Links abound in this post, but dig in if you’re a Star Trek fan as there’s lots of insights and revelations into the production of one of the most unfairly dismissed Star Trek films. I actually rate Insurrection as one of my favourite Next Gen movies, but there’s no doubt it felt like a heavily compromised entry. An unpublished book by the late Michael Piller, Fade In: The Writing of Star Trek: Insurrection, tells the story.
“They’re not out to make a quick buck, they’re looking to protect the integrity of the franchise and its mythology.” 1998’s Star Trek Insurrection went through a number of different plots before becoming the film we ultimately saw. Starting out as Star Trek: Stardust, the first take on the idea involved Captain Picard going all Heart of Darkness on a former friend from his Starfleet Academy days in a bid to find the Fountain of Youth. That treatment evolved into a remarkably Avatarish story called simply Star Trek IX in which Picard must go upriver to kill a malfunctioning Data as part of a Federation/Romulan alliance to displace strange alien natives from a planet teeming with a valuable and rare ore (spoiler: Picard actually kills Data in this treatment, and Tom Hanks was supposed to have a major role somewhere).
The PDF of the book was originally released by Trek Core. They included this note:
When we received this submission, we were told that Michael Piller considered this book his last great gift to the fans and to aspiring writers everywhere. Unfortunately, Paramount somehow got it suppressed from being published. Michael Piller passed away in 2005, so getting this book published will never be possible (not to mention Insurrection is quite old now, so a book about it wouldn’t be financially feasible for a publisher). It’s clear Michael Piller wanted this book read, so we felt that making it available to the fans made sense. It’s an amazingly detailed look at the process of writing the movie including internal memos, letters, pitches, story drafts, etc. Enjoy this unique glimpse into writing Star Trek Insurrection! And lastly, if anyone can provide the draft of Star Trek Insurrection that is missing from this document, please email us.
The Next Generation was a huge influence on me as a kid, and I used to read all the magazines. I was – and still am – very interested in television production. Star Trek has a very strict PR machine. I enjoyed the stories about how the cast and crew were like ‘one big family’, and it’s fascinating to read some honest accounts now:
It may surprise you to learn that when I took over as head writer, the entire writing staff of Star Trek: The Next Generation was so frustrated and angry with Gene Roddenberry they were counting the days before their contracts expired (and indeed every one of them left at season’s end.) He wouldn’t let them out of the box and they were suffocating.
Of course, I’m not so naive now. I’ve had the privilege to work for the BBC, and worked for a while on a British SF show of some note (well, the website anyway). I know fairly well how the reality compares to the presented image. It can be crazy making, and it isn’t the kind of environment I would be able to survive in for long either.
Of course, Plinkett’s review of Insurrection in its finished form is spot on.