The Roddenberry Reputation

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Ssosmcin, Apr 10, 2013.

  1. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 2, 2002
    Over on the Kirk-Uhura Rape Scene thread, there's speculation that Gene Roddenberry is the unnamed executive who assaulted Grace Lee Whitney back during the filming of the series. This bothers me, and adds to the general tearing down of his rep that bugs me, especially to the extent is has gone.

    I know Roddenberry had the sex rep, and cheated like crazy, but never had it seemed like he forced his way into women's pants. By accounts, he had a natural boyish charm, plus the Exec Producer status, to get women to spread on their own.

    Then there's the credit thing. I know Roddenberry grabbed as much credit for everything Star Trek as he could and the Legend is totally overblown at the expense of so many others. There have also been comments that he didn't make Star Trek for any reason other than to get rich. I feel like we've gone from the extreme "Roddenberry is God" to "Roddenberry was a talentless, money grubbing hack rapist who created Star Trek to make a quick buck and did nothing other than come up with an idea that other people made great, he sucks for ripping off Forbidden Planet." Isn't that just a little too far in the other direction?

    Yes, the guy had his casting couch and he was shameless about it. Yes, he sold out and cheated Sandy Courage when Trek wasn't making profits. Yes, Trek's greatness is the end product of multiple creative minds. All granted and accepted. However, he was a writer long before Trek, a successful one. He created Trek to, yes, make a living, but not to "get rich quick" as suggested in other threads. Everyone wanted to make a successful TV series, but there were other, more sure fire ways to do that than to create a mature message show in the "kiddie" vein of sci-fi, monsters and aliens. Sci-Fi on TV was always a risky proposition. He would have been better off creating a spy show or a western if he just wanted to make money. Instead, he had an idea to make something good, a forum for his beliefs (he tried with The Lieutenant and see how long that lasted). Writer-producers are people with ideas. Turns out, he wasn't the best "from the ground up" writer, but excelled at rewriting and, yes, he rewrote the majority of the scripts in the first two seasons. Nobody contested that. So, he put the final stamp on most everything when the series was great. Editing his own work he wasn't so good at that, but others? Apparently he amazing at it (Solow Justman & Nimoy all agree). Roddenberry even rewrote scenes under a tree on location during Shore Leave's filming. He worked like a demon on the series, at the expense of his health, to make it as good as possible. Again, this is not contested by the people who were there. And for a guy who always "grabbed credit," he rarely if ever put his name on a script he didn't originate, even if he rewrote most of it.

    I'm all for giving everyone their due for Star Trek, but that includes Roddenberry. Nobody should get credit for another person's work, but it seems like he's not even getting credit for his own anymore. He gets more trash talk than Freddie Freiberger. I don't think this is at all fair.

    As for guessing about who assaulted Grace Lee; if we don't know for sure, I'd rather not assume. Fan assumptions have a habit of growing into fan "fact." I'd hate to see Gene's name stuck on this in the future because of guesswork. Innocent until proven guilty and until GLW comes out and names him, Gene did NOT do it.

    He was a human being with flaws and bad habits. But a rapist? Sorry, not without proof.

    And that's all I've got to say about that.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2013
  2. CaptainDave1701

    CaptainDave1701 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jan 17, 2008
    I guess the only thing that I could add to this is.....It was a different time back then. What we call sexual assault today was probably as commonplace as cocaine in the record label offices were. Grace has published material coming out herself as someone that was sex and alcohol addicted back then. She wrote that men and the other vices were just the way it was it was and since has been saved from that. Was Gene in the business to make money?...Sure, as they all were. That is why it is called a business.
    Anyway...that's all I have on this and I don't understand why there is the Gene bashing going on these days
  3. mb22

    mb22 Commander Red Shirt

    May 11, 2009
    I think it is a reaction to the "Roddenberry is god" views popular in the '70s. People like to tear down those with over-the-top reputations (e.g. Walt Disney). It is significant though, that while Gene's public reputation began to crack in the late 1980s after the problems at the beginning of TNG production, people didn't start piling it on until he was already dead and unable to defend himself (Joel Engel's book being the obvious example). A few months ago I read Susan Sackett's 2002 Inside Trek memoir, and while she obviously loved the man (whom she could never have for herself) he doesn't really come off all that favorably there either.

    Someone should make use of the Trek archives at UCLA and elsewhere to write an "Inside Star Trek" series (in print or online) focusing on the individual episodes (scripts and memos) and how they developed the way they did, as David Gerrold did for his "The Trouble With Tribbles". That way the contributions of GR, Coon, Fontana, Justaman et al can be discerned clearly.
  4. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    I went from the "Roddenberry is God" camp to the "Roddenberry was a creative TV producer who had some major flaws" camp after reading Inside Star Trek (and other material).

    Lets face it, the man was a pretty poor human being by most standards. But I don't watch Trek because Roddenberry was a terrific human, I watch it because it is entertaining.
  5. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 2, 2002
    I'm with you, pretty much. He wasn't a stand up guy for anyone but himself. But that's still a long way off from some of the crap that's being heaped.
  6. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 20, 2009
    He was in a position to denign women the opertunity to work, unless they provided him with sex, that is coercion.

    The "well everybody else is doing it" excuse is just that, an excuse.

  7. Caje

    Caje Lieutenant Junior Grade Newbie

    Mar 31, 2013
    Admittedly, I haven't really looked to much into all the allegations against him, because I really don't care that much. But I'd have a hard time believing hearsay and gossip, especially when it comes out years after the fact. If he was arrested for sexual assault, that's one thing, but I don't think he should be vilified when no one knows the exact facts of the matter.

    That said, he could be the worst man in the world and I'd still like Trek. I watch it for what's on screen, not because I have any interest in the lives of the producers/actors. Whether or not Gene Roddenberry is a nice human being doesn't change the inherent positive message that permeates through the series, and that's all that matters to me.
  8. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    If it was only one person making the accusations, I would tend to agree. But pretty much everyone who was associated with Roddenberry didn't think much of his personal ethics.
  9. not

    not Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Apr 6, 2013
    Is the casting couch is rape? I'm not sure that even women can reach a consensus on this issue but female and male actors opt-in to this "pay to play" business.

    Roddenberry yielded power over women seeking employment and likely the network. IMO, he was a pig but his talent is a sundered issue
  10. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    May 24, 2006
    Escaped from Delta Vega
    Two lines of thought on this:

    1. After Berman took over the ST franchise, it was not uncommon for people--whether writers or Berman himself--to say less than favorable things about TOS or GR. I considered this a petty attempt to make "his" (Berman) ST the jewel in the crown (we see where that went).

    2. GR was a sexual deviant who abused his position. That much was always clear. To that end, no, not every producer engaged in that sort of thing in the period, so this is a matter of no self responsibility, rather than industry culture.

    Furthermore, without an ounce of shame, he allowed the myth of the "Great Bird" to take flight (no pun intended) in the early years, to the point where he was seen as THE mastermind, with everyone else being the happy minions running around the studio making contributions (see Stan Lee's 60s/early 70s print interviews & convention appearances for similar acts of self-promotion, then see the decades-long replies from Kirby, Ditko, et al.).

    What does this say? GR was not a saint, or the good-guy crusader he was made out to be--at least not to the fanboy extremes copy/pasted in innumerable publications in the 70s and 80s.

    With all of that said--and in full appreciation of the many talents behind TOS--GR was the one with the spark of invention (some say intellectual theft here and there) which gave life to Star Trek, and that's as much credit as he deserves without Crazy Gluing the positives of his creative side to the whole of his personality / inner demons.
  11. Danger Ace

    Danger Ace Commander Red Shirt

    Mar 20, 2013
    I agree.

    One thing Grace Lee's claim reminded me of was Nichelle Nichols charge that she too had been sexually harrassed - in her case it was by a low-mid level NBC studio executive (others here may have a sharper recollection of the details). So, sadly, sexual harrassment was/is a part of the Hollywood landscape, but I don't think Roddenberry ever "forced" himself on anyone. In a screwy way he was one of the "good ones" who actually followed.

    Also, for my own peace-of-mind, I just want to say I still think Gene Roddenberry is deserving of a lot of credit for a lot of things. I believe, upon reflection, that part of my negative feelings toward Gene Roddenberry actually may stem from Rick Berman's overplaying the Roddenberry card in stiffling and strangling "Star Trek" - but that is a discussion for another thread.
  12. Danger Ace

    Danger Ace Commander Red Shirt

    Mar 20, 2013
    Very good post.
  13. Gary7

    Gary7 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    I never revered him to that extent, but certainly had great appreciation for what he conceived and brought to life. But like any multi-person endeavor, there are always interpersonal collisions and friction, usually all involved at fault to some degree, but also some people may be more guilty than others.

    Roddenberry wanted to be successful and get rich, just like anybody else. When he managed to get a 2nd pilot done, which was practically unheard of at that time, and then got the series going with great results, he figured he was in the running to the next level of financial enjoyment. But it didn't turn out that way. I think part of the problem was his inability to see a balance in steadfastness and compromise. He wanted things his way as much as possible, to the point of rubbing other people the wrong way.

    He certainly created a terrific story idea (heavily influenced by others as we well know) and was fortunate enough to assemble the right creative minds to help bring it to life. I'll bet anything that it wasn't until he saw how other people responded to him, like with the designs and models that Matt Jefferies produced, where he began to realize the potential. It probably fired up his passion for doing Star Trek and pushed him to excel.

    It's clear he had very high hopes of Star Trek becoming a major success as after the 1st season, and when it faltered at the end of the 2nd season, he was probably very dejected about it. And then, desperate to make the most of what had been created, he sought to milk as much money as he could from the aftermath (i.e. selling merchandise). That certainly contributed to the negative perceptions he garnered.

    Often what we create can in turn change us, pushing us in a different direction than we'd originally planned and hopefully even make us better for it. From most of what I've read, it seems like Roddenberry did change for the better over time. The Next Generation cast seemed to have higher regard for him than most.

    Yeah, there has been plenty of material over the years that vilified Roddenberry. But some people probably took advantage of that as well. I really don't think Whitney was sexually coerced or even raped. More than likely she was seduced. She had long been struggling with a low self-esteem from her background. Despite that amazing boost she got by getting into entertainment and being perceived as a bombshell, she was still very fragile. Roddenberry may have exploited that, because Whitney was very attractive and also desperate to make the most of her opportunities. Who knows, she may have flirted with Gene and then it became difficult to resist him for fear of losing favor.
  14. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

    Nov 17, 2001
    Cincinnati, OH
    Wasn't the major "clue" that tied GR to Whitney's forced oral sex the fact that she stated the person later apologized and gave her some homemade polished jewelry -- a hobby that GR was known for in those days?

    That's the only thing her book says that can lead to idle speculation, iirc.

    Sir Rhosis
  15. AtoZ

    AtoZ Commander Red Shirt

    Jun 5, 2009
    Roddenberry = high priest
  16. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

    Oct 8, 2005
    Los Angeles, California
    I wasn't aware of that being a Roddenberry hobby, but that is indeed the apology from the unnamed executive described in Whitney's memoir the workday after the assault.

    Some speculation that it was Roddenberry can be found here:

    It is just speculation, though. It probably was a mistake to bring up the issue in the first place.


    On the subject of the OP, I don't have a problem demythologizing Roddenberry at all. He was a good writer who took a lot of credit that others deserved and often exaggerated his own accomplishments. Paramount only helped fuel these claims, since Roddenberry the creative visionary made for better marketing copy than Roddenberry the creative collaborator.

    I'm frankly tired of reading "facts" about the series that are demonstrably false or highly suspect, in everything from popular journalism to academic articles. And a lot of that is tied into Roddenberry's myth making.
  17. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 2, 2002
    I do admit, after reading her description of the event, it's hard to deny it sounds like him.

    But I still think he's had more to do with the eventual success of Trek than simply "creating the series."
  18. Anji

    Anji Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jan 7, 2003
    Assisting in the birth of baby Horta on Janus VI
    I didn't know the man personally, but I can tell you all this. Beware of books that come out after someone's death claiming to "the truth" about what kind of person they are. Any accusations about someone's character should be made when the person is alive and can defend those accusations.

    I did not know Roddenberry but I did meet him on several occasions and talked with him at length. Now while we know Gene cheated (the painful expression of Majel's face during Rod's psudo-documentary was evidence enough), I never saw any behavior to indicate he was as sex crazy as everyone portrays him to be.

    If anything I would say he might have been a bit autistic, but that is purely my opinion.
  19. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

    Jan 7, 2013
    New York State
    That thing about the gift of a polished stone is the smoking gun. INSIDE STAR TREK (Justman, Solow) talks about Gene's first wife having the hobby of polishing stones and mounting them as costume jewelry.
  20. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

    Oct 14, 2004
    That's fine in theory, but when retaliation for whistleblowing is commonplace (and going by the way laws are being passed even now, it seems like whistleblowing is now considered to illegal by most Republicans and several states where you cannot go undercover to record the mistreatment of animals), it is damned hard to speak out.

    GR threatened to blacklist Ellison if he insisted on keeping his pseudonym on CITY, and his attorney in later years was positively crazed, as has been attested to by pretty much everybody who had dealings with them.

    It wasn't till after the death of GR and his attorney that Gerrold finally managed to settle (for a pittance, sadly) for some money over being screwed out of co-creator credit on TNG.