With Star Trek: The Next Generation coming to Blu-ray next year, we're going to be rediscovering the Enterprise-D all over again. And with all that new picture quality, we'll be able to notice all sorts of details we missed the first time.
TNG didn't just bring Star Trek back to life on television — it also reinvented television space opera, making some fascinating choices along the way. Here are 10 things you probably didn't know about Star Trek: The Next Generation.
10. Rock Star Cameos. Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac shaved off his famous beard for a guest spot in the TNG episode "Manhunt" — but then he was cast as an Antedean, a fish-like alien, and thus his face was completely covered up in any case. Meanwhile, Picard's former love interest, Jenice Manheim, in "We'll Always Have Paris," was played by Michelle Philips, former member of The Mamas & The Papas. Source: IMDB. (Philips also played William Shatner's love interest in an episode of T.J. Hooker.)
9) Star Trek Without Starships? Early on in the planning of TNG, the creators went through a few different concepts, including setting the show 150 years after the Original Series instead of just 78 years later, and setting it on the Enterprise-G. And they also considered getting rid of the Enterprise altogether — because Transporter technology would have advanced so far, the crew could just teleport from planet to planet, instead of flying in a ship. Source: Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual.
8) Gene Roddenberry banned stories about warfare with Romulans or Klingons. He also wanted no stories about Vulcans, whatsoever, according to the original March 1987 Writers/Directors Guide (PDF). Other standard tropes from the Original Series that Roddenberry banned from TNG: "stories about psi-forces or psychic powers," "swords and sorcery," "mad scientists, or stories in which technology is considered the villain." He also never wanted to see the crew violating the Prime Directive, or "toppling cultures that we don't approve of." And no stories in which the ship is put in danger because the technology fails, or the crew makes a dumb mistake.
The original series bible (which is a fascinating read), also says Picard and Riker have a "father-son relationship," and Picard often pretends to think France is "the only true civilization on Earth." Also, the phrase "fully functional" is underlined when discussing Data. And Tasha Yar is obsessed with Wesley Crusher, who's her "beau ideal" and the childhood friend she never had. Also, Picard "cannot help noticing that Beverly Crusher's natural walk resembles that of a striptease queen." Source: Original Bible.
7) Boothby could have been the Traveler.
An early draft of the episode "Journey's End" included the revelation that Boothby was in fact The Traveler who has been serving as Jean-Luc Picard and Wesley Crusher's Starfleet Academy confidant to keep an eye on them and guide them to their destiny. The Traveler would have revealed the truth by transforming from Lakanta (the Native American guide) to Boothby, and then to his true form, in Ronald D. Moore's original script. But Michael Piller objected, on the grounds that it would cheapen Picard's own relationship with Boothby. Source: Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion by Larry Nemecek.
6) Locutus could have been the original Tuvix.
In one version of the "Best of Both Worlds" storyline, the Borg would have combined Data and Picard into a single Borg unit. But according to producer Michael Piller, someone finally asked why the Borg would do that, and nobody had a good explanation. So the idea was dropped. Source: Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages.
5) Wesley almost got decapitated.
We see alt-Riker get killed in the final moments of the episode "Yesterday's Enterprise," during the bloody final battle. But other deaths got dropped due to time and budget constraints. We just barely missed out on seeing alt-Wesley's head get cut off, plus Data would have gotten electrocuted.
4) Data nearly became the Enterprise's First Officer
In the episode "Second Chances," where we meet the Transporter duplicate of Will Riker, the writing staff seriously considered killing off the "original" Riker and bringing the Transporter twin, Thomas Riker, on as a new crewmember. Because Thomas Riker had a lower rank, he would have become the ops officer, and Data would have taken Will Riker's place as First Officer.
3) Troi nearly had three breasts.
In early brainstorming, the producers wanted Deanna Troi to have three breasts, just like that woman in Total Recall. But producer D.C. Fontana objected — she told Entertainment Weekly, "I objected to Troi having three breasts. I felt women have enough trouble with two. And how are you going to line them up? Vertically, horizontally, or what? I was like, please, don't go there. And they didn't, fortunately." Also, at one point early on, Gene Roddenberry wanted to make Wesley Crusher a girl named Lesley. And Tasha Yar was original a tough Latina named Macha Hernandez, based on Vasquez from Aliens. Sources: EW, Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion by Larry Nemecek.
2) The Mylar Pom-Pom of a Thousand Uses.
The TNG visual effects crew was used to doing a lot with whatever they could get their hands on — but the mylar pom-pom was the most versatile visual effects source of them all. Special effects master Dan Curry used the pom-pom to create a "phaser hit" effect. The same pom-pom also served as a nebula. And as the force field that imprisons Riker in the episode "Arsenal of Freedom." Also, another force field was created by the water spray from an ordinary garden hose. The "end of the universe" in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was created from the shimmering reflective patterns from a pan of water. Source: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Technical Manual by Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda.
1) The Enterprise Bridge would have had a conference table in the middle.
Do you think the Enterprise-D crew spent rather a lot of time sitting around the conference table? It would have been way more noticeable, if Gene Roddenberry had gotten his way. Roddenberry's original idea for the Enterprise-D bridge was to have a huge view screen — four times the size of the screen on the original Enterprise — with a conference table right in front of it. He also wanted an observation lounge as part of the bridge, which eventually became a separate room. (Another fun fact: The soundstage where the Enterprise bridge was created was inhabited by feral cats, so it was full of cat shit at first.) Source: Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion: Revised Edition by Larry Nemecek.
Sources as linked in the items, plus the utterly indispensable Memory Alpha. Photos via Trekcore. Additional reporting by Leland Rzepecki, Tina Crossgrove, Hans Lao and Tyler Lutz.