally finished and the camera clicks off for good at about 12:30 a.m., he stands on a scaffold above the bleary-eyed production crew and delivers a surprise farewell address.
"I've been cleaning out my trail and I found a piece of paper," he tells the crowd in his inimitable "Make it so" brogue. "It's a quote that I read at [the late Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's] memorial, and it suddenly seemed really appropriate.
" `To, walk, we have to lean forward,' " he reads from the writings of British psychotherapist Robin Skynner, " `lose our balance, and begin to fall. We let go constantly of the previous stability, falling all the time, trusting that we will find a succession of new stabilities with each step.... Our experience of the past, and of those dear to us, is not lost at all, but remains richly within us.' "
A bit cryptic, perhaps, but-if Shatner et al. are any indication-Stewart surely knows he'll probably he stuck walking together with his Next Generation colleagues for a long time to come.
May 6, 1994
The near-century that elapsed between the voyages chronicled on the original Star Trek and on The Next Generation wrought changes great and small-including a bigger ship, a Klingon officer, and a lot os less sex for the captain. What will the next century in space bring? A rehab clinic for holodeck addicts? A captain who shares her quarters with her husband? A Borg chief of engineering? Now if they'd only meet up with a planet of plumbers who could install more toilets...
· Year original Enterprise was launched: 2245
· Year TNG's Enterprise was launched: 2363
· Maximum warp speed, original Enterprise: 14.1
· Maximum warp speed, TNG's Enterprise: 9.9
· No. of people on first ship: 430
· No. on new ship: 1,012
· No. of personnel transporter rooms on first ship: 1
· No. on new ship: 6
· No. of bathrooms built for the original Enterprise: 0
· No. on new Enterprise: 2
· No. of Captain Kirk's dalliances: scores
· No. of Captain Picard's romances: 4
· No. of artificial hearts Captain Picard has had to date: 2
· No. of hearts in a Klingon: 1 (but it has eight chambers)
· Estimated no. of pairs of pointy ears used by Leonard Nimoy as Spock: 1 per day
· No. of pairs of gold contact lenses used by Brent SPiner as Data: 1 per season
Mary Makarushka and Daneet Steffens
July 22, 1994
When "Star Trek" was revived as a TV series in 1987, it appeared to be going where its predecessor had gone before. And Scotty, for one, wasn't pleased.
James Doohan, who played chief engineer Montgomery Scott in the original 1966-69 "Star Trek," took his complaint about "Star Trek: The Next Generation" to series creator Gene Roddenberry.
"They were doing shows we had done," Doohan said. "I said, `What's the matter, Gene? Are you running out of writers?' "
But Doohan now believes Roddenberry was trying to use "Next Generation" to perfect things he didn't get quite right in the original series.
"I don't think Gene was too happy with some of the characters on the original. In a way, he was a perfectionist." Doohan said.
July 25, 1994
Marina Sirtis, who played half-alien counselor Deanna Troi in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," expressed mock indignation toward the show's writers over the series' final scene.
In it, the crew is playing poker when the reserved Capt. Jean-Luc Picard uncharacteristically asks to join the game. (She joked that the cast referred to Patrick Stewart's character as "Pecan, whackiest nut of the galaxy.")
Sirtis, at a Star Trek convention through Sunday in Tulsa, Okla., quipped that she never understood how the writers allowed her character - who possesses telepathic powers - to play poker.
"How stupid can they be?" Sirtis said. "It's like, I'd wait until a really good hand came up and say, `No, Geordi, honey, I can't tell if you're bluffing.' " The "blind" Cmdr. Geordi LaForge was played by LeVar Burton.
The syndicated show, set in the 24th century, concluded in May after seven seasons.
Patrick Stewart Says Goodbye To Picard And The Enterprise-At Least For Now.
What a pompous ass," muses actor Patrick Stewart. "Can you imagine talking that way to other actors!"
While readers of the supermarket tabloids will assume that Stewart is talking about his Generations co-star, William Shatner, he's actually referring to himself. At the beginning of the series seven years ago, Stewart admits, he could be a trifle obnoxious. "Before my Americanization," he says.
"I blush to recall that," he adds softly. "I'd say, `All right, Number One can have the bridge, but he stays in his own chair.' Can you believe anyone would behave like that? Happily, those days are behind me.
"I was fortunate enough to work with a group of people who I think liked me enough to not want me to go on being a pompous ass," Stewart continues. "I do remember a company meeting I called during the first season-Denise Crosby was still on the show-and I said that I felt that the set was much too undisciplined and that we should all exhibit much more self-control. I remember Denise saying, `Come on, Patrick, it's just fun.' I said, very adamantly, `We're not here to have fun!' Well, they wore me down. They wouldn't do the things I wanted them to do." He pauses for a moment. "They just laughed at me. As it turned out, I had the best time of my life in the last five or six years of the show."
Though he credits Star Trek: The Next Generation with loosening him up and helping him to laugh at himself, Stewart is nonetheless satisfied that the series went off the air when it did.
"I started to fear that I, as an actor, might begin to repeat myself," he says. "The days were not as fresh and exciting or as interesting as they had been, and I was looking for new pastures. I do wish we had not gone on to the movie quite as quickly as we did. I had four days off between the wrapping of the series and stepping on board the Lady Washington in Santa Monica Bay [the holodeck ship on which Lt. Worf is promoted]. Luckily, I didn't have much character research to do."
As it stands, Stewart is very proud of the Next Generation's feature debut and pleased that it was able to include members of the original series cast, most notably William Shatner.
"I had the most passionate voice for this being a truly transitional movie," he says. "Three years ago when rumors of a feature film were whirling around, I said, `This film must include as many members of the original crew as possible.' When it became a reality and there would be a role for Bill, I was so anxious about whether or not he would want to do it. It would have been a bitter disappointment if he had pulled out. Once we got together and I got to tune to just how Bill plays this guy, I felt we had the makings of a really nice team."
Their chemistry as a team, it seems, was so good that Paramount decided that it had not been exploited enough in the original ending. "The problem," Stewart says, "occurs after we've brought the two captains together. It's the moment where Bill says, `It sounds like fun,' and we go galloping off to save the universe. When we arrived down on the planet, basically I said, `Okay, Captain, you go that way and I'll go this way,' and we split up. Whereas what the fans wanted to see was the two captains shoulder to shoulder. That was the whole point of bringing us together, and that's not what it was. So the reshoot was a very sensible action. I think there could have been even more of that `buddy' quality about the last part."
Perhaps inevitably, the film made Stewart think about the importance of the character to his career and his personal development. "The edges between Picard and myself have become somewhat blurred," Stewart says. "I'm not sure where one leaves off and the other begins. Over the years, a lot of what I believe and what interests me and gets my attention has gone into Jean Luc Picard. And some of him, I hope, has rubbed off on me. The differences between Picard and Kirk are pretty obvious. Picard is essentially a negotiator, a talker, a diplomat. Kirk is very much a man of action. He would throw a punch first and ask questions afterward."
And now, after seven years, Patrick Stewart must pursue his career without a regular Star Trek gig, which occasionally fills him with apprehension. To prepare for this moment and to avoid typecasting, he has spent the past four years taking parts that offer striking contrasts to Picard. His recent performances include a maitre d' from hell in A Love Story and a monstrous drug baron in Gunmen. He has also narrated documentaries like The MGM Story for the Turner Network.
"All of this was very deliberately and carefully chosen because I did have genuine fears that the role might become an albatross around my neck. I hope I have a lot of working life ahead of me and I don't want to become handicapped by Star Trek. So far, it seems that, on the contrary, it has opened up all kinds of interesting opportunities for me."
Among those acting opportunities are a middle-aged gay lover of a young dancer in Jeffrey, a dancing coach who's a bit of a hustler in Let It Be Me and a return to the Royal Shakespeare Company during the next two or three years. The English stage, of course, is where Gene Roddenberry found him seven years ago.
"I never permitted myself dreams that would encompass the realities of today," says the actor, who started at the prestigious RSC in the mid-'60s. "When I was 17, my dreams were exclusively fixed on being a Shakespearean stage actor. That's all I wanted to do-and when, finally in 1966, I was accepted into the Royal Shakespeare Company, I felt that there was nowhere else I would ever want to be. At the end of the first season I was offered a three-year contract to stay on. I can still remember that little phone booth where I called my [then] wife and said, `It's happened. I'm just going to stay here forever.'
"But that it should ever lead into an American TV series is not something I could have imagined," he says. "There's not a single day of it I would change. I feel I've been extraordinarily blessed."
Cinescape - Edward Gross
Data's Seven-Year Quest For Humanity Has Lead Brent Spiner To A Career Crossroads
"When I got the part, I feared that it would be a very limited one," Brent SPiner says about the role of Data, the android science officer on Star Trek: The Next Generation. "But not only did the character have an arc that allowed him to grow through the seven years toward humanity and understanding the subtleties and idiosyncrasies of what it is to be human, but I always got to play other characters."
He explains that he was given the opportunity to "try on" different forms of humanity throughout the run of the show. These included Data's take on Sherlock Holmes and Spiner's interpretation of the android's droid brother and human father. "There were episodes," he says with a smile, "where I would play four or five characters. It couldn't have been a better job. I remember in the very beginning that Gene Roddenberry and I discussed where we wanted the character to go and his notion was, and I quite agree with him, that the journey my character would be on was that with each passing year he would get closer and closer to humanity and, finally, would be extremely close but still not a human. I think that's the way it went and it's still going that way."
The evolution continues in Star Trek: Generations, which offers Data the opportunity to insert an emotion chip that pulls him through the full gamut of human feelings.
"For a long time, I had been sort of euphemistically painting on a very narrow palette in muted colors," he says. "So the film was a real opportunity to cut loose and be wild. When I first read the script, I was a little concerned because it was so different, even though it represented the natural evolution of the character. Thinking about it, I finally came to the conclusion that, in a worst-case scenario, at least they'd love me in France."
This Jerry Lewis for sci-fi lovers believes that Data achieving emotion is only the beginning of the character's growth.
"The character went from being child-like and naive in the series to being a different kind of child in the movie, because of the newness of the emotions and the inability to control them. So he was a child with emotion. I think the obvious place to take the character is into a gradual emotional maturity. That can only mean romance, can't it? What I hope would occur is a deepening of understanding of emotion and how to deal with that."
Which is not to say that Spiner wants to jump right back into his gold makeup and yellow contact lenses any time soon. Although he thoroughly enjoyed making Generations, particularly the extra time features are allotted for experimentation ("We had the opportunity to try and get it right as opposed to just get it on film," he says), he is ready to try something new.
"We'd done 178 hours of the series, and 178 hours of anything is enough," he explains. "It was a brutal seven years of work and I am glad that I don't have to get up at 5:00 in the morning anymore. Maybe a couple of people would have been interested in doing an eighth season, but not many of us. I think we felt we'd done enough for seven years, and with luck we'll get to come back and do it every couple of years as a film."
So, if Spiner has his way, the TNG film franchise will continue.
"The movies would be appealing because I'd get to come back together with my friends and have some fun again," Spiner offers sincerely. "It would be like going to summer camp every couple of years."
Cinescape - Edward Gross
Technical design, graphic design, interactive features, HTML & CGI programming by Andrew Tong. || All materials Copyright © 1987-1995 by their respective authors. || Document created: May 28, 1994 || Last Modified: November 09, 2010