Was Roddenberry a Terrible Writer?

Discussion in 'Star Trek Movies I-X' started by Captain Clark Terrell, Sep 2, 2013.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Maybe, but I see that as being almost a different medium. Premium channels aren't necessarily available to the same audience as commercial or basic-cable networks, due to the cost. And the style and content of the programming tends to be different.

    What I miss are things like the TV movie series we used to have, things like Columbo or the '80s Perry Mason revival. I always thought that would be a good format for Star Trek, a way to get more stories per year than feature films would allow with a higher budget than weekly TV would allow. It could've been a good format for SFTV in general, but we rarely got any series like that. There was the Universal Action Pack including Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and TekWar, but both of those went to weekly series a year later. And the original Battlestar Galactica was intended to be a series of 2-hour movies, but the network insisted on retooling it into a weekly series (which is why it had so many 2-part episodes and why the 1-parters, which were written in haste when the decision was made, are so weak in comparison).

    For some reason, over the decades, broadcast TV has gotten more and more limited in format. In the early days, in the '50s, there were shows that lasted 15 minutes or 45 minutes; and from then through the '70s there were frequently shows that ran 90 minutes. But eventually those faded out in favor of a more standardized selection of half-hour sitcoms, hourlong dramas, and 2-hour TV movies, plus miniseries emerging as a format in the '70s and '80s. But these days network TV doesn't have movies or miniseries at all anymore, and basic cable only infrequently does. It's odd that the options keep narrowing.
     
  2. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Well, Fox is dabbling with limited series at the moment. That's one of the things that got 24: Live Another Day off the ground so fast. But the entertainment environment has certainly changed dramatically in the past decade or so.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Yeah, but limited series are still made up of hourlong episodes.
     
  4. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Probably the economics of fifteen or forty-five minute time-slots don't work for the networks.
     
  5. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Prestige TV movies do seem to have moved to the premium channels. I'm thinking stuff like Game Change or Temple Grandin or You Don't Know Jack and so on. And not much in the way of genre material, alas.

    But such projects attract lots of attention and praise and awards, so I'm not convinced that TV-movies are dismissed as hackwork or ephemera.
     
  6. Trek Survivor

    Trek Survivor Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Indeed. I also recall reading this is how Bob Greenberger, Friedman, Peter David and Carmen Carter split up the TNG novel "Doomsday World".

    It's not uncommon.

    Back to the thread subject - I don't think Roddenberry was a terrible writer. Not astounding either.

    In many ways, he was a lot like George Lucas - great with concepts and ideas, but struggled with the execution in isolation. He was also very good at identifying talent in others.
     
  7. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Freaky weird coincidence, I think, since Ron Moore has said that Edward Jellico was inspired by Admiral John Jellicoe, the British commander at the Battle of Jutland.
     
  8. jpv2000

    jpv2000 Captain Captain

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    I actually really liked that movie. I had no idea whatsoever that GR had anything to do with that movie.
     
  9. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    I think the reason I checked the credits and noticed GR's name was because Doohan was in it (a cop, I think), and HE sure wasn't getting a ton of post TOS work.
     
  10. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I do too. Foxworth was a more boyish/likeable type of actor, just as Brent Spiner was later when cast as Data. You gotta remember that actors live and die based on casting. They tend to get pissy over things that wouldn't have necessarily made these things better to the audience.
     
  11. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    There's more to Nimoy's ire than simply being mad that he wasn't cast. According to I Am Spock, he was most mad that Gene kept him on the hook for the project because the writer-producer had a problem telling people bad news. IIRC.
     
  12. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    Something I can totally empathize with. My boss lied to me once because he was scared I'd be angry at him if he were honest with me. As it turns out, I was mad at him anyway.

    --Sran
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I had a friend like that in high school. He could never stand to confront me with bad news, even something as simple as calling me up to say that he couldn't make a planned meeting. So I'd take the bus to where we were supposed to meet and wait there for ages, and sometimes he'd show up an hour late and sometimes he'd never show at all. He never figured out that he upset me more that way than he would've by just cancelling in advance.
     
  14. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    Yes! This is exactly it! My boss told me, "I just didn't want you to be upset." I thinking, This is more upsetting than what you might have said otherwise. How old are you?

    Thinking about my OP, it's really amazing how childish Roddenberry comes off in Shatner's book. Granted, Shatner is Shatner. But he was there, and a lot of what he says is supported by Nimoy- whose statements I've always attached more credibility to- Harve Bennett, Nick Meyer, and others who figured prominently in the making of each film. I can understand his being upset that his creation was slowly being taken away from him. But his idea for a JFK movie would never have fit with what the other writers/producers were trying to put on screen.

    JFK Dies Star Trek Style might have worked as a TV movie or a film in isolation, but not as something mixed in with the TWOK trilogy or any of the other films. Then again, TMP might have worked with Decker in command. But we'll never know.

    --Sran
     
  15. marksound

    marksound Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Seems like I remember sometime in the 70s ABC moved All My Children and One Life to Live from a half hour to a 45 minute format. I don't think it lasted long before they moved them both to a full hour.

    Granted, it was a long time ago and it was just daytime soaps, but it has been done in recent decades. Maybe not as successfully as the network would have liked, but it has been done.
     
  16. Joe_Atari

    Joe_Atari Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    In reference to TMP specifically as a case study for GR's writing prowess, has there ever been an in-depth comparison between GR and Harold Livingston's "dueling drafts" for the film? As related by (I believe) Livingston, in a 1977 meeting with both writers present, Michael Eisner held up both GR's and Livingston's current drafts (color coded to represent the author), proclaiming that (and I'm paraphrasing from memory) "this" (GR's script) is "television" and "this" (Livingston's script) is "a feature." I always thought Livingston came off as rather pompous in those interviews (throwing around the tired "I kept trying to quit but they kept begging me to come back" cliche -- as if he was Coppola instead of a rather obscure TV writer), and I have difficulty believing Eisner would so blatantly denigrate the work of the producer of one of his studio's biggest productions. As much as I love TMP, I agree with most that its story was fundamentally flawed and the screenplay had some really awkward, stilted dialogue. In fact, the TMP dialogue reminds me a lot of that from TNG season 1, which leads me to believe much of the blame for TMP's flaws lay with GR's writing, but I found Livingston's first draft (reprinted in the Reeves-Stevens' Phase II book and summarized here: http://www.orionpressfanzines.com/articles/in_thy_image.htm) quite underwhelming. Certainly there was enough of the "petulant child" thing going on on both sides. Unfortunately I've never read any accounts from GR about this period to counter those of Livingston (which do seem to be backed by Shatner and Nimoy). I think Livingston's comments -- along with the books by Shatner and Engel -- came after GR's death.

    Since a number of posters here are professional writers (and I certainly am not), I'd be interested to hear thoughts on GR's contributions (and Livingston's for that matter) -- both good and bad -- that survived to the final film. It seems to me that GR's flaws as a manager and producer (probably never more evident than on TMP) have led to undeserved criticism of his writing ability, which based on his early television work seemed to be top-notch.
     
  17. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Most scripts read badly. Seriously. If you're not experienced at reading between the lines, even the best can seem underwhelming. They're utterly unlike written fiction because they're really more of a very structured sketch minus all the detail that really paints a picture. It's why a lot of very good novelists and short story writers absolutely cannot write them or even critique them well. Very different animals.

    That said, the drafts I've read of In Thy Image AND TMP aren't great, but Roddenberry's versions are worse, with lengthy asides that don't matter to the story.'
     
  18. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    You mean like the girl who comes up to Xon and asks about whether his pon farr is coming up soon?

    That stuff is bad, but GR's draft does at least represent the approach to vger by Ent in a way that visually was honest and correct ... and I actually like his San Francisco stuff, even if it isn't necessary to the story. Wish I still had that draft.

    I really wish somebody had the Robert Collins draft. that is the one nobody seems to have seen, except folks on the show who all seemed to hate it ... yet that is where the ending I like is included, with the lightshow of all the voyager imagery being blasted all over the place.
     
  19. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    If it went out to the actors, it might be in the DeForest Kelley papers at the Academy Library in LA.

    http://collections.oscars.org/link/msinvent/542/

    From the descriptions, it's hard to tell.
     
  20. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Is that the one with the beach scene with Kirk and Alexandria swimming nude?