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Gene Roddenberry died in 1991 halfway through Star Trek: The Next Generation. He'd been sick for a while and, according to Rick Berman, his "hands-on involvement in The Next Generation diminished greatly after the first season".

Did the post-Roddenberry TNG differ from his initial vision? Did Berman violate any of the rules that Roddenberry had laid out for the series? Were there any general themes that became less emphasized after his death? Did Berman make hire or fire decisions contrary to Gene’s known preferences?


Well researched answers with definite changes are preferred, especially if backed up by contemporary sources. Possible changes can either be on or off camera, and specific ("Dr. Crusher came back") or broad ("more personal drama/fewer stories with an 'exploring the unknown' theme").

For example:

  • Berman didn't like the music direction, and started using subdued orchestral tracks, rather than sticking with Ron Jones.

  • Gene was convinced by his staff to replace Gates McFadden but Berman opposed the decision. Did Gene’s reduced involvement or death influence the decision to bring her back?

  • People had trouble working with Gene, and there was a high writer turnover. From Wikipedia:

    Tracy Tormé described the first few seasons of The Next Generation under Roddenberry as an "insane asylum" ...Franchise writers Fontana and David Gerrold... left the series under acrimonious circumstances...

    Did Gene’s reduced involvement persuade anyone to stay?

Answers should only address his influence on TNG. The influence that he did or didn't have on DS9 and Voyager is addressed by this question.

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    Isn't this 100% speculation? I get that we can make some informed guesses based on direction that some producers took that they said Gene wouldn't have allowed them to take, but still... – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 16 '16 at 0:23
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Fair enough, but I'd prefer non-speculative answers. For example if Berman is known to have reversed any of Roddenberry's "commands". – Z. Cochrane Sep 16 '16 at 0:27
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    I think it would be better to reword the question to ask that directly. "What aspects of TNG did Rodenberry advocate for that Berman reversed" is an answerable, non-speculative question. You could maybe ask "How did the post-Rodenberry TNG differ from his initial vision" as well, but would have to be careful to not make it speculative. As-is, the question title is click-baity and the answerable question you are searching for isn't immediately obvious. – Thunderforge Sep 16 '16 at 0:32
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    It also doesn't help that you end your question with speculation of your own, which makes the question seem primarily opinion-based. – Thunderforge Sep 16 '16 at 0:38
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    Zabeus I suggest you take a look at missionlogpodcast.com They have been going through every episode 1 by 1 each week and they recently just got to the episode where Gene died during and they even have panel during the 50th aniversary con discussing such things to some degree. If you're really interested in this question I think you'd be interested in that podcast as there are things that are talked about in there like how Gene wanted this way or that way and the evolution of TNG. – Durakken Sep 16 '16 at 4:29
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TNG Producer Rick Berman discussed this in an official StarTrek.com interview

Q: Let’s dig into some complicated ground. Roddenberry got sick, became less involved and eventually passed away. What were your thoughts, as the torch was handed on, about following his vision versus doing what needed to be done to make the show work versus any urge you might’ve had to put your own imprint on TNG?

BERMAN: It was never a sense to me of a torch being passed. That all sounds great in retrospect, but things are never quite as clear-cut as that. As the first few years of TNG went on, Bob Justman left the show and Maurice Hurley and I were involved. And then Maurice left and a fellow named Michael Wagner was hired. He lasted a very short time, and then Michael Piller came on. Gene was comfortable with me taking care of the day-to-day supervision of this program that he’d been involved with for about two years at that point, and he stepped back. He’d come to the office every day. He did a lot of correspondence with people. He and I would talk a lot. He’d read some scripts. But his involvement got smaller and smaller as the months went on. Then he got ill and his involvement got quite a bit less. By the time he passed away, I was, I guess you could say, running TNG along with Michael Piller. And I’d been asked by Brandon Tartikoff, at the time, to develop a new show. This was something that I discussed with Gene, who felt very positive about it. But he was quite ill at the time and wasn’t really interested in getting involved with what it was or what it was going to be about. I would like to think that he had faith in both myself and Michael, who I asked to work with me on what became Deep Space Nine.

So, by the time Gene died, there was no sense of “Oh my God, this great responsibility has been put on my shoulders.” I was doing the job I’d been doing for a couple of years and Gene had become, in a sense, a producer emeritus of the organization. I had absolutely no thoughts about putting my own imprint on Star Trek. My interest was to continue to try to do the best work that I could and to hire the best people that I could and to continue on with what Gene set out to do with TNG. It was my hope that the direction we went in with DS9 – and onward with the other shows -- was something he would have thought was the right direction to go. I don’t see myself, nor have I ever seen myself, as a visionary who wanted to put his ideas onto the show. I wanted to be as truthful as I could to Gene’s vision, and that was something I was more than comfortable with.

(Source)

From Berman's statements, we can extract the following answers to your questions:

Did the post-Roddenberry TNG differ from his initial vision?

No, not according to Berman. "I wanted to be as truthful as I could to Gene's vision."

Did Berman violate any of the rules that Roddenberry had laid out for the series?

Not really. DS9, with its initial lack of a starship, its struggle-on-the-frontier theme, and an imperfect Federation, was probably the biggest departure from Roddenberry's vision. The idea, at least as presented to Roddenberry, did not seem to offend him. "This was something that I discussed with Gene, who felt very positive about it...." (Others have said that Roddenberry was not so enthused, but Berman has always maintained that Roddenberry was supportive of DS9.)

Were there any general themes that became less emphasized after his death? Did Berman make hire or fire decisions contrary to Gene’s known preferences?

Again, no evidence. "My interest was to continue to try to do the best work that I could and to hire the best people that I could and to continue on with what Gene set out to do with TNG."

From another interview with Berman:

"He was a teacher to me in a sense," Berman said. "I was involved in the creation and the ongoing production of the television show that was based on his vision. From that point of view, he was somebody that I looked up to, and in a sense, obeyed, because we were playing by his rules, which was fine by me."

(Source)

Not all of the "rules" were due to Roddenberry himself

Another point to add is that not all of the "rules" came from Roddenberry himself. William Shatner's TNG documentary Chaos on the Bridge reveals that Leonard Maizlish, Roddenberry's lawyer, and Maurice Hurley, the showrunner picked by Roddenberry for Season 2, had charged themselves with keeping TNG true to the Roddenberry vision and took it to an extreme that Roddenberry himself might not have on his own. From a review of the documentary:

To make matters worse, [Maizlish and Hurley] both pushed Roddenberry’s utopian vision further than even Roddenberry had wanted. Hurley recounts that by the middle of the second season, Hurley was fighting Roddenberry because [he] had gone further with the "no conflict, everything is perfect" ethos than even Roddenberry felt comfortable with.

(Source)

  • Excellent answer, as usual. It's not exactly what I wanted to hear (and I don't consider Berman a reliable narrator) but it's the best we can hope for without any hard evidence to the contrary. – Z. Cochrane Sep 23 '16 at 22:38
  • Thanks @zabeus. For what it's worth, I agree with you about Berman. The Maizlish / Hurley aspect is interesting, though. – Praxis Sep 23 '16 at 23:49
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    What's wrong with Berman? – DCOPTimDowd Nov 20 '17 at 19:33
  • Yeah, what's wrong with Berman? – 1252748 Oct 24 '18 at 2:38
  • Berman's interview states Berman's view of what happened as he took over. His perspective as to how closely he adhered to Gene's vision may be different from others' perspective. – RDFozz Dec 31 '18 at 20:45

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