As a die-hard Star Trek fan and storyteller, I love learning about how the franchise was made and the people who made it. From the actors to the writers to the producers, they all have interesting stories—sometimes contradictory—that are interwoven in and define the very fabric of Star Trek.
So, if you’re looking for a behind-the-scenes Star Trek documentary and don’t know where to start, here are a few recommendations to get you going.
Mind Meld: Secrets Behind the Voyage of a Lifetime
- Directed by Peter Jaysen
- Featuring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy
- Released in 2001
Mind Meld: Secrets Behind the Voyage of a Lifetime is labeled as a documentary, but it’s really a conversation between two old friends . . . who just happen to be William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. They cover some intensely personal subject matter and it makes you feel like you’re sitting at the next table eavesdropping on a conversation you shouldn’t hear—the death of Shatner’s wife, for instance, and how Nimoy helped him recover.
Unfortunately, Mind Meld is only available on DVD currently, but it’s well-worth the purchase.
- Directed and Hosted by William Shatner
- Featuring Patrick Stewart, Chris Pine, Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks, and Scott Bakula
- Released in 2011
Taking a cue from Mind Meld, The Captains takes the sit-down, heart-to-heart conversation idea and expands upon it. Shatner speaks with each of the series Captains to learn about their upbringing, their careers, their experience making Star Trek, and how it changed them.
Each episode is roughly 30-minutes in length, so it’s something nice to watch over dinner throughout the week, if that’s your sort of thing.
William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge
- Directed by William Shatner
- Released in 2014
It’s no secret that the first season of The Next Generation is all over the map in terms of quality and story direction—everyone knows the show starts to get good once Riker gets the beard (or you do now, at least!)—but have you ever wondered why it’s so tumultuous?
Chaos on the Bridge is an appropriately titled documentary that focuses on the “chaos” behind the scenes during the development and production of the first season of TNG. There are lawyers involved, there’s a writer’s strike, and some of the stars don’t want to continue making the show due to the hectic atmosphere.
But we all know that the show recovered from its initial missteps and went on to become a pop culture icon. Chaos on the Bridge explains how the cast, crew, writers, and producers survived that first season.
What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine
- Directed by Ira Steven Behr and David Zappone
- Released in 2019
Unlike the previously mentioned documentaries, What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine takes a different track and focuses on what they were trying to accomplish, in terms of storytelling techniques and subject matter, with the series. Throughout the documentary, they make the argument that DS9 is the first serialized TV show in history and deserves to be recognized for this accomplishment. It even precipitates The Sopranos, which often gets the credit.
They also take the interesting route of showing how the writers would create and “break” a new episode of DS9 as if they were starting a new sequel series off today. When writers “break” an episode, they figure out the overall story arch, plot points, and tone. This segment is interspersed periodically amongst the interviews with the cast, crew, and writers.
There are some cringe-worthy moments in What We Left Behind—the lounge act that starts it off is supposed to be charming, but it comes off as cheesy—but, all and all, it’s a fun and entertaining documentary about Star Trek’s dark horse.
Here’s a few honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut:
- The Captain’s Summit—William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart, and Jonathan Frakes in talks with host Whoopi Goldberg.
- Trekkies—Denise Crosby explores fandom through interviews with Star Trek devotees.
- For The Love of Spock—a profile of the life and career of actor/photographer/poet Leonard Nimoy, directed by his son, Adam Nimoy.
- To Be Takei—a profile of the life and career of actor/activist George Takei and his husband, Brad Altman.