Spiner Comes To The Defense Of Rick Berman (and JJ Abrams)

Brent Spiner, Data on Star Trek The Next Generation, is known to speak his mind, but it appears these days he is being rather conciliatory. In a new interview wth SyFyRadio (airing tonight), Spiner defends both Trek’s past and present masters, Rick Berman and JJ Abrams. Some advanced excerpts below.


Spiner on Berman
Bashing long-time Trek producer Rick Berman seems to be popular with many Trekkies, but Spiner has a different take, telling SyFy Portal:

It think it’s really short-sighted of people to give Rick grief. I just say to any of them, ‘You go produce a television show and produce hundreds of hours of television shows,’ which these people have watched more than once
Rick more than anybody else protected Gene Roddenberry’s vision. There were times we wanted to do things in an episode, and Rick would be, ‘No, no, no. Gene wouldn’t want that and that’s not what Star Trek is about.’

Spiner on Abrams
Some Trekkies are still trying to get their heads around JJ Abrams new Star Trek with a new crew, following the Next Generation, but again Spiner comes to the defense of the change, saying:

I hope it’s a wonderful success. It looks fun and Leonard [Nimoy] is involved and J.J. [Abrams] is a really talented guy. I know a lot of those actors [involved] and they are fantastic. I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be successful.

It’s senseless to be anything other than optimistic about it. It’s also typical of every genre. It’s like in James Bond, well Sean Connery was it. Then Roger Moore came along, and they were like, ‘Roger Moore? No way!’ Then it was ‘Roger Moore, OK.’ Batman is the same way. ‘Not Christian Bale! Christian Bale as Batman? No way’ Then, ‘Oh, that’s pretty good.’

Hear much more from Brent tonight
Listen to the whole 35-minute interview Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on SyFy Radio (www.SyFyRadio.com).

Michael Hinman and Spiner talk about all aspects of Trek, Spiner’s new album "Dreamland" and his January appearance at Phoenix Comicon.


Thanks to SyFy Portal for providing advance excerpts of their Spiner interview

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December 10, 2008 1:20 am

Kudos to Data! He is so right!

The Last Maquis
December 10, 2008 1:25 am

I guess With Data Being Blown up and All Brent has kinda assured No one Else will ever play him.

December 10, 2008 1:28 am

Man…don’t EVEN get me started on the Rick Berman issue again.

Won’t hear cries to put him back in charge any time soon.

Nuff said.

December 10, 2008 1:42 am

There has been too much negative comment about Rick Berman… I agree with Brent. The franchise did great under Berman but overall “All good Things.”

JJ is now the man

December 10, 2008 2:07 am

I can’t find fault with a single thing Spiner said.

December 10, 2008 2:24 am

Well, before Moore took over Bond there was Lazenby of course. But let’s not assume Star Trek is going to be anything like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
And wasn’t the Batman outrage directed more towards Keaton back in the day than Bale? Or was there lots of Bale frustration which I simply didn’t know about?

Anyway, Spiner is quite right.

December 10, 2008 2:37 am

Yeah guys. Lay off Berman. He did his best and produced episodes we all know and love.

What does God want with a Starship?
December 10, 2008 2:57 am

Re 6, Green Ink. What was wrong with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? It is actually one of the best Bond stories and a very good film, Lazenby done a good job, he just tried too hard to be Connery that’s all.

You are right about the Batman thing though, nothing was said about Bale, people did question Keaton before the film came out.

Spiner is right, Berman may have lost the plot a bit with Enterprise (I don’t think that show is all bad by the way), but if it wasn’t for him I would not be a Star Trek fan. So thank you Rick

Mike Thompson (UK)
December 10, 2008 3:29 am

Well, someone has to take the blame for the last two movies.

Chris M
December 10, 2008 3:45 am

I couldn’t agree more! Rick Berman did an outstanding job when he was in charge of Star Trek!!

Did he make mistakes? Of course he did but as Brent said he oversaw hundreds of hours of Televison and four Movies so he was never going to get it perfect!

And I agree with #8 as far as Star Trek: Enterprise goes. An underrated series and I thought the fourth season especially (apart from the finale) was excellent!

And as for JJ Abrams, well he’s my new hero for bringing Star Trek not only back to life but more popular (seemingly) than ever before! :)

December 10, 2008 3:46 am

Spiner’s right, the grief heaped on Berman is unfair. Certainly his time at the helm of Trek has passed – and I suspect Berman would say the same even if, as highly unlikely as it is, he were offered that spot again. But we ought to be grateful that he gave Trek life long beyond its creator.

TV's Frank
December 10, 2008 4:14 am

Berman created DS9 and Enterprise and they’re my two favorite Treks. He did a damn good job.

Hat Rick
December 10, 2008 4:44 am

You know you’ve watched too much Trek when you can actually hear an actor’s voice in your head as you read his words. It sounds very much like Mr. Spiner — friendly, casual, approachable, and reasonable. He’s long been one of my favorite members of the Trek family.

December 10, 2008 4:52 am

He’s on the ball.
People should lay off Rick Berman and get a grip of themselves and reflect on as Spiner says,”hundreds of hours of television shows”. He gave you all your fix of Trek in the 90s.

These right wing trekkies who think they are gods gift and know it all really don’t have a clue.

Rant over.

December 10, 2008 4:54 am

Berman had his hand on the tiller for some of Trek’s finest hours. That he went on too long and over saturated the franchise is a fact, but should not be the enduring memory of his legacy. He was a good bloke, and oversaw some great stuff.

Mike T.
December 10, 2008 5:00 am

I don’t think the major problem was Berman. I think the problem was not allowing other writers to submit stories like they did for TOS where you had popular sci-fi writers doing stories for Trek.

When you have a handfull of people writing nearly every hour long story for years then expect the stories to get stale and ideas recycled.

Berman should have stayed the “show runner” and he should have allowed story submissions. If they have a good story make them join the writers union if that was the problem.

December 10, 2008 5:01 am

I dig Berman and Braga too, they put out a ton of top-quality Trek. Admittedly it came along with some not-so-great stuff, but like Spiner said, YOU try to do their job.

It just seems every time they’d stop trying to make a good show and do a nod to the fans, unmitigated disaster would result. The NX-01 being styled after the fan-loved Akira class, for example, and “These Are The Voyages” was supposed to be a “love letter to Trek fans” — ai ai ai.

Peter Lemonjello
December 10, 2008 5:20 am

You heard it Trekkies, stop giving Berman grief.

December 10, 2008 5:30 am

Rick Berman is the George W Bush of Trek.

P Technobabble
December 10, 2008 5:30 am

As the Captain of any ship is responsible for the actions of his crew, Rick Berman was the Captain and any short-comings must fall on his shoulders. I completely understand the difficulties in producing hours and hours of television. I once directed a 1/2 hour pilot for a sitcom, which took several months to complete, the producer of that project was constantly in the way, we had actor problems, crew problems, equipment problems… in the end, the whole thing was a disaster and never saw the light of day… thank God.
My biggest criticism with Star Trek under Mr. Berman’s command was that the show became a cliche of itself. I’m not too sure about Mr. Berman being adamant about what Gene Roddenberry would allow or not allow, because there are plenty of items that seemed contrary to Gene’s vision… but that’s just my opinion. I’m also not sure about Mr. Berman not allowing story submissions… well into VOY’s run, Trek was still the only show in history to accept unsolicited submissions from anyone… some of those submissions went on to become episodes.
Making television or film is far more difficult and complex than watching television or film. We watch a show, and then react to it… completely taking for granted what the makers of that show had to go through in order to get it on the screen.

December 10, 2008 5:31 am

Rick Berman is the George W Bush of Trek

December 10, 2008 5:42 am

Of course Spiner would defend Berman. He is one of his croonies.

Why would he bite the hand that made him into a prominent star in the Trek franchise and millions of dollars?

December 10, 2008 5:58 am

Berman intentional sank TOS by killing Kirk.

Berman then sank Trek by producing 100s of hours of mediocre, bland & generic sci-fi boredom.

All the while collecting a handsome 8 figure salary as Sherry Lansing (who used to run Paramount) thought he was the man. Not entirely his fault as few would turn down huge money to repeat themselves over & over etc etc but he was always just a Paramount TV producer who got very lucky that Gene did not object to him. You can count on one hand the number of memorable Trek episodes/movies he was involved in.

Paramount made a huge amount of money out of the Berman produced TV series which is why he was retained for so long and the movies budgets were not huge (except for First Contact) so he only had limited resources to work with and Stewart & Spiner sucked up most of them anyway by acting like spoilt children unless they got their own storylines & huge salaries otherwise they would holdout.

I think you have to hold Berman, Stewart & Spiner jointly responsible for the failure of ST9 & 10.

Star Trackie
December 10, 2008 6:18 am

“‘No, no, no. Gene wouldn’t want that and that’s not what Star Trek is about.’”

Well ya know Rick…and Brent, NONE of the spin-offs were what “StarTrek” is about. Try watching a handful of episode of TOS, then follow it by watching any of the spin-offs and you’ll see what I mean. They aren’t remotely similar…whether Gene created one of them or not…they are set in the same fictional universe, but that’s where any resemblence to “STar Trek” ends.

December 10, 2008 6:35 am

#24 Gene started TNG and was with the show for a couple of years before he died.

TNG was the modern Trek. You apparently don’t understand what Star Trek really is about. TOS was not the end-all and be-all to Trek. In many ways TNG and the other shows were better. All of the shows were social commentary wrapped up in a sci-fi setting. Nothing changed in that regard. TOS has maybe 2 seasons-worth of good episodes, and that’s being generous.

December 10, 2008 6:40 am

@ #19 and #21
an insulting and absolutely wrong and arrogant comment.
wouldn´t it be Rick Berman i would have never become the Trek fan i am. In my estimation he produced the best Trek episodes of all times during his time with TNG and DS9. He kept the ship on course and dedicated 15 years of his life to Star Trek. Its so easy and self-righteous to sit back in a chair and to criticize and dream about “good ol Trek” which nobody in the Ninetees liked, me neither. Berman did a hell of a job. His greatest failure nevertheless is Voyager and especially the casting of the series (Hate Kate Mulgrew and Harry Kims actor don´t remember his name) but his masterpieces overshine this by far

December 10, 2008 6:44 am

berman would never have allowed the ipod boutique in the new movie represent a constitution class bridge, or approve of that bulbous, droopy goony-bird that is now alleged to be the 1701.

tos, tng and ent were truly trek. the fans that mistook deep snore nine and voyager lost in space for trek are the ones who brought an end to the excellent back to basics enterprise series.

ds9 and voy, for all the probs i have with them, were still pretty good trek, i suppose, and honored trek continuity and standards, but this new movie?

i have accepted it as a big budget fan flick, of sorts

#19 if abrams is the BO of trek, then its worse than i originally feared… of course, at least abrams has experience in the job he occupies, i thought cloverfield was great.

December 10, 2008 7:02 am

I’m glad Brent said something. While I wasn’t thrilled with everything he did, Berman gets trashed far too much. He’s the one that got TNG’s act together and made it a success. If he and others are guilty of anything it’s that they simply stuck around for too long.

December 10, 2008 7:03 am

Enterprise is an underrated show, but it’s underrated because Rick Berman managed to turn off lots of people to the show with the stupid theme to the show and the introduction of the Temporal Cold War.

These were Rick Berman ideas and it ruined Star Trek on TV. And then, as Enterprise was fading into the sunset, he made a good decision in brining Manny Coto on (which Berman dropped out most of the writing in the fourth season – hence why it’s so good), but then let the series die and not find another home, justifying it by saying it would be too expensive.

Garbage if you ask me.

Rick Berman deserves all the blame. Star Trek started going downhill after DS9 concluded, and he deserved to get shoved out of the franchise. He did a good job of keeping Roddenberry’s idealism in Star Trek, which is why he wasn’t heavily involved in the writing of DS9. Hmm. No wonder why DS9 was such a good series.

December 10, 2008 7:09 am

I have mixed feelings about Rick Berman. I think he saved Next Generation. I loved DS9. Voyager was OK. He blew it BIG TIME with Enterprise – a show that should have been the re-invention of the franchise but instead was a stale rehash of TNG, DS9 and VGER. Enterprises 4th season is how the series should have started. Enterprise was an opportunity squandered. OK, i’ll just blame Braga. Rick, you’re off the hook.

Robert H.
December 10, 2008 7:10 am

And the funny thing is if Rick did such a lousy job, why did people still watch Voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise and have a whole fan base revolve around those shows? And what makes them so different from the other Treks?

2 out of 3 don’t involve the Enterprise, and Enterprise is claimed that is interferes with canon while ALL the Treks have interfered with canon on many parts. Which many are griping over the new Star Trek movie without even seeing it.

Though the Treks he produced were not among my favourites, the were still pretty good. Except Deep Space Nine which I found too gloomy.

Generations was good, not great, but good. First Contact was great! Insurrection was horribly under appreciated. Nemesis was written by the same guy who wrote Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator”, so no wonder it tanked at the box office.

December 10, 2008 7:13 am

Spiner makes excellent points on both Rick Berman and JJ Abrams. I personaly never bashed Berman.

Did he make make mistakes? Yes he did but the was loads of great Trek made under his tenre. The one thing Berman should have done more was to take risks and taken a back when it came to writing, escpecially on Enterprise.

He is a good writer at the start, I loved his first script for TNG, which was ‘Brothers’ but I felt he wrote too much for Enterprise.

Anyway my concerns about JJ Abrams new film are stil strong but I am resigned to the fact that JJ Abrams has changed one thing too many. There is only one way for me to embrace the new movie and that is to not accept it as canon.

I hate the way Abrams has steered the producton design. I hate the new bridge and I hate the nacelles on the redesigned Enterprise, makes me and a friend wish they had gone for Gabe Kroener’s design now.

Its one of the reasons I am so tempted to petition to bring back Rick Berman

December 10, 2008 7:19 am

Yet another reason why Brent Spiner is awesome!

1701 over Gotham City
December 10, 2008 7:32 am

Berman deserves most of the trash heaped on him… not all, perhaps, but a heavy amount.
Trek became dry, pasty and utterly unpalatable. A good plot and tension could be developed for an episode that was suddenly solved by two or three lines of completely unsalvagable and ridiculous technobabble in the last 2 minutes. Yes, writers are to blame but it ends at Berman’s doorstep.

I don’t believe he really held on to Gene’s ideals at all. And the absolute best moments of Enterprise are post Berman, when it was far too late to salvage the show.

Dr. Image
December 10, 2008 7:33 am

What a lot of hot air.
What do you expect him to say??
Berman had MANY opportunities- and tons of money at hand- to alter the failing course of Trek after Voyager yet he blew it by keeping Braga on the front lines.
I have no sympathy. Nor any interest in “towing the party line” on this.
Bash away. I don’t care.

December 10, 2008 7:43 am

23 – You are SPOT ON THE MONEY. Stewart/Spiner/Berman ran Trek movies into the ground. Thank heavens J.J. is rebooting the franchise.

December 10, 2008 7:51 am

There is a lot of stuff I could say about Rick Berman and Brannon Braga.
I will not do that.

Because Star Trek is about the future, not the past.
And the future is where Bob Orci and the others are taking us, again.

Thanks guys.

December 10, 2008 8:10 am

I thought Rick was a great for the TV stuff, but when things went big screen I feel the scope and the stories were only marginally better than beefed up episodes. With First Contact being the exception.

December 10, 2008 8:11 am

Should I let the domain http://www.beambermanout.com expire then?

I didn’t like the meaningless offing of Kirk.
I personally don’t like the whole Holodeck thing in TNG.
Enterprise could have been approached completely differently.

Instead, I felt that B&B ran a multi-billion dollar industry into the ground. The power was way too much for one (or two) people to handle, and it was squandered. Whomever said he’s the George W. Bush of Star Trek, you nailed it.

Author of The Vulcan Neck Pinch for Fathers
December 10, 2008 8:22 am
#20: My biggest criticism with Star Trek under Mr. Berman’s command was that the show became a cliche of itself Absolutely the most spot-on commentary/critique of Berman’s trek. I find the notion that Berman was faithful to Roddenberry’s vision a little disingneuous. Roddenberry hated the very technobabble that Berman couldn’t live without, and helped turn TNG into the cliched, flying Marriott it became. Were there some great TNG episodes? Of course. But the general direction of Trek deteriorated under his leadership. Wesley saved the ship once too often; Picard couldn’t make a decision without a week’s notice and ten staff meetings; in TNG’s world, everyone was antiseptic, perfect, conflict-free, and as bland as oatmeal, while in TOS the characters’ flaws went into space with them. Kirk’s bombast, Spock’s internal struggle, McCoy’s irascibility. Not one TNG character had that kind of depth – until Pulaski came in, and Roddenberry got rid of her. TNG had great production values, values a 60’s TV show could never have, so it *looked* better than TOS, so in that vein it had a built-in advantage. Berman doesn’t deserve all the criticism, but it is impossible to simultaneously credit him with the successes and deny the weaknesses under his charge. No, I’ve never produced a TV show, but that’s hardly a requirement to critique one. Reminds me of the kid in school who “worked really hard” to do his math paper, but still got the answers wrong. But amid all the debate, remember this: Without TOS… Read more »
Author of The Vulcan Neck Pinch for Fathers
December 10, 2008 8:24 am

#39 I didn’t like the holodeck thing in TNG….

That wasn’t Berman’s idea. Roddenberry wanted to do it in TOS, but they couldn’t quite make it work….don’t remember why.

Chris Basken
December 10, 2008 8:28 am

Enterprise was just flat-out dull. It recycled too many Trek cliches. The actors were given insipid dialogue to chew through. People like to pick out the theme song or story arc elements or continuity, er, discontinuities to blame for the series’ demise. Or the infamous “people are burned out on Trek” excuse, which I hated. People are burned out on being given crap to watch.

But Enterprise failed first and foremost because it failed to entertain and ignite the imagination. If it was a joy to watch each episode, like TNG was (especially for the first 3-4 season), we’d not only forgive things like the theme song, but come to love them.

In the end, it’s about “is this worth spending an hour of my time?” each week.

December 10, 2008 8:31 am
I think the point that is being missed here is that the Star Trek franchise has not only survived over 40 years, but it is alive and kicking. Regardless of whether Berman did the best job he could do, he kept it running for nearly 20 years by himself! There aren’t any other franchises other than Star Wars that have had the same person at the helm for more than 10 years and still have it be successful enough to spawn another TV series or movie. The one major argument I’m going to make in favor of Berman is his success with TNG after the “changing of the guard” in season 2. Let’s not forget that the first season of TNG is often not considered it’s best, and that was the season that Gene Roddenberry had the most influence. The truth is, Gene was trying to recreate TOS in the 1980s, and it just couldn’t be done that way. Berman had a more forwarding looking concept of the franchise, and he helped put it on track for the remaining 5 seasons that eventually gave us some of the best Trek ever made! And whether you acknowledge it or not, without TNG seasons 3 through 7, there would have been no Trek past that point. I think some might agree with me that seasons 1 and 2 could have easily been the end of Star Trek. As for Berman running it into the ground, that may or may not be true.… Read more »
December 10, 2008 8:40 am

Well said sir.
I agree about the flatness and blandness.
The Holiday Inn bridge with the Walmart lighting.
TNG had half characters. Spock was split into Data and Troy etc.
TOS had excitement, conflict, and dared to think big when the production struggled every week to keep it up. It was also remarkably inventive and creative and HAD to be, as it was not riding on anyone’s coat tails.
It completely invented itself.
I also agree that TNG has some good shows, particularly at the end.
This new movie at least appears to be a modernized version of the conflict, sexiness, excitement, and color of the original series.
I sincerely hope Abrams and company can pull it off.

peace : )

December 10, 2008 8:49 am

I’ve never had a strong opinion of Berman one way or another, really, mainly because I stopped watching Trek around the time he was coming into power over it (I didn’t stop watching because of anything I can blame on Berman directly … as near as I can tell, everything I found “meh” about TNG was Roddenberry’s fault).

So if Data says so, I believe him. Brent Spiner rocks :)

John Doe
December 10, 2008 8:51 am

I for one loved every single episode Rick Berman wrote. I think he is a genius.

Scotty's Ashes
December 10, 2008 8:52 am

@ # 10:

Season four of ST: ENT was passable only because Manny Coto had taken over.

There will be no cries of “Give Berman and Braga another chance!” from me or several other Trek fans.

And speaking of Spiner, just what has he done since ST: TNG? Doing occasional gigs at DragonCon? In the end, it doesn’t matter what he or Stewart or Brooks has to say, it matters if the movie sells enough to warrent a sequel. Considering that The Wrath of Khan was Trek’s big reboot and saved the francise, the New Trek Movie has a lot riding on it.

December 10, 2008 8:53 am

Well, my favorite Trek (DS9) was one Berman abandoned early on and thankfully turned over to Ron Moore & Ira Steve Behr. But in all fairness, can Rick be blamed for Voyager’s lameness in its entirety? They did hire, ya know, writers on those shows. I think part of the problem was Rick really did constantly think ‘Would Gene do this? Did Gene do that?’ when he should have just made his own decisions and broke from the mold. After all, Gene was also responsible for the first two abysmal seasons of TNG, and if those had served as a model for later shows…oi vey!

December 10, 2008 8:53 am


I totally agree; I felt Trek got increasingly blander over time….alot of that started with Gene’s take on TNG and it permeated the rest of the shows. The fact that the same writers, producers, production designers, composers, etc. kept moving from one spinoff to the next made everything seem the same. Like I said earlier, Berman and gang simply hung around too long and Paramount failed to recognize that.

December 10, 2008 8:55 am

#43 – “Berman and the Trek franchise didn’t end after Enterprise because THEY gave up on it, it’s because WE did. No audience = no Trek. ”

I stuck it out with all four seasons of Enterprise even though I would just shake my head sometimes at the missed opportunites each week. Still, the first two seasons of Enterprise were just redressed episodes of TNG. The fans had seen it all before, so they left. I still believe that Trek left the fans – the fans never have left Trek.