Did Roddenberry Really Write "The Cage"?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by CoveTom, May 10, 2014.

  1. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

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    In his May 27, 1965 first draft of WNMHGB Peeples refers to Spock as red-hued as in Roddenberry's original notes for the Trek characters. Surely, if Peeples had written THE CAGE (or even seen it), he would have known that the red-hued Martian of the early material had evolved into a rather sallow fellow.

    I would think...

    Sir Rhosis
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2014
  2. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    I'm going off memory here, but in some book like STAR TREK INTERVIEWS (or the unauthorized Ed Gross interview book) didn't Peeples mention contributing a bunch of big ideas without asking for credit? That's not the same as doing a draft, but this whole Solo thing does have me wondering. There is nothing to gain by making up a phantom screenwriter (at last we shall reveal ourselves to the trekkies!), it isn't like the royalties are going to get redistributed, any more than David Gerrold is going to get REAL money as cocreator that he maybe should have gotten for TNG.
     
  3. Noname Given

    Noname Given Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Ghost writing was nothing new in the 1960ies. Personally, I'd trust Solo's recollection way more than Gene Roddenberry's as Roddenberry LOVED to claim others contribution as 'his' as time went on. Again Solo came across as very credible in the video interview.
     
  4. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think the problem is that the script is too good. A lot of Roddenberry's writing up to them was (by his own admission) churn and burn stuff for second-rate series like "Highway Patrol". (As Truman Capote said "That's not writing, that's typing!) However "Paladin" was and is much more highly regarded. I think it's easy to suspect that someone you dislike personally and professionally might have cheated to turn out a script that I think everyone agrees was quite good. I think it's more reasonable to think that Roddenberry spent extra time and effort on a pet project and was able to produce something other than time-filling dreck. I also agree that he seems to have been in his element as a re-writer. I think a lot of the problems with the third season would have been avoided if he and the original re-write team had been in place.
     
  5. Keith1701

    Keith1701 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    of course.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That sounds reasonable, if a little harshly phrased. Sometimes a writer can do much better on a personally inspiring project than on everyday bill-paying work. For instance, most of Glen A. Larson's body of work is extremely schlocky, but his pilot script for Battlestar Galactica and some of his other episodes for same are pretty imaginative and relatively good, at least by his very low standards. Which is not to suggest that Roddenberry's typical level was anywhere near as low as Larson's, though -- just to give an example of a passion project that transcended the writer's normal level.
     
  7. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That's pretty much what I was getting at. Weekly shows are extremely hungry beasts and have to be fed on time. People who can grind out usable scripts under that kind of pressure are quite valuable. I"m sure there aren't many of them and the subset of those who can turn out consistently high-quality work under those conditions is smaller still. All that said I don't see any reason other than personal animus to support the theory that Roddenberry didn't write the script. As far as the harshness of the phrasing, I"m not of the opinion that Roddenberry was a talentless hack that some people have, I was just trying to reflect on the mindset of someone who does think that and why they might think that he didn't write it. Script writing is hard and anyone who can do it at whatever level on a weekly basis, is I think worthy of a certain amount of respect regardless of whether their work reaches somebody's else's idea of quality.
     
  8. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Speaking of harsh, "...his very low standards"?! Glen Larson is a lot better than you give him credit for. His writing for the pilot movies of Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers was arguably better than GR's script for "The Cage." Some episodes that followed were caca, but it wasn't about Larson having low standards; it was more that series TV can be a fast-paced sausage factory where the time to write things exquisitely just doesn't exist.
     
  9. 2takesfrakes

    2takesfrakes Commodore Commodore

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    Roddenberry knew his comfort zone
    ... and dared not deviate from it.
     
  10. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    For 50 years Roddenberry was the uncontested author of The Cage. One exec with a failing memory, no documentation and an ax to grind "has suspicions?"

    Pass.

    Next.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2014
  11. Shon T'Hara

    Shon T'Hara Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    If the BSG pilot had just been the destruction of the colonies, I'd agree with you, but not when you throw in the final part with the survivors partying at a space casino and Starbuck thinking about quitting the fleet to become the manager for some disco singers. I have issues with the rebooted series, but I agree with Moore that the way Larson abandoned the premise within two hours is beyond ridiculous.
     
  12. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Arguably is right, Zap. Buck Rogers? I loved the series, it was goofy fun, and I still feel the pilot movie is a notch below what the regular episodes brought to the air. And nowhere near what Roddenberry was trying to do with The Cage. The humor was childish and the story transparent and unsophisticated.

    I don't think Gene was TVs greatest writer by any yardstick, but his passion and the long gestation of The Cage probably accounts for the higher quality of his regular series work. He obviously spent more time crafting that teleplay than The Omega Glory or any other episode he originated.
     
  13. Campe98

    Campe98 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I just watched the relevant part of the interview and I will say: Solow doesn’t come off in the interview as someone with an axe to grind against a man who had been dead for twenty years at the point the interview happened. The man does come off as someone in complete control of his faculties. He doesn’t have any proof and is not willing to get into it. What he says exactly is:

    I think it’s more than likely that yes, Gene Roddenberry did the lion’s share of work on “The Cage.” But, things to point out:

    Gene Roddenberry was the kind of man who would sell his own mother out for a buck. In order to get some money for the publishing rights of the Trek theme song wrote terrible lyrics and upset Sandy Courage in the process.

    The man had a huge ego. A prime example of this is stated in Cushman’s These Are the Voyages: Season One:

    I don't believe it was general practice to do that in the 1960s. At the very least not at the top of the credits before the cast's names. I mean, on September 8, 1966, who knew or even really cared who Gene Roddenberry was? It comes off as a ploy to placate an ego.

    As others have said, Samuel Peeples helped Roddenberry develop the concept. He also wrote the second pilot. They had an existing working relationship.

    “The Cage” is a solid script. Roddenberry is not a solid writer. As others have said, he’s an amazing script editor. But his own scripts have always been mediocre at best. "The Omega Glory" is arguably the worst episode of the original series. The episode had been rejected many, MANY times before it reached air. Someone commented above that perhaps he had more time to work on "The Cage." Maybe. But I have another theory. If you’ve read the initial drafts of Star Wars, they’re horrible. And nothing like what we got onscreen. If you look at the prequels, you know George Lucas, when writing on his own, cannot write believable dialogue for the life of him. He did have help from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. Does the writing credit for Star Wars include those two names? Nope. Just Lucas. But the script was much better with their help. Point being, its not unheard of for there to be uncredited polishes on scripts.

    Putting all of this together, I believe Roddenberry wrote the concept, the treatment, and the majority of the subsequent drafts of the script. BUT, I believe that either Peeples and/or other writers helped greatly in fleshing things out through notes, suggestions and possibly even an uncredited polish or two. While Roddenberry did keep impeccable records, because of the fact that he was a known, for lack of a better term at the moment, scoundrel, I could see him destroying those records showing others’ help along the way for the pilot, in order to keep Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry. That last part is pure supposition on my part and I do admit that. But I wouldn’t put it past the guy. Or maybe whoever Solow's friend is was just doing Roddenberry a favor. Or maybe Gene had something on Peeples or whoever helped write the script. Hollywood isn't exactly a moral place.
     
  14. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    "The Fugitive....A QM Production. Starring David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble."

    "The Invaders...A Quinn Martin Production. Starring Roy Thinnes as Architect David Vincent."

    Not sure of other shows putting them before the actors, but many other programs had "created by" in the opening credits. For example, Irwin Allen did it on all of his programs: "Created and Produced by Irwin Allen."

    Sure, it was ego, but if the show's a hit, putting your credit at the top of the hour makes you an industry and household name. Sherwood Schwartz, Aaron Spelling, and many others. Roddenberry was a glory hound, but until this interview, I have never heard that anyone other than he had written The Cage. Does Solow have an ax to grind? Well, since Roddenberry pretty much muted any of his contributions after the fact and blasted the network from day one, I'd say that's fuel for resentment. Unless Solow wants to come forward with names and documentation instead of protecting this other deceased friend, I'm giving his statements little consideration.

    Your mileage may vary.
     
  15. Campe98

    Campe98 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Quinn Martin ran the production company behind many different successful shows in that time period. According to IMDB, he has exactly three writing credits prior to the creation of his company in 1960. Others actually created QM Productions' hit shows. It would have been like the title reading "Star Trek - A Desilu Production."

    And to me, I find it highly unlikely that anyone writes anything without a little help. A writer would be stupid to not ask for and get help in writing something along the way. Like I stated, I don't think Solow's friend wrote the whole thing or the majority of it. But I also don't believe Roddenberry's ability shows he could do it alone either. I do believe Roddenberry got help. That's all I'm saying!
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2014
  16. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Huyuck and Katz were script doctors who were compensated for their writing and given public acknowledgement for their contribution. On "Where No Man Has Gone Before," Peeples was a writer, paid and credited. There is no evidence that anyone other than Roddenberry was paid to write the first pilot. Peeples definitely advised Roddenberry on Star Trek, and was an important and often unrecognized contributor to the series because of this and the second pilot. But it just isn't believable that he wrote for free. Professional TV writers don't do that.
     
  17. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    Well, look at how many decades it took to find out about other folks who wrote CLOSE ENCOUNTERS drafts besides Paul Schraeder? In the almost TOO-detailed MAKING OF CLOSE ENCOUNTERS book from several years back, we get lots of stuff from a guy who did a draft and did not even try arbitrating for credit, and there is a bunch about Jerry Belson making a huge issue and I guess getting a significant payout to keep his trap shut about what he wrote on the film ... all so Spielberg could get his 'written & directed by' credit.

    A TV pro would know not being acknowledged for contributions to a pilot meant losing a ton of money ... but if it were out of friendship? Maybe.

    And maybe not Peeples (though that is where my money would be if there was any fire to go with this smoke), but Sam Rolfe? He wrote the APRIL SAVAGE pilot that GR subsequently screwed the pooch on, but maybe there was a quid pro quo going on there? They have the HAVE GUN connection, and isn't that where the GR claiming 'head writer' thing got a head of steam because Rolfe never called him on it?
     
  18. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The ingredients for a conspiracy theory are all here for anyone who wants to discredit Roddenberry. There's no proof and no real accusation from Solow, just a hint that suggests someone else might have had input. It's hard for me to believe that if Roddenberry had screwed Peeples on The Cage script that they would have worked together on anything else afterward. If you apply Occam's Razor the simplest answer is that Roddenberry wrote it. Could have gotten advice or help from a friend? Sure, but not so much to qualify for co-writing credit and there's no reason that I can see to think Peeples felt that way. I'm not a Roddenberry apologist by any means. The more I learn about him the less I respect him, but this accusation seems like a reach.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Sorry, but you'll never convince me that the guy who created Manimal and Sheriff Lobo was a gifted storyteller. He was a master of schlock, and BSG was the one thing he ever created that rose above schlock even in potentia. And as for his actual writing, even the good stories of BSG that he wrote tend to have terrible dialogue. Say what you like about Roddenberry's plotting, but at least he could write dialogue well.



    Actually I think that's unfair to the pilot. To quote my review:



    As Campe98 says, that's a producer credit, not a creator credit. Roy Huggins created The Fugitive and Larry Cohen created The Invaders.
     
  20. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    You're both right, my bad. I had Irwin Allen Syndrome on the brain....