Twenty five years ago this week, Star Trek: The Next Generation unleashed the first cliffhanger in Star Trek history by leaving Patrick Stewart’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the hands of the Borg. To celebrate such a game-changer, The Hollywood Reporter compiled a series of interviews with various cast and crew to dive into the behind-the-scenes workings of how it all came together.
“The Best of Both Worlds Part 1” ended with Picard newly transformed into Locutus of Borg as he issued an ultimatum for the crew of his beloved Enterprise. “Mr. Worf, fire,” was the succinct reply of First Officer Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes).
Suddenly, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s fourth season premiere was one of the most highly anticipated shows of Fall 1990 as fans openly speculated about the fate of Picard and the rest of the Enterprise crew.
Written by Michael Piller, who passed away in 2005,“The Best of Both Worlds Parts I & II” were not created with an endgame in mind. In fact, Piller had no idea how the crew would get out of this cliffhanger.
Ronald D. Moore recalled that “when Michael did ‘Part I,’ he said, ‘I have no idea how this thing ends. We’re going to end on this cliffhanger of ‘fire’ and we’re going to figure it out next season.’ We all gather in the room, and it was essentially a new writing staff. I was the only holdover from season three. 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.’”
“All of us were quite thrilled they had the balls to leave Picard on the Borg cube,” added Frakes. “It’s commonplace now. Shows like Lost and House of Cards — they’ll 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. That was a big ‘who shot J.R.’ type of plot.”
“My favorite moment was seeing Picard in that Borg outfit for the first time,” recalled Moore. “When that reveal happens and he looks at the camera and he’s a Borg, and he says, ‘I am Locutus.’ It was a shocking moment. You realize the show had gone someplace different. We all knew that internally and were like, ‘Woah, OK. This is going to break some molds.’”
“What people forget now is in the first couple of seasons of Next Generation, we were sort of not taken seriously as Star Trek,” continued Moore. “The fans were split on the acceptance of the show… We were the second-tier Trek. When ‘Best of Both Worlds’ came out, suddenly there was all this buzz. And it got in the press and there was all this tension and people were talking about the cliffhanger and Picard.”
“That was the turning point on Next Generation’s acceptance as Star Trek, among the fans and with the public,” said Moore. “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.”
The whole thing is worth a read, so make sure to head over to THR and check it out. Star Trek: TNG fans, share your memories about “The Best of Both Worlds” in the comment section below!