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Rick Berman Talks 18 Years of Trek In Extensive Oral History

No one spent more time with the Star Trek franchise than Rick Berman, who was a producer from the pilot of Next Generation through to the finale of  Enterprise, overseeing the franchise for most of that time. In a (very) long 2006 interview now available online, Berman gives an oral history of his time on Trek and talks its rise, fall and rise again, as well as his legacy. You can watch it below and/or read some of the bullet-point highlights and key quotes.

 

Berman for posterity
This three hour long interview was conducted May 31st 2006, which was Berman’s last year under contract at Paramount [interview was put online in April, but just came to our attention]. It was done by the Archive of American Television which is part of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (who put on the Emmy Awards). The Archive has a large library of these kinds of "oral histories" which are quite comprehensive. The interview covers Berman’s early career and then goes into lengthy sections for the four Trek shows Berman produced (TNG, DS9, VOY, & ENT), then wraps up talking about the TNG feature films and some summary questions.

HIGHLIGHTS
The first 19 minutes focuses on his background, childhood and early years as a producer and executive in Hollywood, leading up to when he was a vice president at Paramount in the mid 80s and the first word came that Gene Roddenberry would be producing a new Star Trek series and he was assigned to work on it.  Starting at 19:30 Berman starts discussing his history with Star Trek and tells an interesting behind scenes point of view, starting off with the birth of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Berman on TNG [19:30 – 1:17:15]

  • Gene Roddenberry hired Berman partially because he liked that Berman had never seen any Star Trek before
  • TNG syndicated because it could "make more money"and  because "Paramount felt proprietary over the Star Trek franchise."
  • TNG casting tidbits
  • Final audition for Picard was between Patrick Stewart and Stephen Macht
  • At Roddenberry’s insistence Stewart auditioned with wig, Paramount exec John Pike said "go with the English guy, but lose the wig"
  • Berman wanted James Avery for Worf, Roddenberry wanted younger actor so Michael Dorn was chosen (only four years younger)
  • Billy Campbell cast as Riker, but Pike didn’t feel he had command presence, so went with 2nd choice
  • Gates McFadden fired at end of first season because head writer Maurice Hurley "he had a real bone to pick" with Gates and din’t like her acting, Berman brought Gates back for 3rd season after Hurley left
  • Whoopi Goldberg initially wanted to replace Gates McFadden as ships doctor for Season 2, but it was felt she wasn’t right for that role so they created new "Yoda-like" character of Guinan
  • Berman says both Denise Crosby and Wil Wheaton regretted leaving TNG "within less than a year"
  • Berman "proud" of the actor-turned-directors from Trek like Jonathan Frakes, Robert Duncan McNeill, and Roxann Dawson, but others "turned out to be stinkers" (wouldn’t name who)
  • Nick Meyer came to Berman with idea of tying Star Trek VI to TNG, resulting in "Unification"
  • Roddenberry’s 24th century vision with no conflict between core characters "hardest rule for writing staff"
  • Ending TNG after 7 years was "financial’ due to increasing costs and that Paramount motion picture headSherry Lansing wanted a Next Generation movie

Berman on DS9 [1:17:15 – 1:43:10]

  • Berman "never got a chance" to talk to Gene Roddenberry about DS9, but feels it "stayed true" with Roddenberry’s vision
  • Paramount chief Brandon Tartikoff first broached idea for another Trek series to coincide with TNG
  • Tartikoff suggested "The Rifleman in Space" with father and son righting wrongs, kept idea of father and son, but not much else
  • Because show to run along with TNG "we really couldn’t plop another seven people on a space ship…had to do something different"
  • Using Bajorans and Cardiassians to create conflict allowed them to stay within the Gene rules of no conflict between the Starfleet people
  • Co-creator Michael Piller suggested idea of black Captain, resulting casting of Avery Brooks
  • DS9 was meant to be "darker and edgier", partially in response to critique that TNG was "too soft and too white bread"
  • Berman notes that veterans feel Sisko is "the most believable" as a military commander of the Star Trek captains
  • Berman calls Colm Meaney his "favorite actor on Earth" and named character Miles O’Brien after his nephew
  • Alexander Siddig initially considered for Sisko, but too young
  • Dax hardest to cast because it is hard to find actresses who are beautiful and can act who will do television
  • Michael Dorn’s Worf brought over in the fourth season because "ratings were slipping", but he isn’t sure it made a difference in the ratings except maybe "a little"
  • Berman sometimes questioned if Roddenberry would have gone along with spiritual elements of the show, but felt it had enough of a sci-fi element
  • For "Trials and Tribble-ations" they could only do half of the "Forest Gump" type shots mixing DS9 and TOS characters
  • Paramount execs loved to show off the Promenade sets when visitors came to the lot
  • DS9 (and VOY) was created to run 7 seasons

Berman on Voyager [1:43:10 – 2:08:20]

  • After end of TNG Paramount felt two shows running concurrently worked and wanted a replacement, but Beman an Piller felt they "were pushing it" with too much Trek (along with feature films currently in development)
  • Paramount "was adamant" especially about using Trek as anchor for new UPN
  • Without TNG the "could go back to a ship" but wanted woman captain and new setting (Delta quadrant) to "do something we hadn’t done yet"
  • Co-creators Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor "adored" Geneviève Bujold, originally cast as Capt. Janeway, but Berman felt ”there was something funny…that didn’t seem right" with her and her ability to deal with episodic TV
  • They told Bujold about "how horrible" it was to work on episode TV and "painted a very dark picture" but she still wanted to do it, then quit by 2nd day, which he feels "was a wonderful sense of vindication" that he was right about Bujold, as Mulgrew was his first choice as she was "perfect for the part"
  • Kate Mulgrew had "most number of hair issues" of all of Trek (due to others wanting to change her look, not the actress)
  • Berman on Robert Beltran "he grew a little bit frustrated that his part never got quite as big as he hoped it would, but he did a good job"
  • Tim Russ was second choice for Geordi and so Berman was anxious to hire him
  • Berman on character of Kes "it just didn’t work, her character became superfluous" so she was written out
  • Bringing on Jeri Ryan as 7 of 9 in response to studio concern about ratings slippage and requirement to "spice things up"
  • Success of Jeri Ryan "did cause problems" with Kate Mulgrew and there "was a little antagonism" between the actresses
  • High use of Holodeck on Voyager was somewhat due to writers being "anxious" to use again device after DS9, where Quark’s holosuites were "whorehouses" with "nasty purposes"
  • For final episode they "considered everything" including not returning to Earth, 7 of 9 dying, Janeway dying and more
  • Berman’s final assessment on if the "ship headed home" premise was right one to do: "It was difficult. I think it was a good idea to go in that direction, but there is something about venturing outward and trying to get back home that are dramatically different from one another. And I think Star Trek, by and large, is a show about exploration, and Star Trek is about going forth and not trying to find your way home, so it did hold us back in certain areas…but I think it was the best of both worlds"

Berman on Enterprise [2:08:20 – 2:39:15]

  • Impetus for Enterprise again came from studio as Voyager was ending, and Berman "begged them to let it have a few years rest"
  • Studio wanted Enterprise to start before Voyager ended, but Berman got them to wait until Voyager ended
  • Berman felt prequel best as going forward after TNG era "didn’t offer that much" because it was just slicker space suits and shinier space suits
  • Berman disagrees with fans who felt he and co-creator Brannon Braga ignored Star Trek canon and continuity, noting "we absolutely didn’t, we tried to pay great attention to it"
  • Dealing with some science and technology was "frustrating" because modern day tech is more advanced than shown in TNG or Voyager (like laptops being more advanced that Picard’s desk computer or cell phones seeming more advanced than TOS communicators)
  • Wanted Enterprise cast to be "young" and they wanted audiences to relate to them "more than they could with the other shows"
  • Scott Bakula brought in by studio, but they were "blown away" by him as he was "perfect fit" for Archer, and he was "just a mensch"
  • Jolene Blalock "was another case of another beautiful woman who can act"
  • Conner Trinneer was only actor in all four Trek series Berman "had to fight for", studio wanted a "typical Hollywood pretty-boy types"
  • Dominic Keating was found auditioning for Season 7 Voyager role
  • Berman and Braga went on board a submarine at the San Diego Naval Base to get that kind of feel for the NX-01, later had to fight studio who wanted "color, color, color" on the ship
  • Berman calls choice of the contemporary "Faith of the Heart" for the Enterprise theme song "another example of my being stubborn, right or wrong", but notes "the fans hated it"
  • Berman’s reasoning for initially having "Star Trek" in the title thought it would make it "more embrace-able", after show’s ratings flagged CBS suggested putting Star Trek back into the title
  • Season-long arc for Season 3 was response to studio/network concern over ratings, Berman felt it helped ratings and "allowed Archer to become a tougher character"
  • Paramount talked UPN fourth season to help get close to the magic 100 episodes by lowering license fee
  • Berman wonders if finale "These are the Voyages" finale was "a mistake", acknowledging that some found it "disrespectful"
  • Cites Manny Coto and ties to TOS for critical success of fourth season and felt  "isn’t any doubt we could have gone on for another three [seasons] if we had been given the chance"

Berman on TNG era movies [2:39:15 – 2:43:40]

  • First Contact is "undoubtedly" Berman’s favorite TNG film, feels "it really worked" and "was the most fun to do"
  • On demise of Kirk in Generations: "this was a character was long dead when Next Generation took place, but we were perceived as killing Capt. Kirk"
  • Generations "did better than the studio expected, but we learned a lot of lessons from it"
  • Insurrection was meant to be a "softer story" — Piller wanted a change after FC which was a "go get em action movie"
  • Berman feels INS "had some amazing stuff in it, but didn’t do quite as well as First Contact"
  • Berman considers Nemesis a "classic Star Trek movie" in the vein of the Nick Meyer movies, but acknowledged "it was not well received at all"
  • Does not believe release date (close to LOTR) was factor, but admits "I don’t know what went wrong" except possibly "franchise fatigue" (more below)

Final wrap-up, favorites, etc [2:43:30 – end]

  • Favorite show was TNG, because it was the show he "cut his teeth on"
  • Still friends with most of the TNG cast and crew
  • 2nd choice is Enterprise, because he was so involved with creation and writing
  • Favorite guest star was Stephen Hawking
  • Time travel episodes are faves, notably "Yesterday’s Enterprise", but "Best of Both Worlds" his total favorite
  • Berman believes that greatest legacy of Trek is Roddenberry’s "uplifting vision" of the future "depicting a culture of man ,more evolved in the best of all ways" unlike other dark sci-fi
  • Career highlight working as PA on film Fly being able to hang out with John Lennon

Berman on ‘franchise fatigue’ and the future of Star Trek

While talking about the end Enterprise, Berman expanded on the notion of "franchise fatigue":

Jon Dulgen, who was the chairman of all of Paramount at the time, used the phrase to me "franchise fatigue" which I think was one of the best explanations of what was going wrong. Because at the same time we made a movie with one of the top screenwriters in Hollywood [John Logan] called Star Trek: Nemesis and it just died, and simultaneously there were problems going on with Enterprise. Nemesis was a good movie. It was not a problematic movie at all. I think it really had to do with a sense of franchise fatigue and the fact that there had been so much Star Trek. As I said before we ended up after the fourth season of Enterprise, producing 624 hours of these four television series, which is unprecedented.

Berman was asked what he thought the future held for Star Trek.
[NOTE: interview conducted in May 2006 – shortly after it announced that was JJ Abrams was to produce a new Star Trek movie, but before deal was final or any details were revealed].

Well, there is word that JJ Abrams, who is one of the hot directors in both television and film, is going to star work on developing a kind of re-invention Star Trek film. That could be very exciting. I think that if there is, not if, when there is another television series, it will probably come out of that. I think that TV-wise it needs a rest. It has only been off the air for a year at this point. I think it needs a little bit more of a rest. I think Star Trek will go on for a long time. There is hardly a person on this planet who does not know what warp speed means of what "beam me up, Scotty" means, or what a photon torpedo is. I think Star Trek, in one for or another, will go on for a long time. As far as the TV end goes, I think it is good for a rest for a number of years.

Berman on Internet criticism and how he would like to be remembered

Berman was asked if he had any regrets, and he used that to talk about some of the famed Berman bashing he has recived on the Internet.

I have taken a lot of the criticism to heart. I don’t believe that any of the people who are involved in the websites think that we read them, but in fact we do. And I think that a lot of the criticism that has been directed at us by hardcore Internet people is that we ignore their wishes and we ignore the chronology of Star Trek and the canon of Star Trek. It makes us said because it’s not true. I wish there had been some way to communicate with these people over the years in a little bit more of a believable fashion. I once got on the Internet and told people who I was and they didn’t believe me, so I got off.

The final question was how he would like to be remembered, Berman responded:

At the risk of sounding hokey, I would love to be remembered as somebody who took Gene Roddenberry’s vision of what Star Trek was all about — people felt he didn’t have it in him to do another show and it was so heartwarming to see how pleased he was with the reaction that Next Generation got after so many years of not producing TV shows. I would like to be remembered as somebody  who took his vision of the future and idea of what Star Trek was supposed to be and tried to keep these four series and four movies that we have done, to keep it true to his ideals. I wonder whether that will be the case in the future. I would like to think that was something that I managed to achieve.

 

More Trek in TV Archives
There are many more great (and lengthy) oral histories from Star Trek luminaries, all available on YouTube:

SHATNER, WILLIAM (as “Captain James T. Kirk”)
TAKEI, GEORGE (as “Mr. Sulu”)
NIMOY, LEONARD (as “Mr. Spock”)
JUSTMAN, ROBERT (associate producer/ co-producer)
FONTANA, DOROTHY (“D.C.”) (writer, 10 eps/ story editor)
COURAGE, ALEXANDER (theme composer/ episode composer)
FRIED, GERALD (composer)
JENNINGS, JOSEPH (art director)
JOHNSON, GEORGE CLAYTON (writer, premiere episode)
Montalban, Ricardo (guest actor, “Space Seed,” as Khan)
Donahue, Elinor (guest actress, “Metamorphosis”)
Wyatt, Jane (guest actress, as Spock’s mother)

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Mike Stivic
August 26, 2009 12:46 am

Been waiting for a long time to hear from Berman again. He was important to Star Trek and although he made mistakes– not letting Voyager live up to its premise and not making Enterprise like Season 4 from day 1, I think overall he was faithful to the heart of Star Trek.

German Trek Fan
August 26, 2009 1:11 am

Thank you Rick Berman for so much good Trek!

stephen whelan
August 26, 2009 1:20 am

I think Berman has come in for so much crap from people in recent years but reading/listening to him it sounds like alot of problems stems from the studio pushing for more Trek when it should of been giving breathing room for a few years. I will remember him for giving us some (not all) great Trek for many years.

I agree with Mike Stivic…he was faithful to the heart of Star Trek

Anthony Thompson
August 26, 2009 1:28 am

A lot of interesting tidbits here. And I’m left with the feeling that Berman was a “loyal soldier” and really doesn’t deserve the criticism that has been heaped upon him. Would love to know his reaction to the new film.

Jim Smith
August 26, 2009 1:35 am

I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years for books and papers I’ve written. I’d love to sit down with Berman (and indeed Braga, separately) and properly interview them, rationally, calmly about ‘Star Trek’. Challenging them when I think they’re wrong, but respecting their comments and opinions. This video just makes me want to do that even more.

Cap'n Kirk
August 26, 2009 1:39 am

All told, he did a great job. He had the right idea. But I don’t think it should be hard to admit that although, “franchise fatigue,” played a role, the stories for Insurrection & Nemesis were just bad. Insurrection was unfortunately a rehash of at least 2 TNG episodes that had been done, & well. And the idea of having not just a flawed, evil copy of Picard, but also one that miraculously hooked up with an earlier version of Data? And then to kill Data just to salvage something emotional out of the strained to bursting plausibility?

Trek is great because it’s smart, & not in a “Galaxy far, far away.” And Kirk did deserve better – I would’ve liked to have seen Nimoy’s version of Generations before he left it.

Wish there was a season 5 of Enterprise – they were really cooking with the Reeves-Stevens writing it. But Berman, you did pretty good. Your heart was in the right place, & Trek is all about heart

August 26, 2009 1:49 am

I used to dish out a lot of crap against Berman, but now reading these bullet points leads me to believe that he was working with what he was given. Studios often throw a lot of crap at Executive Producers they have to deal with. I’m about 90 percent with Berman now, and what he had to do to make the serials work. The other 10 percent? I think he should have fought a little bit more to get his way. Case in point: James Cameron. He had to fight with studios and he even gave away his rights on the script for “Titanic” to complete it. He won. The film made more money than anyone could have imagined. Almost the same story with “The Abyss”.

Jeff
August 26, 2009 1:58 am

Unfortunately, Trek has become a victim of it’s own popularity. As a generalisation, modern fans want action, suspense and conflict, whereas older fans want the Gene Roddenberry ‘vision’ where everyone is friends at the end of the day. Certainly a noble vision, but is it entertaining in today’s world? Thankfully we have so much Trek to keep us entertained. I, for one, am glad that there has been a break and that new people are now in charge of the Trek movies. Hopefully the studio will listen to Berman and keep TV Trek off the screens for a while – at least until a few more JJ Abrams films grace our screens. Then, the fans might be open to a re-working of the TV format as well.

MJD
August 26, 2009 2:03 am

Berman maybe got some fatigue himself, but ultimately he was good for Trek. It ended on a creative down turn, but a lot of wonderful Star Trek was made on his watch and he deserves some credit for that.

Dom
August 26, 2009 2:09 am

Rick Berman should have stepped aside for the first UPN Trek show and left that and any follow-ups to a different creative team.

He is also staggeringly naive about some things: ‘this was a character was long dead when Next Generation took place, but we were perceived as killing Capt. Kirk!’ Well you did kill James Kirk! You made Generations and oversaw writing it!!! Having the character perceived as probably long dead in TNG is different from directly splattering the guy’s brains all over the bottom of a cliff!

‘Berman believes that greatest legacy of Trek is Roddenberry’s “uplifting vision” of the future “depicting a culture of man ,more evolved in the best of all ways” unlike other dark sci-fi’

Except the vision of humans in TNG was shockingly out of kilter with that in the original Star Trek, depicting a dehumanised, self-righteous race who casually commit genocide in episodes such as Homeward.

me
August 26, 2009 2:12 am

I don’t think the serious criticsm go directly against Berman.
Everyone can see how great TNG became. And you can’t say Berman was bad when TNG was good.

But I believe Berman was part of the Trek Crew for too long. When you stay at one project for a very long time you get some kind of “incest”-effect.

And when that happens the new episodes don’t feel new or original anymore, the quality declines further and further, pretense and reality drift apart.

When u reach that point – which in my opinion will be reached inevitable by every creative mind – you have to take a time-out for yourself and bring in new people to the project. When new people changed the universe and you had your time-out you can come back and suddenly new, original ideas (as you could produce them in your beginning) are coming back as well.

Not Berman was bad, I think he just didn’t find the right moment to leave, to make something else, to pass the torch, before coming back to Star Trek with new ideas.

Dom
August 26, 2009 2:13 am

8. Jeff: ‘Unfortunately, Trek has become a victim of it’s own popularity. As a generalisation, modern fans want action, suspense and conflict, whereas older fans want the Gene Roddenberry ‘vision’ where everyone is friends at the end of the day.’

Most of us fans of the original 1960s Star Trek want action, suspense and conflict. That’s why we were driven away by a version of Trek where an emotionless android was the most emotional performance in the show! It’s the people who grew up with TNG who have a skewed idea of what Star Trek is about!

I’d like to offer my thanks to Mr Berman for all the wonderful years of entertainment . Years in which we knew we could come home at the end of the day and see one , (some times two) new episodes of Star Trek during the week . I grew up on the TNG era and I relished every episode , and as I grew and matured the franchise grew and matured as well . I enjoyed ds9 , but felt it seemed a tad bland in the early days . After the addition of the Defiant and Worf and the Dominion War arc , it really found it’s footing . I liked Voyager , it felt alot different to me than the other Trek series , but it was a little Borg heavy by later years . Enterprise was a good concept , but was a tad slow the first two years , the 3rd and 4th seasons really improved things , and I agree if the cahnce had been given 3 more years would have been great . Then we could have at least seen the Romulan War and the formation of the Federation in the proper way . I enjoyed all his films as well with First Contact being my favorite . I think people who want to give Mr Berman flack should try being the producer of a popular TV/Film series for 18 years themselves before they start offering thier insults and free advice . He… Read more »
Dom
August 26, 2009 3:16 am

13. Commodore Kor’Tar: ‘I think people who want to give Mr Berman flack should try being the producer of a popular TV/Film series for 18 years themselves before they start offering their insults and free advice.’

By that rationale, you should try being the producer of a TV/Film series for 18 years before ‘big-upping’ Mr Berman.

What you’ve stated in your post is the laziest argument out there. In other words, you can’t say whether you like or dislike a book unless you write books yourself. You can’t criticise a movie unless you make movies yourself.

Eighteen years is far too long for anybody to stay in charge of a show. Gene Roddenberry didn’t run the original Star Trek for that long: he didn’t even have anything much to do with season three.

screaming satellite
August 26, 2009 3:22 am

the majority of DS9, VOY, the first 2 seasons of ENT plus INS and NEM may have been yawnsome in the extreme but Berman oversaw classics like Yesterdays Ent, BOBW, Q Who, Inner Light, Cause and Effect, FC etc

His place in Trek history is assured

seems like he was fighting over saturation but the studio wouldnt have it…sounds like he was forced to do Voyager

regarding ENT:
“Berman felt prequel best as going forward after TNG era “didn’t offer that much” because it was just slicker space suits and shinier space suits ”

agree with that totally… – also applies to the new film (for those saying the new film shouldve been a post TNG era film)

dont agree with the following though:
-On demise of Kirk in Generations: “this was a character was long dead when Next Generation took place, but we were perceived as killing Capt. Kirk”
-Berman feels INS “had some amazing stuff in it…..”
-Berman considers Nemesis a “classic Star Trek movie” in the vein of the Nick Meyer movies….”

no no no no no~*tut tut tut*

screaming satellite
August 26, 2009 3:27 am

*”Billy Campbell cast as Pike, but Pike didn’t feel he had command presence, so went with 2nd choice ”

er – shouldnt that be Riker?….

HotStove
August 26, 2009 3:28 am

The guy was a great producer, in the vein of Harve Bennett. Writing by itself is easy – what is hard is writing within the boundaries of budget & format. Berman found a format that worked for Star Trek that allowed them to churn out mostly good episodes on a TV budget. He kept, for the most part, the suits and viewers happy. In other words, he did his job and did it well. I’m hard-pressed to think of another producer who has the same track record. Berman gets waaaaaay too much flak for “killing Star Trek” when he, in fact, helped save it in the first place.

Ron
August 26, 2009 3:40 am

Glad to see that time is finally starting to moderate people’s feelings about Berman. I remember not too many years ago when “fans” (I use the term very loosely) were calling for Berman’s assassination, wishing he would get cancer, etc. on certain forums. Disgusting. I’ve always held that Berman did the best with what he had to work with, and given that he produced 18 years worth of Trek, most of it of extraordinary quality, much of the nastier criticism was entirely uncalled for. It reflected very poorly on Trek fans and I’m glad to see that trend changing.

August 26, 2009 4:01 am

The part I keep staring at is “Billy Campbell cast as Riker, but Pike didn’t feel he had command presence, so went with 2nd choice.”

Because this means that someone thought Frakes _did_ have “command presence.”

Now, I think Frakes is six kinds of awesome (seven when he’s voice-acting), and several seasons into TNG’s run they did seem finally (with enough beard and shoulder pads) get Riker to resemble a dude from a distance, but … command presence? I must’ve missed that episode :/

toddk
August 26, 2009 4:34 am

very interesting..i’ll have to watch the whole interview when i get time.

nemesis had one huge problem and it overshadowed the whole movie…shinzon! Other than being bald, tom hardy looked nothing like patrick stewart, which in turn forced fans to accept the clone premise,

If only patrick stewart could have doubled as shinzon the film would have been better recieved. It would have made data’s riker’s and troi’s exit more acceptable as the last TNG movie.

I agree that berman dosent deserve all the blame as to what went wrong in trek’s last series. I was also very critical of him when I saw the first picture of the ship in TV guide. I hated enterprise for so many reasons that i was quick to criticise anyone who helped it get made.

I want to now thank rick berman for his great contributions to star trek!

Thank you rick!!

Mitch
August 26, 2009 4:36 am

The guy took a billion dollar franchise and ran it into the ground. He was the worst thing ever to happen to Star Trek.

The only thing worse than his being in charge for so long was the fact that Paramount took so long to get rid of him.

Think about this–if this guy was such a great producer of television, why is it that he did nothing before Star Trek, and nothing since? If the “great producer of 600 episodes of Star Trek” was available, how come no one is hiring?

TonyD
August 26, 2009 4:53 am

Interesting piece. I’m sure Berman always had the best intentions in producing the various Trek shows and movies, and he did produce a lot of great moments. But his self-confessed stubborn streak still shows through in a couple of areas:

With regard to his comments on Kirk’s death in Generations: Kirk may have been long dead in the TNG era but it is one thing to speculate about what happened to a character and quite another to actually show it on screen. Berman was the one to sign off on dramatizing Kirk’s demise when he could have just as easily left his final fate vague so it is only natural that he get heat for that decision from fans of the character.

I also don’t buy into the whole franchise fatigue thing. What I do buy into is the notion that Berman & company had just run out of good ideas – completely understandable after a continuous run of almost two decades. Enterprise and the latter TNG films failed because they did not tell good stories or give us good characters, starting with Archer who often came across as a clueless bigot.

I give Berman all the credit in the world for keeping Trek going for so long, but like just about everyone else in Hollywood, his blinders sometimes keep him from seeing the mistakes that were clearly visible to so many others.

Major Shat Lover
August 26, 2009 4:55 am

Nice try, but your arguments are based on emotion and are quite illogical. I doubt many people on this planet have the perspective to accurately judge Rick Berman.

Well, perhaps we can be pissed about the Enterprise theme song. Grrr!

Logic, logic, logic… Let us not forget logic my fellow humaaanz.

Major Shat Lover
August 26, 2009 4:58 am

I want to know if Berman has seen the Abrams flick and what his opinion of it might be. I would like to hear Brent Spiner’s opinion as well for some reason.

I wonder if they were invited to Kirk’s charity party a while back?

Alec
August 26, 2009 5:02 am

Good article. I’ve never partaken in ‘Berman Bashing’. On the contrary, I think Star Trek fans, who have enjoyed Trek all these years, owe a great deal of their enjoyment of Trek to the talent and work of Berman (and others). TNG and DS9 were excellent. I think he’s right about ‘franchise fatigue,’ too. VGR was awful (unoriginal, uninspiring, recycled characters; way too much techno-babble; ruined the Borg; etc). ENT was just as bad; perhaps it was worse, since ENT represented a missed opportunity. That show could and should have been great. I also agree with Berman about Nem. That story is far better than any other TNG film’s story. For once, in the TNG films, we’re given a strong villain with a real connection with the hero. It had few out-of-character or silly moments (unlike FC) and had some good battle scenes. And a great score for Goldsmith, sadly in his final years. It’s just a shame that the second-half of the film was a nigh carbon-copy of TWOK; and a copy is never as good as the original.

Darth Sylar McCoy
August 26, 2009 5:03 am

I’ve never trusted Klingons, and I never will, I could never forgive them for the death of my boy.

Again! Again!

Mitch
August 26, 2009 5:06 am

That’s the thing–regarding Kirk’s death–he really doesn’t get it. Kirk was NOT long dead in the TNG era. His fate was unknown. It was shown flat out that McCoy was alive. If he was alive, then why NOT Kirk? At minimum, it was very much open ended.

The final image of Kirk at that point was the end of ST6 and it was brilliant.

Kirk’s death was by far the biggest mistake in Trek history, and the fact that he STILL doesn’t get it is mindboggling. He was actually snickering when talking about it. To be that out of touch with the fan base and what Captain Kirk meant to the franchise–it’s no wonder the franchise tanked under his watch and he is perceived so poorly.

Darth Sylar McCoy
August 26, 2009 5:08 am

Alec,

All good things…

Meaning I agree for the most part. I disagree about VOY as I thought it was a fun show (with its excessive, and even horrifying moments no doubt: e.g., Flotter). They should have kept Kes and developed Chakotay more (no, this is not Robert Beltran typing).

TK
August 26, 2009 5:09 am

i guess it says a lot when I think about the fact that I didn’t become a fan of any of the other serise apart from TOS…and if Rick Berman was behind them all, then perhaps I don’t appreciate his style. But I’m glad they became successful and the ST universe was allowed to continue.

But, there is one thing I find it difficult to forgive him for….WHY oh why did they have to kill off Kirk in the way they did…. Kirk really, really, deserves a better ending. With the newly established ST universe where quantum physics prevails, the possiblities are limitless………………….

Major Shat Lover
August 26, 2009 5:16 am

Come on over to the Shatnerverse!

Seriously, I will never forgive them for the death of Jim Kirk. He was supposed to die alone (STV) in some glorious fashion. “Did we make a difference?” *Barf* “Hi bald English guy, I’m James Tiberius Kirk. You’re cooler than me, I’m just an old has-been who can’t cook a f*ckin egg and who wants to make a difference if only you’ll hold my hand and tell me what to do. Kirk out.”

Mark
August 26, 2009 5:22 am

I’m sorry, but Nemesis was just a baaaaddd movie. Poorly executed, poorly written, a paint-by-numbers rip-off of Star Trek 2.

New Horizon
August 26, 2009 5:27 am

Nemesis…it wasn’t a good Trek movie. lol The interview is 3 years old,I hope he has gained some perspective on that by now.

Schultz
August 26, 2009 5:28 am

Berman (and others) were super-important for Trek. He can’t be thanked enough. I mean… just look at all the different series from the final days of TNG to ENT, and all the movies. Lots of variety, different vibes. There’s something in it for literally everyone. My only criticism is that they didn’t cast Bujold as Janeway. But then, most people like Mulgrew’s interpretation of the role, so I guess I’ll better shut up. ;)

Mitch
August 26, 2009 5:36 am

33–If Rick Berman never set foot on a Trek set, would Trek be better or worse? We still would have had TNG, and it would have still been a success.

There would have been another Trek show that spun off of TNG. Given that Berman’s role in DS9 was very minimal compared to the other shows (he was busy finishing TNG and creating Voyager), he didn’t make any difference on DS9. There are many more talented people than he was, so even if DS9 didn’t happen, something else would have and it likely would have been good.

And then we have Voyager and Enterprise, which both stunk overall and drove the fanbase away.

Without Berman, you don’t see Kirk die. It was such a terrible idea, I doubt anyone who had anything to do with making Trek great would have even considered it.

And maybe we don’t have to wait 18 years between decent Trek movies.

KingDaniel
August 26, 2009 5:36 am

IMO Nemesis was really good. Honestly.

I think people only hated it because it was considered “cool” to shit on everything to do with Trek since Enteprise started.

Admiral Kent
August 26, 2009 5:37 am

He’s veeeery dry in the interview. I wonder if he’s really that humorless.

CAPT KRUNCH
August 26, 2009 5:39 am

Let’s remember…he kept TREK alive! We may have got some bad, but all n all we got a lot of good as well!
It was probably too much at once…..
Too many shows, movies, etc to keep it fresh and new, and he killed Kirk!
All n all it was fun..I really did not appreciate it as much as I have now that I am watching them all over on dvd sets..
The Dominion War arc…Xindi arc…Borg episodes..were exciting!
given another year, Enterprise would have been a fine show..really wanted that Romulan war!!…any chance of a reunion show for that ?
As for the movies…keep First Contact and throw the rest out! …nuf said!

Star Trackie
August 26, 2009 5:42 am

“…Gene Roddenberry hired Berman partially because he liked that Berman had never seen any Star Trek before.”

Witnessing 18 years of something completely different, the fact that the man never laid eyes on TOS is pretty obvious. And sad.

“… It was not a problematic movie at all. I think it really had to do with a sense of franchise fatigue and the fact that there had been so much Star Trek. ”

No, there had been too much of YOUR version of Star Trek. As they say, familiarity breeds contempt. And as they also say, absence makes the geart grow fonder….witness JJ’s return to a style and vision of Trek that had been absent for almost 20 years. It was a blazing success not 5 years after the entire Trek franchise, under Berman’s rule, came tumbling down. If we never see the 24th century style of “Trek” again, it will be too soon for my tastes.

Tiberius Kirk
August 26, 2009 5:44 am

“Rick Berman Talks 18 Years of Trek In Extensive Oral History” LMAO

Does anybody really care what this stooge thinks?

Star Trackie
August 26, 2009 5:46 am

#11 “And you can’t say Berman was bad when TNG was good. ”

Sure I can. I never thought TNG was good. Mediocre 95% of the time with a small sprinkling of Star Trek now and again with episodes like The Inner Light and Yesterday’s Enterprise. Sadly, these episodes were the exception rather than the rule.

Star Trek: Voyeur
August 26, 2009 5:49 am

This is the FIRST CONTACT with RB for many of us since his reign ended.

Hopefully it will quell the INSURRECTION of disgruntled fans.

RB was not a NEMESIS to Trek, possibly a better steward than Gene.

Thank you Rick, for giving us a breadth of product that will live on for GENERATIONS.

RTC
August 26, 2009 5:57 am

Good interview. And I’m especially glad to see so many kind remarks about Mr. Berman on this page. I don’t agree with everything he did with Trek, a few I disagree with strongly, but I’m not a TV producer, either, so who am I to judge? Right or wrong, you can’t question his sincere desire to create a great set of television shows. He certainly did his best, he did a great many things right, and without his leadership we wouldn’t have had Star Trek for so long. Well done, Mr. Berman, and thank you!

Mitch
August 26, 2009 6:01 am

37–I don’t believe he kept Trek alive. He just couldn’t kill it.

There’s a difference. Trek thrived before him, failed during his tenure, and the first project that didn’t involve him, thrived again.

Trek was always a viable property. It just was managed very poorly. Monkeys on typewriters could have done what he did with the same result.

It’s like finishing last in the olympics. Anyone can do that.

If Voyager or Enterprise never existed, the franchise would likely have been in better shape. If Trek was turned over to competent people with writers given free reign that actually get the product (like the Reeves Stevenses), it would have been better off.

Tiberius Kirk
August 26, 2009 6:01 am

You who love Berman so much should know that he HATED the original show!

By his edict, it was forbidden to even talk about the original series in his presence or on the lot.

He had everyone who worked under him scared to even mention it’s name for fear of retribution.

That’s why he never used any of the original series aliens, except Klingons and Romulans.

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NCC-73515
August 26, 2009 6:22 am

Nemesis failed not because of franchise fatigue, but because of the director and too many mistakes.

Al Levy
August 26, 2009 6:23 am

It’s easier to fail in television than succeed. Almost 700 hours of television dedicated to one general idea has to be considered an overall success.

For me, there have been some down moments but the up ones outweigh anything else.

I don’t believe in hero worship. Flash Gordon (the original serials) and Trek have come the closest.

It’s nice to speculate that someone other than Berman would have done a better job. But they didn’t.

Overall, nice work, Rick.

Major Shat Lover
August 26, 2009 6:24 am

I don’t really know much about all this drama, but don’t people tend to blame Rick Berman and Brannon Braga together?

Btw, things seem to be leaning towards the old “TOS is perfect Trek and everything else is hokey and ghey.” Problem with that is that I still watch TOS episodes from time to time and am thus frequently reminded of just how hokey and goofy TOS is. haha. Pretend it is some amazing thing but most of the episodes stink. And this is coming from someone who really digs TOS; just get real, it is freakin 1960’s television, just like TNG is late 80’s, early 90’s television.

Deanna Troi wears a wig of absurd 80’s hair for crying out loud. Chekov has a collection of wigs styled after the members of the Monkees.

I wonder if there is a discussion of those sort about Full House or Happy Days out on the net some place. Don’t get me started on that sterile, monotone spin-off Laverne & Shirley!!

Major Shat Lover
August 26, 2009 6:27 am

#47 – Wow.. Right on. I find myself believing that you are quite right. Plus I also admire the Buster Crabbe serials.

Nice work Rick! (everybody now…)

August 26, 2009 6:38 am

I never personally liked Voyager of Enterprise, but currently I think I would take them over Abrams’ Parody Trek anytime.

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