The nightly reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation on H&I have rolled over from season one to two, and it’s as good a time as any to contemplate the variations in the finished episodes from the teleplays that are archived online at ST-Minutae.
I don’t know where these scripts came from, but Roddenberry’s mail order company Lincoln Enterprises used to sell them—I bought a couple, back in the 1980s.
The writing staff of TNG was in turmoil during the first two seasons: in the first, because Roddenberry was unfit to be running a TV series; in the second, because the 1988 writers’ strike crippled the show’s ability to prepare scripts under showrunner Maurice Hurley.
The strike actually hit during the end of season one, and “We’ll Always Have Paris” was badly compromised. (Read more about it at wiki.) The script at ST-Minutae is essentially a first draft, radically different from the episode.
Also compromised was the first-season finale, “The Neutral Zone,” which was supposed to tie into the second-season introduction of the Borg. The writing staff had to cut short their work on the outline, and Maurice Hurley pounded out a shooting script in a day and a half. Consequently the episode isn’t very good, and the Enterprise personnel behave out of character—like Riker deciding to just leave the space probe as “junk,” rather than be excited about an archaeological find.
But some earlier episodes unaffected by the strike are a crazy mess too. One of their biggest stinkers, “Angel One,” was essentially unfinished in the draft archived. Check this out:
For those unaware of television production—and it’s not like I’m an expert—having an unfinished script is the worst possible sin. You have to shut down to figure out what you’re going to shoot and/or make it up on the fly, which costs a fortune and leads to all sorts of mistakes...it is absolutely unforgivable.
The screen cap at the top of this post is from “The Arsenal of Freedom,” which apparently did, in fact, shut down for a last-minute rewrite. I always thought it was a pretty cool episode, with a lot of fun action.
The “alternate scripts” continue in the early second season: “The Schizoid Man” is pretty radically different. I haven’t looked at them for several months, but I remember “Loud as a Whisper” and “The Royale” being quite different.
It’s not like the earlier versions are better than the finished episodes. Almost always, the rough drafts seem sloppy and lame, sometimes preposterously so, and it’s fortunate they were revised.
Usually, any episode you look at will have differences if you try to follow along with the script. Just little words here and there. Patrick Stewart would massage his dialogue to make it more interesting and delightful—trust Patrick Stewart!
In time, the show got straightened out, and the archived scripts are essentially the same as the episodes. I remember reading that by the end of the series’ run, the actors were essentially commanded to perform the scripts as written, and even so much as a word change had to be cleared with the production office.
As is the case with so much stuff on the Internet—especially pertaining to Star Trek—I’m glad these scripts are available.