In looking back at the four Star Trek: The Next Generation movies, Rick Berman sees where things went right and where mistakes were made, but the response to Star Trek: Nemesis baffles him.
In Star Trek: Generations; Berman, Brannon Braga and Ron Moore made the jump from a television series to a movie, but angered both Leonard Nimoy and original series fans.
“It was kind of naïve for myself and Brannon and Ron to jump into the movie business with really very little experience on how it worked,” said Berman. “We had a bit of a falling out with (potential Generations director) Leonard Nimoy, in retrospect, over the procedural elements of how the development, writing, production, and direction of a feature film are different from television. As a result, we selected David Carson to direct Generations.”
Nimoy wasn’t the only unhappy person. Fans of the original series were displeased with the fate of James T. Kirk in the movie as well as how he met his end. As it was a The Next Generation film, Berman considered the reaction of The Next Generation fans but not that of the original series fans, some of whom had almost thirty years of fandom under their belts. “We got a lot of criticism for the way Kirk was handled, which I felt was unfortunate,” said Berman. “As far as fans of TNG were concerned, Kirk had been dead for years. It was a century later. We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to somehow pass the torch, in a way? To somehow bring Kirk and Spock and the others into this, to find some way to marry the two together?'”
Meant as a way of paying respect, the death of Kirk didn’t please fans and didn’t even please Berman. “…it was taken by a lot of people as going against canon of the show, and about our killing Kirk, when in fact Kirk had been dead for decades, most likely, as far as anybody knew,” said Berman. “Scenes that were written for his death were somewhat pitiful and weak, and we ended up going back and doing the best we could to make it more dramatic. It was a first for a lot of us, and it made money and it ended up being, for the first time out of the wheelhouse, not such a bad picture.”
Fortunately for Berman, things went much better on the next The Next Generation film, Star Trek: First Contact. “Everything that perhaps went wrong on the first movie went right on the second movie,” he said. “The story was developed by the same three people, Ron Moore and Brannon and myself, and the script was written by the same two people (Moore and Braga). But it just worked on a huge number of levels. It was exciting. It had some very memorable stuff. People like James Cromwell brought a whole element to the history of Trek that I found fascinating. Alice Krige did an incredible job as the Borg Queen.”
The response to Berman’s last Trek film, Star Trek: Nemesis, puzzles him to this day. “So the thought was, ‘This is great. We’re going to do a movie with an outside director, with an outside, top, A-list writer, one who really knows and loves Star Trek.’ So it was the writer who knows Trek and the director who doesn’t know much about Trek, but knows a lot about action. … everyone from the studio to me thought we’d crafted a really good movie. And nobody came to see it. It wasn’t even a question of not getting good reviews. Any Star Trek movie opened and it’d have a huge opening weekend, but this one didn’t. Now, why? I understand and appreciate the criticisms of the production or script, but I, to this day, have some difficulty understanding why it met with such a poor reception. … the movie backfired and there’s certainly a lot of room for discussion of why. It was sad and a little baffling to me.”