Roddenberry, Solow, & Justman

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Praetor Baldric, Jun 5, 2013.

  1. Praetor Baldric

    Praetor Baldric Lieutenant Commander

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    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. The book and the subsequent discussions which have come up have led me to ask two questions:

    1) Was Roddenberry really any that different from anyone trying to make it in the cut-throat world of television during those days?

    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?
     
  2. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It's not that simple or that extreme.

    One of the criticisms advanced by the Solow/Justman book, among other sources, toward Roddenberry was that he minimized or permitted those writing about him with his approval to minimize the creative contributions of others to Star Trek or at least to enlarge his. It's always going to be easier to believe in the integrity of those who are quick to share credit than in those who will tend to obscure it in their own favor.
     
  3. Praetor Baldric

    Praetor Baldric Lieutenant Commander

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    I can see that, but that presupposes that those who are willing to share credit (at the cost of discrediting the professional integrity of another) are beyond reproach. Is it not possible that they are fibbing a bit in a passive-aggressive sort of way?

    It reminds of people who preface their criticisms of others with something like, "I am not saying he's a bad guy or anything but...." and then proceed to explain quite diplomatically how bad a guy they really think he is. Know what I mean?
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2013
  4. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    No it doesn't.

    One doesn't have to "presuppose" anything or assign any one source undue authority in order to reach the conclusion that Solow and Justman's version of events contains a great deal more truth than the lionization of Roddenberry. There are too many other witnesses and sources over the decades for these kinds of stories.

    Indeed, to buy the accounts of the few remaining GR hagiographers you have to go through, story by story, and discredit the "professional integrity" of many people. How vast do you suppose the conspiracy to prevent Roddenberry from being canonized as a saint must be, and who organizes it?
     
  5. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That said, there are obvious errors in the Solow & Justman book as well, so what they say isn't always the Gospel truth either.
     
  6. mb22

    mb22 Commander Red Shirt

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    There is also Joel Engel's 1994 Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind "Star Trek" which preceded the Solow/Justman book by two years. If anything, it is even harsher than the other (probably, too negative IMO).
     
  7. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Certainly, although compared to all the other books about the making of the series currently out there, I don't think there is a better one.

    Would posters around here be interested in a fact-checking thread about the book (and perhaps others)?
     
  8. AtoZ

    AtoZ Commander Red Shirt

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    I have to believe that there were many different shades to Gene Roddenberry as there are to most of us. There is no doubt he was capable of some extreme behavior, but overall the book seems to point toward his being amiable and often a good ombudsman of sorts (as a means towards an end).

    What alarms me about who Gene was, and what he seemed capable of doing, was when his ego and greed seemed to get the better of him. With that I point towards the story of Leonard Nimoy needing to get out of work early on Friday and Roddenberry's overt exertion of power. It was as though Roddenberry had forgotten that all people need to leave any meeting with a sense of dignity. Roddenberry seemed very willing to strip somebody of it when his ego wasn't properly placated. Add to that the theory that Gene was the "executive" behind the sordid events that later came out about Grace Lee Whitney, another "stripping of dignity" for the sake of ego, and one comes away with a vastly different perspective on just how far the pendulum was able to swing regarding Roddenberry.

    No doubt Gene Roddenberry was the genius behind the concept of Star Trek, and an amiable and experienced man when it came to playing the creative game of television circa the 60's, but he seemed very willing and capable of some dark deeds when it came to gratifying himself, and it didn't matter how much collateral damage was left in its wake.
     
  9. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Commodore Commodore

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    Yes! Excellent idea!
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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.


    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.


    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.
     
  11. Gary7

    Gary7 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Where people are concerned, there will always be distortions of "the truth." The question becomes, how greatly does a person's purported truth deviate from what's really true? When multiple people give their perspectives and there ends up being a congruity between what most people say, it's a fair bet that the intersection is about as close to the truth as you'll get, given how everybody outside the "event horizon" can only rely on interpretations.

    As Christopher said, Solow and Justman relayed a lot of their observations backed by documentation. People like George Takei had no evidence, only hearsay. And overall, what Nimoy has tended to relay seems to fall within the Solow/Justman recollections, so he seems to be one of the more believable cast members. The rest who are still living have their own agendas and some are well known to have gradually altered their recollections in favor of versions that raise their positions.

    Gene made a lot of mistakes and showed callous chauvinistic qualities above norm for someone of his station at that time. While he created and envisioned Star Trek, some of the things he did may have inadvertently helped pitch it over the edge to be canceled after 3 seasons. When you look at how Gene's involvement with TNG significantly dropped off into Season 2, it coincides with a shift in the series towards something better. I personally feel the series would've had an even better start if Gene hadn't been so intimately involved. He didn't even want Patrick Stewart after his first interview with him!

    Here's what Justman said about Roddenberry's resistance to Stewart:
    I think that's very telling. And yet, Stewart was the best casting choice of the whole TNG series.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Above the norm for chauvinism in the 1960s? If you're talking about sexism rather than some other kind of chauvinism, that would be a very, very high bar to clear. I don't think I can agree with this. Roddenberry was certainly a womanizer and couldn't help seeing women in sexual terms, but at least he tried to present a future where they were included on military crews and could sometimes hold positions of responsibility and authority, even if a lot of them were still just secretaries and waitresses. There were some contemporary shows that were more progressive in their portrayal of women, but the vast majority were less progressive.


    To an extent, perhaps. For instance, choosing to abandon his supervisory role for season 3, not helping the new producers get up to speed on how to write for the characters and the universe, as well as not doing enough to hold onto staffers like John Meredyth Lucas and D.C. Fontana, hurt the quality of season 3 and may have contributed to its demise. Although given how expensive the show was and how it struggled in the ratings, it would've been unlikely to get a fourth season in any event.


    I don't think it works to use the behavior of the TNG-era Roddenberry, who was very ill and drug-addicted and surrounded by a hero-worshipping entourage of yes men, as evidence for anything about the behavior and personality of the TOS-era Roddenberry. I see them as two very different people. The TOS-era Roddenberry was a television producer first; he had messages he wanted to convey in his writing, but he understood that they had to come second to the business of creating entertainment that would successfully attract an audience. But the TNG-era Roddenberry had bought into his image as a great visionary and futurist, and preferred to suborn the needs of drama to his desire to preach a utopian vision of the future. I think the 1960s and 1980s versions of the man would have disagreed on a lot of things.
     
  13. mb22

    mb22 Commander Red Shirt

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    There was the Asian transporter technician with the disappearing eyeglasses.
     
  14. Noname Given

    Noname Given Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^
    Not quite. Basically, the TNG story is this:

    1) When the original 'Star Trek' series was canceled GR SOLD the 'Star Trek' IP lock stock and barrell (IE the whole thing) to Paramount for a lump sum. (With only 79 episodes - GR never thought Star Trek would get a syndication deal, or if it did it would be cheap and short lived.)

    2) When Paramount was able to turn around and really market the show in syndication; and as a result do some extra merchandising, which started to net them a nice return on their investment -- GR was a bit upset that (because he'd sold the rights entirely to Paramount), he wasn't able to share in any of that profitable return.

    3) GR used his 'Lincoln Enterprises' entity (which he had started before the show's cancellation); to try and make a little profit on some of the memorabilia he had from ten show; and other related items - at which point Paramount came after him reminding him that he HA sold them the rights to Star Trek; and they eventually work out a deal where 'Lincoln Enterprises' could continue to sell some Star Trek related merchandise - but again, GR was always a bit resentful he couldn't full share in the full profits that Paramount was realizing from Star Trek.

    4) As talks a reviving Star Trek continued, paramount was often at odds with GR over a lot of things (and GR was always trying to get what he felt he 'deserved' profit wise from any new deal involving Star Trek - which was why Paramount always had someone who was 'their guy' to keep an eye on what GR was doing. (I'll skip over what I recall of Phase II and his involvement with the films, as this is more about what he did to get TNG going.)

    5) When GR was finally (after a few not really aborted attempts, but rather TNG concepts that the studio didn't like from others within the studio itself) contracted to create/produce/make TNG - he saw it as a chance to make a 'new' form of Star Trek that he would retain as 'his' - (and thus be able to 100% share in any/all profits from the new series) - and as a result, the main reason he didn't want new staffers who hadn't really seen/gotten into the original Star trek series to watch it, is that he didn't want Paramount possibly trying to claim a larger ownership percentage because it came from the 'original' Star Trek series - he wanted TNG to be VERY different from TOS (to the point that during development GR originally didn't want ANY references or appearances to aliens and races that were part of the original series, including Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, etc.) Eventually, he was talked out of that aspect; and given contractual assurances that TNG would be 'his' per se; and he dialed it back to what we saw -- but again, he did a lot of changes to try and distance it as much as he could from TOS - and make sure new staffers were not influenced by previous ideas (which is funny because it was also his idea to take one old TOS script per season and remake it for TNG -- and an idea that Paramount asked be scrapped once the fan and critic response to 'The Naked Now' was evaluated).

    In the end though GR relented even more as when first season ratings and fan response wasn't what he or the studio liked; they tried to lift/shoehorn a 'Spock/McCoy' type dynamic by introducing the TNG female version of Doctor McCoy in Doctor 'Kate' Pulaski in Season 2 - and put her at odds with Data. problem was, most older fans saw threw it and with the naivety inherent to the Data character, it came across more as flat out abuse rather then a mental sparring match.

    but my point: The whole point of TNG in GR's mind was just to make sure he made profit and get what he should have gotten originally; and (n his mid) make fans forget about the (then 20 year old TOS) - and embrace this 'new/modern' vision of 'Star Trek'.

    And considering the stories of how he ran the show in the first season; and the fact he was driving writers and production staff away in droves - I stand by the above assessment.

    Hell, TNG S3's "Best of Both Worlds (Part One)" was originally written as a sort of farewell FU - as most of the writting staff that wrote it had planned NOT to come back in Season 4 - so they left a 'mess' for the 'new guys'; but as GR' health was declining, and they found he was relinquishing a lot of control, for S4 - most came back, and were kicking themselves as they had to now write themselves out of the S3 cliffhanger.
     
  15. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Actually, according to Herb Solow, Paramount didn't want the money losing Star Trek. In 1970 Roddenberry wanted to buy the full rights with the hopes of doing something with the property himself. Paramount offered to sell the whole thing for $150,000. Gene couldn't afford it and had to pass. It was Paramount who had no expectation of ever making money off the series.

    The ownership of the series at that time was split between Roddenberry's Norway Productions and Paramount. Paramount wasn't going to buy it off him if they weren't expecting to make any money off it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2013
  16. feek61

    feek61 Captain Captain

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    ^^^^

    Yes, that!
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's some interesting history, Noname Given, but it doesn't address the point I was getting at, which was the way TNG's characters were required to be idealized, perfected people free of normal human foibles and conflicts because Roddenberry wanted to showcase his vision of an ideal future. By contrast, TOS's characters had plenty of flaws and conflicts, because TOS's Roddenberry was more interested in telling interesting stories than being a visionary. It goes without saying that he was doing it to make money in both cases, but the way he went about portraying characters and conflicts was very different.
     
  18. Hober Mallow

    Hober Mallow Commodore Commodore

    I can't imagine 1987 Roddenberry allowing a story in which a Starfleet officer openly displays racism toward Mister Spock as 1966 Roddenberry allowed in "Balance of Terror."
     
  19. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I just did so, in case anyone is interested.
     
  20. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You mentioned, a few posts back, that Roddenberry came to believe his own press, that he came to see himself as the utopian thinker that 1970s fandom decided that he was.

    I've sometimes wondered if Roddenberry's utopian revisionist view of Star Trek had just as much to do his marginalization from the franchise in 1980s as it did with fandom. By saying that people in the Star Trek future didn't have conflicts, Roddenberry was giving himself a rhetorical cudgel he could use against Harve Bennett's plans for the 1980s films. He needed a way to differentiate Star Trek from what was actually being done in the name of Star Trek, and as a result he began to believe and promote increasingly unhinged theories, which reach their zenith in Gene Roddenberry: The Last Conversation, which is truly unhinged.