APRIL 13, 2022 – Last week we announced that the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation will appear in the next season of Star Trek: Picard. But the faces we expect to see when PEAK Season three premieres could have been very different, at least according to a memo sent by Paramount executive John Pike (presumably unrelated to Captain Christopher Pike) to producer John Ferraro on that date in 1987.
It was 5 months and 15 days before GNT would hit the small screens, and the ASU Enterprise did not yet have a crew. The hunt was on to find six humans, a half-betazoid, an android, and a Klingon to boldly go where nobody…wait a second…where nobody a had gone before. The casting process for any TV show can be long and arduous, but the producers of GNT had to go through extra pressure to find the right people. After all, none of the fans thought it could be done. Who could replace the heroic Captain Kirk, the logical Mr. Spock or the irascible Doctor McCoy? Paramount had a few ideas.
In the memo sent that spring 35 years ago, there are some interesting and recognizable names:
Whoever was chosen as PICARD had to have the seriousness to carry the series, without being a carbon copy of Captain Kirk. At the top of the list was Patrick Stewart, whose bald head Gene Roddenberry found off-putting. Apparently, in the future, the problem of hair loss will be solved. The story goes that Stewart had to audition in a wig before winning the role. But the memo includes five names for the role, and the one right below Stewart’s is Mitchell Ryan. Ryan, who died last month, is known to genre fans as the first actor to play Burke Devlin on the soap opera Supernatural dark shadows. For GNT fans, he is perhaps best remembered as Kyle Riker, father of the BusinessFirst officer and former lover of Doctor Pulaski from season 2.
Speaking of First Officer, RYKER is next on the list, with four actors up for grabs. Between April, when this memo was written, and September, his name was given a new spelling, but he was supposed to sound more like Kirk, ready for action. Jonathan Frakes was the third actor listed, just below Gregg Marx, who was then known as an Emmy Award-winning actor on As the world turns.
Continuing down the column, we come to the ship’s Betazoid adviser, TROI, with a single name underneath: Denise Crosby.
Next is TASHA, the head of security, with five options, the favorite being Rosalind Chao. fans of GNT and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine will recognize her name as Keiko O’Brien, wife, mother, botanist and teacher. Nowhere on the list does Marina Sirtis appear. When she finally came to audition, it was for this role. Midway through the audition, the producers decided to see what would happen if Crosby and Spirits swapped roles, and it was the cast that stuck. One wonders, if they had gone with their original casting idea, would Troi have been killed and Tasha would have married Riker? The world will never know…
Next, GEORDI, with the most actors considered to date. LeVar Burton tops the list, along with Tim Russ (future GNT guest star and Star Trek: Voyager‘s Tuvok) and Wesley Snipes both on the list. But the most interesting name here was also the favorite for the role of blind chief engineer: Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. It appears, however, that Burton hit a home run and scored the role.
Moving one, for the character of WESLEY, only one name comes up: JD Roth, who eventually hosted and produced reality television.
Brent Spiner does not appear as a candidate for the role of DATA. According to his book Fan Fiction: A Mem-Black, he was forced to audition six times before the producers cast him. Among the four actors on the list is Eric Menyuk, who didn’t land the role, but was brought back for three episodes of the series as the mysterious Traveler.
Finally, BEVERLY had three options listed, but the favorite was Cheryl McFadden, who changed her professional name to “Gates” before the show premiered. Her schedule was concerning, as she was performing in a play in San Diego at the time, but it seems like everything went well.
It’s an interesting list and a fascinating insight into what GNT could have been, but I think most fans would agree that there is no substitute for the cast we have. If you want to see the full list of names and ratings on a few of the favorites, head over to Slice of SciFi, the first outlet to report the document’s discovery in 2006.