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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    Well, Therin of Andor is the one who has the information on the translated edition; I'm just passing along my memory of what I've seen him say in the past. Personally I think the main reason is confusion with the Star Wars novelization that Foster did ghostwrite.
     
  2. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I agree it's mainly that, exacerbated by his TMP story credit. I've made the mistake myself in the past due to those two factors.
     
  3. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    I believe that was it, yes.

    Additionally, in the days of hastily handtyped library catalogue cards, many such mistakes occurred in the cataloguing, too, especially with English-speaking library staff processing foreign-language books. They've focused on the credits below the title, not noticing the name at the top in large print. They were looking for "de..."/"by...". (As a teacher librarian, I can even imagine a library putting a "F FOS" spine label on it.)

    I had been informed that Roddenberry's name was completely missing from that page.

    But yes, when the secret came out about the ghostwriting of the "Star Wars" novel, people did start looking at TMP with suspicion.
     
  4. NeedleOfInquiry

    NeedleOfInquiry Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    I once saw David Gerald (The writer of "Trouble With Tribbles") at a Star Trek convention. His opinion was as follows:

    "Gene Roddenberry had the ability to turn a bad script into a good script. He also had the ability to turn a great script into a good script."

    Interesting perspective.
     
  5. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    ^Interesting.

    --Sran
     
  6. A beaker full of death

    A beaker full of death Vice Admiral Admiral

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    GR was a competent television writer who had a good grounding in literary science fiction. Some of his Have Gun scripts are excellent.
    Now, when I say he was competent, that's saying a lot. He knew formal plot structure, characterization, and the myriad other things that used to go into a television script.
    He also had a very interesting idea for a tv series.
    He wasn't a visionary; he wasn't a genius; he wasn't a messianic figure. He had some talent, a lot of skill, and a lot of talented people around him, like Coon and Fontana. He also had the completely justifiable impulse to do what he had to do to make a buck.

    Forgive me; I skipped most of this thread: has "sour owl poop" been mentioned yet?
     
  7. MakeshiftPython

    MakeshiftPython Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    He's a fine writer as long as he focused on telling a story. He lost that with TNG, seemed more interested in presenting his ideal vision of 24th century humanity than anything else.
     
  8. Nebusj

    Nebusj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Indeed, one of his scripts for Have Gun, Will Travel --- at least the radio series; I don't know if this made it onto TV --- contains a strikingly good insight about entertainment. In the story Paladin is trying to tame the shrew^W a wild western sharpshooter lass who's a little too wild for her stage ambitions. Paladin explains that Elaan of Troyius Gulch can't just be herself because (paraphrasing) ``to be a successful entertainer you have to give the audience something they haven't seen before, but not too much like they haven't seen before''. Which, really, is so.
     
  9. A beaker full of death

    A beaker full of death Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yes, that one was indeed on tv.
     
  10. 2takesfrakes

    2takesfrakes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    No, I don't think Gene Roddenberry was a terrible writer, necessarily.

    I think he was servicable. I think he knew his comfort zone, with regards to what worked for him and he stuck to that. As a result, his talent and abilities didn't blossom as they should've. He didn't strive to improve his craft, because he didn't want to play a longshot with his career, even if that meant he could win big. He wanted a sure thing. That means not pushing anything. Bracket your work and stay within those boundaries so you don't get too close for comfort with subject matter, or dialogue. Don't offend or confuse your audience and you might just keep them ... and your job.

    I wish STAR TREK could've been much more gritty and realistic, instead of always being so stylized, but ... it also puts you in the frame of mind, too, where you understand that this is not meant to represent reality. So you look for the metaphors and the subtext to connect with that particular episode's nugget of truth:
    Power Corrupts. Beauty and Goodness Aren't Mutually Exclusive. Revenge is Cheap and Unsatisfying. Nobody Wants War. Whatever the message, that is what Gene Roddenberry's STAR TREK was about, rather than taking a literal stance on it as being a simulated map of Humanity's future.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, actually, by the standards of 1960s television, TOS was realistic. That was the whole point. As Roddenberry makes clear in his series pitch and writers' bible, his goal was to get away from the fanciful, broad, kid-oriented approach to science fiction from things like Lost in Space and do an SF show that was just as serious, smart, and naturalistic as the acclaimed adult dramas of the day like Gunsmoke, Naked City, and Wagon Train. He was one of the first SFTV producers to consult with scientists, engineers, and think tanks to come up with plausible ideas about how to portray the future; as far as I know, the only previous show that used scientific consultants at all was Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, which had the famous science writer/historian Willy Ley as its technical advisor.

    So it's not at all true that ST wasn't meant to be realistic. It was meant to be the most realistic SFTV show ever made up to that point, and largely succeeded -- though that's historically been a very low bar to clear. It's just that the goalposts for "gritty realism" have moved between the '60s and today. What looked true-to-life and naturalistic to '60s audiences looks stagey and stylized by modern standards.
     
  12. CaptPapa

    CaptPapa Commander Red Shirt

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    ^ That's it exactly. The original series has got to be viewed, or even remembered, in context with the times in which it was made.
     
  13. Lance

    Lance Commodore Commodore

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    Christopher is right. I think there's a revisionist streak which can't quite get over the stylistic aspects of TOS, but it's certainly worth remembering that in it's time TOS was regarded as very forward thinking, a realistic approach to a potential future in space, 'true sci-fiction television' as compared against the hokey B-Movie stuff that people were used to watching. There was a time when TOS's gadgets genuinely did look futuristic, when its adherence to an internal continuity (as opposed to the mostly anthology-type shows which had preceeded it) impressed people with how richly it was drawn, on how much it was based on postulated fact rather than seeming fanciful as did many other sci-fi programmes of the time, like Lost In Space.

    We take a lot of what TOS did for granted now. But in context of its time, it was clearly a cut above the rest in terms of seeming genuinely real and believable.
     
  14. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'll have to look for it again, but I swear there's at least one contemporary review of Star Trek which pillories it for being too fantastic given that it was promoted to be so realistic.
     
  15. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Maurice, Variety trashed it in their original review, saying it was more fit for Saturday morning kid fare. Perhaps that's the one you're remembering.

    Oh wait, that was the series, not TMP.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, of course there was. Reviewers are as fallible and prone to prejudice as anyone else. Plenty of reviewers of science fiction over the decades have dismissed it as frivolous kid stuff no matter how thoughtful and plausible it was, because that was what they expected to see and they were too egotistical to look past those preconceptions. Hell, reviewers are one of the main forces that perpetuate stereotypes about which literary or cinematic genres are more worthy of respect than others.

    Now, certainly Star Trek did not always succeed at being realistic. But my point is that it's a mistake to assume that its creators therefore did not intend it to be realistic.
     
  17. 2takesfrakes

    2takesfrakes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Just to get back to Gene's writing abilities, his novelization of THE MOTION PICTURE is actually a pretty good book, when read in conjunction with the movie itself. It fleshes out so much of it and adds to it too, with talk of what life's really like on Earth, in the 23rd Century ... what the people are like, how Humanity itself is evolving, as opposed to the kind of people who are drawn to STAR FLEET. I really enjoyed it, especially knowing that Gene, himself, wrote it. It's also interesting to me how this book gets NO hype, anymore, whatsoever. Nobody ever talks about it, it's like a forgotten remnant of a bygone era. But I love THE MOTION PICTURE so much, I just wanted to extend the experience even further by reading it and I'm so glad I did. I am not implying that GR missed his calling by not being a novelist, by trade. I'm just saying that when he revisited STAR TREK in movies, for the first time, he delivered beautiful and stunning imagery onscreen ... and a very satisfying read in novel form.
     
  18. sttngfan1701d

    sttngfan1701d Commodore Commodore

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    I agree about the TMP book. I read it before I saw the movie after finding it at a thrift store. I thought it was very nice, and I enjoyed it more than the movie, actually.
     
  19. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    I broke down and read it before the movie debuted, and it really set me up for disappointment, in that a lot of what is in the book is clearly not up on screen. The idea that Ilia's actual consciousness is within the probe, rather than just a xerox of same, makes the whole thing immensely different for me, in terms of Decker and in terms of my own involvement in the story.
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think that Robert Wise deserves the bulk of the credit for that, along with Harold Michelson, Richard H. Kline, Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra, Richard Yuricich, Mike Minor, Andrew Probert, etc.