Gene the Writer

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

  1. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 10, 2005
    Location:
    The visitor's bullpen
    Gene Roddenberry? A real writer?

    You're telling me that the same person who managed to crank out the TMP novelization is an actual WRITER? :guffaw: :guffaw:
     
    Armus and JonnyQuest037 like this.
  2. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2001
    Location:
    Covington, Ky. USA
    I don't know? I bet a lot of writers would love to have created something that is still being talked about and is an ongoing concern in multiple forms of media 55 years later.

    Lots of people were involved along the way, but none of it happens without Roddenberry.

    Wasn't it ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster? Someone who many consider a great sci-fi writer.
     
    Armus, Lance and Galileo7 like this.
  3. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 10, 2005
    Location:
    The visitor's bullpen
    No. Gene wrote the novelization all by himself.
     
    Greg Cox likes this.
  4. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2007
    Location:
    Outer Graceland
    Did GR and Jud patch it up?
     
  5. ChallengerHK

    ChallengerHK Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2018
    Obviously, a lot of communication can be lost in the definition of "real." He was a real writer in that he got paid to write. He was not Shakespeare by any stretch, although in his mind I think he thought he was.
     
  6. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2001
    Location:
    Covington, Ky. USA
    I don't know about that? But any writer would need to have confidence in their abilities in order to become a professional.
     
    Lance and Galileo7 like this.
  7. Kor

    Kor Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2001
    Location:
    Christopher Pike, future Orion Pirate
    Well, writing prose for novels is a totally different matter than writing TV scripts.

    Kor
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Indeed. They're different disciplines, and being good in one doesn't automatically make you good in another. Indeed, some of the quirks of the TMP novelization's prose reflect standard scriptwriting practices, like using italics (underlining in scripts) to emphasize important concepts or actions.
     
    Armus, Galileo7 and Kor like this.
  9. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 10, 2005
    Location:
    The visitor's bullpen
    Did Gene ever actually write an episode of TOS?

    Other than the shameless theft of royalties for the theme song by writing lyrics that he KNEW would never be used. ;)
     
  10. JesterFace

    JesterFace Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2014
    Location:
    Suomi Finland
    Gene was really good at creating an entire universe where Star Trek takes place.
     
    Armus likes this.
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Walking distance from Starfleet HQ
    Oh For Fuck's Sake...

    Prior to Star Trek Roddenberry was a capable TV writer. He wrote tons of episodes for lots of shows. He even won a Writers Guild Award for an episode of Have Gun Will Travel.

    To be fair, Roddenberry was a fine "hack" writer, not in the modern pejorative sense, but in the old sense that he could churn out material on a regular basis, much like Terry Nation. Coon was, too, albeit he had a lighter touch.

    Via the project I am working on with @Harvey I have had the opportunity to read a lot of the internal memos amongst the writing staff discussing various scripts, and those show very clearly that Roddenberry was the glue that put the things together. He'd remind the other writers when they'd deviate from the "action adventure" format the show was sold as. He'd make these great suggestions on how to ramp up the stakes, the drama, the tension. He wasn't always right, sure, but when you look at the memos you see that his idea hit/miss ratio is at least as high as Fontana, Coon or Justman (who suggested cutting their losses by killing the problematic scripts "The Doomsday Machine" and "The City on the Edge of Forever").

    Did he write great episodes himself for his own creations? Debatable. His script for "The Cage" is pretty damned good— rampant sexism aside. His 2nd pilot script for "The Omega Glory" (which features the weirdest take on Spock ever) and the episode finally developed from it is interesting in bits (the starship captain who goes native) then falls apart going for a kindergarten attempt at a Twilight Zone twist. "Turnabout Intruder" is just dire because it sets up this fascinating premise and doesn't know where to go with it and slips into casual sexism.

    The memos and draft scripts also make clear that Roddenberry was the originator of a number of things people have credited other writers for, i.e. Coon getting credit for the Prime Directive when it's right there in that 2nd pilot version of "The Omega Glory".

    Pure speculation on my part but once he started producing his own shows he got too close to the material and lost perspective on his own writing. I think this led him to some bad working habits that his career never recovered from.

    Pillorying him for his TMP novelization is fun but a cheap shot. Novels and teleplays are very different things. Many fine novelists can't write a workable screenplay or teleplay. The reverse is true of writers like Roddenberry. His ham fisted, inelegant TMP novel prose is about what you should expect for a TV writer trying to write such a thing.

    I'm by no means saying Gene was a great writer. I'm by no means saying he was a great boss or always a fair collaborator. He did take credit for things others did, but if you read old interviews with him you see how often he says "we" and credits others for things they contributed. Yes, that changed over time as Star Trek fandom became a cash-generating myth machine.

    So, in conclusion, constantly diminishing him and his contributions is to do just what people accuse Gene of: stealing credit by giving it to other people.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2019
    Jayson1, Greg Cox, plynch and 10 others like this.
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Yes, that sounds about right. He was a solid writer, and he certainly deserves credit for pioneering an adult approach to non-anthology science fiction on TV. But he had limitations and bad habits that got worse over time. I've long recognized that you can't talk about just one Gene Roddenberry; the person he was by the time of TNG, the person who's the source of most of the bad stories and bad blood, was a very different, less competent writer-producer than the Roddenberry of the 1960s.


    He did tend to sabotage himself professionally by alienating collaborators. Being difficult to work with was probably as much a factor in why he never got another successful series made as anything to do with the actual writing.

    Still, his stubbornness wasn't always a negative. I think he made the right call in shutting down the Questor series altogether rather than bowing to the network's demands to retcon the ending of the movie, dumb it down to a Fugitive knockoff, and take away most of what worked about the premise.


    Well, it's better than just parroting the old myth that Alan Dean Foster ghostwrote it (which is confusing it with the Star Wars novelization 2 years earlier). As you say, the prose makes it clear that it was the work of someone who'd never written prose before.
     
  13. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2001
    Location:
    Covington, Ky. USA
    "The Cage"
     
    Ryan Thomas Riddle likes this.
  14. Refuge

    Refuge Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2016
    Location:
    A better place
    He achieved more than any one of us nobodies ever will. And yes, he was both a writer and a creator.
     
    plynch and Armus like this.
  15. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    May 9, 2012
    Location:
    The Enterprise's Restroom
    Nicely said @Maurice :) :techman:
     
    Tim Thomason likes this.
  16. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2001
    Location:
    Covington, Ky. USA
    Finally ordered The Questor Tapes on DVD, thanks to this thread. :techman:
     
  17. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Kang, now with ridges Premium Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2001
    Location:
    House of Kang
    I loved that pilot as a kid. Really wanted the series. Spectre too
     
    BillJ likes this.
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Of all Roddenberry's failed pilots, The Questor Tapes is easily my favorite, largely because Gene Coon co-wrote it.
     
    ChallengerHK likes this.
  19. Kor

    Kor Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2001
    Location:
    Christopher Pike, future Orion Pirate
    The Questor Tapes, starring Walter Koenig's mustachio. :cool:

    Kor
     
  20. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Walking distance from Starfleet HQ
    Speaking of credit theft, this is the GR of The Making of Star Trek:

    While I bow low and smile when people compliment me, the unsung heroes of the show are people like Bob Justman with his intimate knowledge of sets, costs, production facilities, and so on; Matt Jefferies with his uncanny talent for bringing in impossible sets on impossible budgets, every time; and Eddie Milkis, who is an absolute whiz in the post-production area, practically with opticals; Bill Theiss who is a genius at costume design; in fact, virtually every member of the production crew. these are the people who have made Star Trek what it is. these are the people who keep us in business. Television is not only a creative art (we dignify it with that term) but it's also a very, very tough business.

    GENE RODDENBERRY

    The Making of Star Trek, p.132​
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019
    plynch and Armus like this.