Television. The final frontier. Until video games and the internet came along.
This is the story bible about the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s seven season mission to explore strange new set. To seek out new bumpy foreheads and new analogs for whatever culture they wanted to emulate. To boldly go where the original show went before until they could finally think up original stuff.
Somebody asked me this week if it makes me mad looking at early story ideas versus novelizations and early story bibles, and it really doesn’t. I know things change between writing and filming. Look at Mr. Freeze’s intended origin for Batman: The Animated Series versus what actually appeared on-screen. Sometimes the original idea was better but unfilmable and sometimes the changes are an improvement over the original ideas. I find it all rather fascinating to see what changes were made and consider why. It’s something I should also consider in my own works.
The story bible we’ll be examining for this series is officially referred to as the Star Trek: The Next Generation Writers/Directors Guide, but calling this article series “Star Trek: The Next Story Bible” continues the theme from “Batman: The Animated Bible” and any future story bibles I get to review in the…future. Yeah. So I’ll be moving both series into the “Television Spotlight” category under the “Story Bible Review” subcategory here on the BW website. (Those of you reading this on Patreon please consider donating and I know that sentence didn’t make much sense to you.) The version online (which you can also download and read via this link as long as it’s available) is the last draft for season one, released on March 23, 1987 to prospective writers and directors, but still some changes were made. In this first installment we’ll go over what we should expect to see as this article miniseries goes on.
First there’s this bit of history from the Memory Alpha fanwiki for Star Trek:
The final first-season writers’ guide (which was fifty-five pages long and was dated 23 March 1987) was also mostly assembled by David Gerrold and the staff, then polished by (Gene) Roddenberry himself. The cover of the final Season 1 writers’ guide featured drawings of the new Enterprise (dated 8 December 1986). By now, the captain’s first name was “Jean-Luc” and his first officer’s surname was “Riker”, though the captain was given the nickname “Luke”. For the first time in an edition of the writers’ guide, Beverly Crusher was the subject of an entire dedicated page of background notes, rather than just being mentioned in connection with Wesley Crusher. The final first-season draft increased the number of shipboard personnel to 1,012, which remained the case in the series, and refined the setting to seventy-eight years after “the time of Kirk and Spock.” The document also included the first TNG mention of saucer separation and communicators being part of the Starfleet insignia worn on the chest, although the former concept had its roots in earlier-produced Star Trek projects. By now, Deanna Troi was referred to as half-Betazoid, her Starfleet father having resided with her mother on Betazed, but Worf was still completely absent from the writers’ guide, yet to be imagined. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., pp. 7, 9, 14, 15 & 16)
For more on the origins of Worf check out the BW Panelling episode featuring Michael Dorn and Nana Visitor. At this point some of the more familiar aspects of the show was in there, but we’ll still be seeing differences. Still, it’s closer than the very first draft.
The first draft of the document (which was twenty-two pages long and was dated 26 November 1986) described and explained the sets, characters, and terminology as well as establishing the format which the series would follow. The document referred to the time period of the forthcoming series as the 25th century, because the series itself was meanwhile conceived as being set in that century. The first-draft writers’ guide featured a teenage female character (who ultimately became Wesley Crusher) and Starfleet communicators which were intended to be wrist-worn devices.
Yep, Wesley was original going to be a girl. Also, as noted in an old BW article, Tasha was going to have a crush on Wesley (and I’m curious to see if that’s in this draft). I also find it interesting that the communicators were going to be wrist devices. That’s how they appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture but was dropped by Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. I guess Roddenberry really wanted those wrist devices. Maybe he read a lot of Dick Tracy comics?
The document described Deanna Troi as one-quarter Betazoid and possessing some telepathic abilities owing to her “Starfleet officer grandfather having lived on Betazed with one of its humanoid females.” This early writers’ guide also opened with the promise that the upcoming series would go boldly “where no one has gone before,” rather than “where no man has gone before,” clearly distinguishing TNG’s version of the motto from the TOS version. Additionally, the first draft of the writers’ guide bore the series name Star Trek: The Next Generation, although Robert Justman sent a memo a month later (on 5 December 1986) that suggested nineteen other possible series titles. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., pp. 3, 4, 5, 11, 14 & 15) According to actor LeVar Burton, his character of Geordi La Forge was a minor character in Roddenberry’s first version of the writers’ guide. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 19, No. 3, p. 27)
I wonder what those other titles were? The cover features the following image of the Enterprise-D.
That is pretty much what the ship looks like. The book opens with an introduction explaining the usage of the guide.
Your possession of this Star Trek “bible” should not be considered an invitation to write or submit a story or script for the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Please don’t mail in a story or script. Regretfully this will only lead to your mail being rejected or the material destroyed.
There’s actually a good reason for this. I’m sure you’ve heard of at least one situation where a writer sued a show because an episode they put out has a script very similar to the one they submitted to the show and had rejected. It happens quite often in multiple media outlets, including movies and comics. This was the Star Trek team and Paramount (who owned the series at the time…long story) covering their behinds. The introduction goes on to say that they’re also worried about unions and other issues and only want work submitted by request, which leads me to wonder why anyone not being asked to work on the show received one of these guides. The only exception listed is “recognized literary agents” who have an “established reputation as representatives of professional television writers”, but isn’t that still unsolicited work?
The table of contents is next, listing six different section to the document:
- These Are The Voyages: This is just the early basic information that will be expanded upon in later chapters plus early information a writer or director needs when coming up with a story idea.
- The Script: This is broken down into “believably, what doesn’t work, and format”. I’m planning to have some fun with the first two. As a critic I often discuss what does and doesn’t work, while the war between “believable”, “realism”, and “alleged realism” is an ongoing discussion topic here at the spotlight. Format will interest me more from a creative perspective.
- The Starship Enterprise: This section appears to dedicated to the look of the ship and how family life is on board. The original show didn’t have families but they were part of TNG, although the kids seems to be less and less brought up as the series went on. Probably so we wouldn’t think about how many of them died along with the crew when the ship was torn up.
- More On The Starship Crew: While these may not be the final personalities of the crew as we’ll see them in the show this was the starting point, and seeing what changed in season one alone should be of interest.
- Writers And Directors Notes: This is broken down into Star Trek’s own terminology and technology plus the ship’s computer. There’s also an appendix just for “scientific terminology”. I’m betting the terminology sections are going to be fun as well. Will I get to use multimodal reflection sorting? Is there a list of these wacky terms online somewhere because I’m going to need them when I get here.
This doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to have only five articles worth of material. The guide is 53 pages long, 48 of which has useful information. How much will go into an article will depend on how much I have to say. Some sub-sections might be combined while others earn a full article on its own. And while I will be focusing on what actually happened in season one of the show I will also look at what changed in later seasons. I think each season, or at least the next one, each had their own guide (to reflect cast and direction changes I imagine) and there were plenty of changes after Gene Roddenberry was kicked upstairs and after his passing (sorry, too much death this week for me) so we will look at those as well.
So that’s what we’ll be doing for the next whatever Fridays, going over this production guide and see what they planned to do versus what they actually did do. And we’ll start next week with the basic information. That’s next time on Star Trek: The Next Story Bible.