Obviously, Shatner's book is one person's perspective plus recollections from various people who were on the set at the time these events happened. Does anyone else know of information that supports or contradicts Shatner's telling of how each film was put together (and Roddenberry's diminishing input into each subsequent film)?
Read Joel Engel's Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Who Created Star Trek
. In the movie era, it covers a lot of the same ground and paints the same picture. (However, to be fair, Engel and Shatner's cowriter Chris Kreski used several of the same sources -- Livingston, Bennett, Meyer -- so the two books are going to tell the same basic story.)
Roddenberry as a petulant child -- that's actually a good description. His toy was
taken away from and he lashed out at the people who had it. I've long suspected that the reason Roddenberry's views on Star Trek
evolved so rapidly in utopian directions in the 1980s was because he wanted to put a stamp on what Star Trek
was, even if what he said it was didn't match the reality of what it had been. That would explain why Bennett was confused by Roddenberry's pronouncements that his films weren't Star Trek
, when he wasn't doing anything in them that Roddenberry hadn't done twenty years earlier.
If you're curious about the JFK script, this TrekBBS thread
may enlighten you, as will this blog article
about the story cited in the first post there.
As for the question in the title... No, I don't think Roddenberry was a terrible writer. He was a clunky writer, and he had the unfortunate tendency to believe his own press.