Whether he’s revered or reviled, Rick Berman was the torchbearer for the Star Trek franchise for many years following the death of Gene Roddenberry in 1991. He helped usher in such timeless series as “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Enterprise,” and was also instrumental behind films like “Star Trek Generation,” “Star Trek: First Contact” as well as “Star Trek: Insurrection” and “Star Trek: Nemesis.”
And that’s all from a man who, before getting assigned to “Star Trek: The Next Generation” by Paramount in the late 1980s, knew almost nothing of Star Trek. That made creator Gene Roddenberry a mentor.
“He was a father figure to me in the fact that I was learning a second language, in a sense,” Berman said. “I was learning Roddenberry-ese, I was learning Star Trek, which was a whole vocabulary that I was not familiar with.”
Berman shared those comments with the producers of “Trek Nation,” a documentary produced by Roddenberry Entertainment — an ownership partner in 1701News. They were shared recently as part of the special edition DVD of “Trek Nation” that is set to be released July 9. The DVD, among other special features, will include more details of interviews producers had with various people involved in Star Trek over its existence, including longtime executive producer Berman.
Berman himself was always in a tough spot. Times were changing in terms of how stories were being told, but the big chair still belonged to Roddenberry, and he felt constrained to stay within the lines drawn by the Great Bird of the Galaxy.
“It wasn’t difficult to understand his vision of Star Trek,” Berman said. “His vision was extremely plain, extremely understandable. It was difficult from the point of view of writing. Writing drama is anchored in conflict and the resolution of conflict, and he did not want conflict between his core characters.”
Instead, that conflict always had to come from the outside, which explains why many of the problems of Capt. Picard dealt with external forces, not internal.
Roddenberry “felt that by the 24th century, humanity had transcended petty conflict, and transcended of arguments in the same way that it had gone beyond poverty and disease and wars,” Berman said. “If conflict wasn’t readily available with the core characters, it had to come from outside, which was difficult, and it would drive the writers nuts.”
Stories of how producers had to fight with Berman just to get a war to last more than an episode on “Deep Space Nine” can still be heard today. For Berman, however, his work was to try and maintain the original vision of the visionary himself, Gene Roddenberry.
“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.”
For video of the interview from “Trek Nation,” check out 1701News’ exclusive video right here.
To pre-order “Trek Nation,” click here.