Was Roddenberry a Terrible Writer?

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

  1. Lance

    Lance Commodore Commodore

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    I sometimes wonder which Star Trek shows actually do represent what Roddenberry intended the series to be?

    Obviously "The Cage" is the go-to guy as far as his original vision is concerned (and it's worth noting that "The Cage" is in many ways more gritty and mature than even TOS itself), and maybe "The Motion Picture" and "The Next Generation" as well. All three do, in their own ways, share superficial similarities to one another.

    OTOH I don't know if TOS sometimes failed to live up to even what Gene wanted it to be..... I get the impression sometimes from interviews and such that although he was very proud of it, he may have felt that it sometimes made compromises on what he intended to do in the original format document. Certainly in the last stages of his life he was quite sure that TNG better represented his ideals (although TOS is clearly built upon the same ideals).

    Then again, how much of the finished version of "The Cage" truly represented Gene's vision? :confused:
     
  2. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    And a lot of that imagery is at odds to some degree with what GR intended. Certainly the approach of objects at high speed is not portrayed in the Von Puttkamer/GR fashion (dot that suddenly explodes into close view)
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Anyone who makes commercial television probably feels the same way. Compromises have to be made just to get a show on the air. TV producers have to get the approval of their studios and networks, so producing TV is not the expression of a singular, unadulterated vision; it's a negotiation.
     
  4. drt

    drt Captain Captain

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    I think this is somewhat of a moving target as it's obvious that Rodenberry changed with the times.

    While all of his Star Trek work is humanist at the core, I'd guess one could argue that "The Cage" is probably closest to his original intent for "Star Trek" - as 20 years later, it seems that TNG is more heavily colored by GR's adoption of his "Great Bird of the Galaxy guru" persona.
     
  5. 2takesfrakes

    2takesfrakes Commodore Commodore

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    Well, yes, of course, but TMP's a Gene Roddenberry film, no matter whose names are in the credits. This was his baby ... his guiding hand and strong presence throughout production is unquestionable. I mean, you could hardly call this a Robert Wise film ... it bares little likeness to anything he's done, before. To say nothing of Gene's reputed constant rewrites which had gotten so frequent, that special notes, with the time they were written, had to be put on those rerwrites to determine which was supposed to be used. Gene's stamp is all over this picture and it is why it is so different from the rest.
     
  6. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Well, let's have a look at 0:05 into this video:

    [yt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_F09jwNJtk[/yt]

    Why, yes. Yes, I could easily call Star Trek: The Motion Picture a Robert Wise film. Easily.

    Wrong again. You should probably check out The Andromeda Strain. See also The Day the Earth Stood Still.
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As mentioned above, it has very clear stylistic and tonal similarities to The Andromeda Strain. I feel it also resembles West Side Story in that both films feature multiple extended set pieces built around visuals and music with little dialogue.
     
  8. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    But how does it compare to Curse of the Cat People? :)
     
  9. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    ANDROMEDA especially, but some similarities to HINDENBERG as well. Andromeda is almost a template character-wise for TMP, with Kate Reid/DeKelley serving as comic relief, ArthurHill/Shatner as the lead who really doesn't do much to save the day, and JamesOlson/Stephen Collins as the younger action lead who gets what little action there is.

    Something arid as well as workmanlike about most later Wise. I love DAY THE EARTH though, no reservations about that at all, shows how the guy could deliver with a really good script.

    One good thing about Wise is that he was big enough that the studio wouldn't have any trouble backing him if it came to a showdown with GR. That may or may not have been the case with Phil Kaufman (in fact I think the conflict between GR and Kaufman over what TREK was supposed to be is part of what led to PLANET OF THE TITANS not happening, which I still lament, though to be fair Kaufman got to do his BODY SNATCHERS remake instead, which absolutely SMOKED any & every Trekmovie, and for me ranks in the top tier of both political paranoia films and love stories.
     
  10. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    But how does it compare to Curse of the Cat People? :)

    No, serious, Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) is, I believe, an improvement over the 1956 film, which was no easy feat.
     
  11. BillJ

    BillJ Admiral Admiral

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    I find it odd that Roddenberry complained about network interference when making TOS, but when making TNG with the network interference removed, the product wasn't as remotely challenging when it came to dealing with social issues.
     
  12. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    ^Well, Roddenberry's health was declining by the time TNG hit the air. It's possible he wasn't as well read on 1980s social problems as he was issues from two decades before.

    --Sran
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, a lot of Roddenberry's claims that network prejudices restricted his progressiveness have been challenged or debunked. We know now that the networks at the time actually encouraged racial diversity because of recent studies showing the purchasing power of minorities and thus the profit potential of appealing to them rather than excluding them. In fact, part of the reason NBC rejected "The Cage" is because the cast lacked the racial diversity they'd wanted Roddenberry to give them. And we know that they didn't object to Number One because of sexism, but because they didn't like Roddenberry's nepotism in casting his mistress in the role.

    There are some attempts at social commentary in TNG's first season, however awkward they may have been. "The Last Outpost" and the portrayal of the Ferengi were basically critiquing capitalism and the "greed is good" mentality of the '80s. "Justice" tried to push the envelope on sexuality the way TOS did, although not very effectively. "Angel One" was an awkward attempt at an allegory about the sexism that was still pretty common at the time. And "Symbiosis" tried to tackle the drug issue, though that wasn't particularly daring at the time.

    As far as the regular cast went, having one of the regular characters be a blind man was a progressive step, I think. So was having a female security chief, in principle, though they rarely made good use of her.
     
  14. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    ^ Not to mention, Encounter at Farpoint had some overt commentary aimed at contemporary America, as well as its sweeping, if not very deep, commentary on human nature.

    And about that overt commentary, I've said this before on the board, but it's on topic here. As a line spoken by someone in uniform, Picard's lines here are very bad:

    The conceit of a character in uniform referring to military uniforms as costumes paints the picture of a character who is both smug and hypocritical, both negative traits in a protagonist. Further, the word costume was used without any evident self awareness on any level of the fact that the character who spoke it was, as a character in a TV show, literally in costume. This is an example of bad writing, in cringeworthy dialog.

    And, Hide and Q is a horrible episode.

    On the plus side, I think Charlie X (story credit), The Menagerie, and A Private Little War are great episodes.

    Also, in fairness, I really like Q's lines in that dialog I quoted. :shrug:
     
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Credits like "A Robert Wise Film" are negotiated and don't prove anything.
     
  16. 2takesfrakes

    2takesfrakes Commodore Commodore

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    ... Agreed!!!

    Gentlemen, please ... let's not split hairs, over such an old argument. Two seasons of The Original Series and the first Motion Picture were under the auspices of Gene Roddenberry and he defined and shaped both the television and the film series with his creativity and input. I am sure we can all agree on that much, at least ...

    And for as much as I love TOS for all its camp and sense of adventure, I'm sure we can also agree that The Next Generation was Gene Roddenberry's pièce de résistance. It's such a deeply satisfying series, on so many levels, that I find it a true vindication of the man's talents and abilities, despite his obvious shortcomings, as a script-writer.
     
  17. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    The statement in question was that one could hardly call TMP a Robert Wise film. Even just the pro forma basis of going by what was negotiated in credits contradicts the extreme position of hardly.

    Furthermore, I don't understand how regarding the assignment of director credit to Wise as something that was earned is incompatible with the notion that Roddenberry was a hands-on producer, another assignment of negotiated credit that was also certainly earned.
     
  18. BillJ

    BillJ Admiral Admiral

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    No. Not even close.

    If Roddenberry had remained truer to his roots, The Next Generation might be more fondly remembered by general audiences.

    I find much of The Next Generation dull and self-important. It took itself too seriously and forgot it was suppose to be entertainment.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Exactly. It's completely bizarre to try to argue that an entire tentpole feature film could possibly be the work of only one person. Film is a collaborative enterprise.

    But I should point out that I was not debating whether Roddenberry or Wise was more responsible for the entire film. I was responding specifically to the assertion that Roddenberry "delivered beautiful and stunning imagery onscreen." Roddenberry was a writer. He was responsible for the ideas and words and characterizations in the film (along with Harold Livingston, Alan Dean Foster, and Jon Povill). But it makes no sense to credit him for the visual aspects of the film. The look of the film is the responsibility of the director, the director of photography, the editor, the production designer, and the art and visual effects departments, so those were the people I credited.
     
  20. RandyS

    RandyS Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You can make THAT argument about pretty much anything that's been on TV for the last decade.
     

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