William Shatner explores 'chaos' on set of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'

Steve Tilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:56 PM ET

Gene Roddenberry, the legendary creator of Star Trek, was often referred to as the Great Bird of the Galaxy. And like his nicknamesake, he could make a lot of noise and crap all over everything.

Twenty years after Star Trek: The Next Generation made its final TV voyage, William Shatner – the face of the original series that started it all – delves into the tumultuous birth of Capt. Picard and pals in William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge. It debuts Monday on HBO Canada.

Through candid interviews with writers, producers, studio heads and cast members, Shatner pieces together an eye-opening look at the first two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The egos, the infighting, the fan backlash, the bluffs and threats and – lording over it all – Roddenberry trying to make a comeback while also battling with his own personal demons.

Written and directed by Shatner (in an interview with us, he called this “really, the best thing I’ve done”), the one-hour documentary is full of unvarnished insights and recollections from the likes of Paramount television’s then-president John Pike, series writers Maurice Hurley and D.C. Fontana, producers and spin-off shepherds Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, Patrick “Jean-Luc Picard” Stewart and many, many others.

It’s a rich, raucous look at the messy birth of TV’s most famous utopian future, and the two years that nearly ended the whole thing before it started. “The first and second seasons of The Next Generation are almost unwatchable,” says Ronald D. Moore, a writer on Star Trek who would go on to create the Battlestar Galactica reboot.

What Chaos on the Bridge ultimately tells us is that without Roddenberry’s vision, the show would have never got off the ground. And yet it was his ailing health and death in 1991 that ultimately allowed the Great Bird’s hatchlings to take over the show and make it more about characters and conflict. This was the success that allowed Star Trek seek out new series and new movies, to boldly go where no franchise has gone before.


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