"Mr. Worf, fire." With those words closed part 1 of "The Best of Both Worlds." When that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation aired 25 years ago this weekend, it was hailed as the greatest cliffhanger in Star Trek history.
The Borg, which were the greatest threat to the Federation in its history, had invaded and captured Captain Picard. They assimilated Picard and made him a Borg drone. In the midst of rumors that actor Patrick Stewart was leaving the show, the first part of the episode ended with Commander Riker ordering the Enterprise to open fire on the Borg cube containing the captive Picard. Fans were electrified.
Aaron Crouch of Hollywood Reporter interviewed several people who participated in the creation of that incredible episode, including writer Ron Moore and actors Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Marina Sirtis (Troi), Michael Dorn (Worf), and Brent Spiner (Data). They describe how the show was received and the ways that it changed Star Trek fandom:
Jonathan Frakes, Commander William T. Riker: All of us were quite thrilled they had the balls to leave Picard on the Borg cube. I don't know if they were trying to threaten Patrick with renegotiations. It's commonplace now. Shows like Lost and House of Cards — they'll kill off a regular and think nothing of it. This was 1990. It was not commonplace to be killing off any of your series regulars. That was a big "who shot J.R." type of plot. […]
Moore: What people forget now is in the first couple of seasons of Next Generation, we were sort of not taken seriously as Star Trek. The fans were split on the acceptance of the show. You would go to conventions and there would be bumper stickers and t-shirts that basically said, "I'm a real Trekker. Forget the bald guy." Stuff like that. We were the second-tier Trek. When "Best of Both Worlds" came out, suddenly there was all this buzz. And it got in the press and there was all this tension and people were talking about the cliffhanger and Picard.
Jordan Hoffman, freelance writer/critic who specializes in Star Trek: After that "To be continued…" we felt, "Is Picard going to be killed?" After that episode, there was a lot of talk. Somehow we knew — there were rumors that Patrick Stewart was going to leave the show. That was definitely in the air. There would be somebody who goes, "You know Patrick Stewart is leaving?" How do you know this? "Everyone knows it."
-via Randy Barnett