How the Enterprise-D nearly crashed and burned before it ever took flight.
William Shatner’s latest Star Trek document delves into the troubled birth of The Next Generation, offering a warts-and-all glimpse of the problems that nearly derailed the mid-Eighties revival before a single shot had been filmed.
For fans of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Chaos on the Bridge may be an uncomfortable watch. The Great Bird of the Galaxy is portrayed as a rather bitter figure, set adrift by Hollywood and not wanting Paramount to make another series of Star Trek in the first place. Fighting a battle against drink and drug use, Roddenberry had allegedly started to believe his own hype as a visionary, reported as believing that he could have even started a religion if he so desired.
Fortunately, religion wasn’t part of Roddenberry’s mindset by this point in his life, having embraced humanism, an ideal he seemed determined to thrust upon The Next Generation at all costs. There was to be no conflict between characters or even species, meaning that many of the show’s early writers struggled to instil any sense of drama into their scripts.
Not that there wasn’t drama behind the cameras. We learn of power games and stand-offs, cringe-worthy auditions, egos at war, and a lawyer intent on giving script notes to some of the most experienced television writers on the Paramount lot. The actors themselves remember frustrations, disappointment and, in the case of Denise Crosby, having to steal food from the set of Cheers as little had been provided for the crew of the new Enterprise! Watch out especially for short, but scathing comments from Doctor Pulaski actor, Diana Muldaur.
The candid interviews are fascinating, especially when we are treated to contradictory stories, cast and crew remembering the same events in very different ways.
Host and director William Shatner throws himself into the role of investigative journalist to unearth the truth about the turbulent production, animated comic book style illustrations giving the production a polished finish, packed with wry humour and knowing winks.
Shatner’s documentary closes as production of the third series commences. Power had shifted behind the scenes and the on-screen adventures were about to take a new, ultimately highly successful, direction. Despite the battles behind cameras, The Next Generation was finally travelling at Warp Speed.
Verdict: A must for any fan of The Next Generation, full of often shockingly honest interviews and fascinating behind-the-scenes intrigue. 8/10