Patrick Stewart is arguably a large part of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s success. He was his own captain, with his own way of dealing with problems, and left the seducing of alien women and sitting like a crazy person to Riker. But Riker might have taken over in season two if a cast dispute had gone the wrong way.
By now, every Trek nerd has seen William Shatner’s documentary about the early days of TNG, Chaos on the Bridge. If you’re a Trek nerd who hasn’t seen it, you really need to; Shatner gets a lot of people to open up, and the documentary lays a lot of what went wrong at the feet of Gene Roddenberry. It was widely suspected for a while that Roddenberry was behind a lot of the show’s early problems, but this documentary essentially confirms what most fans suspected; Roddenberry’s hissy fits nearly destroyed the show and was responsible for some of its terrible early writing.
Turns out, the writing was so bad, it nearly cost the show its captain. BuzzFeed recounts a particular incident from the doc where Stewart was given a line so terrible, he simply refused to say it. The argument got so ugly that it wound up dragging in Paramount’s head of television production at the time, John Pike. According to Pike:
I say, ‘Patrick, let’s just cut through it. I do know that you’re creatively not being taxed. You’re going to have to bear with us for a couple more weeks, but we have already put the script in the works and we will write your character out,'” Pike said.
Pike claims he was bluffing, and Stewart, for his part, claims not to remember the meeting. But if Stewart had agreed, he probably would have left the show… and it’s hard to see how the show wouldn’t have left the air shortly thereafter.