Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the few science fiction TV series to stand the test of time. It's been nearly 30 years since the first episode aired, and for some Star Trek fans, it's still the hands-down favorite.
It almost wouldn't have happened, though, had Gene Roddenberry succeeded in pulling it from production.
This shocking account comes courtesy of William Shatner's latest documentary, Chaos on the Bridge, which tells the story of how one of the most beloved series in science fiction almost didn't make it.
It's not the first time we've heard of this strife behind the scenes, but the documentary gets those involved with the production of Star Trek: The Next Generation to talk about it, including Jeffrey Katzenberg and John Pike (who was president of Paramount Television at the time). And talk they did, telling Shatner the startling details about what really happened when CBS decided to bring Star Trek back to TV.
Most Star Trek fans know the stories about Gene Roddenberry, who was so invested in what he thought Star Trek's future should look like – and so bitter about the cancellation of the original series – that by the time The Next Generation came around, he was difficult to work with. This contention generally involved Roddenberry challenging others involved in the production of The Next Generation, who, obviously, weren't amused.
Shatner spoke with International Business Times about the problem, noting that writers and TV series producers are two distinctly different kinds of people, with writers being more solitary and TV producers being more social.
"Then they started to make writers producers, and that was the flaw with the same guy doing two opposing jobs," Shatner explained. "It led to some tension and confusion with Gene and some other people."
In Chaos on the Bridge, Pike recalls a particular meeting with Roddenberry that nearly led to the show getting canceled before it aired. Their discussion involved the length of The Next Generation's pilot: Pike wanted two hours and Roddenberry insisted that it only have one.
Fortunately, Pike won that argument and the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation – all two hours of it – aired on September 28, 1987. The series continued for 176 episodes, along with a few movies, and remains a favorite with sci-fi fans.
William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge debuts in the U.S. on August 1 online and via video on demand.