Looking Back At TNG With Director Rob Bowman, Part 2
Rob Bowman was just 27 years old when he directed “Where No One Has Gone Before,” the first of 13 Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes he would go on to shoot. Several of them are fan favorites. It’s 25 years later and Bowman is still at the top of his game, producing and directing episodes of the hit series Castle. In between TNG and Castle, he produced and/or directed such shows as Quantum Leap, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, The A-Team, The X-Files and Day Break, and directed the films The X-Files, Reign of Fire and Elektra. It’s been a while since Bowman directed a feature, but he’s been represented on the big screen recently by… The Next Generation. When two episodes played theatrically this past summer to celebrate the Season One Blu-ray set, they were the Bowman-helmed “Where No One Has Gone Before” and “Datalore.” Just last week, fans enjoyed a theatrical showing of two second-season hours from the Season Two Blu-ray set – which is available today -- and one of them, “Q Who?,” was directed by Bowman. StarTrek.com recently tracked Bowman down in an editing suite in Los Angeles as he put the final touches on an upcoming Castle episode, and he recounted hooking up with TNG, shared memories of shooting his episodes and filled us in on his Castle work. Below is part two of our extensive conversation.
Another popular episode you directed was “Elementary Dear Data.” What do you recall most about working on the London street set?
Bowman: We were on that set and there was a two shot of LeVar and Brent. Brent’s process was usually to bark a little bit about what he had to say before he said it, and it wasn’t necessarily reflective that that was written wasn’t good. That was just part of his process. “I can’t say this stuff.” “I can’t do this.” Then you say, “Action” and it’s like that person vanishes and his perfect version of Sherlock Holmes shows up. The switch alone was mind-boggling. Then you’d say, “Cut,” and he’d say, “Well, that was no good. I can’t make this stuff any good. It’s just not fun to do.” I’d say, “Actually, Brent, it was brilliant. Thank you very much.” The whole journey of “Elementary Dear Data” was just so memorable, walking in the night before and seeing the set completed, pre-smoked, houselights on, and feeling as a very young man, that I was standing on the stage of a major studio looking at a huge Sherlock Holmes set. I was so grateful. And it was great fun, with all the costumes and everything. It was as fun as you might imagine it would be and it lived up to everything you wanted it to be.
Three of your episodes – “Where No One Has Gone Before,” “Datalore” and “Q Who?” – have played in theaters as part of the celebrations of TNG’s 25th anniversary and the Blu-ray releases of Season One and Season Two. Did you have a chance to see the episodes on the big screen?
Bowman: I haven’t because my to-do list on Castle doesn’t seem to ever end. So I have not had the pleasure of seeing those on the big screen. But I know they were remastered and a friend of mine, Bruce Golan, did the remastering. So I felt very, very confident that those would be stunning.
What does it mean to you to see the episodes upgraded to HD, to see the effects updated?
Bowman: It’s extremely cool. First of all, somebody has to be passionate enough to want to do these things – the studio – because it’s not free. So my hat is off to the studio for saying, “Let’s make these new and shiny, and let’s add things.” It’s exciting to me that the fans are still enthusiastic about it and that people are still spending money on it. That, to me, is just the coolest thing in the world.
For the Season Two Blu-ray set you sat and recorded commentary with Dan Curry, Mike Okuda and Denise Okuda. What was that experience like? Did it all come rushing back to you?
Bowman: It did all come rushing back, as if it happened yesterday. Look, I knew then, when we were making the episodes, that I was part of television history. Gene (Roddenberry) was around when I was there and I just got giddy being around that guy. The durability of the shows and the fact that the themes still resonate… I can’t say I was completely aware of it back then, but it seems to make sense now why the show does endure.
Going back to your episodes, what comes to mind at the mention of “Q Who?”?
Bowman: That was Maurice Hurley’s pitch and I remember Rick Berman explaining it all to me, about the Borg, how there was nothing we could do to overcome them, that we had to learn to coexist with them, would there ever be détente with them? That was a brand-new thing because, as I’ve said, it seemed like every episode Patrick would walk towards the screen at the end of act one and say, “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” and then, by the end of the episode, they’ve figured it out or conquered it and vanquished them. And that was not going to happen with the Borg. So that was a very interesting concept to me. The fact that I was going to have a chance to work with John de Lancie, who was going to square off with Patrick, well, again, I’ve got the best seat in the house for two extraordinarily talented actors going at it. So lucky me for that. Then I remember that I wanted to put across Q’s boyish mischievousness. That was fun. He didn’t follow order. He didn’t follow form or protocol. So putting him up in the window in Ten Forward or having him lounge on the floor of the bridge, that was him being petulant and just really getting on Picard’s nerves. In terms of how I shot it, I’m fairly certain I’d shoot it a little differently now, but I also know that shooting any show in seven days, you do a lot of things just to make the time. I watched that episode recently and I’m still very, very proud of it. And the most important thing is that the ideas that were asked to be put forward are what come through.
We promised we wouldn’t make you go through all 13 episodes in detail, and we won’t. But, is there another episode or two that was special or memorable to you for whatever reason?
Bowman: Honestly, there wasn’t one of them that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, especially any time we had the holodeck. For “Brothers,” we were making up the jungle on Stage 16. I don’t have anything but gratitude and fond memories for all of those shows.
Let's switch to Castle. Any TV show is tough to make, but are we right in assuming that Castle is about as much fun to do as a show can be?
Bowman: Yeah. Any show is hard to make, like you say, but if you get to laugh while you’re making it, the fun goes up. We have a lot of laughs on Castle. It’s a good group.
We’ve all heard about the Moonlighting curse and what happens when you romantically connect the leads of a show. It seems to be working just fine for Castle. What went right?
Bowman: The writers and the actors (of Castle) have to have the dexterity within a scene to move from murder to innuendo to insults, back to murder, without these big, clunky shifts. That’s the trick – and it’s a trick for the directors, too – and it’s how to move seamlessly through all the little shifts in one scene. You never know what they’re going to say. They don’t just talk about murder. They don’t just talk about sex or sexual innuendo. They combine it all into one scene. That’s the thing you need, and our pulling it off is thanks to the writers and cast.
You had Michael Dorn on a few times as Kate’s therapist. Any chance he’ll be back? And you just had Jonathan Frakes in to direct…
Bowman: I hope Michael will be back. I hope so, just so I can see him. The episode that Jon did, we aimed that for him. That script was written knowing that he was going to direct it. His on-set energy and buoyancy is just irreplaceable. I thought – and everybody else seemed to, too – that it was an absolutely hilarious show. It was a good show and good to see the old Fraker-man. And he’ll be back.
You’re a producer and director on the show. At this point, given all your responsibilities, how many episodes a season do you direct?
Bowman: I don’t direct enough. The crazy part of this show, as Andrew Marlowe termed one day, is it works best when he doesn’t write and I don’t direct. I said, “Well, that’s all screwy and backwards,” but he’s got to run the writers and I cut all the shows. So if I need to go direct, there’s just too much to do on Andrew’s daily list. I think I do four a year now.
Click HERE to read part one of our interview with Rob Bowman.
Season Two is a 5-disc set that includes all 22 episodes, as well as more than 120 minutes of brand-new documentaries that include recently recorded cast and crew interviews. Fans can expect an extended version of the episode “The Measure of a Man,” audio commentaries, a gag reel, Archival Mission Logs and Featurettes (among them “Reunification: 25 Years After The Next Generation” and “Making It So: Continuing The Next Generation”). Season Two will be available for the suggested retail price of $129.99 in the U.S.
You can order Season Two on Blu-ray by clicking your country below.