“I Didn’t Want To Do It”: Leonard Nimoy Explains Turning Down Star Trek: The Next Generation Executive Producer Role

Before his death, Leonard Nimoy explained the reason he turned down the offer of becoming a producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Spock and Picard with the USS Enterprise-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Summary

  • Leonard Nimoy turned down a producer role on Star Trek: The Next Generation due to not wanting to commit to the show for an extended period of time.
  • TNG faced the challenge of living up to its predecessor, Star Trek: The Original Series, and sought to align itself with TOS as much as possible.
  • Nimoy chose to appear as Spock in TNG instead, which allowed him to be involved without the time commitment of producing and provided a tangible connection to TOS for the audience.

Leonard Nimoy was offered a producer role on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but turned the offer down for a good reason. As the untested sequel to Star Trek: The Original SeriesTNG had a lot to live up to from the start and faced many obstacles while getting off the ground. Although the series grew to become arguably more popular than TOS, finding a massive audience in syndication, there were concerns in the beginning about how it would live up to its predecessor. Because of these concerns, TNG‘s creative team sought to align the series with TOS as much as possible.

The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J. J. Abrams: The Complete, Uncensored, and Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross revealed that one of the ways TNG did this was to offer a producer spot to one of TOS‘s most popular actors. Leonard Nimoy is quoted in the book discussing how he was offered and turned down a producing role on TNG. Read Nimoy’s quote below:

I was among the first people Paramount approached to produce the show, but I didn’t want to do it. But not because I didn’t think it was a good idea or anything like that. I just didn’t want to be doing that for the next two or three years of my life. I did have mixed feelings about the series. Of course, anything was possible. It was a tough challenge. There were going to be constant comparisons.

Nimoy’s quote reveals that the reason he turned down the position was two-fold; he wasn’t interested in being tied to TNG for however long the show ran, and thought it was better not to get involved because of the challenge TNG faced distinguishing itself from TOS. Although the second reason is a bit more complicated, Nimoy’s first reason turned out to be warranted, since TNG ended up running for seven seasons.

Cast of the TOS movies and Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard
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Why Leonard Nimoy Appeared As Spock On TNG Instead Of Producing

Spock and Picard look at one another in Star Trek TNG

Instead of producing, Leonard Nimoy chose to appear on TNG as Spock, in season 5, episodes 7 and 8, “Unification, Parts 1 & 2.” The episode was the first time Spock appeared in the Star Trek franchise since the end of the TOS film series and ended up being hugely important, setting up Spock’s future by introducing the idea of his diplomatic work with the Romulans. Nimoy’s decision to still be involved in TNG, given his previous reservations, might seem strange, but his choice to act on the show rather than produce it actually makes a lot of sense.

Appearing as Spock meant that Nimoy only had to commit to TNG for a short time, just long enough to shoot his episodes. This got rid of the demands on his time that producing would have entailed, but still allowed him to be involved with the series and for TNG to have a tangible connection to TOS. Along with this, Spock’s appearance on TNG was in season 5, at which point the show had become popular in its own right. By season 5, Star Trek: The Next Generation had successfully distinguished itself from TOS while still being able to reference its predecessor for audience benefit, making Nimoy’s appearance as Spock the perfect callback without being gratuitous.

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