Big Daddy wrote:
So I recently finished reading the Solow/Justman book and I have a better understanding now about all the Roddenberry-bashing that has come out since its publication. The consensus among readers tends to be that Roddenberry was essentially an opportunistic money-grubbing jerk who was less than charming to work with.
That's not the impression I got from reading the book. I thought it was frank but fair, acknowledging that Roddenberry had his positive and negative sides, and more concerned with simply telling it like it was (to the best of their recollection) than passing judgment.
1) Was Roddenberry really any that different from anyone trying to make it in the cut-throat world of television during those days?
I'm sure that a lot about his behavior was par for the course back then. In particular, I think, TV producers taking advantage of their positions of authority to sleep with actresses was such a commonplace practice back then that it was more or less expected. Certainly there was no such concept as sexual harassment back then.
But, again, I think that was the point -- not to say Roddenberry was any worse than the norm, but just to show that he was a human being, and that there were aspects of the story behind ST that hadn't been told.
2) Why is it so much easier to accept Solow/Justman's version of things and discredit Roddenberry where the opinion of the latter differs from that of the former party? Isn't it possible that Solow/Justman are capable of bending the truth (or remembering things differently) to suit their own purposes? Why do many automatically assume that GR is full of it?
In my view, Solow & Justman did a good job of backing up their recollections with documentation, actual network memos and such that supported their version of events. For instance, they reprint the memo in which NBC execs expressed their desire for more racial diversity in their shows, supporting their assertion that that drive for inclusion came from the network rather than being Roddenberry's innovation. (The fact that the cast of "The Cage" had no racial diversity at all, and that even the token Hispanic character in the series outline was played by a blond guy and had his name changed to Tyler, reinforces that conclusion.) They also provide pretty sound arguments and evidence to refute the story of the network getting a million letters in the campaign to save the show -- and there's evidence from other sources besides the book to suggest that NBC was never actually going to cancel the show at that point anyway, that it was merely on the bubble.
And some claims are just more credible in the context of the evidence than others. Ten thousand or so letters is more credible than a million, for instance. And given that other mid-60s shows like Get Smart, The Avengers
, and Mission: Impossible
gave us strong female leads, it doesn't seem all that likely that the network was afraid the audience would revolt if the show had a female first officer; it seems more likely that their problem was with the idea of Roddenberry casting his mistress in the role.
So I haven't "automatically assumed" anything. I majored in history and I learned how to assess the veracity of sources, so I never automatically assume any source is true or unbiased. I read them critically and I weigh them against each other and against the available evidence. Of course no single source is completely accurate or bias-free; it's a given that any report of events is going to be filtered through the observer's worldview and expectations, no matter how honest they try to be. That's why it's important to listen to multiple different takes on an event and weigh them against each other. At the very least, Inside Star Trek
is a good counterbalance to Roddenberry's version of events.