Star Trek’s Best Episodes Were Hated By Gene Roddenberry

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Whenever Star Trek series like Discovery or Strange New Worlds take the franchise in a different direction (say, a musical episode), angry fans question why the franchise has strayed from the original vision of franchise creator Gene Roddenberry. However, such fans should be aware of a sobering fact. The truth is that Gene Roddenberry hated some of the best episodes in the franchise, including The Next Generation episode “Family.”

Gene Roddenberry Didn’t Like Family

In a 2013 interview with Star Trek writer and future Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ronald D. Moore, he revealed how weird things got when he pitched “Family” to Roddenberry. If you need a refresher, this episode took place directly after “The Best of Both Worlds” and had Captain Picard visit his estranged brother in France. The two fight and then reconcile, and this emotional reunion helps Picard overcome his immense guilt for the lives he had taken as Locutus of Borg.

Character Conflict

Most fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation love this episode for several reasons, including that it followed up on the action-packed “Best of Both Worlds” with something affecting and introspective. The episode gave us plenty of insight into Picard’s family and featured some amazing guest stars (Jeremy Kemp is particularly great as Picard’s older brother). Finally, it featured the rare sight of characters achieving resolution through conflict…a rare sight specifically because Gene Roddenberry hated the idea of any character conflict between the good guys on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

That is, somewhat predictably, the biggest part of why Roddenberry hated Moore’s ideas for “Family.” According to him, “these brothers don’t exist in the twenty-fourth century” because “they have such profound personal animosities.” Because of this and the fact that it had no “action” or “jeopardy,” the franchise creator gave the idea the harshest possible judgment: “this is not a Star Trek episode.”

Picard Season 2 Would Have Killed Him

In addition to these broader criticisms about the plot, Gene Roddenberry also hated the episode because of how it affected his most important character. According to him, “It says terrible things about Picard’s parents.” Given this, I can only assume that he would have hated the second season of Picard (which revealed that his mother had an unspecified mental illness that led to her suicide) even more than the rest of us did.

Family Exists Thanks To The Producers

If Gene Roddenberry hated everything about this Star Trek episode idea, then how did “Family” ever get made in the first place? Ronald D. Moore claims that after he exited that meeting with producer Rick Berman and head writer Michael Piller, he asked them what he was supposed to do. The two looked at each other and told Moore to go ahead and write the script and “we’ll take care of it.”

In retrospect, Moore said that Berman and Piller “were then dealing with Gene in a different way and that script just went through after that point.” After this point, Roddenberry “just stopped kind of throwing out scripts and changing things from that point forward.” Star Trek: The Next Generation was certainly stronger for this, but it’s shocking that before this, Roddenberry hated some of the best episodes, such as “Family,” for completely arbitrary reasons.

Roddenberry Wanted Picard To Get Laid

Fellow Star Trek writer Ira Steven Behr corroborated Roddenberry’s tendency to veto great script ideas, detailing how Roddenberry hated the pitch for the episode that would become “Captain’s Holiday.” Behr wanted an episode where Picard would enter a holodeck and experience a life where he got promoted to Admiral and had to give command of the Enterprise to Riker. The writer wanted Picard to face a fear of getting older, but Roddenberry insisted Picard was a John Wayne figure who wouldn’t worry about such things, instead demanding an episode where Picard could “get laid.”

Growing Beyond The Dream

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All of this underscores uncomfortable facts Star Trek fans need to face: Gene Roddenberry is not an infallible figure, and the franchise got much better once it was free from his restrictions. That doesn’t necessarily have to be an indictment of the man who taught us the importance of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. After all, what could be more fitting than for Roddenberry’s brilliant dream of the future to grow beyond the boundaries of the dreamer?

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