In a new multi-part interview, TrekCore talks to Roger Lay, Jr. who is producing the bonus features on both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Enterprise‘s new Blu-Ray releases. Roger was keen to discuss the new found appreciation he has for Enterprise after being involved so closely in the new Season 1 Blu-Ray release and spending time with both the staff and actors who worked on the show.
Roger Lay, Jr.: Enterprise Season 1 Blu-Ray Interview, Part 4
Interviewed by Adam Walker for TrekCore.com
TrekCore: What are your opinions about the legitimacy and the feasibility of including cast members on the commentaries of a show like The Next Generation, which is twenty-five years old?
Roger Lay, Jr.: I’d love to do it. I was talking to Jonathan Frakes about maybe coming in and doing “The Offspring” – he directed it, it was his first one – but Jonathan directs like ten episodes a year of multiple shows, including NCIS and Leverage, so he was only going to be in town in October for a week because he was doing an episode of NCIS. We got him that week to do his next interview for the documentaries; a second interview. So we couldn’t schedule “The Offspring“. We’re trying; we’re really trying – especially for the ones that are directors. I’d love to get LeVar in there at some point. It’s definitely on my list, and I think that if you’ve seen what we’ve put out so far, you’ll see that when we have an idea, we don’t rest until we achieve that.
TrekCore: Yeah. Just look at Diana Muldaur.
Roger Lay, Jr.: Diana is a great example – everyone had given up on her.
TrekCore: I heard it was your accent that swung it!
Roger Lay, Jr.: I guess, yeah, that did it! We spent fifteen minutes on the phone, and she agreed to it by the end of that conversation – she was great. I love Diana; she was a delight! No one had really done that, just gotten on the phone with her – rather than the agents – and tell her why it was so important that we have her do this. She’s lovely. I’m still in touch with her via e-mail, she’s awesome. She was like, “If you guys go to Martha’s Vineyard, let me know! You can visit!” All right, awesome. We’ll hang out!
TrekCore: Is there any one person – an actor, or someone involved in production – who has flat-out said no, that they won’t ever talk about Star Trek again, who you were just desperate to get?
Roger Lay, Jr.: No, no one has said no so far. Everyone has been really excited about doing this. Now I’m going to another batch of actors for Next Gen; this week, I’m reaching out to Dwight Schultz, Robert O’Reilly, Michelle Forbes… I have a list of all the other supporting ones.
TrekCore: A lot of those people were conspicuously absent from the DVDs.
Roger Lay, Jr.: Yeah, so my goal is to get them for the Blu-rays. We also want to start sprinkling them into the documentaries now, but I also have this idea – Rob and I have been talking a lot about this piece – called “The Lower Decks”.
Roger Lay, Jr.: Just like we did the reunion of the main cast, we want to get Patti Yasutake and Michelle Forbes and Dwight Schultz, maybe Gowron – Robert O’Reilly, maybe bring John de Lance back in…
TrekCore: Miles and Keiko [Colm Meaney and Rosalind Chao] – you could get them all.
Roger Lay, Jr.: Miles and Keiko – yeah, Colm Meaney, Rosalind Chao – I have them on my list! Get them all together. As we get closer to the end of the run, like Seasons Six or Seven, I want to do that. It’s on my proposal, it’s what I’m going after – because we have the main cast; let’s get the other people together, too. It’d be a lot of fun.
TrekCore: There’s such a thing as going overboard with interviewing people from the main cast, because we’ve heard from them so many times – obviously, it’s an entirely different perspective with them this time – but I’m really interested in hearing from those people we’ve never heard from before, like Michelle Forbes and Patti Yasutake, who may seem irrelevant to other people, but have great stories to tell.
Roger Lay, Jr.: Yeah, absolutely – most people forget that they were there, and they were there for a lot of years; they were integral to what happened – so I’m reaching out to them.
TrekCore: UPN launched with Voyager back in 1995, and it obviously carried Enterprise. Did that affect the show’s structure and development? There has always been a lot of speculation on the network’s intentions – they produced commercials for the show that tended to focus on the sexualized Decon scenes. Do you cover that in the documentaries?
Roger Lay, Jr.: Yeah, I cover it… that’s dealt with in the Seasons Two and Three documentary. We focus on launching it in season one, but in upcoming documentaries we focus on the fact that here was this network where the show didn’t belong. This was a network that didn’t really want a Star Trek show; they wanted more of a sexy or ‘urban’ kind of thing, like all the other shows they were nurturing.
John Wentworth talks a lot about that. He’s got a great story – which you’ll probably see in the Season Two or three documentary – where, at one point, one executive in a meeting comes up to Rick and goes, “I have an idea. You guys have a restaurant on the Enterprise, right? Rick and Brannon are like, “Well, we have a mess hall, kind of like a cafeteria…” He says, “Well, here’s the thing – every week, at the restaurant, the hottest young bands are gonna play. You know, we’re gonna get a different hot, young band every week, they’ll play in the restaurant.”
TrekCore: Oh, my god.
Roger Lay, Jr.: They were like, “We’re in outer space. How are these bands going to get there?” The guy’s like, “Well, you can figure that out! ‘Cause then, at the end of the episodes, we have the card for the hot new album that’s coming out. We do that on all our other shows; trust us. This is good.” That was a moment where Rick – and everyone – started to realize that it was a losing battle.
So, we have that story, and we’ll deal with that. We’re definitely going to deal with UPN – the ‘UPN Factor’ is dealt with on Season Two, and then Season Four when it became The CW, and the repercussions that came about because of the change of management. Definitely – that’s all part of the plan. These docs, for season 2 and beyond are still being edited but I have great footage that I’m really clear on how I need to utilize in order to tell the most in-depth story on the making and the end of the show.
TrekCore: It sounds like you have a hell of a lot of freedom to talk about this stuff now, which just wasn’t there a few years ago for the DVDs. Where does that come from? Are you restricted from anything, or is it just carte blanche?
Roger Lay, Jr.: If you watch the Season One documentary, you’ll see a lot of things that seem like red flags. When you watch “In Conversation”, Rick and Brannon go into it, a lot – especially talking about the UPN issue and the difficulties they faced. I think enough time has passed. The show’s not on the air, no one’s trying to keep something going, like you insult someone and as a repercussion they cancel your show. It’s a completely different division; this is CBS Home Entertainment.
I think, especially Rick, he spent years doing those updates for the Star Trek fan club magazines or for the official magazine, for Starlog, and they tend to be immediate and maybe a little superficial, because they’re all about, “What are you working on now? How’s the season finale coming along?” That kind of thing. There was never really an opportunity to remove yourself from the situation and look at it with a different perspective, and with some distance, like he’s had now. I think that’s allowed him to understand it differently and to be very candid with us.
TrekCore: From a personal perspective, Roger, do you find this to be your absolute dream job you’ve always wished for, or do you sometimes find yourself frustrated that Star Trek has become your job, and you can’t enjoy it as the hobby it once was?
Roger Lay, Jr.: No, I love it. I love doing it! I don’t see it as a job. Look, I love the show, I grew up watching the show; I grew up reading all about it, immersing myself in it. I wasn’t the kind of fan who would immerse himself in the universe and go make a costume and show up at a convention, or figure out how to apply the best Borg makeup – I wasn’t that kind of fan. I was the kind of fan who figure out how it worked, because I always knew I was going to be a filmmaker – I went to film school and my first job out of film school was Everybody Loves Raymond. I was on the production staff of a hit show, and I was producing films for Ray Bradbury, so I come from a different perspective than other fans, maybe.
No one has really done the definitive take on how these shows came together, and the effect they’ve had. You had Larry Nemecek writing his books, and you had Dan Madsen – who I love – every couple months coming up with great articles and great updates in the [Official Star Trek Fan Club] magazine, but there was never a Ken Burns approach to it, where it’s multi-part, and it continues on, and you see it from everyone’s perspective, from every different angle. So that was my goal – it was my dream to do that from the start and I think I’ve been able to accomplish that so far. I don’t see myself as impaired by the long hours; I said before that this is one of many things that I’m doing. I’m also producing a show with Judy and Gar Reeves-Stevens and Gary Goddard; I run his film and TV division, we’re working on multiple projects; I directed this other film called Toy Masters, which is now in post – it’s a lot of stuff, but it’s never work to me. It’s really fulfilling and satisfying, and look – if I have the ability now to do this, I want to do it right because I think of the fan that I was back then, and how I was so hungry for this kind of information.
I wasn’t the kind of guy who was satisfied just watching an [electronic press kit]-style doc, a fluff-piece kind of thing. I wanted to know why it happened the way it did, what really happened, why they made those decisions – so I think that I’m the fan who got the opportunity to do it, I owe it to myself and the other fans to really give them something that is compelling, interesting, and insightful, and in a way – I don’t want to use the word ‘scholarly’, but Rob and I use that term a lot; to kind of take a scholarly approach to dissecting the making of a television show.
TrekCore: Going down Star Trek‘s memory lanes so many times, you must become wistful for the days when there was a Star Trek TV series on the air all the time – or have you settled into the new format with J.J. Abrams’ movies? Are you happy with those?
Roger Lay, Jr.: Well, it’s not my Star Trek. It’s definitely not my Star Trek, it’s very different. What I love about Star Trek, sometimes it’s not really there, you know? I think they’re fun, popcorn movies… but then, look, in one movie, J.J. had more money and more resources than Rick had in four movies combined, so how is it fair to compare them?
I love that there are these big movies coming out and I’m driving down Sunset Boulevard and there’s a Star Trek billboard, because it’s all for the better; it’s all going to help the franchise. I have all these friends who have kids who watched J.J.’s movie, and now they’re watching TOS and Next Gen, so, that’s great! I’m sure a lot of these Blu-rays are selling because J.J.’s movie is out there, and it’s creating awareness for the brand. Clearly, it helps. It helps immensely. I’m glad J.J. is making those movies, but I long for the days when we had a weekly adventure with a family of characters that we grow to love and recognize as ourselves; what Gene had envisioned, these little one-hour morality plays that are imaginative and are about ideas, not about blowing stuff up, you know?
I think Star Trek works best on television.
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Star Trek: Enterprise Season 1 is released on Blu-Ray on March 26 in North America and soon after in other territories worldwide by CBS/Paramount. Be sure to lock in your Pre-Order for the set today!
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