''Star Trek: TNG'': An Oral History

So they had their captain — just in time for another massive problem to loom large over the production.

FONTANA Paramount wanted to open with an hour-and-a-half story and a half hour of interviews and clips from the old show to tie the two together. I said, ''Okay, I will write an hour-and-a-half script.''

JUSTMAN At the last minute, Paramount said, ''No, it's not a 90-minute, it's a two-hour [episode].'' I got Gene to write extra scenes that we inserted into the action.

BERMAN Gene created a second story line about this somewhat omnipotent character named Q, who stops the Enterprise and says: You have to convince me that you're worthy of venturing further out into the galaxy. Oddly enough, the Q story is the far more remembered of the two.

JOHN DE LANCIE, Q [My agent] said, ''You have an audition tomorrow at 4:30, and it's for — gee, there must be a typo, it's just the letter Q. And it's for Star Trek.'' And I went, ''Star Trek? I thought they did Star Trek.'' ''Well, they're doing it again.'' I didn't go because I was rehearsing a play, and I was one of the leads.

A week later my agent called and she said, ''You didn't show up for an audition.'' I said, ''Well, if you can make the audition around lunchtime, I'll be able to do that.'' I took a look at the material very quickly and auditioned. A big guy walked out, put his hands on my shoulder, and said, ''You make my words sound better than they are.'' I said, ''Well, you must be the writer.'' And he said, ''I'm Gene Roddenberry.''

I had absolutely no idea who that was.


The cast was set. The sets were built. Engage!

CROSBY When did I think this was going to fly? Once I got on the set and I saw the other actors. You had people like LeVar Burton and Wil Wheaton, [who was] probably the most famous because of Stand by Me. Then, of course, Patrick Stewart gets on board and you feel like the whole Shakespearean company has entered the room.

BURTON When you've imagined it in your mind so many times, being beamed for the first time, it's a pretty cool thing. But it really just involves standing there and counting to seven, and they do the rest. Unless of course you can find actors who do their own beaming, but none of us were that good — not in the first season, certainly.

DE LANCIE Gene came up to me after about the third day of shooting. He said, ''You have no idea what you've gotten yourself into.'' I said, ''I don't know what you're talking about.'' He said, ''You'll find out.''

There was one actor in ''Encounter at Farpoint'' who did know what Roddenberry meant: the late DeForest Kelley, a.k.a. retired admiral Leonard ''Bones'' McCoy, who, in a memorable cameo, took a tour of the new Enterprise with Data.

FONTANA I wrote it because I thought we should have a connection with the old show. In fact, De was visiting the offices one day [while I was writing]. I said, ''Hey, come in, I want you to read this.'' He said, ''That's really beautiful, but I don't think they'd want someone like me around, do you?'' As it turned out, that scene connected to a lot of people. [Bones'] crowning line — ''Treat her like a lady and she'll always bring you home'' — was very effective. It was an interesting connection between, in essence, [the] Spock-like character [and] the irascible McCoy.

Of course, shooting the first Star Trek TV series in nearly 20 years wasn't all a day on the holodeck, either.

BURTON We hated our space suits. There were no pockets in them. As much as they call it a stretch fabric, spandex in that configuration doesn't give all that much. It hid nothing.

CROSBY None of us had ever done anything remotely like this. We're talking about using pieces of equipment that don't really exist. I remember we had to make-believe we see these weird creatures floating around, these amoeba-like things. The director had to describe this to us. We couldn't help but laugh.

BURTON We were all very nervous. There was a lot of erect posture and crispy Yes, captains. It took a while for us to relax. We were all new to that process of episodic TV. We felt that we were stepping into such big shoes that we took it, and perhaps ourselves, too seriously. I think by the end of season 2, the end of season 3, we really began to hit our stride. We never stopped. We never slowed down until [the finale] ''All Good Things....''

NEXT PAGE: ''I never bought the idea that genuine Star Trek fans had no room in their hearts for a new incarnation. So there.'' [Laughs]


From Our Partners