Today TrekMovie finishes up our exclusive interview with Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Brent Spiner, where we talk about his least favorite episode of TNG, why he thinks Nemesis bombed, what he thinks of JJ Abrams Star Trek, and where he would like to see Star Trek go next.
Spiner Interview (Part 2): Bad TNG Episodes, Why Nemesis bombed, JJ Trek & Franchise Future
In Part 1 of the TrekMovie interview with Brent Spiner, we talked about The Simpsons, his web series Fresh Hell and Star Trek: TNG turning 25. For part two we dive deeper into what worked and didn’t work with TNG, discuss why Star Trek: Nemesis failed and get Brent’s thoughts on the new Star Trek movies and where he would like to see the franchise go in the future.
TrekMovie: You mentioned how there are so many episodes of TNG, obviously some of those rise to the top and there are those that don’t. When you guys were in the middle of episodes like "Best of Both Worlds" or "Yesterday’s Enterprise" or others that people now look at as the best, did you realize "hey this is really good." And on the other hand, did you notice when you were in one of the less than good episodes? Or is it impossible to know when you are in the middle of it?
Brent Spiner: It really is impossible to know, at least I didn’t. We were working so many hours it was impossible to think about it. I didn’t even watch the show. I didn’t have time to watch it. I watched the first twenty or so and then thought "I have spent enough time. I am on the set 16 hours a day and go home and learn lines for another hour so enough is enough." Of course there were moments where we would go "we’re in trouble." There is that one episode that we all knew was bad very early on. The one where Denise [Crosby] was captured by the tribe of space Africans [laughs]. It ["Code of Honor"] was just a racist episode. Maybe not intentionally but it felt that way and looked that way. It was the third episode so it was fortuitous that we did our worst that early on and it never got quite that bad again.
But certainly there were episodes that were less good. There was one that we thought was terrible while we were doing. We were laughing at each other’s faces at the acting we were doing in "Masks," but that is a fan favorite. I am always hearing how fans love it and let me tell you, we could not look at each other. Colm Meaney was laughing at me, Marina [Sirits] was laughing at me. I was laughing at Patrick. He was laughing at me. We were thinking "this is preposterous," but you cut it together and add the music and it works.
Spiner in Star Trek: TNG’s "Masks"
TrekMovie: Speaking of the show living on, have you had a chance to see the Blu-ray Next Generation?
Brent Spiner: No…they sent it to me, but I haven’t watched it. It was like "what do I watch, old episodes of the show I did or Boardwalk Empire? I think I’ll watch Boardwalk Empire."
TrekMovie: I imagine there must be a shades of the film Sunset Boulevard with Gloria Swanson watching her old movies. Every actor must think about that.
Brent Spiner: Right. I just don’t do it, period. There are many things I have done in my career that I have never seen. The only times I have seen myself recently is because I had a contractual obligation, like for the Star Trek movies I had to go to the premiere as that was in the contract, so I saw them one time. But I’ve never seen them again.
TrekMovie: Looking back at the arc you were able to take with your character on Star Trek, do you feel satisfied or were there things you feel you left on the table?
Brent Spiner: I feel completely satisfied. If we had done another one I would have been satisfied with that too. We were just happy to be working. I thought the character had a very good arc. I was one of the defenders of the death of Data, because it made sense. We were told this was pretty much our last film. I have tried to tell fans were upset about it – but I don’t have much success – that as far as Paramount was concerned, all the other characters are dead too. You have never seen Riker again or Picard again or anyone again? So why not have that emotional finish to the journey as opposed to leaving it open and you never know.
TrekMovie: Personally, while I had some issues with Star Trek: Nemesis, that was not one of them. I thought it was his final stop on his journey to being human.
Brent Spiner: Exactly right! Exactly.
TrekMovie: But people and Paramount, look at film as a disappointment, especially financially. And if you hear Jonathan Frakes’ take on it, with him in the director’s chair things would have been different. Do you think it is that simple?
Brent Spiner: I think Jonathan would have done a great job as he is a wonderful director, but I think there is more to it. I honestly think that for that period of time, the fans had had enough of us. I say that because the movie didn’t "open" the way the other movies opened. It wasn’t about good or bad – nobody came and that was significant. It was not the quality of the film. People go to bad films all the time. Every Star Trek movie opened bigger and that spoke to how the fans were sick of us. Maybe if we waited a few more years and come back it would have been a different story. The first weekend was dismal and that wasn’t word of mouth or Data dying, that was that the fans were not interested.
Spiner as Data saving Picard shortly before sacrificing himself in "Star Trek: Nemesis"
TrekMovie: Well let me ask the obligatory JJ Abrams question. Did you see the 2009 Star Trek movie? And any thoughts on it or the sequel?
Brent Spiner: I saw it and found it totally entertaining. And no doubt I will see the next one. It was a nice action movie and I enjoyed it.
TrekMovie: Some fans are assuming – or hoping – that some day they will reboot The Next Generation with new younger actors. What do you think about that notion? And if you had to pick a twenty-something actor to be the new Data, do you have anyone in mind?
Brent Spiner: I don’t know any twenty-something actors [laughs]. I do think it is likely they will reboot Next Generation some day. I don’t see Star Trek ever ending. I think it would better if they went further into the future, past were we did or the original series or Voyager or Deep Space or any of them, and continues the saga. I am not that keen on going backwards because then it becomes history instead of the future.
TrekMovie: Wrapping up, are there any other projects besides Fresh Hell that you are working on that you can share with the fans?
Brent Spiner: Yes, but I can’t. I am working on something, but I feel I shouldn’t say something.
TrekMovie: Is it in the world of music or acting?
Brent Spiner: Acting, if you can call it that [laughs].
TrekMovie: Well thank you for taking the time.
Brent Spiner: No problem, thank you.
Spiner in the latest episode of "Fresh Hell"