As the world prepares itself for Star Trek-mania with the release of the new movie, one Next Generation writer looks back on his tenure with the franchise, and spills the beans about how he survived.
Newsweek has Leonard Mlodinow - writer of one TNG episode (Season 2's "The Dauphin") and story editor for another 8 - reminisce about his time with Trek, and it's as full of dysfunctional creative types as you'd expect:
In Hollywood, as in life, the real power rests with the moneymen: the studio, or whoever is financing the enterprise (small "e"), and the network, or whoever is putting it on the screen. That's why one writer-producer I worked with on "Star Trek" always carried a wad of thousands of dollars in his pocket, which he fondled when things got frustrating. "To remind me of why I'm here," he said. That producer, who'd been hired during the first season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," told me that writers were fired at such a swift pace that year that at one point the studio almost closed down the show because it couldn't find new ones fast enough. Another writer-producer with waning influence kept getting "demoted" into smaller offices, until he finally just worked at home. Then one day, without telling him, the producers fired his secretary.
Even Gene Rodenberry doesn't escape the gossip:
We saw Gene only occasionally. We were told that when we did see him, we had to take whatever advice he gave us, whatever we thought of it. Gene liked to speak in great detail about life in the 24th century, the era in which our series took place. He spoke with more certainty about the future than I had about the present, a certainty that I suppose comes from knowing that all over the world attorneys and models and kids like I used to be have studied your every word.
Ultimately, though, Mlodinow seems happy to have spent his time working on the show, and be connected with the whole mythology... if only because of what he sees the true success of Star Trek to be:
Gene Roddenberry's real creation is a franchise culture dedicated, like his fictional characters, to "boldly go where no man has gone before." That makes "Star Trek" more enduring than any set of characters or episodes Gene himself created, and bigger than any one of its products or the people who pass through it.
Vulcans Never, Ever Smile [Newsweek]