There have been a lot of Star Trek documentaries, countless behind-the-scenes DVD extras, and everyone ever involved in the franchise has written a memoir.
“It’s the number-one most covered topic not connected to World War II, apart from maybe the Civil War,” says Brian Volk-Weiss, director of the documentary, The Center Seat: Celebrating 55 Years of Star Trek, which launches this week in the UK on IMDb TV.
But even after all this time there are still surprising new facts to discover, as Volk-Weiss himself found out during the making of the series.
“I’m a lifelong Trekkie. The name of my company [The Nacelle Company] is 100% a Star Trek reference. So, I say this with confidence, I don’t think my Star Trek love could be questioned,” he says. “I learned stuff that nobody knew, and I learned stuff that I thought it was really strange I didn’t know.”
One such example is a story told to Volk-Weiss by Denise Crosby, the actor who played the Enterprise’s Chief Security Officer, Tasha Yar, in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Tasha Yar was exactly the sort of tough, action heroine character that was supposed to separate The Next Generation from its 60s forebear, but the first season saw her character woefully underwritten.
Disappointed with the lack of development her character had received, Crosby had decided to leave the show, and Rodenberry saw it as a chance to do something he had never done in the Original Series – kill off a member of the main cast.
This happened in the episode ‘Skin of Evil’, and most Next Generation fans will remember seeing Tasha Yar knocked out by an evil tar pit before dying on Doctor Crusher’s operating table. But what you may have missed is what happened in the last episode Crosby actually filmed, which aired the week before.
“I’ve seen that episode six or seven times and I never noticed that,” Volk-Weiss tells us. He recounts the story as Crosby told it to him.
“She shot her penultimate episode, and before that she’d shot her death. So, there’s a shot in her second-to-last episode where Picard and Beverly are walking out of a giant cargo bay, and all the way in the back, 500 to 1,000 feet away, you see Denise jump up and wave.”
Episode 22 of Star Trek: The Next Generation is ‘Symbiosis‘, which is as pure a by-the-numbers ‘Picard agonises over whether to break the Prime Directive’ episode as you can get.
After Picard has resolved the moral dilemma in question, delivered an angry speech to the bad aliens and watched them beam away, Picard storms out of the cargo bay, and you can see Tasha Yar, for no reason, jumping up and waving at the camera.
“She said she was shocked it wasn’t cut out, but that was her final moment,” Volk-Weiss recalls.
You can see the moment for yourself right here:
Even after more than 30 years, there are still new stories to be told about the making of The Next Generation, and the rest of the franchise, as Volk-Weiss points out, “There are a lot of things in Star Trek that have not been covered. Big things. We were the first to do a documentary on Voyager, the first to do a documentary on Enterprise, The Animated Series and even The Motion Picture. It’s been done but I don’t think it’s been done in a long form, systematic way.”
The Center Seat: Celebrating 55 Years of Star Trek streams on IMDb TV from the 18th of March