The Star Trek Series That Was a Direct Response to George Lucas and Star Wars: “Don’t we have a franchise show that we could do that with?”

Gene Roddenberry's efforts, along with Star Wars success, played a part in making The Next Generation a reality.

Darth Vader Star Wars and Star Trek the Next Generation

SUMMARY

  • Paramount had initially worked on Phase II of Star Trek, even if Gene Roddenberry had come up with ideas for 1987's The Next Generation years earlier.
  • It was the continued success of Star Wars, as well as the success of the original series' reruns that led to Paramount working on The Next Generation.
  • Apart from Roddenberry, and the success of Phase II, it was the creation of George Lucas' Star Wars which led to consistent interest in Star Trek as well.
Show More
Featured Video

Star Trek: The Next Generation, which premiered in September 1987, is widely seen as the one series that brought forth a remarkable resurrection for the entire Star Trek franchise. Effectively the beacon that set the stage for further works in the franchise, The Next Generation was set a century after the events of the original Star Trek series, and in itself spurred Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and four further movies that featured Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard and his team of explorers.

Advertisement
The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation
A still from Star Trek: The Next Generation | Credits: Paramount Domestic Television

However, according to Dorothy Fontana, it was the sudden impact of George Lucas’ Star Wars and the kind of fan following it garnered that Paramount initially began to look for ideas for a new Star Trek series. Fontana, who was one of the writers on the original Star Trek series, revealed in an interview how Paramount would produce 4 movies with the original cast before working on The Next Generation.

The Next Generation was a direct response to George Lucas’ Star Wars

Gene Roddenberry
Gene Roddenberry in the intro for The Cage, the original pilot for Star Trek. | Paramount

The Next Generation in itself was initially ideated by Gene Roddenberry, who was a major voice behind the original Star Trek series. While Roddenberry had for years fought for a new series, which eventually became The Next Generation, the success found by Star Wars in the 1980s meant that Paramount saw their original IP as the go-to, for the time being.

Advertisement

This led to the creation of four movies, as Fontana explained how Paramount thought about the situation: (Entertainment Weekly)

 I think approximately six scripts were developed [for what was then called Star Trek: Phase II]. Then, Star Wars happened. Suddenly Paramount was saying, ”Don’t we have a franchise show that we could do that with?” The idea for a series, to my undestanding, was put aside and they started doing the movie.

The result was Star Trek Phase II, which included four movies(1979-1986)  featuring the original cast, all proving to be box office successes. However, while the movies were all box office successes, it was the continued success of Star Wars, and the sudden increase of interest in Star Trek reruns that eventually brought forth The Next Generation, and gave Paramount a reason to further create stories around their most popular IP of the time.

The Next Generation was shelved for several years before eventually being picked up

Star Trek: The Next Generation [Credit Paramount Domestic Television]
Star Trek: The Next Generation [ Paramount Domestic Television]
As it turns out, while Paramount set off with the creation of the four films that eventually became known as Star Trek Phase II, the continued success of Star Wars meant Roddenberry’s ideas eventually saw fruition, only years later.

Advertisement

According to Robert H. Justman, the producer of the original series, the movies, as well as Star Wars’ success, all contributed to a sudden increase in the original show’s reruns: (Entertainment Weekly)

I think [the idea for a new series] came about as a result of the sudden explosion of Star Trek reruns. It just gathered up a whole slew of people who had never seen the show. But the whole thing came to naught because of, I think, tense bargaining terms with respect to money.

Hence, even if Paramount initially decided to work on the movies, The Next Generation was destined to get a new lease of life, as production eventually moved ahead in 1986. According to Justman, much was down to Roddenberry’s efforts:

In the mid-1980s, Paramount realized that they were making zillions of dollars on this old television show and if they had a new one, they could milk the cow again. Gene had a peculiar way of getting people onto whatever show he was doing. I knew enough to know that when he called me to go to lunch and screen some films to look at the special effects, a new show was in the offing.

Thus, not only did the show’s creator do more than his fair bit to get Paramount working on The Next Generation, the iconic series has plenty to thank George Lucas’ Star Wars as well.

Advertisement

Star Trek: The Next Generation, is currently available to watch on Netflix.

Rishabh Bhatnagar

Written by Rishabh Bhatnagar

Articles Published: 106

Rishabh Bhatnagar is an Entertainment and pop culture journalist/editor with Fandom Wire. He has more than 6 years of experience working for multiple major platforms and is himself an avid consumer of worthwhile content. A natural storyteller, Rishabh has a unique way with words and is always looking to improve, as a storyteller, writer, and a journalist.