Today’s episode of Larry Nemecek’s “Trek Files” focused on a newly unearthed document from the days when Star Trek: The Next Generation was under development at Paramount. The document outlining the premise for the planned series, dated September 12, 1986, was sent by Paramount executive John Pike to Gene Roddenberry, and makes clear the studio was determined to move ahead on a new Star Trek series with or without a creative contribution from Roddenberry, who was reluctant to return.
A different Next Generation
The 8-page concept pitch, entitled “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” was conceived by producer Greg Strangis (War of the Worlds, Falcon Crest) over the summer of 1986 and is set during a 10-year war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. It tells the story of the U.S.S. Odyssey, a ship ferrying a group of cadets on their first deep space assignment and tasked with delivering a document to Organia that could ultimately change the course of the war.
While some of the ideas in this concept can be seen in what ultimately became Star Trek: The Next Generation (such as a young Klingon officer as part of the crew), this original pitch bears little resemblance to the show that went on to have seven successful seasons. One of the more creative ideas was how the original captain dies in the pilot, but “continues to ‘live’ in the ship’s computer” as a hologram who can be summoned for advice.
And there are some elements that remind you this document comes from another era, such as the description of the ship’s weapons officer: “Painfully beautiful, Joyce is still fighting with the timeless battle of trying to be taken seriously while looking as lovely as she does.”
Rick Berman recalls the meeting to discuss this memo in his forward to the book Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Continuing Mission:
When I arrived at the meeting, Gene’s office was filled with a number of high-ranking studio executives. Gene didn’t want to do whatever they were proposing. Gene pounded the desk and the executives pounded back.
The meeting and memo ultimately spurred Roddenberry to jump back into the fray and create what we now know as The Next Generation, but it’s a fascinating glimpse into what might have been.
Discovery echoes, and JJ Abrams Star Trek too
When reading through the memo you may be surprised how some of the elements echo with Star Trek: Discovery, including a captain – mentor to the show’s lead character who is also an orphan – being killed in the pilot during during a battle between the Federation and Klingons. That sounds a lot like Capt. Georgiou and Michael Burnham. There is also an alien from an “obscure” and “isolated” planet, which sounds a bit like Saru, and a brilliant young cadet who works under the wing of the show’s main character, not unlike Tilly.
In fact, the ship is almost entirely populated by cadets who end up being put into senior positions, which is something that happens in JJ Abrams 2009 Star Trek movie.
Found by Trek Files
Larry Nemecek discovered this memorandum while searching through Gene Roddenberry’s personal archive as part of his “Trek Files” podcast, where every week he examines a document from the archive and has a guest on to help provide insight and context. For this episode, Larry is joined by Dave Rossi, associate producer on Star Trek: Enterprise and the remastered Star Trek: The Original Series project in 2006, and longtime assistant to Rick Berman.
To listen to the podcast, warp on over to Roddenberry.com.