CLOSE

Day of the Dreadnoughts – Jutland

Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 237th installment in the series.

May 31-June 1, 1916: Day of the Dreadnoughts – Jutland 

While for many ordinary people the outbreak of war in 1914 came as a shocking “bolt from the blue,” for the sailors of the British and German navies it first seemed like the long awaited consummation of the pre-war naval rivalry between Europe’s two greatest powers – followed by a discouraging anti-climax.

Indeed the First World War was above all a continental struggle whose outcome would ultimately be decided by fights on land, with naval power generally playing a secondary role. Although the navies made important contributions to the war effort – most notably the Royal Navy’s blockade of Germany – it soon became apparent that they were unlikely to take part in a decisive naval battle like Trafalgar. 

Knowing it was outnumbered, the German Admiralty kept its High Seas Fleet close to its home ports on the North Sea, where it fulfilled its role as a “fleet in being” – keeping a large part of the Royal Navy tied down simply by existing. On the other side, despite their numerical superiority the British were reluctant to attack the German ships in port, leery of mines, submarines and land-based defenses.

Despite this strategic stalemate, commanders on both sides believed it was still possible to fight a decisive battle and achieve victory. For the British, this meant luring the German High Seas Fleet into a spot where it could be engaged by the larger Grand Fleet (the main body of the Royal Navy) and destroyed. By contrast, success for the Germans depended on dividing the enemy: an encounter with the entire British Grand Fleet was to be avoided at all costs, but if the High Seas Fleet could lure part of the enemy fleet away and destroy it, it might be able to even the odds for another battle later on, or at least force the British to loosen their blockade. 

This was the strategic background for the biggest naval clash of the war, at the Battle of Jutland. Unfortunately for both sides, things didn’t quite turn out as they’d hoped.

Strange Symmetry

The battle unfolded with strange symmetry, beginning with the opposing sides’ plans. After the end of the North Sea’s rough winter, in the spring 1916 both the British commander, Admiral John Jellicoe, and his German counterpart, Admiral Reinhard Scheer, decided the time had come to coax the enemy fleet into a major battle – hopefully on their own terms. 

Basically, both admirals hoped to trick the other side into rushing into the North Sea by dangling bait in the form of a smaller detachment of ships to lure the enemy force into a trap. Running out to sea, the enemy force would first come under attack by submarines and mines – the German U-boats lying in wait near the British bases in Rosyth and Scapa Flow, the British subs near the Heligoland Bight off northwestern Germany. Then the entire surface fleet would close to destroy the rest of the enemy force (in the British plan this meant the entire German High Seas Fleet, in the German plan a large part of the British Grand Fleet). The symmetry extended even further to the order of battle for both sides, as both Jellicoe and Scheer dispatched smaller “scouting” forces of battle cruisers ahead of their main dreadnought fleets – the British battle cruisers under Admiral David Beatty, the Germans under Admiral Franz von Hipper – to serve as bait, luring the enemy within range of the heavily armed dreadnoughts. 

The scale of the coming clash was mind-boggling: between the battle cruisers, dreadnoughts, submarines, and swarms of light cruisers and destroyers, around 250 ships crewed by roughly 100,000 men would take part in the Battle of Jutland. However the main fight would always be between the heavy battle cruisers and dreadnoughts, and here the British advantage showed, with 28 dreadnoughts versus 16 for the Germans, and nine battle cruisers versus five. 

The outcome depended entirely on local circumstances: if the British were able to bring their whole fleet to bear against the Germans, the latter would be wiped out – but if the Germans could attack and destroy part of the British fleet in isolation, British naval dominance would suffer a body blow. 

First Encounter

With the opposing sides following two very similar plans, it all came down to timing – and here the Germans got the jump on the British (or so they thought). In fact that British had an additional edge in intelligence, as the Allies had cracked the German naval code early on without their knowledge: on May 30, 1916 Jellicoe received word that the German High Seas Fleet was preparing to sail into the North Sea. That evening the British battle cruiser squadron, followed by the super-dreadnoughts of the Fifth Battle Squadron, set forth from their base in Rosyth, Scotland, while the rest of the Grand Fleet headed south from the base in Scapa Flow, about 300 miles to the north; crucially, this meant that the British battle cruisers would meet the Germans before the British dreadnoughts. 

Click to enlarge

The first phase of the German plan quickly proved to be a dud, as not a single British ship was lost to U-boat torpedoes or mines – but Hipper would more than make up for this disappointing start during the second phase of the battle, when he benefited from an unexpected British mistake. When Beatty’s battle cruiser squadron left port the accompanying Fifth Battle Squadron, composed of powerful dreadnoughts meant to cover the battle cruisers, trailed behind by five miles, leaving the battle cruisers exposed to their more heavily armed German peers. Worse still, reports from British ships monitoring German radio traffic indicated (mistakenly) that the German High Sea Fleet hadn’t actually put to sea, meaning Beatty and Jellicoe both assumed they were just facing the German battle cruiser squadron, not the dreadnoughts. They were in for quite a surprise (below, the British fleet).

With these massive forces approaching each other off of the Danish peninsula, known as Jutland, events took an absurd turn with the appearance of a small Danish civilian steamer, which unwittingly sailed between the rival forces, provoking destroyers and cruisers from both sides to hurry over to check it out – of course spotting each other in the process. As they reported sighting the enemy ships via wireless, the ships opened fire on each other at 2:28 p.m. The battle had begun. 

Battle Cruiser Action 

After the initial sighting, the two battle cruiser squadrons made visual contact at around 3:25 p.m., with the British (to the west) heading south and the Germans heading north. Both sides swiftly changed course to close with the enemy, and then turned on to roughly parallel courses, heading southeast, still trying to shorten the distance while bringing their guns to bear on each other. 

This was exactly what Hipper hoped for, as it would lead the British battle cruisers (without their super-dreadnought protectors) directly into Scheer’s rapidly approaching High Seas Fleet, about 50 miles south of Hipper. Even worse, the German gunnery during the battle cruiser phase was clearly superior, as evidenced by the uneven losses suffered by the two sides, and British battle cruisers suffered from an unrecognized flaw in their armor plating around the gun turrets. Following the first German battle cruiser shot at 3:48 p.m., as high explosive 12- and 13.5-inch shells hurtled thousands of yards a couple dozen feet could spell the difference between a harmless fountain of water and a deadly plume of metal and fire. 

For its human participants the battle was characterized by an odd mix of terror and detachment, as recalled by a gun control officer on the British battle cruiser New Zealand:

I had great difficulty in convincing myself that the Huns were in sight at last, it was so like battle exercise the way in which we and the Germans turned up on to more or less parallel courses and waited for the range to close sufficiently before letting fly at each other. It all seemed very cold-blooded and mechanical, no chance here of seeing red, merely a case of cool scientific calculation and deliberate gunfire.

The experience would soon become much more real for crew members aboard the British battle cruiser Indefatigable. At 4:02 p.m. the German battle cruiser Von der Tann scored two direct hits on the Indefatigable, which apparently penetrated one or more of its gun turrets and ignited the cordite charges used to propel the shells, which in turn ignited the ship’s main magazine, resulting in a gigantic explosion. In less than a minute the Indefatigable sank with 1,017 men aboard, leaving just one survivor (below). 

This shocking loss was only the beginning of the British misfortunes. With the super-dreadnoughts of the British Fifth Battle Squadron slowly coming in range, the British battle cruisers were still highly vulnerable to German gunnery, especially concentrated fire from multiple enemy vessels. At 4:21 p.m. disaster struck again, as two German battle cruisers, the Derfflinger, both turned their fire on the Queen Mary – the pride of the British battle cruiser fleet – and again scored lucky shots on the weak battle cruiser turrets (below, the Queen Mary sinks to the right; Lion to the left). 

Commander George von Hase, the first gunnery officer aboard the Derfflinger, recalled the Queen Mary’s fate: 

First of all a vivid red flame shot up from her forepart. Then came an explosion forward which was followed by a much heavier explosion amidships, black debris of the ship flew into the air, and immediately afterwards the whole ship blew up with a terrific explosion. A gigantic cloud of smoke rose, the masts collapsed inwards, the smoke cloud hid everything and rose higher and higher. Finally, nothing but a thick, black cloud of smoke remained where the ship had been.

Petty Officer Ernest Francis, a gunner’s mate aboard the Queen Mary, was one of the few survivors. As the ship was wracked by explosions, eventually splitting in half, Francis recalled swimming desperately to avoid the whirlpool which would follow her sinking: 

I struck away from the ship as hard as I could, and must have covered nearly 50 years, when there was a big smash, and stopping and looking round the air seemed to be full of fragments and flying pieces. A large piece seemed to be right above my head, and acting on an impulse I dipped under to avoid being struck, and stayed under as long as I could, and then came to the top again, when coming behind me I heard a rush of water, which looked very much like a surf breaking on a beach, and I realised it was the suction or back-wash from the ship which had just gone. I heardly had time to fill my lungs with air when it was on me; I felt it was no use struggling against it, so I let myself go for a moment or two, then I struck out… 

By this time the other ships in the British battle cruiser squadron – Lion, Tiger, and Princess Royal – had also sustained damage, and the super-dreadnoughts of the Fifth Battle Squadron arrived not a moment too soon. In fact the Barham, Warspite, Malaya and Valiant got there just in time to greet the approaching German High Seas Fleet, first spotted at 4:30 p.m. and closing fast. The day of the dreadnoughts was at hand.

Dreadnought Battle 

The main phase of the battle, involving the main bodies of both fleets, commenced in late afternoon and continued as the sun went down through nightfall, forming a dramatic image as over 200 ships of all sizes blasted away at each other in the dusk.

As the Germans rejoined forces to the south, at 6:15 p.m. Jellicoe ordered his dreadnought battle fleet, previously cruising south in six rows of four ships, to form a single line for battle heading east to engage the Germans. For their part the Germans were completely taken by surprise by the appearance of the Grand Fleet under Jellicoe, which delivered a blistering barrage as it sailed perpendicularly across the path of the lead German ships – a classic battleship maneuver called “crossing the T.” However German gunnery continued to tell, as the Derfflinger and Lutzow sank the Invincible around 6:30 p.m. (below, the Invincible explodes). 

A crewman from the British destroyer Badger later recalled rescuing the few survivors from the Invincible:

As we neared the wreck we could see the water all round thick with flotsam and jetsam, mainly composed of floating seamen’s kit bags, with a few hammocks scattered amongst them. We also spotted a raft on which were four men, and on the bridge they spotted two other survivors in the water… It was a great shock to us when [the commander] made us understand that… we were picking up the only six survivors from her ship’s company of a thousand men.

Under heavy fire, around 6:33 Scheer ordered his outnumbered fleet to reverse course, heading west, but Jellicoe was determined to engage them before they slipped away, while also avoiding the risk of torpedoes from German destroyers, requiring him to keep a certain distance. At 6:55 Scheer, knowing that nightfall and relative safety wouldn’t come until 8 p.m., decided to pull a surprise move by reversing course again and heading right for the British Grand Fleet – a daring maneuver which caused no little confusion, as intended. Then at 7:15 p.m. Scheer reversed course yet again (this time for good) and made a run for it, leaving behind destroyers and the battle cruisers to lay down a covering fire against the onrushing British. 

Throughout this period the battleships pounded each other at relatively close ranges of as little as four miles, resulting in incredible carnage on both sides. One British sailor, a 16-year-old midshipman aboard the battle cruiser Malaya, recalled the scene below decks around 7:30 p.m.: 

I went down to the battery, where everything was dark chaos. Most of the wounded had been taken away, but several of the killed were still there. The most ghastly part of the whole affair was the smell of burnt human flesh, which remained in the ship for weeks, making everybody have a sickly nauseous feeling the whole time. When the battery was finally lighted by an emergency circuit, it was a scene which cannot be forgotten,– everything burnt black and bare from the fire; the galley, canteen, and drying-room bulkheads blown and twisted into the most grotesque shapes, and the whole deck covered by about 6 inches of water and dreadful debris…

The main phase of the Battle of Jutland was already ending, but fighting would continue through the night of May 31 into the morning of June 1, as the British pursued the retreating Germans with limited success, including a point-blank engagement between British destroyers and some older German battleships in the hours around midnight, while the British cruiser Black Prince was sunk after losing contact with the main British fleet. A British officer aboard the destroyer Southampton recalled the surprising engagement: 

At that moment the Germans switched on their searchlights and we switched on our. Before I was blinded by the lights in my eyes I caught sight of a line of light grey ships. Then the gun behind which I was standing answered my shout of “Fire!”… The range was amazingly close – no two groups of such ships have ever fought so close in the history of this war. There could be no missing. A gun was fired and a hit obtained; the gun was loaded, it flamed, it roared, it lept to the rear, it slid to the front; there was another hit.

Another British officer described the night engagement: 

The sea seemed to be alive with bursting shells and the air with the whistle of passing projectiles… Suddenly a huge explosion took place in the third German ship, and with a deafening noise and shock she seemed first of all to open out, then to close together, then to go. Evidently someone’s torpedo had hit, but as explosions were taking place all round from bursting shells and guns were firing, a torpedo explosion was almost impossible to distinguish until the ship itself blew up. 

In the days following June 1, both sides tallied up the costs of Jutland. The British had clearly suffered more, losing 14 ships and over 6,000 killed, versus 11 ships and 2,500 dead for the Germans. Meanwhile propaganda machines immediately sprang into motion, with both sides claiming Jutland as a victory – but it quickly became clear that it was something closer to a draw, a huge outpouring of blood and treasure which nonetheless left the basic situation unchanged.

The British diarist Vera Brittain summed up the ambiguity:  “I returned to a London seething with bewildered excitement over the Battle of Jutland. Were we celebrating a glorious naval victory or lamenting an ignominious defeat? We hardly knew; and each fresh edition of the newspapers obscured rather than illuminated this really quite important distinction.” 

See the previous installment or all entries.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Mad Magazine
arrow
Lists
12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Paramount Pictures
arrow
entertainment
10 Tantalizing Tidbits About Star Trek: The Next Generation
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

by Kirsten Howard

When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in September 1987, no one was quite sure what to expect. After all, this was a new Enterprise with a new crew trying to revitalize a franchise that had only lasted three seasons the last time it was on television. And while the movie series was still bringing in solid box office returns, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy would play no part in this new Trek.

The Next Generation was a gamble for Paramount, and for the first few seasons, it looked like one the studio was going to lose. But once the series got over some initial behind-the-scenes chaos, it blossomed into one of the most popular sci-fi TV shows of all time. Even as bigger and shinier installments in the franchise continue to come out, this is the definitive Star Trek for countless fans. So lean back in your captain's chair and enjoy 10 facts about Star Trek: The Next Generation.

1. THE SHOW GOT OFF TO A ROCKY START.

Things were tumultuous at best behind the scenes during the first season of the show, as writers and producers clashed with creator Gene Roddenberry over themes, characters, and ideas on a weekly basis. The in-fighting and drama became such a part of the show's legacy that William Shatner himself chronicled all of it in a 2014 documentary called Chaos on the Bridge (which is currently streaming on Netflix). In it, producers, writers, and actors recounted anecdotes about the difficulties they had dealing with Roddenberry's somewhat overbearing mandates, including his infamous rule that there never be any direct conflict between the Enterprise crew members (unless one was possessed by an alien, of course) and his habit of throwing out scripts at the last minute. This led to 30 writers leaving the show within the first season, according to story editor and program consultant David Gerrold.

As Roddenberry’s health began to deteriorate after the first season, his influence over the writers waned, freeing up ideas that were departures from the creator's original vision. He would pass away in 1991, but his presence would never completely leave the series. For years, a small bust of Roddenberry sat on executive producer Rick Berman's desk with a blindfold wrapped over its eyes. "Whenever they come up with a story I don't think Gene would like," Berman said, "I blindfold him when we discuss the story."

2. GENE RODDENBERRY REALLY DIDN’T WANT A BALD CAPTAIN.

'Star Trek' creator Gene Roddenberry
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

For years, William Shatner had cast the mold by which all future Star Trek captains would be judged. And it was that image of the confident, swashbuckling James T. Kirk that Roddenberry wanted to preserve when bringing a new captain in for The Next Generation. So when Berman wanted to cast Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the issue was clear: he was no Shatner.

Roddenberry was completely unconvinced that Stewart was right for the role, with Berman saying the Trek creator didn’t like the idea of “a bald English guy taking over.” But after countless auditions with other actors, Berman continued to bring Stewart up to Roddenberry, who eventually caved and agreed to bring him in for a final audition under one condition: he wear a wig. So Stewart had a wig Fed-Exed from London and auditioned for Roddenberry and Paramount Television head John Pike one final time. 

That audition was enough to win Roddenberry over, and Stewart was finally brought aboard as Picard with the wig cast aside. Roddenberry would eventually go on to fully embrace Picard’s follicular shortcomings, and according to Stewart, when a reporter at a press conference once asked him why there wouldn’t be a cure for baldness in the 24th century, Roddenberry responded by saying, “No, by the 24th century, no one will care."

3. ONLY ONE PERSON HAS EVER PLAYED HIMSELF IN STAR TREK HISTORY.

Stephen Hawking was visiting the Paramount lot during the video release of the film A Brief History of Time when he requested a tour of the Next Generation set. After making his way onto the iconic Enterprise bridge, he stopped and began typing into his computer. Suddenly, his voice synthesizer spoke: “Would you lift me out of my chair and put me into the captain's seat?"

Hawking asking to be removed from his chair was basically unheard of, so his wishes were granted immediately. Later, with writers having become aware that he was such a huge Trekkie, Hawking himself was written into the sixth season finale episode “Descent – Part I” by Ronald D. Moore, who would later go on to reimagine the Battlestar Galactica universe.

4. A WHOLE EPISODE WAS WRITTEN FOR ROBIN WILLIAMS.

Late actor and comedian Robin Williams was also a huge fan of the show and was desperate to appear in it, so an episode of the fifth season—"A Matter of Time"—was drawn up by Berman to allow Williams to shine at the center of a mystery about Professor Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a time-traveling historian from the future visiting the past to observe the Enterprise crew completing an historic mission.

Unfortunately, when it came time to shoot the episode, Williams found himself unavailable to appear in the episode. So Max Headroom star Matt Frewer was cast as Professor Rasmussen instead.

5. PATRICK STEWART APPROACHED BEING TORTURED ON SCREEN VERY SERIOUSLY.

In the episode “Chain of Command, Part II,” Picard has been captured by Cardassians and is subjected to a variety of torture methods by his interrogators. As a member of the human rights organization Amnesty International, Stewart did not want to shy away from the realities of torture, so he watched tapes sent to him that included statements from people who had been tortured and a long interview with a torturer explaining what it was like to be the one inflicting pain on others. Stewart also insisted on being completely nude during the first torture scene, so as not to betray the experiences of those who had undergone similar horrors.

6. THEY USED SOME PRACTICAL EFFECTS.

The transporter effect on the show may look completely computer generated, but in fact it’s all done quite organically. First, a canister is filled with water and glitter and then a light is shone through it. After stirring the liquid briskly, the resulting few seconds of swirling glitter are filmed and then superimposed over footage of the actor standing in the transporter area, with an added “streak down” effect to blur the glitter further.

7. LORE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A WOMAN.

Android Lieutenant Commander Data had many adventures during the series, on and off the Enterprise, but his evil twin brother, Lore, stands out for many fans as one of the show’s greatest antagonists. Surprisingly, Lore was originally created as a female android character for the show, but the actor who plays Data, Brent Spiner, came up with a different idea: an evil twin nemesis in the shape of a long-lost brother.

8. THERE WAS AN OPEN SUBMISSION POLICY ON SCRIPTS.

When Michael Piller took over as head writer on the show in 1989, an open submission policy was launched where absolutely anyone could submit up to two unsolicited scripts for consideration. Opening up the possibility of writing for TV to people outside of the Writers Guild of America and talent agency pool was unheard of at the time, and over 5000 spec scripts were received a year at one point. "Yesterday’s Enterprise," one of the show’s most popular episodes, was based off a spec script from the open submission policy.

9. SOME SCRIPTS WERE RECYCLED FROM THE SCRAPPED PHASE II.

A still from 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'
Paramount Pictures

A decade before The Next Generation debuted, there was a failed attempt at a revival called Star Trek: Phase II. Though a first season was mapped out, it never saw the light of day, and the movie series was produced in its place. However, the scrapped scripts and concepts lived on in various Trek projects over the years. For the second season premiere of The Next Generation, producers reclaimed the script for "The Child" as a way to get a story quickly into production during the 1988 writer's strike. The season four episode "Devil's Due" was also taken from the backlog of Phase II scripts. 

More elements from Phase II would influence Trek for years, such as the pilot being reworked into Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the now-familiar elements of the Japanese-inspired Klingon culture being introduced in the shelved episode “Kitumba.”

10. THE TRANSPORTER IS THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.

In what was either a cost-cutting move or a sly Easter egg (or both), the ceiling of the Enterprise's transporter room in The Next Generation is actually the floor of the transporter room from the original series. That's far from the only recycling that went on between the Trek series. The orbital office complex from Star Trek: The Motion Picture was reused as the Regula I station in The Wrath of Khan, which was then itself reused as a number of different space stations on The Next Generation (plus Deep Space Nine and Voyager).

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios