Well it’s Wednesday and I decided this is the perfect time to discuss one of the best and most popular episodes in The Next Generations, “The Best Of Both Worlds”.....hang on a second. HEY GET OUT! OUT!....one second, be right back....OK WHERE’S THE TASER!?


Today we’re looking at part one of the classic two parter that ended Season Three and began Season Four. I wanted to do the whole thing on one post but there is so much interesting stuff about the making of this episode, I decided to split it into two. So first off, let’s give credit to The Wiki That Was Assimilated Once, But Got Better, Memory Alpha.

Michael Piller was not sure how the two parter would end when he first sat down to write it. All he knew was that he needed a season ending cliffhanger [1]. There had been a desire to being the Borg back after the first time we saw them in “Q Who” but the writers had problems writing for a race with no personality[2] Michael Piller had been trying to write a Borg story for the entire third season.[1] He resisted the idea some of the writers put forth of a “Queen Bee”.[2]

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To me, there was something special and frightening about the Borg that their lack of character brought. For a show that dwells and specializes in character to be challenged and possibly destroyed by a characterless villain seemed, to me, to be a special kind of threat. But when we started talking about the cliffhanger and the Borg, we really did talk about who was going to be the queen bee.

He eventually compromised which resulted in Picard being assimilated.[2]

It all just fell into place. I said, ‘I’ve got it. Picard will be the queen bee.’

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Thank god that Queen Bee idea died a slow painful death and we never heard any of that silliness ever again...

EVER...AGAIN!


One early draft of the story had Data and Picard combined as one Borg unit. [2]

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Someone said why should they do this, and we didn’t have a good answer so we dropped that idea.

I don’t know, I think that’s an interesting idea that could work....

Yeah, never mind. probably better they didn’t do that after all.


To maintain the human drama, a lot of the focus went from Picard to Riker. Miller revealed in Starlog “We had no idea it was really a Riker story when we started out. I came up with the idea of having the Shelby character come on board to challenge Riker. That seemed to play into the Riker emotions and the conflict over whether to take the other job or not, and that builds into the issue of whether or not he was big enough to fill the center chair.” [2] [3]

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Another reason for the character of Shelby was to explore why Riker had not taken his own command. The primary reason was that the production didn’t want to lose fan favorite Jonathan Frankes.[4]

A lot of Riker’s struggle’s in the episode stem from Michael Piller being unsure about leaving the show. He had only signed a one year contract and a lot of his own turmoil was reflected in Riker’s turmoil over if she should leave the Enterprise for his own command. He stated that “By the end of the season, I was struggling with whether or not to stay or leave. And this came out in the screenplay for ‘Best of Both Worlds, Part One’, as Riker spoke about those issues.”[5]. He recounted in a Starlog piece that he found the mirroring “very interesting”[3]. Since he was always more comfterable writing expositon than technobabble, writing about Riker’s career dilemn came easy to Piller. , “As I was writing this script, I found myself in the position of Riker, who was trying to decide whether he wanted to leave the ship or not. Much of what happened in Part One was about what was going on in my head.” Of one scene in particular, Piller recalled, “Riker is talking to Troi about why he hasn’t left [....] That was really me speaking through Riker.” [2].“When [Riker] talked to Troi about ‘Why am I still here?’ and she’s telling him, ‘because you’re happy,’ that was a conversation I had with myself several times during the course of writing that show.”[1]. He was eventually convinced to stay by Gene Roddenberry.


The design of props and costumes had its own challanges. The creation of the Borg designs was easier due to the lessons learned when making ‘Q,Who”. Supervising Producer David Livingston on designing the Borg. “The set had been a problem, because we didn’t have the money to build a complete one, and the Borg had taken a long time. We made a lot of changes on them after they were first put together. The technical part of figuring out how to stick on all this tubing to these guys was a big deal [....] When we got to ‘Best of Both Worlds,’ we knew what the problems were. We knew we had to build a different kind of set and it worked out really well.”[2]

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The Borg costumes were based on designs that Durinda Rice Wood had made for ‘Q,Who” but modififed by Robert Blackman who had taken the job when she left in Season Two and remained Costume Designer for the remainder of the series.

The matte paitning used for the interior vista of the Borg cube was reworked. The painting was used for the scene where the cube contacts the Enterprise and where Picard is brought onto the ship before being assimialted. For the second scene, a larger interior vista was made with a bluescreen composite, adding Picard and the drones in the shot. [3].


The episode was produced in April of 1990[4]. It was the first cliffhanger in the show’s at that time short history, and at the time of first airing was a feature length episode, later divided into two parts. This meant Paramount was less restrained with the budget than normal. Director Cliff Bole said , “Paramount, at the beginning of the year, had pulled back a little budget-wise [....] They let us go a little bit on the first one because it was the first time we’d done a cliffhanger.”[2]

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Assistant Director Chip Chalmers recalled a funny moment that occured during the shooting. “I remember the moment when Patrick, dressed in a Borg outfit, first walks up to the viewscreen and says, ‘I am Locutus of Borg.’ He came on to the set – everybody was wowed with what they had done to Patrick – and we got everyone settled down and did one rehearsal. All he had to do was walk up to the camera. He did so and towered over everyone. It was just so creepy and so spooky, and he said, ‘I am Locutus of Borg. Have you considered buying a Pontiac?’ And everyone was on the floor. That’s the kind of thing that makes it wonderful to work on the show; those people have a wonderful sense of humor.” [2]

Guest star Elizabeth Dennehy (Cmdr. Shelby) found this to be the hardest of the two parter, mainly due to playing a figure of authority on a show where she was a newcomer. “I didn’t know anything about the show and I had to look like I knew, because I was in charge. I was a commander and the hardest thing in the world to do was making that dialogue sound like I spoke that way all the time. It was impossible. It’s so easy to remember and memorize lines when they make logical sense or when you get blocked and you say when I move over here, I say this. But this was just memorizing timetables. It was just 2x2 is 4. I didn’t know what a manipulation effect in the Borg ship’s subspace meant. That’s not English! It was like learning a foreign language by phonetics. It was just grueling and my first day was the hardest of all. It was a scene in the big conference room where I’m talking to them about what the Borg do, and they’re like tongue twisters. LeVar and Brent have the hardest stuff to learn. I don’t know how they do it [....] But, geez, those lines. I yelled at Michael Piller when I first met him. The day he visited the set I had to say, ‘Separate the saucer section, assign a skeleton crew,’ and I asked him, ‘Can you lay off the alliteration a little, Michael... please.’ He laughed. It was hard.”[2]


Associate Producer Peter Lauritson estimated on August 21st 1991 that this episode had approx 80 VFX shots.[7]. New exterior shots for the Enterprise were required, making it one of the first episodes to require those since “Encounter At Farpoint” [4]

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The work paid off in the end because the reception for the show was massive after the episode aired. Writer Ronald D. Moore recalled his experience ““We were well into writing new episodes [for the fourth season] when the third-season finale, ‘The Best of Both Worlds, Part I’ [sic], was broadcast and all hell broke lose. That episode, Trek’s first cliff-hanger, touched a chord with the audience, and suddenly everyone was talking about TNG. We were seeing press clippings from all over the media with buzz about how wild it was to see Picard being Borgified into Locutus, and how stunning Riker’s shout of ‘Fire!’ was just before the final cut to black.” No longer was the series derided for its newness and differences from Star Trek: The Original Series. “All that went away after ‘BOBW’,”[8] Brannon Braga joined the writing staff shortly after this episode aired. On November 15th, 2002 he recalled the enviorement at the time “The feeling back then was very exciting because... ‘Best of Both Worlds, Part I’ – the big Borg, Picard-gets-assimilated cliffhanger – had just aired. In fact, it was the first episode of Star Trek I’d really sat down and watched. And it was a turning point for The Next Generation, which was climbing its way up the ratings, getting better and better, but that was the defining moment, where it got a lot of people excited and the show really took off. So I came in right at that point, when that show had just aired and they were preparing Part II.” [9] Michael Piller belives the episodes popularity comes from the fact we see a side of Riker and Picard we had never seen up to that point “I think it’s because we saw a side of Picard and a side of Riker that we had not seen before, plus of course, the depiction of ‘an undefeatable’ enemy like the Borg. Plus it had a scope because it was a two hour story.”[10]


There is still a lot more about this episode I didn’t touch upon. There’s a lot more information about effects and music that I didn’t cover, as well as script changes that didn’t get filmed. I recommend checking out the full article on Memory Alpha. I hope you guys are enjoying TNG week and I will be back tomorrow with Part Two of BOBW. For now, I wish you all a wonderful day.

Fact Of The Day is the daily column where RobGronkowski’sPartyBusDriver shares some random tidbit of science fiction, fantasy or horror knowledge. If there is a show or movie you would like to see done, leave a note in the comments below. You can see the full archive of past columns here.


Sources

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1, . (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)

2. . (Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)

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3. Starlog issue #159, p. 42

4. Star Trek: Fan Collective - Borg text commentary

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5. Mission Overview, TNG Season 3 DVD special features

6. Mission Overview, TNG Season 3 DVD special features)

7. New Life and New Civilizations, TNG Season 4 DVD special features

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8 Star Trek: The Next Generation 365

9. Chronicles from the Final Frontier, TNG Season 4 DVD special features)

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10 AOL chat, 1997