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25 Years Later: Bombshells From 'Best Of Both Worlds'

How one line, 'To be continued,' changed 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' forever

It's hard to imagine now, but despite the introduction of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in 1987, the 1980s still belonged to Capt. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the crew of the original USS Enterprise.

Few took the show seriously, and it even spilled over into the conventions.

"The fans were split on the acceptance of the show," said Ronald D. Moore, one of TNG's writers who would go on to redevelop "Battlestar Galactica" for Syfy. "You would go to conventions and there would be bumper stickers and T-shirts that basically said, 'I'm a real Trekker. Forget the bald guy.' Stuff like that. We were the second-tier Trek."

But that changed 25 years ago with the release of what would become one of TNG's most iconic episodes, "The Best of Both Worlds, Part I." And Moore joined others from the cast and crew to share their memories of that pivotal moment with The Hollywood Reporter.

It was that episode in which TNG proved it was ready to be bold, and try something completely different. And it ended with six words, half of them from Cmdr. William T. Riker when he said, "Mr. Worf? Fire."

The last half, of course, was "To be continued," something that had never been done in a TNG episode before.

"All of us were quite thrilled they had the balls to leave Picard on the Borg cube," said Jonathan Frakes, who played Riker. "I don't know if they were trying to threaten Picard (actor Patrick Stewart) with renegotiations. It's commonplace now. Shows like 'Lost' and 'House of Cards,' they kill off a regular and think nothing of it. This was 1990. It was not commonplace to be killing off any of your series regulars."

Yet, the show's head writer Michael Piller was ready to do it. And he wanted to do it big — even if he had no clue on how he was going to unpaint himself out of the corner.

"When Michael did 'Part 1,' he said, 'I have no idea how this thing ends,'" Moore told The Hollywood Reporter. "'We're going to end on this cliffhanger of 'fire,' and we're going to figure it out next season.' We sat down and Michael was like, 'All right, I don't know where we're going. Let's just try to figure out something.'"

Of course, saving Picard simply meant that the trick he helped devise to destroy the Borg cube wouldn't work. But fans had to wait all summer to find out.

"There were various efforts to try and keep the script's distribution tight, and the plot secret," Moore remembered. "They were trying to watermark the scripts, which was a novelty at that point, and number them. It was the pre-Internet days, so it wasn't like the files were being passed around in emails."

Freelance writer and superfan Jordan Hoffman says he remembers the summer of 1990 being a frantic one, thanks to "Best of Both Worlds."

"We felt, 'Is Picard going to be killed?'" Hoffman said. "After that episode, there was a lot of talk. Somehow we knew there were rumors that Patrick Stewart was going to leave the show. That was definitely in the air. There would be somebody who goes, 'You know Patrick Stewart is leaving?' How do you know this? 'Everyone knows it.'"

But Stewart wasn't leaving the show. In fact, it's believed now he wasn't even in contract negotiations. By the time the writers returned to break stories for the next season, not only was Piller ready to continue Picard's storyline on the Enterprise, he was ready to expand it off the ship and away from the "planet of the week" episodes. That's where Moore and his Trek mold-breaking story "Family" comes in.

In that episode, for fans who remember, Picard returns to France to spend time with his brother and nephew in the aftermath of "Best of Both Worlds."

"Gene Roddenberry hated it," Moore said of the Star Trek creator. "My only story meeting with Gene was that episode. He wanted to throw it out."

Moore got the backing of Piller and showrunner Rick Berman, yet Roddenberry was not convinced.

"We all met in Gene's office, and Gene just said, 'This isn't the 24th century.'" Moore said. "'These brothers reflect outdated, 20th century modes of childhood development. Mankind has solved these kind of issues by then. I hate this.'"

Moore, who was still a young writer and who walked into the writers' room as a major Star Trek fan who looked up to Roddenberry, was shocked. When the three walked out of Roddenberry's office, Moore turned to Piller and Berman and asked what they were going to do now.

"They said, 'You know what? Just go write your story. We'll work with Gene,'" Moore said. "That was the last I ever heard of it."

"Family" would prove TNG was heading into the realm of more character-centric stories that helped define the series overall as the new standard-bearer, and one that would even earn an Emmy nomination for outstanding drama in its final season.

"That was the turning point on 'Next Generation's' acceptance as Star Trek, among the fans and with the public," Moore said. "Suddenly we had done something that was legitimate, and got people's attention, and told a great story. From then on out, we carried the torch.

"We were legitimate, and that was the show that turned it around for us."

To read the complete Q&A, which also includes thoughts from Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, makeup guru Michael Westmore and visual effects supervisor Gary Hutzel, among others, click here.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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