William Shatner shows the conflict-ridden, crazy first two years of production for Star Trek: The Next Generation in the new documentary William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge. The documentary takes an especially in-depth look at the role of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
And Shatner’s documentary is already being applauded by critics.
The Sun called it “a rich, raucous look at the messy birth of TV’s most famous utopian future, and the two years that nearly ended the whole thing before it started.”
And Shatner himself says this is “really, the best thing I’ve done.” High praise from a man who became the icon of the entire franchise.
In Chaos on the Bridge, William Shatner conducts candid interviews with TNG cast members like Sir Patrick Stewart, Denise Crosby, Jonathan Frakes, and John de Lancie, which reveal a situation of confusion. The cast didn’t seem sure they should even be making a new Star Trek series at all.
Patrick Stewart was not anyone’s first choice to sit in the captain’s seat, while the American cast members were causing ruckus off-screen.
However, nothing seems as noteworthy as the struggle in the writer’s room.
Shatner originally presented the idea for the documentary under the name Wacky Doodle, because writers described the first two years as insanity.
In an interview with Larry King, William Shatner described the problems with the writing process, saying:
“Roddenberry said there’s no conflict in 2400, there’s no conflict. And the writer’s said, what do you mean, drama is conflict. Everybody gets along. So they had to write a show with no conflict.”
There may have been no conflict in the year 2400, but in the writing room there obviously plenty. Twenty-four writers quit during the first three seasons of Star Trek: TNG, nearly triple the normal attrition rate for a TV show like Star Trek.
Most startling seems to be William Shatner’s presentation of Gene Roddenberry.
According to the book, Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek, he was struggling with health problems of the brain such as cerebrovascular disease that led him to abuse a variety of drugs including marijuana and cocaine. The drug abuse was compounded by the deteriorating effects of diabetes and high blood pressure.
Despite all of this, he took a hands-on approach in creating the first two seasons of Star Trek until he ultimately let go by the third season.
For his part, William Shatner says he didn’t know Roddenberry that well when he was playing Captain Kirk.
William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge will debut Monday, August 25, at 9 pm ET/MT on HBO Canada.