The only thing better than a good old school disaster movie is Star Trekthe version of a.
30 years ago this week, October 21, 1991, Star Trek: The Next Generation delivered âDisaster,â a fascinating (and vastly underrated) hour of TNG’s fifth season inspired by Irwin Allen’s popular 70s disaster films like The Poseidon adventure. Writer Ronald D. Moore has been replaced Posideoncruise ship versus rogue tidal wave premise for a gripping sci-fi tale centered on Picard and the crew’s disparate and desperate attempts to survive aboard the Enterprise after their spacecraft is crippled by an anomaly known as the Quantum Filament. (Think of it as the spatial version of a very large pothole). With Picard trapped in a turbolift pit with the one thing he doesn’t love as much as the Borg – the kids – and his junior officers tending to their own mini-hells around the ship, “Disaster” takes out our heroes. out of their comfort zone with each crisis they face tests of determination. (Especially when Advisor Troi is in charge of the gateway.)
While not as flashy or high-level as the other 5 Memorable Seasons TNG episodes, like “I, Borg” or the “Cause and Effect” time loop, this bottle episode is pure polish. The script’s constant tension to keep the plates spinning, coupled with its off-the-beaten-path character pairs, makes âDisasterâ an episode that more fans should be talking about when they land their all-time favorites. To help spark that conversation, and to celebrate the 30th anniversary of âDisaster,â SYFY WIRE recently spoke to Ron Moore about the making of this engaging episode (pun intended), where he revealed how an abandoned action scene of Star Trek: First Contact (co-written by Moore) originally hails from “Disaster”.
With âDisasterâ turning 30 this year, do you remember how this episode was attributed to you? Was it just luck of the draw or did you want to write this one?
I think I wanted to. I think I thought it was a fun concept and I love disaster films. I could sort of see in my head how much fun this was going to be. And I think I really wanted to do it.
There are so many good things in this episode, but one of its best tension scenarios is where Geordi and Dr. Crusher are stuck in the cargo bay, and they have to empty it into space to save the ship. . It’s full of constant complications. Was it still the character combo or did you consider others?
I remember being fascinated by the idea that they were in a vacuum and originally wanted to see them maybe put on a spacesuit. Because science fiction always considers exposure to a vacuum to be a cause of, you know, your eyeballs sticking out or something, I had read somewhere that wasn’t quite true. And there is a big scene in 2001 where someone enters discovery through the void of space and survives. And so it was like, “oh, well, we could do that – and the idea of [Geordi and Dr. Crusher] trapped in the cargo hold and having to expose yourself to a vacuum was a lot of fun.
Was it an easy sale among your comrades TNG writers?
Well, it took a while to convince Naren Shankar, who was the show’s science adviser at the time. He was helping me try to explain, in a dramatic way, why this Actually work on the ship and how that would be scientifically plausible. And then some people were still skeptical and turned to outside resources, who came back and said, âYeah, I mean, that’s actually pretty plausible. ”
As for the scenario of Picard trapped in the turbine engine, in a first draft of Star Trek: First Contact, you and Brannon Braga wrote a scene where Picard and Alfre Woodard’s character, Lilly, are chased by the Borgs in a turbine engine and the area they’re in is so large it has its own weather system.
Law! Yes, [on the Enterprise-E in First Contact] I think we had lightning and rain or something in the well.
Yeah, that’s it. It’s a very beautiful scene, but obviously too expensive for a Trek film at the time, but did the genesis of this film begin here in “Disaster”?
Oh yes. As you were talking about earlier, I remembered it about the turbine engine scene. Originally, in “Disaster”, Picard was climbing with the kids and it was supposed to start raining on them. And he was trying to keep them safe and keep going up, but that would be dangerous because the rain would make the ladder slippery. So he was trying to talk to them, to help them focus and hold on. And then someone slips in, and sure enough he caught them just in time, but there was no way at that point they were going. It was just too expensive. You have to remember, we were barely going outside to shoot. It was mostly on stages to keep the budget low. But I’ll try to make it work somewhere.
At the time, it was well known that Patrick Stewart wanted to see more episodes and action-oriented storylines for his character. Was this episode partly in response to that?
Not especially. It was more about the fact that we hadn’t played on Picard and his aversion to children in a while. And it sounded like fun. I don’t think Patrick liked this scenario – not the âCatastropheâ scenario – but the general idea that Picard didn’t like children. So I think he was still a little uncomfortable with that; it didn’t seem interesting to him. But, I think he liked it in that episode because there was a more active component to him, trying to keep them all together as a group. And it was just fun. It seemed like fun that Picard was stuck with kids during the disaster instead of being in charge.
How was the break from this episode? Looks like it must have been fun, bouncing around ideas.
Oh yes. I remember it was a good break session. Because you kept making up a lot of people trapped in different places and what might happen here and what might happen there [on the ship]. And you know, in this kind of classic disaster movie, they can’t talk to each other and they’re in a very tight place and these other people are at a different location, but they have no idea what’s going on there. I remember there were a lot of pitches of different pairs of people. And it went through quite a bit of evolution until we stuck with the particular scenarios that we followed.
The story on the bridge, with Ro and Chief O’Brien paired with a Troi way overhead, was it still the intention to have Ro and Troi at odds there?
I’m trying to remember where Ro was in his development at that time. He was a relatively new character, if I remember correctly. And I think we were just looking for ways to use it. And we wanted Troi to have to arbitrate between two opposing points of view and to have to make a command decision. And we had everyone separated. Troi wasn’t older than anyone else on the ship, really. So you needed her to be with people who were or could be subordinate to her, who were not involved in anything else. So that was a very limited pool that we had to tap into and we didn’t just want to create completely new characters. They would resonate more if they were characters that audiences already loved and cared about.
I think we just had a general mandate to try to find some interesting things to do with Ensign Ro. And so, it was just that his character suited this place well.
What I really love about the Troi-Ro plot is that it gives the show a dose of conflict that fans wouldn’t normally see on the show. It’s basically Ro who tells Troi that whatever strategy she decides to help save the ship, if it works, it only works because she’s been lucky.
And it was a good beat because Ro was that kind of character. I mean, she was a breath of fresh air in that she could – and could – say things like that. While the rest of the [main crew], we were still in Gene’s “perfect worldview” of it all. Where rivalries and personal conflicts always had to be ironed out and people couldn’t say cut things like that.
So, a character like Ro, someone who was allowed to behave that way, you just couldn’t wait for her to pitch at someone. You, as a writer, would have fun putting her in a scene where she could do or say something shocking like our characters did.
It’s a scene we would expect to see in something like your Battlestar Galactica reboot or more modern science fiction.
Law. For sure. And, come to think of it, with Troi, [the writers] had to somehow fight against his position in the hierarchy of the ship. She’s the ship’s advisor, isn’t she? Does that mean she’s not a line officer because – if you’re in the Navy, in the US Navy – there’s this concept of line and line officers. Thus, the line officers are in the more hierarchical command of the ship, but like the doctor or the supply officer, they are the line officers. They are therefore not qualified to take over a vessel in an emergency. So for our purposes, we decided to push her a little further up the chain of command.
And when we did that, when we first put Troi in a command post, it raised other issues. Like, what do they call it? Do they call her madam? Sir? And it was all an internal debate because, you know, Star Trek II had done this thing with Lieutenant Saavik, where she is called “Sir” and “Sir.” Which I found great and interesting that said something about how, yes, Starfleet had adopted a masculine gender for greetings in the future, but they had adopted a standard. There was no differentiation. And at that point, it was interesting that no one on the show had ever spoken to a senior female officer and had to respond to her. We had never been confronted with this question before. It was like a weird day when we realized this, that we were so far into this show that it didn’t happen. And that said a lot about, about the state of the genre on television at the time.
There are a lot of great little moments and scenes in this episode. Do you remember one that stands out as a favorite? Or at least one where you go âYeah, I think we did a good job with thatâ?
I was proud of the whole episode, it was one of my favorites. I really liked that there was a balance. I liked the fact that it wasn’t just the âPicard Saves the Dayâ episode and it wasn’t just, you know, Data getting out of it. It was a situation where she was suited to their characters, flaws, and strengths, and she was testing all of them. And I liked the fact that they were all alone and that it was a very human spectacle. And I loved that even the Enterprise could suddenly collapse, out of nowhere, and the people inside relying on their own resources just to put it back together. It was fun to write and I found the final episode to be really good.