Last month, we conducted a super-in-depth, 9,000-plus-word interview with former Star Trek executive producer Rick Berman. Many readers were surprised by Berman’s candor as he recounted his 18 years of captaining the Trek ship. As much ground as the three-part conversation covered, some fans still had more questions, and Berman agreed to answer as many as possible in a follow-up talk. Here, then, is part one of a two-part Berman Q&A… with the questions coming straight from you, the readers of StarTrek.com. Please note that we did NOT ask Berman about shepherding new shows or features, as he no longer works for Paramount Pictures and neither has nor will have any involvement with future Star Trek projects.
Why was Ron Jones, who’d been composing music for TNG, dismissed after Gene Roddenberry’s death?
Berman: On various sites, one of them being Wikipedia, I’ve read some pretty nasty things that Ron Jones has said about me, with a general perception that his music was too good and I was not interested in good music. That is insulting and also absurd. The music on Star Trek was something that was supervised by me and by Peter Lauritson. Peter had been involved in hiring and firing conductors from the first episode of Next Generation to the last episode of Enterprise. Ron came on at one point, I forget exactly when, and he did numerous episodes for us. We got along fine. And at one point, because there were other composers we’d try out and we’d use for anywhere from one to dozens of episodes, it got to a point where neither Peter nor I were pleased with Ron’s work. As I believe I said at the time to somebody, he was doing the kind of scoring that was calling attention to itself. That doesn’t mean, as some people have interpreted it, that I wanted dull, boring music. What it means is that the music is there to enhance the scene that is going. The scene is not there to enhance the music. And Ron’s stuff was getting big and somewhat flamboyant. It was a decision that Peter and I made that was just a simple moving on to other composers. I think Ron was a perfectly good composer. I didn’t think he was in the same ballpark as Dennis McCarthy or Jay Chattaway, who we used a good deal of the time. But we decided to move on and try other composers.
In general, why do you think some fans are so hypercritical of every little thing about Star Trek?
Berman: Let’s just look at the definition of the word fan. I think a vast majority of the fans of Star Trek are not hypercritical. They may be critical about certain things. But there is a certain hardcore group that has problems with things. Brent (Spiner) was here with me for several days, and one of the things we talked about was the fact that I’ve been criticized for killing the character of Data. The irony there is that one of Brent’s conditions for doing Nemesis was that he wanted his character killed. He was rather insistent upon it. And since we knew it was mostly likely going to be the last of the TNG movies and since John Logan worked it in that there was a rebirth of Data, in a way, at the end, it was something that we accepted. Then people got critical of me for having killed Data. The same thing was true with Kirk. As we discussed in our interview, as far as anybody knew, Kirk had been dead for a century when the movie Generations began to be conceived. The idea that he had, in fact, fallen into this Nexus and that he was not really dead and that we would bring him back to join Picard, was something that the studio was very positive about and was something that Bill Shatner was very positive about. And it was our way of saluting the Original Series, because initially it was just supposed to be a TNG movie. But, again, I get criticized for killing Kirk. And then all this business with canon, all the specifics of trying to keep all the canon of Star Trek, from the very beginning in 1966 to the present, so that everything is true to everything else, is very, very difficult. There were times we didn’t do it and we were blamed drastically for not respecting the canon, when in fact we did respect the canon and we did our best to stay true to it, and sometimes we didn’t succeed.
What were some directions you had in mind for Enterprise had it not been canceled?
Berman: We wanted to basically develop a show that, by the seventh season, would bring us to a logical and dramatic method of the creation of the Federation. It was something that Manny Coto and Brannon (Braga) and I had not really spelled out specifically, but it was our goal that that’s where the sixth and seventh season were going to go.
What would the fourth-season finale have been like if it were just setting up season five rather than closing out the series?
Berman: We had no idea. We hadn’t gotten that far. We were probably shooting six or seven shows earlier at the time that we got canceled and we had not really decided what the season-four ending episode was going to be. It might have been a cliffhanger or it might not have, but we hadn’t made that decision before learning that the plug was being pulled.
There was supposedly a rivalry between Star Trek and Babylon 5. Did you know about it? Did you care? Or was that perhaps more between fans of the shows?
Berman: It was purely a fan thing. There was a time when, I don’t know whether it was specifically Straczynski or other people, it was implied that he had pitched an idea similar to DS9 to Paramount and that it had been rejected and that, lo and behold, a year or so later DS9 came about. The implication being that Michael Piller and I perhaps stole all or part of his idea, which was always amusing to Michael and I because it was completely untrue. We had no knowledge of this gentleman. If he did pitch something to Paramount, we never heard about it. DS9 was a show that was created by Michael and me and Brandon Tartikoff, who was the recent head of Paramount at the time, without any knowledge of Straczynski or of anything that he had ever pitched. So when we were accused of stealing his idea it was a little sad but at the same time a little comical to us.
Have you been interviewed or done commentaries for any upcoming Star Trek DVD or Blu-ray releases?
Berman: I have not.
Do you wish that Voyager and Enterprise had been in first-run syndication like TNG and DS9, rather than on a low-rated network like UPN?
Berman: You know, that’s a question that I ask myself a lot. After seven years of syndication of TNG and DS9, the studio decided to create the United Paramount Network, UPN, and that their flagship show was going to be Voyager. There was no question that that’s where it was going and that this network was going to be very similar to the syndication (block), mostly similar station groups, but that we would have a “network” in place that would help promote the show and make it work. When it came time to create Enterprise, I had the head of both Fox and NBC call me and really strongly ask me if I would see what could be done about their getting the show. I went to the people at Paramount, kind of excited, and their attitude was they could not do it, that they had to stay true to UPN, which was their baby. So, Enterprise, as Voyager before it, remained on UPN and what happened to UPN was there were changes within the ownership and direction and the executives that were running that network. It slowly started becoming more of a teenage and female network than it had been conceived to be when Voyager began. As a result, it was problematic for us because we were on a network that was being watched by an audience that not attracted to Star Trek, and it affected our ratings. To what degree it affected our ratings, I do not know. If we’d still been in syndication, would the shows have done better? If we’d gone to Fox or NBC, would the shows have done better? It’s all Monday morning quarterbacking.
Tomorrow, in part two of our fan Q&A, Rick Berman discusses the lack of gay characters in Trek, reveals the name of a major-major star who expressed interested in playing a Trek villain, and more.
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