"The World of Star Trek" by David Gerrold (1973)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Damian, Apr 17, 2019 at 1:10 PM.

  1. Damian

    Damian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    After completing "The Making of Star Trek" I decided to read my copy of "The World of Star Trek". Unlike my "The Making..." copy, my "The World...." copy is an old beat up 4th printing version I've had for years but never read to date. This book is not "The Making..." redux. In fact, Gerrold refers the reader to the former book a couple of times, notably at the beginning when he basically says he won't recover ground already covered there. I find the two actually go pretty well together when it comes to discussing the original series. Whereas "The Making..." is more concerned with the creation of the show, how it was made, and background on the people behind the production, cast and characters, "The World..." is more a book about the show itself, the stories, the point of the show, and a lot of interview information from the cast and Gene Rodenberry.

    And Gerrold does not hold back. He's critical of the show, but in a loving sort of way. He applauds its concept and purpose, but is more critical of it's failure to not always live up to its potential. And sometimes he will make a critique, but then defend it. For instance early in the book he critiques some of the lack of science in the science fiction, but then goes on to defend some of those decisions because it's a show that had to succeed on TV. They had to take some liberties to make it watchable to a TV audience. He is complementary of some of the set designs, such as the bridge design. But criticizes some things like the corridors, but then ultimately defends that call due to the needs of the production.

    He then goes into some information about the characters, some of their strengths and weaknesses, along with a lot of interview information, including long quotes from the cast talking about their characters. It's interesting to read as it is a look at how each of them viewed their part in the show in the early 1970's...after the show had ended, but before the movies or even the animated series. He also spends some times talking about Star Trek fans, fanzines and conventions.

    Then he spends almost a quarter of the book on his criticism of some of Star Trek's failure to live up to its potential. On the one hand he's critical of Captain Kirk and Spock continually going on away missions, which would be totally unrealistic in the real world. The captain's place is on the bridge and you would never send your top 2 officers on dangerous missions (and it's interesting that TNG years later would run with this idea by limiting Captain Picard's exposure to dangerous away missions). Now Gerrold acknowledges that as the hero, Kirk couldn't very well be the 'hero' of the show and just be nothing but a delegator and decision maker. In fact, that would probably mean the main character, or hero, would end up being whomever ended up leading the landing parties. He also has some criticism of Star Trek running with the idea of "The American Way" when dealing with enemy civilizations. That's not to say he's saying Star Trek should be anti-American. And there's nothing wrong with our heros being in the right, and in fact the way they were presented in some of those episodes ("The Return of the Archons" as an example) we find we agree with Kirk's actions. But what Gerrold is saying is sometimes it would have been nice to see our heros on the 'wrong' side. To present a more real world example to Star Trek, that heros aren't always right. And he was critical of the show becoming too formulaic. We all know Kirk beats a computer happened a couple of times in the show. Kirk has repeated romantic interests. Spock has some. Some of the supporting cast, like Uhura or Sulu, are given little to do many times. He pointed out parallels between "The City on the Edge of Forever" and "All Our Yesterdays", praising the former episode as a highlight while criticizing the latter for basically being a pale shadow of the former. He was highly critical of an episode that many praise, "The Enterprise Incident" for it putting our hero in the place of being a sort of villain, and doing something he (Kirk) would likely not approve of. And he was highly critical of the third season. But he does point out in any episode there are good things about 'bad episodes' and some bad things about the best of episodes. And he gives some information about how the 3rd season came about, including Roddenberry's offer to return to full time production if they gave it a good time slot, and NBC's failure to follow through (due to "Laugh-In" incidentally).

    He finishes the book by talking a bit about the future. At the time NBC was in talks with Roddenberry about reviving the show...based on the timing of the book's release I figure this likely ended up being the animated series which came out around the same time.

    Overall I found the book to be an honest look at Star Trek's strengths, and some of its shortcomings. After all these years sometimes we Trekkies have a romanticized view of the original series. And it was a great TV series. But looking at it honestly there are some shortcomings, things that if done differently could have made it even better. I don't agree with every one of Gerrold's critcisms. Sometimes I a bit more forgiving of some of his criticisms (i.e. I actually thought "The Enterprise Incident" was a very good episode and I didn't agree with some of his critiques of that episode). But he makes some good points also. And I find a lot of things I liked about future series, but things that could have been better as well. An entertainment franchise is forever changing. The shows will never be perfect.
     
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  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Not a coincidence, since David Gerrold co-created TNG along with Roddenberry, D.C. Fontana, and Bob Justman.

    I've often thought it would make more sense to do something similar to Stargate SG-1, where the main characters are the contact team (to use Gerrold's term) that specializes in away missions, with the captain being the equivalent of General Hammond, a supporting character rather than the star. Discovery's finally doing something close to that now.


    Some of his ideas here were reflected in TNG, but long after he'd left. His critique of TOS's benevolent-interventionist mentality is reflected in TNG's more extreme version of the Prime Directive. And there is the occasional episode where the TNG characters realize they've been on the wrong side of the issue, like "Suddenly Human."


    I was most interested by the section talking about the other shows Roddenberry was trying to get off the ground. I've since seen all the ones that were actually made -- Spectre, The Questor Tapes, Genesis II/Planet Earth -- but Gerrold mentions one project that I've never heard another word about anywhere else -- The Tribunes, a Roddenberry/Samuel Peeples pilot about an advanced police department using cutting-edge, futuristic technology and more sophisticated, nonlethal methods including psychological training to defuse crimes. It kind of reminds me of a mix of the Canadian series Flashpoint, about a crisis team using cutting-edge tech and profiling/negotiation techniques to defuse emergencies (though with lethal force still a last-resort option), and FOX's short-lived APB from 2017, about a billionaire who tried reforming a police precinct with futuristic tech and nonlethal weapons. I wonder what happened to it. I mean, I can understand a project dying in development -- it happens all the time -- but what's weird is that it doesn't seem to have been one of the ideas that Majel Roddenberry shopped around in the '90s-2000s based on GR's old, unmade proposals.
     
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  3. Damian

    Damian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yeah. I think Deep Space Nine took it even further (not just with Section 31 but with episodes like "In The Pale Moonlight"). They had a number of episodes where the Federation isn't quite as enlightened as we thought. I think of it in terms of generally moving in a positive direction--as Roddenberry seemed to insist on. But being an organization run by imperfect beings it sometimes takes a step back, making it more realistic.

    Yeah, most of the shows mentioned I've heard of, except for Spectre and The Tribunes. I found this on the Wikipedia page for Roddenberry:

    "He began developing MAGNA I, an underwater science-fiction series, for 20th Century Fox Television. By the time the work on the script was complete, though, those who had approved the project had left Fox and their replacements were not interested in the project. A similar fate was faced by Tribunes, a science-fiction police series, which Roddenberry attempted to get off the ground between 1973 and 1977. He gave up after four years;[103] the series never even reached the pilot stage."

    Overall, I'm one of those people that likes all Star Trek (well except TATV from Enterprise but that's another thread). I realize episodes like "Spock's Brain" and "Plato's Stepchildren" are hardly high brow drama. But I still enjoy watching them, as ridiculous as they are. One of the things David Gerrold pointed out that caused some of the lack of proper development is them treating Star Trek as an action/adventure series instead of as a dramatic series. I guess that crimped its development in his eyes, and I can see some of that, even if I enjoyed the series.
     
  4. Armus

    Armus Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Sounds like a great read, and highly insightful.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019 at 4:00 PM
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Questor and the two Dylan Hunt movies were shown in syndication a lot back in the day, so I knew them pretty well and had them on videotape for a long time (I now have DVDs of them instead), but I never saw Spectre until a couple of years ago. There's a spoilery review of it on my blog here: https://christopherlbennett.wordpre...-roddenberrys-spectre-and-marvels-dr-strange/
     
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  6. Iamnotspock

    Iamnotspock Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I have the 1994 UK edition, slightly revised with fleeting mentions of DS9 and VOY. It's a great read.
     
  7. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    IIRC he teaches some things about drama/jeopardy; and how tv shows can end up being unfaithful to the characters.

    I think he prefers "decision" dramas (Private Little War comes to mind) to will-the-ship be destroyed dramas. The latter being obvious, that it will not, at least in 60s episodic TV. That's why I'm not invested in an entire season worth of plot with DSC, the whole galaxy-could-be-wiped-out threat. It won't be. Several eps of whole-crew-could-be-stranded-in-the-future . . . that would have had me more in suspense, as that is at least plausible. (And likely at this point? Tune in tomorrow!

    Someone in an earlier thread they like seeing the "how" the impossible (impossible out of universe) threat will be avoided. If it's super-clever, like and old episode of MI, yeah, I guess, but when they build up THE THREAT and you know it can't occur in-universe, meh. . . I oddly have been enjoying the Spock dynamic which I decried the show for before I saw it played out by the excellent Ethan Peck.

    I digress. I enjoyed the book as an adult. Bought it in 1974 thinking it would be similar to the Making of. Nope. Interesteing stuff though.
     
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  8. Damian

    Damian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Gerrold doesn't seem to mind the issues he brings to mind....once or twice. He noted Kirk having a romantic interest for example is fine, once or twice. But it's that it happens over and over again. Another instance he brought up is the whole transporter issue. That is the transporter makes it easy for the landing party to escape danger. So they have to find ways to take that advantage away, which the original series did repeatedly. Again, Gerrold noted once or twice is fine, there have in fact been some great episodes with such plot lines, but it's that it happened numerous times. He felt that Star Trek would have realized a fuller potential had it been treated more as a dramatic series as opposed to action adventure---though I didn't get the impression that he wanted drama to the exclusion to action, just more of a focus on drama.

    Reading it immediately after reading "The Making of..." was a fascinating exercise though. I was glad that Gerrold didn't spend time rehashing what came in "The Making of...". And it was interesting because Gerrold's book came out a few years after the series ended (but before the animated series). So there was an advantage of looking back at the series in a retrospective sort of way, looking at what he felt worked and what didn't work. But still at a time long before we had the other series, or even the movies. All there was to consider was the original series.

    Gerrold's book is very complementary of Roddenberry though. He went on to say had Roddenberry remained in charge (instead of an executive producer role) that the show would have been much better. Both Whitfield and Gerrold had high praise for Roddenberry, and perhaps in a way gave me a greater appreciation for Roddenberry as a creative mind. I know he gets some flak from people, perhaps some justified. And there are some that complain about some things that he did in his personal life (and how he treated others)---though I don't know much about that angle. But then I'm a huge Hitchcock fan--I recognize his many personal failings as a man, but it doesn't detract that he was a genius when it came to directing a film. The two books gave me a greater appreciation for what Roddenberry's goals were, and the challenges he had in just getting the show to the air in a way that he envisioned it---as smart, if maybe not pure, science fiction.
     
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  9. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    The memos the showrunners sent back and forth, qu oted in Whitfield, esp. a bout plot holes show to me an admirable level of caring. This wasn't just product to sell to a network, to ma ke a buck.
     
  10. DrCorby

    DrCorby Captain Captain

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    I'd recommend also reading Gerrold's The Trouble With Tribbles: The Story Behind Star Trek's Most Popular Episode. He wrote it before The World of Star Trek, and it's a very entertaining account of the writing, development, and filming of the episode. He gives a lot of glimpses into the production staff and actors on Star Trek; Gene Coon is especially portrayed as a patient and insightful producer, shepherding a neophyte writer through story and script development. It's also chock full of amusing illustrations by artist Tim Kirk, which add to the light-hearted tone of most of the book.

    Pretty much everyone comes across positively in the book. Shatner's penchant for jokes on-set is mentioned, but Gerrold also relates an anecdote he witnessed that showed Shatner also had a professional's instinct for drama. During the filming of the scene from "The Doomsday Machine" where Commodore Decker dies, Shatner suggested only lighting the upper part of his face, across his eyes, so that when Shatner bowed his head, it cast his face in shadow, emphasizing Kirk's grief over the death. The book is full of stories like that.

    Gerrold also touches on some of the themes that he expounds in more detail later in The World of Star Trek, after gaining more experience as a TV script writer and writer of prose. They are good companion pieces that flesh out an insider's view of producing the Star Trek TV show. Highly recommended.
     
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  11. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Read this book maybe in the mid-70s. It introduced me to critical analysis of media. I thought bits of it were really funny when I was 12. It did appreciate his dissection of how TV drama works, even though with time I recognized that his dissection and description of same was fairly rudimentary and simplistic. The book was an interesting snapshot of the series in its immediate aftermath.

    I wouldn't go as far as to describe his TNG work as co-creator, but I've had this argument before (link) and don't want rehash it yet again. If anything, what Gerrold doesn't get enough credit for is making Land of the Lost a much better and more scifi show than it would have been otherwise, as amply demonstrated by the following seasons and the WTF remake the Kroffts did in the 90s.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It's beside the point here anyway, since that debate was about whether he was entitled to onscreen credit as co-creator, and that's not what I'm talking about here. It's not a matter of legal credit, simply about the fact that Gerrold was a contributor to the creative process of TNG along with Roddenberry, Fontana, and Justman, and one can see how certain ideas he expressed in The World of Star Trek and his Trek novel The Galactic Whirlpool were reflected in TNG. (The novel depicted the kind of "contact team" dynamic he advocated in TWoST, and was also the first depiction of Trek-universe food synthesizers being transporter-based, like replicators in TNG.)
     
  13. Damian

    Damian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yeah, I saw a few references to that one. I'll have to keep my eye out for it. I'm usually not that into the behind the scenes stuff (I still have to watch a number of the bonus features on my DVD's/Blu-Rays). Though I guess you can say it's more a case of just getting started. Usually once I start I can get into it, like it did with "The Making of..." and "The World of...". And I loved my Star Trek Compendium (it's coming in useful as I do my production order rewatch---since the freakin production numbers are nowhere to be found on the Blu-Rays--:angryrazz: a continual source of frustration but I digress).

    Yeah, both 'The Making of..' and 'The World of...' were very complementary of Gene Coon. He was portrayed as a bit paranoid that they were going to fall woefully behind, go over budget, not be able to do something. But then he would somehow get it done, and yeah, from what I read he seemed to be a good guy.

    I think sometimes we forget all the people that were involved with the creation of TNG. Obviously TNG really started to take off when Rick Berman started assembling his own team, so it's easier to think of Berman's people first when it comes to TNG, but there was a much different team involved at the beginning (though of course Berman was when the show went to air as well). It seemed with TNG the creative people had some good ideas, but it needed a different team to really develop it into a great show. The first season in particular was a bit uneven. I give Berman's people a lot of credit for making TNG into a hit. Had Roddenberry's original team been in charge throughout the show I get the sense the show wouldn't have been as good.
     
  14. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    Did he? They were both published the same month (May 1973, iirc) so I’ve always assumed they were written in tandem.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    We don't really know, though, because the original team was driven away by the abuses of Roddenberry's controlling lawyer Leonard Maizlish, who pretty much everyone involved with the show back then has denounced as a sheer villain who made working conditions on the show impossible to live with:

    https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Leonard_Maizlish

    Maizlish constantly overstepped his authority, made decisions that he had no authorization to make, illegally rewrote scripts in Roddenberry's name, and drove away practically every writer-producer the show hired -- not just Gerrold, Fontana, and Justman, but Tracy Torme, Herbert Wright, and others. I think there were over 20 writer-producers and story editors who came and went in season 1 alone, because of the chaos behind the scenes.

    So the sad thing is, we never really got to see the show that Roddenberry, Gerrold, Fontana, and Justman could've made together, because Roddenberry ceded too much power to Maizlish and he corrupted the process and drove them all away.

    It's true that a TNG made by the old-guard TOS staffers reunited wouldn't have been as modern as TNG ended up being under Berman and Piller, but still, it would surely have been better than the season 1 we got. It's a shame we didn't get to see it.
     
  16. Damian

    Damian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yeah, I guess that's true enough. I wasn't familiar with Maizlish at the time but he doesn't sound like a pleasant person to be around to say the least. It sounds like Gerrold had no love for Rick Berman either. But it does seem as Rick Berman was given more control, Maizlish was pushed out more and more.

    I guess I have mixed feelings in a way. You're right, it would have been interesting to see what kind of show they all would have put together if Maizlish wasn't involved. But at the same time I love what TNG became. It would have been different, but would it have been better? We'll never know. But at the end of the day TNG was a great show in its own right making it easier to swallow (it'd be a much different story if TNG tanked and was a terrible show).
     
  17. DrCorby

    DrCorby Captain Captain

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    They were indeed published the same year, but I can't find definitively what month(s). All I remember is that The Trouble With Tribbles showed up in my small town before The World of Star Trek, so they are fixed in that order in my mind. But it makes sense that they were written in tandem. As I said in my recommendation, they complement each other and are both good reads.