Memory Alpha

Rick Berman

39,876pages on
this wiki
Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

Richard Keith Berman (born 25 December 1945; age 70) is a veteran writer and producer of American television. He was the executive producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991-1994) and co-creator of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise. He also produced and co-wrote four Star Trek films.

Throughout his long tenure at Star Trek, Berman had his name on several occasions referenced:

In addition, Berman was honored by SkyBox International with an individual card entry, no. 37, in their 1993 specialty Star Trek: The Next Generation - Behind the Scenes trading card set.


Early life and careerEdit

Born in New York, New York on December 25, 1945, Rick Berman earned a bachelor's degree in speech from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1967.

In 1970, Berman worked as production assistant on John Lennon and Yoko Ono's experimental short film, Fly, which was one of his earliest jobs in filmmaking. [1]

A prolific documentary filmmaker in the 1970s, Berman traveled extensively throughout the world, visiting over ninety countries. As an independent producer in the 1980s, Berman produced several informational series for HBO and PBS, including The Big Blue Marble for which he won an Emmy Award in 1982. Coming to Paramount Pictures in 1984, Berman served as director of current programming and executive director of dramatic programming during which time he supervised television series including MacGyver, Family Ties, and Cheers – appearing in the final episode of the latter as a bar patron.

Star TrekEdit

In November 1986, recently promoted to vice president of long form and special projects for Paramount Network Television, Berman was called to a meeting with Gene Roddenberry, early in the development of his television spin-off of Star Trek. Berman recalled the meeting in his foreword for Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission:

"When I arrived at the meeting, Gene's office was filled with a number of high-ranking studio executives. Gene didn't want to do whatever they were proposing. Gene pounded the desk and the executives pounded back. Gene raised his voice and the executives raised theirs even louder. In the midst of all this pounding and shouting, I sat with my mouth shut. It wasn't that I had chosen this as a tactic, it was simply that I had no idea what they were talking about. But I clearly remember that on at least two occasions during that meeting, Gene's eyes locked on to mine for an instant and I responded with a slightly mischievous smile. Later, Gene Roddenberry would tell me how that smile was filled with subtext... I actually believe it was nothing more than a slightly mischievous smile."

Upon their second meeting, the two men discussed their travels – Roddenberry with the army and Berman as a documentary filmmaker – Berman described the meeting as a bonding experience, "love at second sight". Within days, Berman was offered a position as a producer on the fledgling Star Trek sequel, a move which would require him to resign his post as an executive and return to production. Berman described his new working relationship with Roddenberry as a blending of the Star Trek creator's fantastical imagination with his more "Earthbound" sensibility.

David Gerrold recalled the events differently, pointing out that Roddenberry initially disliked Berman, who was hired as a "watchdog" by the studio who blamed Roddenberry for the failure of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. "Gene didn't like Rick, at all. But Rick was installed on the show by the studio as a way to keep a control on the show... to keep the budgets in line, make sure that the scripts were done." [2]

Berman worked closely with fellow supervising producer Bob Justman, casting the new crew of the USS Enterprise-D and campaigning heavily to secure Patrick Stewart in the lead role in what would become Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission)

The Next Generation and Deep Space NineEdit

Piller and Berman, DS9 set

Berman and Michael Piller on the set of Deep Space Nine

Ronald Reagans set visit

Berman with Ronald Reagan in 1991.

With the departure of Bob Justman following TNG's first year and Roddenberry's declining involvement in the day-to-day production of the series, Berman quickly ascended to the role of executive producer, a title he held alone following Roddenberry's death in 1991.

Overseeing all aspects of the production of The Next Generation, Berman described his position as monitoring both the aspects of the series that changed and those that remained the same, in order to retain a balance. "My job also includes monitoring the 'degree of bend'... letting the shows and the films evolve, but keeping Gene's vision true to course. I'm not quite fluent yet, but I'm getting there."

Berman would later recall, "I learned Gene's vision directly from Gene. It wasn't my vision of the future, but it was at the foundation of Star Trek. It was like learning a foreign language. I studied it." (A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager, p. 3) Keeping a small bust of Roddenberry on his desk, Berman often referred to what Roddenberry would have done had he survived to continue running TNG. When any one of the writers would propose an idea that Berman felt was explicitly contrary to that edict, Berman would "blindfold" the bust. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)

With the success of TNG and mounting production costs, Paramount soon approached Berman and his associates to ready yet another spin-off, one to run concurrently with TNG before supplanting it on the airwaves. This would be Rick Berman's first "created by" credit and it would come to be called Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Despite criticism that the second Star Trek spin-off, co-created by Berman and Michael Piller, was darker and grittier than previous Trek outings, Berman consistently and steadfastly disagreed. In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, Berman recalls:

"I was asked to create and develop a series that would serve as a companion piece to The Next Generation for about a year and a half, and then TNG would go off the air and this new show would continue. So I asked Michael Piller to get involved, and we put our heads together. I really never had the opportunity to discuss any ideas with Gene. This was very close to the end of Gene's life, and he was quite ill at the time. But he knew that we were working on something, and I definitely had his blessing to develop it."

The movies and VoyagerEdit

Following the end of the seven season run of The Next Generation, Rick Berman's duties as executive producer segued into the responsibility of overseeing the continuation of that series on the big screen. With the process of creating a TNG movie beginning as early as 1992, the situation was nevertheless rushed according to Berman in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion:

"The television studio people knew me and how I worked, and trusted me after seven years. But the feature film people didn't, and I had to develop that rapport with them... originally they wanted us to have it out in March. Then they said Christmas, and then Thanksgiving. It just kept creeping up on us."

One of the few producers to successfully transition from television to feature films, Berman's eventual Star Trek Generations was a financial success, securing his place in the world of Trek features.

Despite the general prosperity of Deep Space Nine, Paramount pressured Berman for yet another television series. So close to the end of TNG and running alongside DS9, Berman admitted in a 2006 interview that he felt many aspects of what came to be Star Trek: Voyager, unfortunately, didn't work.

"I think a lot of things did work. It was the first attempt to do a Star Trek show on a starship that was not the Enterprise. It was a show that was pushed on the public a little too quickly, which was difficult. It was very difficult to have a female lead who could have the authority of a Starfleet captain and simultaneously have the nurturing feminine qualities that we were all after. It was a difficult thing to do. I think that may have been part of the motivation for bringing in Jeri Ryan... It was something we tried to do, something I think we did successfully, but not as successfully as we'd hoped. I think there may have been a problem with the whole idea of throwing the ship to the other side of the galaxy, because I think Star Trek, at its soul, is a show about heading outward into new places and discovering new things, and this was a show about heading back and trying to find our way home. We hoped that the amount of adventure and exploration would be the same on our journey back home, but I think something was lost on their way home."

Yet again citing studio pressure for a quickened turn-out pace, Berman said:

"I again asked them for a little breathing room, that maybe it wasn't a good idea to slap a new show on the air in what was going to be the third season of Deep Space Nine. Maybe we needed to separate them a little bit. It was very clear to me they wanted another show... In a very polite and abstract way I was told that if I refused to do it, they respected that, but that they'd find someone else who would..."

While Voyager would fail to achieve the same audience numbers that Star Trek: The Next Generation and even Deep Space Nine once did, Paramount and UPN still considered it a profitable and desirable commodity. With the end of Voyager's seventh season, Berman was once again approached to create a new series - one to air in the fall of 2001, mere months after the final broadcast of Voyager.

Enterprise and NemesisEdit

Rick Berman and Bill Gates

Berman tours the Enterprise sets with Bill Gates

Partnering with TNG veteran Brannon Braga, Berman co-created and executive produced Enterprise, arguably the most controversial of his endeavors. Credited for polarizing the apparently dwindling Star Trek fan base, Enterprise was, at Berman's insistence, drastically different from previous outings.

Debuting with a relatively large audience, Enterprise quickly lost viewer-ship and inspired criticism of both the series and its creators, with fans – and as it turned out after-the-fact by production staffers as well – criticizing alleged violations in established continuity. With the additional failure of Star Trek Nemesis at the box office in 2002, outspoken critics clamored for the removal of Berman.

"Contrary to the people on the Internet who seem to think I never cared very much about the Star Trek franchise, I did and I do. I felt that if someone was going to keep it true to Gene Roddenberry's vision it would probably be better me than for me to bow out."

Nevertheless, with the approach of the end of the third season of Enterprise, Paramount and UPN indicated its cancellation and the apparent end of Rick Berman's tenure as the overseer of Star Trek productions. Though remaining credited, Berman was indeed virtually relegated to the role of figurehead by the franchise at the end of the third season, as was Braga, and their places were de facto filled for the last season by Manny Coto and Mike Sussman, under whose tenure much of the perceived continuity violation was redressed, aided by writers such as Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, who, like them, had an equally thorough understanding of Star Trek lore. While the season as a whole was generally well received – though it did not save the series –, both Berman and Braga yet again took firmly hold of the reigns when it came to producing the last episode, also turning out to be the very last of the whole television franchise, "These Are the Voyages...". Intended to be "a valentine to all the Star Trek shows", as Braga had put it [3], the well-meant intention was again met with intense criticism, creating yet another violent backlash from production staffers and fans alike, causing Berman to concede years later, "I would have never done it if I had known how people were going to react." [4]

With the end of Enterprise, word came from Berman and Paramount that an eleventh feature was in the works, with Berman partnering with screenwriter Erik Jendresen on what was tentatively titled Star Trek: The Beginning. However, by April 2006, new leadership at Paramount suggested that Berman's involvement in Star Trek had ended and the producer had moved on to other projects.

Speaking with Star Trek Monthly, Berman described his departure:

"Without sounding clichéd I'm not going to say never, but I assume that I have produced my last Star Trek, especially with the interest that Paramount has gotten from J.J. Abrams to do another movie, which, if successful, could lead to other television shows... I have nothing to be ashamed about. We created 624 hours of television and four feature films and I think we did a hell of a job. I'm amazed that we managed to get 18 years of the kind of work that everyone involved managed to contribute, and it's certainly more than anyone could have asked for."

Working relationship with Star Trek's creative staff Edit

The role of an executive producer in a motion picture production is by all objective yardsticks not an enviable one, especially not for an ongoing production. As the highest responsible production manager, which Berman became after first Robert Justman and subsequently Gene Roddenberry left, the executive producer is the intermediate between the highest echelon of studio executives, to whom he is answerable, and his own production staff. Berman continuously operated in a tension field where the interests of both parties did, all too frequently, not correspond. The studio's primary concerns were the commercial aspects of the production, which can be summed up as "the most humanly possible bang for the least humanly possible buck", whereas his production team's primary interest were the creative aspects of the productions. It was Berman's job to reconcile these conflicting interests in an everlasting balancing act, meaning that it was also part of his job to frequently say "no" to his creative staff's proposals for budgetary reasons. On the other hand, it was Berman who also had to fend off creative meddling from the side of uninitiated studio executives, especially when it interfered with, and/or went contrary to the creative integrity of the productions. Essentially, being an executive producer entails being both an chief executive officer as well as being a studio politician. (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission, pp. 1-7, 150, 152)

It was maintaining the creative integrity of the productions, which was as equally an important part of the executive producer's responsibility and his team of subordinate producers. To this end, when conceiving a production, a framework in which the occurrences of a production takes place, is established at the conception of the production by the producers. Details of this framework were then at a later stage hammered out in a list of do's and don'ts, which in the case of the Star Trek television productions were formalized in their respective internal Writer'/Directors' Guide production documents, dubbed "Writer's Bible"s, after the one already utilized for Star Trek: The Original Series. In Berman's spin-off television series cases – save for The Next Generation, which had already been done by Roddenberry and Justman – , these documents were even more paramount, as the Original Series already had established a framework, known by heart by television audiences worldwide. Contrary to what the title of the documents suggested, not only prospective writes and directors had to adhere to the rules, but every subsequent production aspect as well, and it was Berman who, in his role of the primary responsible overseer, had the final say whether or not designs of items like sets, props, visual effects, costumes and the like, met with his interpretation of the framework. "He's God," then novice Star Trek director Jonathan Frakes – incidentally, having been given his first opportunity as such by Berman in 1990 – only half-jokingly stated in 1992, "Rick Berman is definitively in control of this show. He would have it no other way." (Cinefantastique,Vol 23 #2/3, p. 36) But then, it was also the executive producer's prerogative to deviate from the rulebook as he saw fit, as has been the case with the Original Series cross-over episodes. While the Star Trek: The Next Generation Writer'/Directors' Guide specifically stated that "We are not buying stories about the original STAR TREK characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Chekov, Scotty and Sulu. Or their descendants; As much as we love our original cast (they are our children, after all), we want our audience's attention centered now on our new characters." (3rd ed. August 1989, p. 34), Berman later relented. An appreciative Ronald D. Moore noted on the occasion of the by him written episode "Relics", "One of the great things about "Relics" is that it wasn't a Scotty show. It was a concept about an engineer or a captain being caught in a transporter beam that we came upon. I thought we were going to have problems with Mr. Berman who generally doesn't like to do that gag but oddly enough he was in a good mood that day. Rick has opened up his mind in a lot of ways. When I came onboard you could not mention the old STAR TREK in an episode. You couldn't make a reference to a character without making major problems. When we brought Sarek onto the show it was like, "My god, we had to march across the street and pay homage." But now because we are firmly established I think everybody feels a lot more comfortable that we have proven ourselves. We don't own anything to the old STAR TREK, except like the guys who went to the moon, the Mercury guys had to go up there first. And we respect them for that, but we're not depending on them anymore, so we don't have to bend over backwards not to mention them." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 24, issue 3/4, p. 22) A more light-hearted example of Berman's prerogative was provided by Production Illustrator Doug Drexler on the occasion of endowing the Chaffee-type shuttlepod with the name Chaffee, "What I really remember is us getting scolded by someone in the office for naming the shuttle Chaffee. Who do you think you are naming a shuttlecraft after your girlfriend! Now it was time for me to be impressed. Rick Berman jumped in and set the record straight. "Don't be ridiculous! Chaffee is one of the Apollo 1 astronauts that died on the pad. Approved!"" [X]wbm

While restrictions due to budgetary restraints were generally understood and accepted by Berman's subordinates, it was the creative integrity that frequently caused some professional discord between Berman and his producers and the creative staff. This was especially true for Star Trek as there was a fairly large percentage of Original Series fans working in the ranks of the creative departments of the spin-off productions – though they had to keep it under wraps due to the "not hiring fans as production staff" policy, exactly for these reasons – , whose views on Star Trek not always necessarily corresponded with that of the producers. In his autobiography, Visual Effects Coordinator Ronald B. Moore has confessed that he, before he managed to professionally distance himself from his fan-views, found working on the new The Next Generation show a frustrating experience at first, early in the first season. (Flying Starships, p. 104) Author Stephen Edward Poe has described in his book A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager how at the development stages of Voyager Berman drove one of his, otherwise unnamed, creative staffers to the brink of a nervous breakdown by rejecting time and again the designs for the Caretaker's array. Aside from this, Poe also described how production staffers became frequently pressed for time as Berman was consistently late on signing off on executive decisions. Actually, the latter hardly came as a surprise as that year, 1994, was the one period in time during his entire tenure on the franchise, where Berman had the most on his plate, spreading himself thin by simultaneously overseeing the productions of, aside from Voyager's first season, that of The Next Generation's last, Deep Space Nine's second season and the movie Generations as well, with the documentary Journey's End: The Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation to boot. Sandra Piller, widow of Michael Piller, also hinted at creative tensions, when she commented on the non-publication of her late husband's book Fade In: From Idea to Final Draft on the making of Insurrection, describing it as "brutally honest", "Well, when he first got the go-ahead from the studio to write the book, and he got it signed-off with all the actors and everyone...when he finally turned it in, he was shocked! They said, "We can't let the public know what we do here, what goes on behind the scenes!"" [5]

As Sandra Piller already indicated, it was neither common practice nor considered decency to wash the studio's dirty linen in public, but that changed somewhat with Enterprise, as touched upon earlier. Though commonly made after-the-fact, several creative staffers have made later comments on several internet blogs that pointed at elevated tension levels between producers and creative staffers for this production. Doug Drexler remarked, regarding his NX class design, that he liked "(...) the NX-01, even though it was a frustrating experience. I'm a "canon" kind of guy. I would have liked to have seen the Daedalus style ship. You know...the sphere instead of saucer. The producers wanted it to be a saucer because they wanted it "recognizable". [X]wbm, to which Scenic Artist Geoffrey Mandel added, "Having been around then, I also know that [the NX-class designers] Doug Drexler and John Eaves did exactly what the producers asked them to." [6] The usually very diplomatic Drexler could not refrain himself later from making the acerbic "You'll make a fine producer!" riposte to one fan's overly criticism of his refit-NX redesign, speaking volumes in that respect. [X]wbm One of the even more outspoken critics afterwards, was yet another Original Series fan production staffer, Foundation Imaging's Robert Bonchune, who stated on the decision not to use the Klingon D4-class model in "Unexpected", "We all loved it over at Foundation and our friend Koji built it for free. Amazingly, even though it was a freebee for the episode, certain people in production still found a way to nit pick certain things and refused to ultimately use it until windows were added in certain places. We refused, on principle, as Koji had not slept for days building that on his own and they knew it... so instead of using it, because of, I think 5 windows that you would never see, we ended up using the K'tinga, which was UTTERLY out of place and out of continuity in the Enterprise era. Ahhh producers..." [7], and on the decision to have the Bird-of-Prey graphic from the Romulan Bird-of-Prey removed in Enterprise's episode "Minefield", "Oh and as for the BOP drawing underneath, it was rejected for no other reason than, once again, contempt for the Trek, the fans and the Original Series by ...uh... "management"... you know who they are. ;-)" [8]

While these critics maintained decorum by not naming names, there has been one who actually did break that unwritten rule, as early as 2001. Production Illustrator Andrew Probert, who left the franchise after the first season of The Next Generation, has specifically cited Berman as the reason for doing so, "When Rick Berman took over the show, half way through the first season, every time we showed him a design concept, his constant response was, "no, we can't do that, because it reminds me of something that I've seen somewhere", or "it looks like a shaver", or "it looks like something I've seen in a furniture store". The only thing of note that Rick Berman did before Star Trek was a show called "The Big Blue Marble", a kid's show. For some reason, Paramount led him into this. I don't know. I've heard conflicted stories that Gene thought he was a great producer and wanted to bring him in. Whatever it is, Rick Berman did not, in that time, and, as far as I can see from what is being produced, does not understand science fiction. I've seen a lot of great concepts, by Doug Drexler and a few of the other illustrators that they have been working on, passed over in favor of much more controlled concepts. My experience with Rick Berman is, you know, he does not understand what he's doing, he does not understand science fiction." [X]wbm

The future Edit

While Berman has been vague about future non-Star Trek projects, he retained his office on the Paramount lot until December 2006. Before that time, he continued to develop television series.

"There are a number of shows that we're developing that have slight elements of the supernatural or science fiction, but none of them have spaceships!"

In an interview with Star Trek Magazine conducted not long before his departure, Berman indicated that he had begun writing a memoir about his twenty-two years with Paramount, and his time at Star Trek.

"I have started writing a book because I realized that since 1986, when Gene Roddenberry asked me to get involved and work with him on this thing, the number of stories that I have accumulated is amazing." [9]

Writing credits Edit

Episodes Edit

Feature films Edit

Producing credits Edit

Star Trek interviews Edit

  • TNG Season 1 DVD special feature "The Beginning"
  • TNG Season 1 DVD special feature "Selected Crew Analysis" ("Character Notes")
  • TNG Season 1 DVD special feature "The Making of a Legend" ("Make-Up")
  • TNG Season 1 DVD special feature "Memorable Missions"
  • TNG Season 2 DVD special feature "Mission Overview: Year Two" ("Whoopi Goldberg", "Ten Forward", "Gene Roddenberry"), interviewed on 20 September 1988 and 5 September 2001
  • TNG Season 2 DVD special feature "Selected Crew Analysis Year Two", interviewed on 18 March 1994
  • TNG Season 2 DVD special feature "Departmental Briefing Year Two: Memorable Missions" ("The Measure Of A Man"), interviewed on 18 March 1994
  • TNG Season 3 DVD special feature "Mission Overview Year Three", interviewed on 18 March 1994
  • TNG Season 5 DVD special feature "A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry" ("Gene Roddenberry Building Dedicated to Star Trek's Creator", "Gene's Final Voyage"), interviewed on 7 June 2002
  • TNG Season 6 DVD special feature "Mission Overview Year Six" ("January 1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Debuts"), interviewed on 7 June 2002
  • TNG Season 6 DVD special feature "Departmental Briefing Year Six" ("Special Crew Profile: Lt. Cmdr. Data"), interviewed on 5 September 2001
  • TNG Season 7 DVD special feature "Mission Overview Year Seven" ("An Ending And A Beginning", "The Final Episode"), interviewed on 18 March 1994 and 7 June 2002
  • TNG Season 7 DVD special feature "Starfleet Moments & Memories Year Seven" ("A Unique Legacy", "A Unique Family"), interviewed on 7 June 2002
  • TNG Season 7 DVD special feature "The Making of "All Good Things..." Year Seven" ("Writing The Final Episode"), interviewed on 7 June 2002
  • TNG Season 7 DVD special feature "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine DVD Preview"
  • DS9 Season 1 DVD special feature "Deep Space Nine: A Bold Beginning", interviewed on 7 June 2002
  • DS9 Season 1 DVD special feature "Deep Space Nine Scrapbook Year One", interviewed from 9 April 1999
  • To Boldly Go
  • TNG Season 1 Blu-ray special feature Energized! Taking The Next Generation to the Next Level (2012)

Star Trek awards Edit

For his work on Star Trek Rick Berman received the following award nominations in the various writing categories

Emmy Award Edit

Berman received the following Emmy Award nomination in the category Outstanding Drama Series

Hugo Awards Edit

Berman received the following Hugo Award nominations in the category Best Dramatic Presentation

External links Edit

Around Wikia's network

Random Wiki