Rick Berman on TNG's 30th Anniversary, Part 2
Star Trek: The Next Generation celebrates its 30th anniversary this week, and to mark the occasion, StarTrek.com reached out to Rick Berman. He, of course, worked with Gene Roddenberry to launch the show and then ran TNG when Roddenberry pulled back as his health faded. Berman went on to executive produce the TNG features and to executive produce and co-create Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise. Quite appropriately, Berman gave us 30 minutes of his time for a rare interview last week. Below is part two of our conversation; click HERE to read part one.
We’re sure you don't sit around and actively watch TNG episodes these days, but when you catch an episode, how do you feel the show as a whole holds up?
Well, it's a funny thing. What’s always amazing when I happen to watch an episode is that I'm looking at something that I have absolutely no recollection about and that I, of course, was involved with from beginning to end. I hear this from everybody, including the actors. Patrick will tell me that he'll watch an episode and see scenes that he did, and he won't remember a single thing about having done them. In terms of holding up, I think storytelling-wise, dialogue-wise, acting-wise, things hold up, but television has changed so dramatically that when you look at anything from 30 years ago, there's a certain hokeyness.
That's true with any show or movie...
If you look at the best television from the 50's and 60's, the way people speak, the way the camera moves, the way things are lit, everything has evolved. Star Trek and all of television have evolved over the last 30 years and, as a result, some of the stuff looks a little hokey.
Bill Gates just admitted that he regrets not making ctrl alt delete a single button. What’s your single biggest regret when it comes to TNG?
I’d say that probably the only two regrets I have… One was the studio's refusal to let us, with a couple of tiny exceptions, have continuing storylines. They wanted standalone episodes. Also, the fact that Gene felt so strongly about avoiding conflict amongst the Starfleet characters, which made it very difficult for the writers sometimes.
Back in December, you had dinner with everybody from TNG but Gates McFadden. This summer, you posted a photo of you with John de Lancie, Armin Shimerman and Brent Spiner. What does it mean to you and what do you think it says about the overall experience everybody on the show had that they, and you, still seem so close all these years later?
I did four Star Trek series and if I had to list the people I am still very close to, 95% of them are from TNG. I am close to all of them, including Gates, who was out of the country at the time of that dinner. We see each other more than once a year, and people like Patrick and Brent and Jonathan (Frakes), I see on a regular basis. There are people from the other shows I'm close to, Armin Shimerman, René Auberjonois and a number of others. But the tightest group, at least from my point of view, is the TNG group. I know some of the actors from DS9, Voyager and possibly Enterprise are close, but I don’t think it’s quite like with TNG, where everyone is still close and gets together when they can.
Why do you think that is?
I know with me, it has to do with the fact that we all cut our teeth for the first time in series television, dramatic series television at least. I had been a documentarian. In terms of dramatic series television and in terms of Star Trek, we all were born and grew up together with TNG and that bond has, I think, been very important in holding us together over all these years.
Life goes on with or without us and so does Star Trek. Do you miss Trek, and how much attention have you paid to the Abrams-produced movies and Discovery?
I miss it in that it was such an integral part of my life for more than 20 years. I miss the excitement of being somewhat in charge of such a gigantic undertaking and dealing with such talented people who made it all so easy for me. But 20 years was enough. I have seen all the recent movies and have mixed feelings. I think they've been extraordinary because, unlike the films that we made, which were all TNG movies and all with extremely limited budgets, Paramount decided to pull the plug on that, to go full hog on making some very big action science-fiction films that were successful to different degrees, in my opinion. I think they have an amazing look to them. The casting was great. The production was great. As far as the storylines and the content, I wish they’d done a little bit more Star Trek than Iron Man. I wish they’d been a little bit more connected to Gene's vision than big, exciting adventure movies. I have seen them all and enjoyed them. I have been following things that have been written about and things I've heard about Discovery, and I'm curious to see what it's going to be like. I was invited to a screening, which I could not make, and I'll be watching with the rest of the crowd.
What's happening with your Trek memoir?
It's going slowly. I play with it a little bit here, a little bit there. I'm staggered by the number of things you can remember correctly and the number of things you realize you've remembered incorrectly after so many years. I think I've mentioned this to you before, I'll be having dinner with Jonathan and I'll say, "Do you remember the day you did X?" He'll say, "No, that wasn't me, that was Brent." I'll say, "No, no, you're wrong. That was you." Then I'll speak to Brent and he'll say, "No, no, no, it was me." I'll realize, “Wow, I got confused about that.” Then, there will be other times where the same thing will happen and I'll go to Brent and he'll say, "No, that was Jonathan." There are a lot of things you forget and a lot of things you remember incorrectly. When you're trying to write about it, it's difficult and confusing. My wife, who's a writer, is always reminding me that memoirs don't have to be perfect, don't have to have absolutely correct recollections. They're the recollection from the point of view of when you're writing them. The answer to your question is I'm still toying with it. Whether it will ever get done… I'm hoping it will. Will I get done in the very near future? Most likely not.