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Early TNG Director Rob Bowman Talks His TREK Journey, Wishes He Had Stayed

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Posted: 09:52:03 on May 06 2002
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: People

Director Rob Bowman, who is today a director/producer on THE X-FILES and who directed that franchise's feature debut, talks in the latest Star Trek: The Magazine about his experiences directing the early seasons of NEXT GENERATION, helming such episodes as "Where No One Has gone Before", "The Battle", "Datalore", "Heart of Glory", "Elementary, Dear Data", "A Matter of Honor" and "Q Who".

Bowman says he came to be known as "the pizza boy" around the TREK offices, owing to his youth.

"I went to the Star Trek trailer and met Bob Justman, who as you know produced the earlier series, and he was surprised at my age - at the time I was 26," Bowman recalls. "But he said, 'well, anyway, I like the way you shoot and we'd be interested in you doing Star Trek.' I was standing there with Bob and then Rick Berman popped his head in the door and looked at me and said, 'Pizza?' I said, 'Excuse me?' and he said 'We ordered pizza; are you the pizza boy?' and I said, 'No, I'm Rob Bowman. I'm your next director, I hope!'"

TNG's mastermind Gene Roddenberry was uniquely impressed with Bowman's directorial work.

"Gene was around quite a bit. After two or three days of filming he actually came down to the set and told me that he very much liked the film that I'd been shooting. The director of photography at the time said to me 'You know, he never does that. You should feel very fortunate.' I felt incredible! Every script that I directed I would have a meeting with Gene, and it was quite an honor to work with him. I was lucky to be around before he passed away."

"Rick was very, very good to me from the beginning all the way to my last episode, and I owe a great deal of gratitude to him."

While STAR TREK has traditionally been controlled by writers and producers, Bowman says he had a great deal of freedom in those days.

"I was very enthusiastic and wanted to be an integral part of the show and it seemed to me that Rick Berman had given me a bit more latitude than a typical director..." he says. "But I think I had it very, very good, and Rick was protective of me and gave me a lot of opportunities to try things and to shoot the show differently, and try to move the lighting around, which did not always work! But I felt like my voice mattered; I felt that when I spoke I was heard, and that I was part of the problem solving in the day-to-day shooting."

Bowman even directed the infamous writer's-strike season two finale, "Shades of Grey," consisting of very little new footage.

"Rick Berman called me and said, 'Hey, we've got this show; it's the season ender and we want to save some money because we're over on previous episodes. It's a two day prep and two - or three - day shoot.' I thought, 'oh, my God, it will be just awful.' but he said, 'Look, I'll pay you a full check to do this show!' I was going through a divorce at the time and I was not going to say no to the money, plus again I got to go hang out with my friends. I looked on it as an opportunity; 'How many ways can I figure out to film Jonathan lying down on a table having a nightmare?'

After directing five episodes in season one and seven in season two, Bowman left the show to return once in the 4th year.

"There were a lot of bold new TV shows out there at the time - 'Miami Vice', 'Crime Story' - and I was doing Star Trek which some people thought was sort of tired and pedestrian. But it wasn't; it was highly imaginative and creative, and the executive producers were very responsive. I thought, 'I'm part of history here; why would I not want to do it? I don't want to go do cops and lawyers.' But when I signed on with a new agent he said 'I don't want you doing Star Trek anymore.'"

Bowman says he regrets not staying with the franchise longer.

"I missed it, and I came back and directed 'Brothers', which I thought was a wonderful script by Rick Berman, but by that point it was just time to move on. My agent was really pounding on me, and I thought it actually had sort of soured them and me on the whole thing. But in the end I think he was wrong. I think I would have been better served if I'd stayed, because I enjoyed the show. I enjoyed the crew, I enjoyed the cast. I loved Paramount studios, and I wish I would have been there longer. I've been a part of something that's very special."

Thanks to TrekWeb's 'Cyrus' for these excerpts, and you can read the full interview in the June 2002 issue of Star Trek: The Magazine.

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