Star Trek: TNG Tidbits

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Third Season BD came out recently, replete with bonus materials. Of course, it’s obscenely expensive (Star Trek releases have always been so) and probably only purchased by obsessives. Us normal fans just fire up episodes on Netflix pretty easily, but then we miss out on remastered HD visuals and bonus features. Fortunately for us, Hercules from AICN has done a seemingly comprehensive recap of all those special features, and there’s lots of behind the scenes gems to be had. The general consensus is that season 3 is where TNG turned the corner from a decent show into a great show, and a lot of these features apparently focus on that. Some interesting tidbits:

* A “technobabble generator” created as a joke by a friend of Shankar became a frequently utilized not-joke writers’ room tool.

Always funny to hear about the teching the tech tendencies of the writers…

* Moore and Braga lament that “Star Trek: Generations,” which they labored on for a year, didn’t turn out as well as “All Good Things,” which took two weeks to write.

* Piller argued against the other writers who wanted Wesley to stay true to his fellow cadets in the season-five episode “The First Duty.” Piller prevailed and Wesley did end up throwing his friends under the bus to put Starfleet Academy honor first. The episode, relates Shankar, is now used at the U.S. Air Force Academy to teach cadets about the honor code.

* The writers reveal Brent Spiner grew weary of stories involving Data’s cat Spot. As a practical joke, they inserted into one script a scene in which Data invents a collar that translates Spot’s meows into English.

* One storyline that was much fought for before Piller shot it down was to kill Will Riker and replace him permanently with his transporter-mishap doppleganger Tom Riker. “It was a chance to reinvent the character,” explains Moore.

* Patrick Stewart, perhaps envious of William Shatner, apparently told every TNG writer he met that Picard wasn’t “shooting and screwing” enough.

* Behr had a great episode idea about Picard getting promoted to admiral and Riker given the captaincy of the Enterprise — and how Picard dealt with the promotions. But Roddenberry insisted Picard’s insecurities regarding his new life were out of character, and the script was scrapped. That concept evolved into the episode in which Picard gets boned on the pleasure planet.

* Frakes was always annoyed when the writers made Riker turn down offers of commanding his own ship. He (and many fans) felt his willingness to decline a captaincy was out of character.

Frakes hits the nail on the head with that last one. I mean, I get why it was done (the show must go on, and having Riker off on some other ship would be either contrived or lame), and it made for some good episodes (The Best of Both worlds 2 parter with the Borg being the most obvious), but the character of Riker was such an experience hound, always game for just about anything, that it’s hard to believe he would turn down a captaincy.

* Ironically given the subject matter of his first script, Moore was not a fan of children living aboard the Enterprise. He also never understood why a psychotherapist was always sitting on the bridge next to the captain. Moore was also no fan of the replicator, which he believed an enemy of drama.

* Rick Berman, Brannon Braga and Moore all once lamented that they should have saved “Yesterday’s Enterprise” for the plot of the “Generations” movie, with the Kirk-Spock Enterprise swapped for the Garrett-Castillo one.

* The staff, which at the time included future “Battlestar Galactica” mastermind Ronald D. Moore, would often refer to Data as “a toaster.”

Lots of other interesting stuff in Herc’s post…