Back to '88: Paramount Commits to TNG Season 2
When I heard that the entire principal cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation would be coming together for not just one, but SEVERAL public reunion events for the show's 25th anniversary - something that hadn't been done in almost twenty years - I knew that I would finally have a chance to meet all of the actors. I had originally planned on visiting the TNG EXPOsed reunion at the Calgary Expo in the spring of 2012, where all nine original cast members were in attendance - but when those plans fell through, I quickly bought tickets to the May 2013 Creation Star Trek Convention in Chicago, where TNG’s main cast (minus Denise Crosby and Wil Wheaton) will be attending, along with several of DS9’s cast.
I began my search to find something special for when I asked for the cast’s autographs. I didn't want to use just another cast photo or publicity poster, but I wanted something that had all of the actors together, so I went hunting where many memorabilia quests begin: eBay! I hunted through pages of action figures, video cassettes, card games, model kits, and comic books, when I stumbled across something I'd never seen before.... and for someone who's been collecting (or at least coveting) TNG memorabilia for the last 20+ years, that was extremely surprising. I quickly hit the "purchase" button, and knew that I had found my prize… at only $4.00 US, this was quite a bargain!
What I discovered was this issue of Paramount News, an internal newsletter published by Paramount Pictures in January 1988. Released only to the Paramount offices (principally in Los Angeles and New York City), it features company news on employee hires and promotions, domestic and international motion picture and television production updates, even home video releases. This oversized, 9"x12" glossy magazine served as the official corporate communication update to all employees across all of the diverse departments under the Paramount company umbrella.
The biggest draw, of course, was the large image of the TNG cast on the cover! The photo used is part of the pre-production "smoky bridge" photo shoot - TrekCore has several shots from that session in the media archives - but this particular image is one that I can't seem to find anywhere online (the sneer on Brent Spiner's face sets it apart from every other photo I can find from this shoot).
Since it's not very easy to search the internet for "Paramount News", I had no idea what I would find inside when it arrived in the mail. Luckily for me, I was not disappointed. The main article is a two-page spread about the efforts to sell TNG to syndication partners, detailing presentations made to station owners, press kits, and marketing plans used to sell the show, with lovely photographs of press kits sent out to local station managers, early tie-in merchandise, as well as behind-the-scenes shots of Bob Justman, Rick Berman, and of course Gene Roddenberry on-set during the show's first season production.
The most important find in the magazine, however, is buried within the general Paramount corporate news: the announcement of TNG's renewal for a second season! This announcement also includes the promotions of three of TNG's biggest names - Rick Berman, Bob Justman, and David Livingston - into new positions on the show.
"Bob's 'promotion' [listed in the magazine] was not one per se, but rather the pre-retirement 'backing away', per his request, as a 'consulting producer.' It's a notes-writing status, similar to what Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor did as they prepared to leave from VGR and/or DS9; in Jeri's case, like Bob, it was a time of actual career retirement. They remained involved, but not on a day-to-day basis." - Larry Nemecek
There's also a nice bit of information about selling TNG to international distribution partners, detailing a November 1987 set visit from executives of the Tokyo Broadcasting System, as well as screenings of the then-new show to buyers from British television networks BBC and ITV.
If I didn't know it was nearly twenty-five years old, I could easily believe that it was printed yesterday - it's in perfect shape, with sharp corners, flat pages, and no signs of yellowing or age anywhere. Whoever held on to this thing did a tremendous job keeping it safe for the last twenty-five years.
I reached out to Paramount Studios in California, where a representative from the studio archives was able to tell me that while the publication is most certainly a rarity (especially in its well-preserved condition), there is basically no way to tell how many copies were originally printed, for two reasons. First, there is virtually no one currently employed at Paramount who was also working there when it was put out in 1988, and secondly, the in-house print shop that was responsible for this type of print job - who MAY have been able to find out that information in their records - was dissolved and outsourced a few years ago.
While I hoped to get some more detailed information about this publication, it seems that there’s nobody left at Paramount who has any knowledge of it, and after twenty-five years, it’s not surprising. Thankfully, I know that it’s at least an authentic piece of Star Trek history, and I'm extremely excited to take this almost one-of-a-kind item with me when I meet the TNG cast in a few months.
High-resolution scans of this magazine can be viewed here.
Thanks to Trekland’s Larry Nemecek and Christina H. at the Paramount Studio Archives.