Ira Steven Behr On Being “Trapped” On Star Trek TNG & Making Changes With DS9

Ira Steven Behr left Star Trek: The Next Generation after one season only to return as executive producer and showrunner for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In an interview promoting his new show Alphas (premiering on Syfy next week) Behr talks about what worked and didn’t work on DS9, and if he would return to Trek.

 

Ira Steven Behr on being "trapped" at TNG + what worked/didnt on DS9

Ira Steven Behr began working as a producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation during the third season, but left the show. In a new interview with the official Star Trek site, Behr explains his issues with Next Gen:

I called TNG, perhaps unfairly, the Connecticut of Star Trek, and I still kind of feel that way. Maybe if I’d come on in the fourth season or stayed through the fourth season, things would have gotten better, but creatively I just felt trapped. That’s not to say I didn’t have a great time with Ron and Rene (Echevarria) and the gang, and (Hans) Beimler and (Richard) Manning.


Behr was one of the writers on TNG S3 episode "Yesterday’s Enterprise" – a darker episode more up his alley

Behr eventually returned after Michael Piller convinced him that things would be different with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and that it would be "grittier, darker and with humor" and more suited for him. Behr stayed for all seven seasons of Deep Space Nine and was even able to convince Star Trek overlord Rick Berman to do a multi-season arc with the Dominion War. Behr explains:

One of the things we wanted to do was experiment with serialization and with the kind of space-opera war that spoke to a lot of the mythologies the show had built up. I thought we could do it. I knew we could do it. And then it became horse trading. I don’t even remember how many episodes we did, but I know we wanted more. Rick (Berman) and I went back and forth. Nothing terrible. No fights or anything like that. But we horse traded a bit and we came up with whatever it was.

Behr went on to say that more serialized nature of DS9 is what he feels worked best on the series, noting:

The thing that worked best for me was that it told a story over seven years. There was a beginning, there was a middle and there was an ending.


Battle from "Sacrifice of Angels" – Behr fought to get Dominion War arc and more serialization into Star Trek Deep Space Nine

As for what didn’t work, Behr points to how they tried too often to do comedy/Ferengi episodes:

[O]nce we realized that Armin (Shimerman) wasn’t really connecting to a lot of the humor we were trying to do, we should have probably cut back on some of the attempts at doing humorous episodes, or at least gotten directors who were more comfortable with comedy…But every now and then we’d get a show like “Little Green Men” or “The Magnificent Ferengi,” which I thought did work. So every now and then you’d see a glimmer of hope, but we probably should have admitted defeat.

Behr remains proud of his work on Deep Space Nine, and even though he is now busy working on Alphas for Syfy, he would return to DS9 if the opportunity arose, saying

[T]here is a big part of me that would love to go back to that world and those characters. I miss a lot of those characters. I miss the people, too, but I miss those characters. So, would I say no? I don’t think I’d say no.


Cross-dressing Armin Shimerman in "Profit and Lace" – Behr admits that all attempts at humor with the Ferengi episodes didn’t work

For more from Behr read the full interview: Part 1 & Part 2.

 

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SoonerDave
July 6, 2011 4:23 pm

Still don’t get what he meant by the Connecticut Trek reference…??

Miles R. Seppelt
July 6, 2011 4:24 pm

First!

Great job over all – I though DS9 was great – especailly the more serialized sections of it! Congratulations and well done!

pilotfred
July 6, 2011 4:29 pm

i so would love to see more ds9 even if just a tv movie

Battle-scarred Sciatica
July 6, 2011 4:31 pm

Nice Behrd!

4 8 15 16 23 42
July 6, 2011 4:31 pm

“Behr admits that all attempts at humor with the Ferengi episodes didn’t work”

That’s for damn sure.

I. Montoya
July 6, 2011 4:34 pm

I thought I was the only one that didn’t get those Ferengi episodes. They really do drag and bore me.

jkimgant
July 6, 2011 4:34 pm

#1. SonnerDave-“Nice”, “bland” and “Quaint” I think that’s what he meant by the Connecticut of Trek.

July 6, 2011 4:35 pm

I think he is saying Connecticut in relation to New York City. As in gritty urban Manhattan vs. clean (bland) suburbs of Connecticut

4 8 15 16 23 42
July 6, 2011 4:36 pm

Uh Oh, Ira Behr is the modern Bluebeard… someone save his wife from him!

Actually, I think it’s kind of cool (the beard, not murder)

4 8 15 16 23 42
July 6, 2011 4:43 pm

Some of TNG may have been tame, but at least it had some cerebral episodes. The trouble with DS9 for me was that they tended toward more the prosaic, and dwelt in the melodramatic more often. Even the Dominion War arc, for all its attempts to paint on a grander scale, seemed for the most part a bit of a tempest in a teapot.

Yesterday’s Enterprise, however, was a stellar episode.

T'Cal
July 6, 2011 4:57 pm

Like Neelix was for VOY, I could’ve done without the Ferengi. The attempts at humor with them failed most of the time and the were simply annoying. DS9 as a whole, though, is Trek at its best especially the DW arc. I say that as a huge TNG fan. TNG had great characters and writing most of the time but DS9 handled the relationships between the characters much better.

DavidJ
July 6, 2011 4:57 pm

I loved the two Ferengi episodes he named, but there were just FAR too many others that didn’t.

And you could tell Shimmerman was constantly trying to make Quark a bit darker and more real than the writers probably wanted.

DavidJ
July 6, 2011 5:03 pm

Quark was best when he was making snyde comments or interacting with the other crew in some way. Putting him in a bunch of slapstick comedy with other Ferengi just didn’t work nearly as well.

Pooter
July 6, 2011 5:09 pm

The dominion wars are what bored me about DS9 and I stopped watching.

D-Rock
July 6, 2011 5:23 pm

I’m surprised the human race made it at all to the 24th century in TNG. Not because of war or anything like that, but by then the hottest thing you could do was to hold hands and wait for the stork.

July 6, 2011 5:24 pm

I like how DS9 wasn’t afraid to make episodes dedicated to the alien characters without having human characters to tagging along.

SoonerDave
July 6, 2011 6:08 pm

Oh, okay, duh on me…Now the Connecticut reference makes sense.

@10 – “Yesterday’s Enterprise” absolutely rocked the house for TNG in my book. Absolutely awesome episode. Easily my TNG favorite.

the Dogfaced Boy
July 6, 2011 6:12 pm

You can’t go wrong putting Trek characters into 20th Century earth situations. Even Ferengi comedy works.

Shunnabunich
July 6, 2011 6:12 pm

@15: LOL! So, so true. Sometimes I think Riker must’ve been saddled with the sole responsibility for perpetuating the species (except he kept getting it on with aliens instead).

Katie G.
July 6, 2011 6:19 pm

I thought it was fine, myself. Don’t know why he would say it wasn’t. So… how do I say this without sounding… you know.

Maybe it’s not that the comedy didn’t work with the Ferengi. Maybe they needed…

…here we go…

…better writers?

Maybe if they had different writers someone else could have made it work. I mean, look at the sitcom “Frasier”. The writers for that show must have done something right. It was on the air forever.

Just sayin…

ktg

Joe
July 6, 2011 6:46 pm

I think that Star Trek at times tended to over do things anyway. TNG and VOY ran holodeck episodes to death and DS9 ran Ferengi episodes and mirror universe episodes to death but overall I love all Star Trek (yes, even ENT) and VOY I tolerated.

Trekboi
July 6, 2011 6:53 pm

Deep Space Nine is a good series but I don’t count it as Star trek its dismisses so many of Gene Roddenberys higher concepts just to bitch slap with the tired Klingons.
They should have produced it as a non star trek sci-fi show where they would have been totally free to tell a story like Babylon 5

Red Dead Ryan
July 6, 2011 7:01 pm

The Ferengi episodes were hit and miss. “The Dogs of War”it featured Quark barking out his version of Captain Picard’s “The line must be drawn here” line.

“The Magnificant Ferengi” and “Little Green Men” were fun.

As a whole, “Deep Space Nine” is the best of the six series, in my opinion. It had it all. It was also a nice blend of “The Original Series” (Odo and Quark’s love/hate relationship echoing Spock/McCoy, a Captain willing to risk his own life on the front lines, and get his hands dirty, just like Kirk) and “The Next Generation” (Bringing in TNG characters Miles O’Brien and Worf, while picking up and further developing the Bajoran and Cardassian storylines first established in several TNG episodes).
But “Deep Space Nine” also explored issues like war, religion and politics much more deeper than any of the other series.

The show was ahead of it’s time. It also had a nice mix of standalone and multipart episodes.

Red Dead Ryan
July 6, 2011 7:03 pm

Oops, I meant to say….”I liked the episode “The Dogs Of War” as it featured…”

DAMN ACCIDENTAL OMISSIONS!!!

Vultan
July 6, 2011 7:34 pm

I don’t think DS9 dismissed Roddenberry’s philosophies at all. Quite the contrary. It acknowledged and then TESTED them. Because, for all the great ideas old Gene had, they just wouldn’t mean all that much if no one challenged them. And there’s nothing that challenges a society’s ideals more than a total war with a power such as the Dominion.

As for the Connecticut comment, I seem to recall an episode where Quark compared the Federation to root beer. Another Behr critique, you think?

Charlie in Colorado
July 6, 2011 7:46 pm

As hard as I tried, I simply could not get into DS9 when it first went on the air. It wasn’t until well after the series ended that I stumbled across a re-run on some TV channel and thought, “Hmm, this is better than I remembered.” That led to me to start renting individual DS9 DVD’s from Netflix, which then led to me buying all seven seasons on DVD. Yep – DS9 became my all-time favorite Trek.

Ira Steven Behr is a total badass dude who I’d love to have a couple of beers with him in some bar with a little Sinatra on the jukebox in the background. And I’d also love to find out how Benjamin is getting along these days with the Prophets…

Trekboi
July 6, 2011 7:48 pm

Vultan do your research- Ira has said in the past he hated the star trek formula particuarly the Next generation’s bland generic “Conneticuit” style & wanted to destroy it & do his own style of show- well if that was the case he should have gone & made his own show & left star trek alone.
This was obvious even when viewing it back in the day but it was a validation for me to read he admitted it years later.

Cygnus-X1
July 6, 2011 8:03 pm

The Connecticut of Star Trek!?!

Whoa, whoa, whoa…Let’s ease up a bit on the vulgar language there, Ira. There are youngsters reading what you say.

V'Ger23
July 6, 2011 8:15 pm
Trek in its original form was never bland and boring. TNG was a SPIN-OFF of the orignial, and it was riddled with issues because, at that phase of the game, Gene was more concerned with being a “visionary” than he was with entertaining people. So, the characters were much flatter and the show was essentially risk (and drama) free because his vision of an “eveloved humanity” did not produce good, dramatic, exciting televison on a consistent basis. DS9, in my humble opinion, returned to the character-driven, gritty, dramatic elements that made TOS so great and it moved the franchise forward by doing something different and unique. It tested the characters, created conflict and drama, but still had the moral and ethical center that made you believe that humans truly could persevere and thrive in the future. VOY then came along and purposefully tried to re-capture the more sterile, safe havens of the TNG formula, and that was the beginning of the gradual end for Trek’s success on televison. TOS and DS9 are the absolute best of what Trek has to offer, at least in this one fan’s opinion. The “evolved nature of humanity” means nothing if you don’t belive in and care about the characters. Characters need to be flawed and realistic for us to care about them. It needs to be a dramatic struggle for them to win and/or do the right thing. When everyone is prefect and morally superior, there’s no tension because we all know that the… Read more »
workinit
July 6, 2011 8:35 pm

I LOVED the ferengi human episodes in DS9 :-D, and the DRAG Quark was HELLA FIERCE!

Rocket Scientist
July 6, 2011 8:52 pm

I just saw some TNG episodes on SyFy. As much as they are sentimental favorites, yeah…the characters are a bit bland. DS9’s crew provided a much-needed contrast to the evolved 24th Century humans of TNG. That’s why it was such a refreshing show that is very much deserving of its place in the Star Trek universe. It’s my favorite along with TOS.

Peter N
July 6, 2011 9:00 pm

September 9 is International Talk Like A Pirate Day – he’s ready a little early. :)

July 6, 2011 9:07 pm

“On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it’s easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there in the Demilitarized Zone, all the problems haven’t been solved yet. Out there, there are no saints — just people. Angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive, whether it meets with Federation approval or not!”

– Sisko, on Nechayev’s suggestion that he “establish a dialogue” with the Maquis in DS9: “The Maquis, Part II”

nate
July 6, 2011 9:15 pm

I first enjoyed Behr’s work when he was on the staff of FAME (the GLEE of the 80’s)…more humor, fuller stories with a point. I’ll check out anything he’s involved in!

Vultan
July 6, 2011 9:16 pm

#27

Maybe you should actually try reading the above article. It’s obvious Berman wasn’t going to allow Behr to make his own fully realized version of Trek. No matter how much “horse-trading” was made, the basic core of what Star Trek is was still there. Try watching the show. You’ll see… maybe…

Anyway, I’m pretty sure IDIC is not about one—and only one—man’s “vision.” There’s a darker side to life, one that’s full of messy topics like war, religion, xenophobia, and genocide, and I’m fairly certain, barring some sudden human evolutionary leap to God-like status, that they’re still going to be around a few hundred years from now. Deal with it.

Bill Peters
July 6, 2011 9:39 pm

DS9 was what Trek Needed at the time, it did live up to Gene’s Ideas but also Departed from them in places to show, that the Final Frontier was isn’t Perfect and that Humans though further along are still Humans and Also had a Chance to show Religion working in Trek in a way we hadn’t seen before.

Reliana
July 6, 2011 10:02 pm

Although I’m no fan of seasons 1 & 2, there were episodes from seasons 3-7 that were just brilliant. And I love how the relationships were hinted or built over several episodes instead of established in one episode without any backstory to support it. (w/one exception).

I love how the characters were distinct, multi-layered personalities that you couldn’t help but love or hate… either way, you felt something for them.

And I loved that the show was primarily about their personal lives. Everything they did had some kind of history, a backstory, to give it more depth.

Storylines I cherished:
-Dukat’s daughter on DS9 under the watchful eye of Kira (look at the rich history there from all sides)
-Everything Odo
-the O’Brien Bashir bromance
-Worf and Dax
-The subtle differences in Weyouns (w/the help of Jeffrey Combs’s talent)
-Committed relationships weren’t the death of character growth.

Just a few off the top of my head

Canon Schmanon
July 6, 2011 10:14 pm

I totally agree with Behr on the comedy/Ferengi episodes. I hated those. TNG, & VOY had their own annoying recurring themes as well. The holodeck was overused, and on VOY, the Borg came by so often it was like they were the crazy neighbors next door. They were stripped of their menace, made into the giant cube geldings of space. Voyager killed my interest in watching a Star Trek series regularly. Such a letdown after DS9.

So, yes, it had its low points, but when DS9 was at its best, it was better than any of the other Trek series, IN MY OPINION! And it was good more often than it wasn’t.

Duane
July 6, 2011 10:38 pm

TNG as the “The Connecticut of Star Trek.” I never thought about it that way but in many ways it is very, very true.

Anthony Thompson
July 6, 2011 10:57 pm

A purple beard? How Hollywood! LOL!

The serial aspect of DS9 worked against it because folks unable to watch every ep couldn’t keep up and dropped it. Better to stay with stand-alone eps (with occasional refernces to earlier episodes).

Jack
July 6, 2011 11:38 pm

i think DS9 was rhe Trekkiest of the Treks.

July 7, 2011 2:31 am

Deep Space Nine Seasons 3-7 definitely the pinnacle of quality Star Trek as far as I’m concerned. There’s a consistency where below average episodes are the exception to the rule.

Somewhere approaching that level Enterprise Seasons 3 and especially 4.

Next Generation Seasons 3 (in particular) and 4 where that show suddenly became must see TV.

Then were looking at half a dozen or so, episodes every year from seasons right across the franchise.

I don’t necessary think the soap opera factor was the main factor in success, TNG did its fair share of those especially with Worf. It was often blatent. Worf gets hit with a barrel, becomes disabled and needs a spine transplant. That sort of thing, which was very Daytime stories, for the unemployed type material. The political intrique stuff, in a sci fi setting was generally where Star Trek exceled… whatever the series. Which is where VOY was at a disadvantage, being so far away from the important races of the universe.

In an important way, “Journey to Babel” from The Original Series kicked all this off…

July 7, 2011 2:33 am

Correction = we’re NOT were – – WE ARE

Aussie Ian
July 7, 2011 2:53 am
It’s interesting to note how, for the longest time, fans held the view that the even numbered movies were superior to the odd numbered ones ……. that always grated me as I loved Star Trek III and saw nothing wrong with it, but because it so happened to be an odd numbered film, no one ever gave it its due. What has this got to do with SIB’s comments above? Well it seems that the series fans are also divided into the odds and evens judging by above posts. It seems that if you love the Original Series (and for those who don’t – shame on you, just kidding!) then you love DS9 and even see the worth of Enterprise – Series 1, 3 and 5, the odd numbered series. If you loved Voyager, but not DS9 so much, and Enterprise less so, then it’s a good chance that your first introduction to the world of Trek was Next Gen, making you a fan of even series 2 and 4. I have not counted the Animated series separately because it is the same characters as TOS and my comments are live action Trek specific. For more examples of this cross series love I refer to DS9’s “Trials and tribble-ations” episode which was a loving reference to how the TOS characters were in the timeline of the series and how Enterprise was nostalgic of TOS with “Into a Mirror Darkly” episodes. By contrast, when TOS characters guest appeared in TNG episodes… Read more »
Jai
July 7, 2011 2:59 am

DJT, re: #33

That was an interesting monologue by Sisko. Especially when you remember his later obsessive vendetta against his fellow Starfleet officer Eddington, who had joined the Maquis. Eddington eventually ranted the following monologue at Sisko (even mentioning “Paradise”), in the superb DS9 episode ‘For the Cause’:

“I know you. I was like you once. But then I opened my eyes. Open your eyes, Captain. Why is the Federation so obsessed with the Maquis? We’ve never harmed you. And yet we’re constantly arrested and charged with terrorism. Starships chase us through the Badlands, and our supporters are harassed and ridiculed. Why? Because we’ve left the Federation, and that’s the one thing you can’t accept. Nobody leaves Paradise, everyone should want to be in the Federation! Hell, you even want the Cardassians to join. You’re only sending them replicators because one day, they can take their rightful place on the Federation Council. You know, in some ways, you’re even worse than the Borg. At least they tell you about their plans for assimilation. You’re more insidious, you assimilate people…and they don’t even know it.”

I’ve previously mentioned brilliant monologues by Sisko and Martok, but that subversive, thought-provoking quote is another example of the way that the intelligent writing on DS9 was often truly outstanding, especially during the later seasons.

Jai
July 7, 2011 3:19 am

Vultan, re: #25

“As for the Connecticut comment, I seem to recall an episode where Quark compared the Federation to root beer.”

It’s from the episode ‘The Way of the Warrior’, and it’s another brilliant (and very subversive) quote about the Federation. Quark was talking to Garak in the DS9 bar on the eve of the battle against the invading Klingons, both of them worried about the outcome and both of them realising that their only hope for salvation rested with the Federation, despite their very mixed feelings about the Federation itself.

Quark suddenly offered Garak some root beer to make his point. After some initial reluctance (Garak had never drunk it before), Garak took a sip and promptly recoiled from the taste.

“Quark: What do you think ?
Elim Garak: It’s vile !
Quark: I know. It’s so bubbly and cloying and happy.
Elim Garak: Just like the Federation.
Quark: And you know what’s really frightening? If you drink enough of it, you begin to like it.
Elim Garak: It’s insidious.
Quark: Just like the Federation.”

Once again, it’s very clever writing.

Jim
July 7, 2011 5:24 am
Biggest plus of DS9 for me – Garek has to be my favourite Star Trek character of all time. For me, DS9 and TNG re-runs as of seasons 3 onwards (for each) are great. I can’t really go back to the first 2 seasons, because I know the characters too well now and those early seasons don’t really reflect what the characters became and a strength of characterisation anyway. As for Ferengi’s, I loved their evolution in DS9. In TNG they are simply 1 dimensional. Quark was a sorely underused Ferengi, and the darker he was, the more I loved him. It’s true though that they tried to lighten him up far too much, and his ‘criminal’ tendencies eventually became nothing more slapstick :-( Rom’s relationship with Quark could’ve been more rounded but generally he grew as a character. The early Nog episodes I found dull, but his character evolution by season 7 was fantastic. It’s difficult to pin down any ‘token’ characters in DS9, cos while some may have seen so early on, they all grew somehow. Plus, you can’t seriously call Morn a token character :-) One character I didn’t ever take to was Kira Nerys, and if I’m honest, the whole Bajoran spirituality theme. Tome it never seemed to be one thing or another, as if it were an arc that was a good idea when concieved but ran dry very soon. And hey, any series that has Iggy Pop as a guest appearance, can’t be all… Read more »
Damian
July 7, 2011 5:45 am
Deep Space Nine was a great show because it was different. I disagree with Behr about The Next Generation though. I loved TNG. It was a sort of continuation of the original series themes, but as a huge fan of Star Trek, I was ok with that. I also did not have a problem with the positive view of humanity TNG portrayed. Gene Roddenberry wanted to show a future where we had actually become the best we could be (as opposed to most futuristic sci-fi shows and movies where we either destroyed ourselves with war, greed or corporate take overs). That is what attracted me to Star Trek in the first place. That being said, Deep Space Nine being different was essential. There was no point in doing it if it was just going to continue from TNG. It was grittier and riskier. It showed that human beings (and the Federation), while trying to do what’s right, still was not perfect. The Dominion War was a great story overall. It gave us an opportunity to see how the Federation deals with war, as opposed to just hearing about it after the fact. I also think Deep Space Nine worked much better because there seemed to me more people with varying ideas involved. You had Rick Berman and Michael Piller who tried to keep Roddenberry’s vision intact. And you had Ronald Moore and Ira Steven Behr who brought in a fresh, new approach. The result was a great show that had… Read more »
July 7, 2011 6:14 am

46. Jai:

loved those dialogues too. Well, you can replace the word “Federation” for “Star Trek” in the entire episode and see what they mean.

“Way of the Warrior” was meant to revamp the series, inviting new viewers several times, in short, it was saying “Star Trek bubbly and cloying and happy, but you watch it too much, you´ll begin to like it”.

Earlier in the same episode, Dax was celebrating the joys of “imagination” and “make believe”.

It was a big recruitment episode, and it worked.

Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire
July 7, 2011 6:25 am

To me what they tried to do with DS9 was what was done with Babylon 5. B5 was a 5 year serial and they tried to make DS9 a bit like that. It did work to a point and DS9 was a great series.

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