January 5, 2016

Think Anaxar's Got It Rough? A Review of CHAOS ON THE BRIDGE

With all the brouhaha around Paramount suing producers of the Star Trek fan film Axanar (and you betcha I'm going to be writing about that), it's easy to forget that Star Trek - like any other television show - has an ardent group of people that can be difficult to please. It's also, like many other shows, been "rebooted" in the past, and Star Trek is not without its controversies.

Available on DVD and Google Play, William Shatner Presents: Chaos On The Bridge is a documentary that focuses on the early production troubles of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's a brilliant documentary that handles a variety of issues with intelligence and insight, and most importantly, shows that William Shatner can actually be humble when he wants to be.

Imagine, if you will....well, we don't have to imagine it, since we know it's a fact that Paramount had begun production on a new Star Trek series for a variety of reasons. (One of which was the then-fledgling Fox Network). Getting Gene Roddenberry back on the helm would prove to be problematic due to both health and philosophical issues. Although eventually Star Trek: The Next Generation would hit its stride in its third season, the series had a very difficult genesis.

One of the very striking things about Chaos on the Bridge is the absolute candor with which various participants discuss the behind-the-scenes politics. (Although it should be said that the gunfighter/poker metaphors tend to be a bit overdone). Flashbacks are done in a nice, comic-book style, and actually help the flow of the narrative. There's never a false note, and recollections can be often brutally candid.

(For example, Patrick Stewart and Paramount Executive John Pike recall either two different versions of the same meeting, or the same meeting from two different perspectives. Both feel true, and neither gentleman disparages the other).

Chaos on the Bridge also highlights the rather tumultuous experiences of cast working on the show. (Summary - if the conditions in Cardiff 2005 were similar to those at Paramount in 1987, no wonder Christopher Eccleston left Doctor Who after one season). There are some snarky comments about some of the actors, but there is a sense that the leadership of Star Trek: The Next Generation was always in flux.

(And the most interesting - at least, for me - were the recollections of the writing staff. There's valuable insight into how a show like ST: TNG would be approached, and more importantly, how a decent show can easily ride of the rails without - and sometimes with - a strong showrunner at the helm).

Simply put, Chaos on the Bridge shares a lot with some recent fare about superheroes and classic novels, focusing on how sometimes internal pressures and politics can sabotage the best of efforts.

The only exception for Chaos on the Bridge is that this time, things worked out.

So to speak.


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