Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Book Review & Interview at

by John Tenuto


The latest entry for episode-specific books is "The Making of Yesterday’s Enterprise" by Eric Stillwell, and it is much better than Ellison’s. The author provides a fascinating account of how the episode evolved from the initial idea (a story about Sarek going back in time to take the place of Surak) and also gives insights into the everyday machinations of working on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In addition to creating the story (with Trent Christopher Ganino) for "Yesterday’s Enterprise," Stillwell was a production assistant and script coordinator for TNG working primarily for showrunner Michael Piller. The book actually doesn’t focus on Stillwell’s own contribution and in fact he gives much credit for the episode to all the various writers, especially Piller and Ron Moore. Instead, Stillwell writes more as a witness to Trek history on how a classic TNG episode came to be, from conception through to production, airing and the response.

Like with Gerrold’s "Tribbles" book, Stillwell also educates the reader with details and insights into the workings of Hollywood and specifically the production of Star Trek. Especially interesting is how credit for an episode on television is decided and its implications. Other details include how the episode’s narrative changed over time. For example, in the original drafts, the romance was between Tasha Yar and Data and not Tasha and Lt. Castillo of the Enterprise C. And it was Data (and not Guinan) who realizes Tasha’s true fate in the original timeline. However, Piller felt Data/Tasha story was weak and ‘too convenient’ and didn’t fit with Data’s character as an android.

The book includes memos between writers, behind-the-scenes photos (taken by Stillwell), various drafts of script ideas as well as the entire filming script. The reader is also treated to on-set stories such as the time Rick Berman got upset over Ganino talking to Whoopi Goldberg (even though it was Goldberg who initiated the conversation to ask about a line in the script).
Beyond the ‘making of’ you also get reactions to the episode from both the fans and critics. There is also interesting information on Paramount’s (failed) campaign to get the episode nominated for Emmys (even going as far as re-arranging reruns to concur with Emmy voting). And Stillwell shows a lot of class with a chapter tribute to the late Michael Piller whose contributions to Star Trek are legion.

For those wishing to learn about the process of how a television episode moves from idea to completed narrative, or for those who enjoy reading about "what could have beens" with Star Trek narratives, this is a great book.

Q&A WITH ERIC STILLWELL Did working on the show affect your fandom?

Eric Stillwell: Working on Star Trek changed my fan experiences in ways both good and bad. It was very exciting to be working on early days of The Next Generation, but I quickly discovered that I needed to distance myself from being identified as a “fan,” because there were so many people who worked on the show and at the studio who had serious misconceptions about Star Trek fans. The whole Star Trek phenomenon was a mystery to so many people in the industry….On the other hand, I was also living a dream come true for any Star Trek fan. How many people can say they’ve had a chance to work side by side with some of their personal idols, like Gene Roddenberry! What was it like working for Michael Piller? And also working for Rick Berman?

Eric Stillwell: Working for Michael Piller was a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with one of the best writer/producers I’ve ever encountered in Hollywood. Michael was a very serious, disciplined writer. Sometimes he could be difficult to work with when he was singularly focused on a project or when he was writing a script. But Michael was a perfectionist whose storytelling always came first. His stories and scripts always had to be the best they could be. And he expected the same from his writing staff and freelance writers. There was many a writer who left Michael’s office with a bruised ego. But with Michael, it was never personal. He didn’t have time to let egos stand in the way of product. It was all about producing the best possible stories and scripts. And I think he succeeded more times than not. I still credit Michael for saving the Star Trek franchise when we came on board as the head writer of TNG during the third season of the series. I think the work speaks for itself. Working for Rick Berman was a more tenuous experience for me. I’m afraid my memories of Berman are more negative than positive. I’ll just leave it at that. Were there changes to the "Yesterday’s Enterprise" story that bothered you as the script was given to other writers?

Eric Stillwell: I have to honestly say that I don’t recall any changes to the story that bothered me. In fact, I really feel that Ron Moore made some wonderful changes that actually improved the story – as did Michael Piller. All of the writing staff added tremendously to the teleplay. Unlike some writers in Hollywood, I’ve always appreciated the collaborative nature of television writing – often referred to derisively as “script writing by committee.” But if that’s something that bothers you, then I would suggest that writing for television isn’t really a good career choice. "Yesterday’s Enterprise" is considered by many to be the best TNG episode. What is it about the episode that resonates with fans?

Eric Stillwell: “City on the Edge of Forever” and “Mirror, Mirror” were the inspirations for “Yesterday’s Enterprise” – and the episode was written by genuine fans of the original series. Trent and I were both die-hard TOS fans. And certainly Ron Moore was a huge TOS fan. I think the final episode reflects the elements of the original series which have made that series and the entire franchise a phenomenon for more than 40 years. It’s hard to put a finger on one particular element that makes the episode resonate with the fans, but having watched the episode again recently, I think it still holds up after nearly 20 years! In some ways, the lessons learned in our war-torn alternate universe are more powerful today than they were in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, humanity still hasn’t learned the lessons that Star Trek has been offering since the 1960s.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Trek movie inspired by "Yesterday's Enterprise"?

Found at Trek Movie Report online:

"So it looks more and more like the new Star Trek will be akin to what are considered the best episodes of TOS and TNG respectively: “City on the Edge of Forever” and “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” It is worth noting that writer Roberto Orci listed “Yesterday’s Enterprise” as one of his favorite episodes and said that it (along with the Romulan-centered “Balance of Terror”) were episodes the team referred to collectively."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Now Available

"The Making of Yesterday's Enterprise" is from story co-writer and long-time "Star Trek: The Next Generation" script coordinator Eric A. Stillwell, and this book deftly chronicles the behind-the-scenes creation of the acclaimed episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" (ranked as the #1 series episode by Entertainment Weekly) from its inception to the final product and beyond. Honest and insightful, this book provides a definitive behind-the-scenes look for anybody who has ever entertained the idea of writing for television; or simply for the curious fan who has ever wondered what it's really like to work on the most popular franchise in television history. This book is a step-by-step journey through the process of developing and writing a story for television, from initial concept to final teleplay.

Printed: 186 pages, 6" x 9", perfect binding, cream interior paper (60# weight), black and white interior ink, white exterior paper (100# weight), full-color exterior ink

ISBN: 978-1-4357-0256-1
Copyright: © 2007
Language: English
Country: United States

Order your copy online at:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Entertainment Weekly 2007 Critique

Here's a web link to Entertainment Weekly's top ten Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes which was posted on Sept. 19, 2007:,,20057754_10,00.html

"Yesterday's Enterprise" (which I co-wrote in 1989) was ranked #1 with the following review:

CRITIQUE: This episode takes one simple premise — that every action, like a pebble thrown in a pond, has a rippling effect — and exploits the heck out of it. Offering massive space battles, hardcore Trek continuity revelations, and a poignant story line, in which Tasha falls for a doomed crewman and chooses to join him on a suicide run, this hour of Trek is the gold standard. As Picard says, before committing his own ship to destruction, ''Let's make sure that history never forgets the name Enterprise.'' Mission accomplished.