Gene the Writer

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Thanos007, Mar 26, 2019.

  1. Thanos007

    Thanos007 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I'm about half way through the second book of Fifty Year Mission and people keep saying how Gene really wasn't a writer. I'm not sure how that can be. Isn't that how he got his producing gigs? Wasn't he a very prolific TV writer and from that perspective well though of in the industry? It's pretty obvious by the time TNG came around what ever he had was gone but to say he just wasn't a writer seems a bit much. Am I missing something?
     
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  2. BillJ

    BillJ History’s Greatest Monster Premium Member

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    To me, Roddenberry came across as a capable writer. There's something to the effect going around that Roddenberry could rewrite a bad script into a decent scripts, and he could rewrite a great script into a decent script.
     
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  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Roddenberry was a writer. That's how he got his start in the industry and how he worked his way up to producer status. And it was his rewrites of every single TOS script in seasons 1-2 that gave the show a consistent tone despite being mostly freelancer-driven.

    However, whether he was a good writer is open to debate. The only really, really good thing he wrote solo as far as I've seen was "The Cage." The TOS scripts and stories he gets onscreen credit for include some of their most absurd, sexist, and problematical episodes, like "Mudd's Women," "The Omega Glory," and "Turnabout Intruder," though "Omega" was the only one of those three that he wrote solo. And his later work was better when he had collaborators -- for instance, his solo script for Genesis II wasn't as good as its followup Planet Earth co-written with Juanita Bartlett, or The Questor Tapes co-written with Gene L. Coon. I'd say he was better at putting words to other people's ideas than he was at coming up with his own ideas.
     
  4. Kor

    Kor Admiral Admiral

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    I believe he wrote some decent stuff for TV shows before Trek.

    Kor
     
  5. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    I thought he stopped the rewrites when he had his breakdown and forced vacay? And wasn't Coon doing some of that, hence the lighter tone?

    I like what I perceive as GR's grand-wordiness. Not the plotting/concepts (problematic as noted above) but there's a dramaturgical -- if that's the right word -- edge to his writing that I miss in the latter part of the show and in Berman Trek, though Picard musters it sometimes, I think. When Burnham does her monologues lately, I keep thinking they need a writer raised on theater or radio drama; they come across as just . . . banal. YMMV
     
  6. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Kang, now with ridges Premium Member

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    What?
     
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  7. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    He was running himself ragged and they forced him on a vacation and Coon took over the main producing duties. Isn't it in the Making of ST? I know I didn't make it up.
     
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  8. JonnyQuest037

    JonnyQuest037 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Gene's ideas:

    -This female guest star's costume should be skimpier.

    -God is insane, a child, or an insane child.

    ;)
     
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  9. Thanos007

    Thanos007 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Yeah. Roddenberry took leave about 6 or so episodes in and Gene Coon took over and was there until half way through the 2nd season. Roddenberry then comes back at the start of the 2nd season and preceded to get rid of all the fun and lighter moments. You can see his influence very easily. The first 6 episodes to maybe halfway through the 1st season it's very much Jim Kirk and these other people in space. After that and until halfway, 3/4 through the 2nd season it's an ensemble show. More or less.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Wow, it's completely the other way around. In early season 1, it's very much an ensemble show, with more focus on Sulu, Rand, Scott, Uhura, and the crew as a whole, lots of banter and everyday business like people eating together and singing in the rec room and such. Later on, Spock becomes the breakout star and the show becomes more narrowly focused on him, Kirk, and McCoy, with the rest of the ensemble fading more into the background.
     
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  11. Kor

    Kor Admiral Admiral

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    Or a computer!

    Kor
     
  12. ChallengerHK

    ChallengerHK Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I've never seen The Lieutenant, but I've been watching a lot of Have Gun, Will Travel on MeTV, including several episodes penned by Roddenberry. When combined with rewatches of The Questor Tapes, Spectre and all of the Genesis II stuff, I would characterize it as decent, but never great.
     
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  13. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer Mih ssim, mih ssim, nam, daed si Xim. Moderator

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    God is an insane female computer whose costume should be skimpier.
     
  14. Bad Thoughts

    Bad Thoughts Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Or was it the other way around: Gene's collaborators were good at taking his insane ideas and making them filmable?
     
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  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, that's not what I meant; on the contrary, I'm saying he was good at turning others' ideas into effective scripts with effective dialogue and character work, but it was when he came up with the basic concepts that things often got problematical.

    After all, this wasn't the modern style of TV writing where the whole storyline is generated by the writing staff. In '60s TV, many of the story premises and concepts came from freelance scriptwriters, and it was the staff's job to finesse them to fit the existing world and characters. So Roddenberry's work on TOS was at least as much about executing and revising others' ideas than it was about generating ideas of his own.
     
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  16. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The first part of the first season was famously done in a more showrunner driven style, as evidenced in The Making of Star Trek and others, Gene had a variety of one line story pitches which were handed out to the writers as a jumping off point for their story. Charlie X was one such story.

    During the 'wilderness years' of 1970-79, Gene could also occasionally be heard lamenting that he didn't take charge again in the third season like he'd said he would, and that he wishes he'd used the same method for story development throughout the run so as to maintain a more consistent tone like they'd had in those first eps of season one.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Making a list of seed concepts that might fire a freelancer's creativity is not the same as getting a whole staff together in a room and collectively breaking the plot of a whole season. It's more like the sort of thing SF magazine editors sometimes did, as dramatized in DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars" -- they'd commission pieces of artwork and then invite authors to write stories based on them, with it being up to the authors to figure out what ideas the image inspired. It's not so much "Here, I'm assigning you to write this story" and more "Here's a list of potential topics to spark your creativity." In the end, only a few of the suggestions were actually used, and tended to be changed into something quite different than the initial one-line pitch.
     
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  18. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    I just watched Private Little War where the story was by his old friend, but Gene rewrote it. It's very good. Great dialog between K and McCoy about the dilemma.

    Granted being rewritten cheesed off his friend so that he changed his screen name to Jud Crucis, the crucified Judean. I hope they patched it up.
     
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  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's a common misreading of what "Jud Crucis" means. As explained in Harvey's Star Trek Fact Check blog:

    “Ingalls himself offered a different explanation for the pseudonym in the pages of Starlog:

    His pseudonym, which he has only used twice in 32 years, comes from ‘judicious crucis,’ which he describes as ‘a form of combat in which two kings would send out their two Paladins to battle each other, rather than two armies. Whoever won the fight, won the war.’

    –Lee Goldberg, Paladin in Blue, Starlog (June 1992), p.37″

    Here’s the actual Starlog piece. That should be judicium crucis, though. It means “judgment of the cross.”
     
  20. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    I think that was actually one of the never-produced scripts for Questor Tapes.
     
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