Exclusive Brent Spiner Interview (Pt. 2): Talks Bad TNG Eps, Why Nemesis bombed, JJ Trek & Trek Future

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"


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If they ever do reboot TNG–which I doubt will happen–then they should cast the actor who played Loki in “Thor” as Data. He’s a dead ringer for a young Brent Spiner.

“Acting, if you can call it that [laughs].”

Why do I get the feeling that this means he will appear in a video game that uses face imprinting software like L.A. Noire or Assassin’s Creed?
Now that would be cool!

Space Africans… priceless! (And a terrible concept, indeed).

I’ve always liked Spiner, and think he has great comedic timing.

I have to admit, I am in the camp of those who dislike Data’s death and the whole B4 development. It’s not that I’m nostalgic, it’s just that it felt forced, from a scriptwriting point of view.

As with Kirk’s death in Generations, sometimes closure is just unnecessary and actually takes away from good plot development.

TNG:TAS! Brent does a wicked Picard voice…

“I am not that keen on going backwards because then it becomes history instead of the future.”

Exactly right. Nostalgia for when we imagined a bright future vs. imagining a bright future.

“Nobody came” to Nemesis because previous movies were stinkers, namely Insurrection and Generations. It was not due to franchise fatigue.

Gonna check out Fresh Hell. I like Extras a lot, so the comparison intrigues me. Another sign I like his taste in TV shows is the Boardwalk Empire comment… I am absolutely in love with that show.

As an aside, I wish that Threshold (2005) – with Brent Spiner, Carla Gugino, and Peter Dinklage – had been blessed with a better story and ratings, so that could have been renewed for more seasons. It was one of those rare cases (for me) in which the story was admittedly poor, but the acting and dialog were so good I didn’t care. I wish that show had been more like Fringe — then it would have been unstoppable!

@Red Dead Ryan and @SomeThoughts, you’re not kidding! He does look the part.

If Shatner was in Nemesis it would’ve rocked! Same goes for the new movie coming up – get Shatner in the movie!!!!

(ok, that was a bit spastic, but someone has to keep lobbying for the Shat. He won’t be with us much longer and it would be just too great to have him receive the proper last hurrah, on screen, as he and the fans deserve).

Watching TNG after school in the 90s was the best.

The problem with the TNG movies was that they were so fixated on Picard and Data vs villain, the series wasnt about that.

I like Brent Spiner. He seems to be a realistic and well-grounded person.

I wish him well.

Tom Hiddleston as Data in the JJ-verse version of TNG, with Brent Spiner as an older Noonian Soong. Who’s with me?

I admire his candor about his work. It’s kind of refreshing to hear a ST actor who doesn’t pretend he/she loves the show, or that all the episodes were ‘important television’, etc.

He simply says, I did them, watched them once, moved on….

Good for him. And “Fresh Hell” is pretty funny to me. It’s as if a classic, 1970’s Woody Allen had done these….

#7 I think you are correct.
Generations had some good moments and beautiful photography but the plot felt like something that “had” to be done to introduce the TNG cast to films.
Insurrection was quite boring at times and characters overacting or underacting, nobody was on the same page. They seem to all have different ideas of what the film was about. It came off as a pretentious revolt at a new-age spa.
Finally, Nemesis, with many fans turned off by Generations and Insurrection, just didn’t want to waste the time and money to be bored again. I can see why it was the final nail in the coffin of the franchise. It was so slow that the many slow motion segments could just make you cringe.
Brent Spiner is a brilliant talent but the reputation of Trek by that time was awful.
JJ Abrams, and his team, performed a miracle in reviving Trek.
They have many bad examples of Trek to learn from and good ones to inspire.

Rick Berman also had no idea how to produce epic sci fi movie, he was still thinking it was ok to go cheap on sets, special effects and really had no grand movie vision.

@5 Great render, did you do that yourself?

Tom Hiddleston is 31 years old, so they had better get a move on if he is going to be Data. Hey how about this maybe Brent can’t talk about his next part because he is playing Data in ST 2013?

@ 14 I’m with you!


No just googled :)

I guess it is hard to tell if an episode will end up good or bad while filming… But I find it hard to believe that he didn’t think anything involving Data’s evil twin Lore could be anything but cliche soap opera lameness.

I’m not sure if I agree with Spiner that people were tired of TNG as much as they felt that TNG had gone out with a whisper, not a bang. For one thing, First Contact was epic but after that, the next two (including Nemesis) felt like glorified episodes compared to the first seven where there was something epic about each movie that changed something in a big way. The last two TNG movies felt like they were half-hearted efforts by Paramount, not the fans. The TNG crew sold the problem and went on there way. One movie didn’t affect the next in any way at all.

BTW, Trekmovie, you need to change the background on your site to something like dark blue or black. I had to copy that interview, past it into work and turn the background black to comfortably read it. I’m just saying…lol

TNG crew should have encountered a truely alien lost civilization that is mysterious and solve some mystery like final unity/indy style space adventure. Instead we got low budget wtf hippies on planet that are like omish and some silly picard clone flick @@

First Contact was good but could have been better. Generations had many problems, fist fight on retirement mountain and contrived nexus.

TrekMovie: “Did you see the 2009 Star Trek movie? And any thoughts on it or the sequel?”

Brent Spiner: “It was a nice action movie and I enjoyed it.”


ST09 was an action movie, not a sci-fi movie. That and the tilt toward the characters’ emotional self-indulgence are the two most fundamental changes that Abrams & Co. have made to Trek. More running to and fro, and more emoting about everything (especially Spock, which largely negates the premise of that character).

P.S. – Great interview, Anthony.

No more movies about x coming to destroy earth :)

Tmp, voyage home, first contact, nemesis, st09,

Generations and Insurrection had a lot of things wrong with them, but at least the planets being threatened weren’t Earth for a change.

In the next movie, I’d like to see Pluto threatened… for… no reason whatsoever. Hey, it’s not a planet anyway. Out there hanging with its little buddies. Has to be different with that weird orbit. So, let’s just blow it up! C’mon, who’s with me?!

Personally i find it extremely unlikely that they will reboot TNG. Because of the changes they would need to make to make it acceptable to todays audience they might as well do a new show.


Buzz! How’s it going? How’s the job hunt?

In my opinion – and I am not tired to say this – NEMESIS was a great movie. Okay, some of the deleted scenes would have made it even better, but the story was more philosophical in a “roddenberry-like” way and bigger than “Insurrection”.

I remember, when I came out of the cinema I told my (now Ex-) Wife, “they have done it, it is perfect! Now the next gen will start will full speed to the next movies. It will be a great success!”

Well, Taste is different, but I do not like the fans who are blaming the actual version of Star Trek, whatever this might be. Some blamed TNG, when it was actual in the cinemas, some are now blaming the new version, etc. If Star Trek should really have a chance, the fans should bring forward their tolerance with new ideas… ;)


I mostly agree with what you have to say. What I really want is for the powers that be to skip all this re-boot crap and go back to new stories set in the Prime Universe. However, keeping in mind how obsessed the powers that be are with re-boots, I at least wish that there had been one more film inbetween “Nemesis” and JJ-Trek to properly wrap up the Prime Universe and give us fans better closure. That and something set durring the Romulan War, I want to see that story so bad!

Tom Hiddleston is practically a Brent Spiner clone! I thought so the minute I saw him in Thor — but — I doubt anyone will ever reboot TNG. There’s just too many hours of TNG available for viewing.

See, that — to me — is the one thing that sets most modern treks apart from TOS: 7 seasons of episodes (Enterprise excluded of course) per series.

I think it’s true that a lot of people were sick of the TNG cast by the time Nemesis came out. However, it’s regrettable the TNG cast didn’t get a proper cinematic “farewell” like the TOS cast did in TUC…

Spiner is absolutely right. We should go further in the prime universe, boldly going where no man has gine before.

The Abrams films may be good entertainment and successful, but repeated attempts to milk alternate versions of exist Trek periods is boldy going after old ground IMO.

@34 El Chup. I would totally love to see a future Trek.

Hey, Mr. Spiner, don’t just toss off these ideas. Sit down and write something and become an executive producer.

In a future Trek universe, maybe have the fragile peace established in TNG fall apart. The whole galaxy is now a battleground. Even the Vulcans have gone back to certain war-like ways, just to survive. Or perhaps they would become like Gedi knights, trying to form alliances diplomatically but backing up that diplomacy with cool weapons and mad fighting skills.
The Federation is chaotic with lots of bickering and border wars. (Just like today’s world.)

But there’s something out there much worse than Klingons, and Romulans, and the Borg. And it’s about to enter this galaxy.

Oh please, somebody do a new Trek.

TNG reboot cast (if they rebooted in the next few years)

Picard – Mark Strong
Riker – Brandon Routh
Data – Tom Hiddleston
LaForge – Chwietel Ejiofor
Crusher – Gillian Anderson
Troi -Eva longoria/Mendes
Worf – Jason Momoa
Yar – Ali Larter
Wesley – Justin Beiber(j/k)
Guinan – Halle Berry

and if theyd done Encounter at Farpoint as a big movie instead of a tv pilot in 1987:

Picard – Sean Connery
Riker -Christopher Reeve
Data -Sam Neil
LaForge – Wesley Snipes
Crusher-Susan Sarandon
Troi -Carrie Fisher
Worf-Bill Duke
Yar -Vasquez from ‘Aliens’
Wesley-River Phonix
Q-Bill Murray

See I think there’s another TNG movie out there in the shape of Star Trek: Countdown…

If I were to reboot the TNG universe I’d do it with these characters….

Picard – Tom Hardy
Data – Tom Hiddleston (Loki from Thor)
Worf – Idris Elba
Riker – Zachary Levi
Crusher – Karen Gillian (Amy Pond from Doctor Who)
LaForge – Terrence Howard
Troi – Rebecca Hazlewood
Yar -Elisha Cuthbert

Q – Bill Murray would be fantastic

Masks? A fan favorite? I don’t recall that one being a favorite… maybe a favorite to despise.

#39 — I laughed when I read that. I’ve seen it referred toss the “Spocks Brain” of TNG…

I remember thinking of “The Masks” as one of the low points of TNG. Let’s face it; it was stupid.

The TNG movies were so cerebral and absent legitimate dramatic conflict that they were nearly doomed before the first frame was shot. Also, TNG was migrated directly to the big screen from TV, so there was no sense of loss, no sense of reunion, no sense of having been “missed” by the fandom. That couldn’t have been more departed from the mythos of TOS, where we went a decade with no original Trek productions (and, no, TAS doesn’t count), so the “pent up” enthusiasm was off the charts.

TNG was good, at times great, but the overarching theme was Trek in a Flying Marriott, nothing was ever messy, nothing was ever anything less than antiseptic. TOS had a ragged impurity to it that was nearly genetic, and I think was part of the DNA of its appeal. When TNG just moved to the movies, the response was “meh,” because (with the exception of First Contact, arguably), the movies were nothing more than longer TV episodes with characters no one cared about, with predetermined outcomes….and in that vein, Johnathan Frakes or (insert favorite director here) at the helm of Nemesis wouldn’t have helped it, nor that horrendous opening weekend. It wasn’t *franchise* fatigue, it was *boring story* fatigue. There’s a huge difference. And, yes, I’m squarely in the Blame Berman camp.

If they ever wanted to do Trek again on TV, they need to take an evolving ensemble cast mentality as they did with the great “Law and Order” franchise. Let key characters move in and out of roles as they do in real life. Cultivate some sense of legitimacy or authenticity, as it were.

#11 Baroner, To paraphrase Riker in Generations, I hope Mr. Shatner lives forever.

If you want to know why each movie (YES EVEN FIRST CONTACT) was bad just watch these reviews if you haven’t seen them already.


@SoonerDew, in response to your “evolving ensemble cast mentality” point, what about STARGATE SG-1 and ATLANTIS? Both of these had characters moving on (Daniel Jackson ascending, O’Neill leaving in favor of Cameron Mitchell, Vala Mal Doran, and the ever-rotating Atlantis commander and doctor post.

WIth the possible exception of Gen. Landry replacing Gen. Hammond, almost none of these new characters were as remotely interesting as their predecessors.

“Masks” was horrible. Sure, you’ll find some fans who love it. You’ll probably even find fans who like “Code of Honor”, but “Masks” was further evidence that TNG was almost out of steam. Mr. Spiner seems to be misremembering that a bit, because Colm Meaney was on DS9 by then and was not in “Masks.”

43. I don’t let reviewers tell me what to like and what to not like. I thought “First Contact” was excellent.

Spiner is absolutely right. Enterprise failed because it was a prequel to a known future. Whereas the new Trek was a blockbuster because a reboot brings us back to an unknown future where anything can happen.

As long as we stay out of the prime universe, where everything is so familiar and overdone, the audience boredom and lack of enthusiasm for post Nemesis stories will never return again.

Oh, and the audience boredom was not your fault, Brent.

Nemesis failed for two reasons. 1. Insurrection was so bad so that was going to cost bums on seats and 2. It was a dog of a movie, worse than insurrection.

Fans are gagging for trek right now and Brent’s theory would reflect in a surge of dvd sales for Nemesis and that has not happened.

I think that crew really let themselves off the hook gently. No one was to blame except the fans. What a load of rubbish.

Data should never have been given the emotion chip. That made for nothing more than bad comedy.

First contact was the best of the tng movies and that was because the Borg were a great villain. Other than that tng characters were never fully fleshed out enough to be interesting for movies. Great for television but less than what they needed to be for the big screen.

All Good Things….should have been a movie

Thats a proper send off.

“Star Trek The Next Generation” should have ended with “All Good Things.” that finale was the perfect send off.

The movies were too different. Too much Picard, too much Data… too little ensemble… and if anything, it was just too soon after the series came to an end. One reason “Star Trek The Motion Picture” was so eagerly anticipated (and yes, successful) was because we had had a number of years wanting for it.

Paramount got greedy with the series and gave us too much of a good thing… Even Rick Berman tried to dissuade executives of doing “Voyager” and “Enterprise” saying it was too soon, too much.

I don’t think Brent Spiner was blaming the fans. TNG at that point, unfortunately, had lived past its usefulness and sci-fi on the big screen was becoming bigger, better and bolder, with Trek remaining as a small-screen self-reverential nostalgia piece.

“Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of The Clones”, and “Lord Of The Rings:The Two Towers” came out that year, and showed what big budgets and epicness could do to bring in audiences.

“Nemesis” in my opinion wasn’t bad, it was good, but not good enough. And as a result, people went to see “Harry Potter” and “Lord Of The Rings” instead.

“Nemesis” was too much too late. Brent was right, people had become bored of TNG and were ready to move on. I think that time was the beginning of the TOS renaissance.

Also, I don’t think TNG can be rebooted. I think that show had covered just about everything. I mean, are we going to see new versions of “The Best Of Both Worlds” and “All Good Things…”? Or are the those episodes going to be ignored? I just think there is too much canon, and plot laid out by TNG that any reboot would come under too much scrutiny to work.