Exclusive: David Gerrold Talks Frankly About TNG Conflicts With Roddenberry & Berman + JJ-Trek & more

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Today TrekMovie finishes up our exclusive interview with writer David Gerrold – this time Gerrold talks frankly about his troubled time working on Star Trek: The Next Generation and coming into conflict with Gene Roddenberry and Rick Berman, being ‘blackballed’ in Hollywood and he even gives his thoughts on JJ Abrams Star Trek.

 

Gerrold Interview Part 2

In part 1 of our interview with Star Trek writer David Gerrold we focused on his time with the original series and animated series, in part 2 we talk about his tumultuous time in the early years of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Warning: interview includes adult language)

TrekMovie: Gene’s sensibilities changed a great deal from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. He became more of a pacifist, and he…

David Gerrold: Well this is something we don’t like to talk about. Gene gave us Star Trek and he was a great visionary in that regard. But he didn’t know how to share the credit with everyone else and he was self-centered. And that led to some serious mistakes, and one of them – and I have no idea why – but he was a substance abuser. First it was alcohol, and then it was grass, and then it was Quaaludes and other drugs. He had this disease. If he had stayed off the booze and the pills, he would have been going strong until ninety. He was just a big strong guy, but he fell into that trap of substance abuse and it killed him. We could see that breakdown in his thinking processes very early. Maybe the stress of producing was tough on him. I didn’t know him that well personally, I only knew that professionally that there was stuff going on with him.

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According to Gerrold – Gene Roddenberry (pictured above on the set of Star Trek: TNG) was a changed man by the time the second Trek series went into development

TrekMovie: From a philosophical perspective, it would be fair to say that by the time The Next Generation came around, Gene was more about the notion that conflict would no longer occur among the crew of the Enterprise, and that lack of dramatic tension boxed in the writers…

David Gerrold: Well that came from Gene’s lawyer [Leonard Maizlish], a scumbag of a human being. I cannot say enough things – he was a truly evil human being. He was going to be Gene’s helper on the show. He appointed himself Chief of Staff and he would go around and say we can’t do this and we can’t do that and “on Star Trek everybody loves each other.” For those of us who had written for the show knew that wasn’t true! We knew our people got into arguments. But what happened was he would go to Gene and say “you can’t let David do this and can’t let Dorothy do that.” Everybody has to be good friends. It is that whole ‘band of brothers’ thing we established in the first. Well, no. What we established in the original series was that there was a lot of tension between Kirk, Spock and McCoy. It is normal and appropriate. Yes, there should be tension between these people who have different jobs. But you get Leonard Maizlish wandering the halls telling writers “you can’t do this” and everybody is terrified because you could argue with Leonard and explain to him and the next thing you know you get a memo from Gene that was dictated by Leonard. I had it happen to me several times where I would talk to Gene and explain that I thought “Data” was a bad name for the android and Gene would say “you are probably right, come up with another name.” And we would come up with another name and the next thing – later that afternoon – Gene would say “no, I’ve talked it over with my lawyer, we will keep the name Data.” Another time I would say we should do so and so and he would agree and then later in the day Gene would say “I’ve talked to the lawyer and we have to do it this way instead.” And I was “why does a starship need a lawyer, Gene?!”  That was the control that the lawyer had.  Gene was terrified that the studio would try and take the show away from him, so we ended up with this bizarre circumstance that Gene was so afraid of losing his show that he gave control away to his lawyer and he didn’t trust me or Dorothy Fontana after.  That was the part that hurt Dorothy and I the most is that Gene stopped trusting us and started treating us as the enemy.  The result of that is that I am not going to fall into the “Gene was the Great Bird of the Galaxy” bullshit that everybody loves to share, because I saw Gene being something other than the Great Bird of the Galaxy.

TrekMovie: Let’s talk about “Blood and Fire” – the AIDS allegory that you wrote and the obstacles you ran into trying to get it produced.

David Gerrold: I don’t blame Gene as much as I blame Rick Berman for that clusterfuck. Others have confirmed it. They have said that in their experience Rick Berman was a raging homophobe, which makes the whole thing even more bizarre. Because, before Rick Berman came on the show, he had written a three-page memo on ‘here are some of the stories we could tell, some of the issues we could address’. And number three on his three-page memo was AIDS and how we should do something about AIDS. So now Gene and I appeared at a Star Trek convention in November of 1986 and somebody asked “will there be gay people aboard the Enterprise?” And Gene – to give him credit for knowing the right thing to say at the right time – said “yes, it is time, we should show gay people on board the Enterprise.” This got a lot of applause. So then he repeated it in a staff meeting and balled out one of the producers and said “no, it’s time” So I figured if Gene said it in a staff meeting, then he truly means it. So it was time for me to get a script assignment and I started to do “Blood and Fire,” because I wanted to do something so far removed from funny. I wanted to show I could do something horrifying. Here is something about this disease that is so awful that we are not allowed to rescue anyone from that other ship but we don’t find out until after our away team has already beamed over so now we have to try. So the story wasn’t about AIDS as much as it was about the fear of AIDS. People had stopped donating blood because they were so afraid of AIDS.

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Rick Berman and Gene Roddenberry on Star Trek: TNG set – Gerrold came into conflict with both producers

TrekMovie: There was tremendous amount of misinformation out there at the beginning.

David Gerrold:So I wanted to do a story that involved blood donorship and the whole story was structured that we would need blood donors from the Enterprise to show that the crewmembers were not afraid of donating blood. I even wanted us to put a card at the end of the episode saying you can donate blood, contact your local Red Cross. I figured if blood donorship went up after the episode it would get news. It would not only demonstrate how big the audience was and be good PR for the show, but also raise blood donorship. So it was a win-win. So that the script, somewhere in there I was “you know what, these two characters, they could be boyfriends.” There were two lines of dialog. “How long have you two been together?” and “Since the Academy.” That was it. I go off to a Star Trek cruise and come back to find there has been a clusterfuck. Rick Berman writes that we can’t do this episode and how we are on at 4PM in some markets and mommies are going to write letters. We get half the staff saying we shouldn’t do it and the other half – those who could recognize a good story – saying “this is a hell of a script, we got to do this and demonstrate we are the Star Trek that everybody’s been waiting for.”

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1985 NYC Blood Drive shows donor concerns with AIDS – Gerrold wanted to write "Star Trek" allegory to deal with the isssue

So Gene’s lawyer sits on Gene’s face for a while – he was another homophobe – and said “you have to take the gay characters out.” And so I give half the lines to Tasha Yar, because if we still get the episode on the air, the point will still be made. And we go through rewrite after rewrite after rewrite and the script doesn’t get any better and I see what is going on and I don’t want to be trapped in an office where we have hypocrites running the place. I can’t deal with this, my health was already starting to suffer. So I started taking vitamins and nothing is getting better and I said “I can’t deal with this hypocrisy” and then I hear a rumor that they are planning to fire me. So I am thinking “they really don’t want to go there.” And then I get offered a really nice deal over at Columbia. So I tell Gene I want take the deal at Columbia and to please not renew my contract. He and I part pretending to be amicable and a week later my agent calls me and says “why are people saying you got fired from Star Trek?”. I bring in a stack of everything I had. We go over to the Guild and the Guild looks at it and files a grievance that says “you have this kid doing producer level work and you were not paying him producer level wages and the Guild.” The Guild examines the “created by” and “developed by” credentials to see if I am entitled to those because of the amount of work I did and that Gene didn’t. So I ended up making six figures off of that little thing, because Gene and the lawyer set out to screw me. Dorothy made at least as much because she got jumped on her credits too. And the lawyer was also telling people “Dave is mentally ill too.” They paid for that. He repeated that to a reporter for the LA Times and my lawyer called him and said “what kind of car do you drive?” and he said “what do you mean?” and he said “because David is going to own it when we get finished suing you.” That ended that particular bit of slander, but I know for a fact that Gene set out to destroy my career for television because while there is no official black list, if you say “so and so is difficult to work with” you won’t get work.

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TNG’s "Lonely Among Us" was the last produced TNG episode with Gerrold credited (as "Program Consultant")

Not only could I not get a phone call returned, for ten years I couldn’t even get an agent because Gene and Berman and everybody they had working for them was going “oh yeah, David Gerrold is a hard…” Look, after a few years everybody knew it wasn’t me, it was Gene. But, I kept my mouth shut because you couldn’t win with the steamroller of lies. So I just went off and concentrated on writing novels and adopted a little boy. And in the long run, Gene did me a favor. I got to write books that would not have been written any other way and I got the most remarkable son. I have to walk myself around the block on this. I could have stayed on Star Trek. I could have found my way to make it work or found a way to come back after a while, but then after a few years I would have had a credential of being a name on the credits of a second-rate show or I could go back to my first love, and be known as a pretty good science-fiction writer. So Gene did me a favor there. So I got to write all the books I wrote in the nineties, and “The Martian Child” which won me a Hugo and Nebula and some other trophies and I got to rediscover my love of writing. And by the way, my health improved so fast once I was out of that office, it was amazing. Gene did me a favor. The ten years I couldn’t get an agent were great. I rediscovered how to be a good writer because I wasn’t writing to please a producer but to tell a good story.

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Gerrold’s 1995 novel "The Martian Child" was made into a feature film with John Cusack in 2007

TrekMovie: What are your thoughts on the two JJ Abrams Star Trek films?

David Gerrold: You know JJ has a different style of writing and Melinda Snodgrass recently pointed it out and I think she said it brilliantly. What JJ does – and he isn’t the only one, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were doing this in some of their worst pictures – where they get an idea “let’s have the dinosaur do this” or “let’s have the robots do that.” Let’s have this moment on screen. So they would write the story to the action moment – to the blockbuster moment. So you get a series of moments like you are going through a dark ride at Disneyland and it pretends to be a story. But a real story has a character that is growing and you are tracing the emotional journey, not the physical journey. But a lot of the movies being produced by the studios have fallen into the blockbuster trap of we have to have big moments, big blockbuster, CGI, exciting moments. And so what gets sacrificed is the emotional growth of the characters. There is no emotional through line. For me that is the problem in the JJ pictures is that they very exciting but they don’t get us back to the heart and soul of the original Star Trek which is that Kirk has an interesting problem to solve that forces him to deal with a moral dilemma of the prime directive, being a Starfleet captain, and following the rules. And if you look back there was a severe limit on what Kirk could do because he was a Starfleet captain. And what we got in the JJ movies is a little too much Star Wars and not enough Star Trek.

TrekMovie: What are you currently working on and what do you have coming up in the future?

David Gerrold: I just finished a short story. I have got a story in the current issue of the magazine Fantasy and Science Fiction and one more in the next issue and two more that the editor has bought but hasn’t scheduled and four more on his desk. I also just finished stories for two other anthologies and I have to get back to work on a couple of books I promised. And I might have a movie deal but I can’t talk about that.

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Gerrold continues to write – his latest short story is in the current issue of “Fantasy and Science Fiction” magazine

 

New Gerrold.com Site + Win David Gerrold eBooks

David Gerrold recently rebooted his website, Gerrold.com, and it’s full of new features and free stuff, including a free copy of “The Kennedy Enterprise” when you subscribe to David’s mailing list, free excerpts from David’s newly-released eBooks each month, giveaways, and more. Twelve of David’s classic works have been recently released in eBook formats, and you can get details on those eBooks on Gerrold.com.

BOARDINGENTERPRISE_giveaway

And you have a chance to win a copy of Gerrold’s “Boarding the Enterprise” behind the scenes books, plus four e-books, thanks to David. Just click on the contest embed below.

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Be sure to check in with David on his website, Facebook, and Twitter for information on new publishing ventures and accomplishments, giveaways, author appearances, and more.

 

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kmart
September 12, 2014 5:58 pm

Man, Melinda Snodgrass has got it so figured out. Pinpointed exactly what the wrongheadedness is in the Abrams approach, apart from the stupidity.

I really wish she had gotten to do her FIREFLY idea back in 1990 (described as Han Solo meets the Nostromo), a working class space show. I spent a couple years working on the same lines myself, as a reaction against what TREK had become.

Cygnus-X1
September 12, 2014 6:27 pm

“But a lot of the movies being produced by the studios have fallen into the blockbuster trap of we have to have big moments, big blockbuster, CGI, exciting moments. And so what gets sacrificed is the emotional growth of the characters. There is no emotional through line. For me that is the problem in the JJ pictures is that they very exciting but they don’t get us back to the heart and soul of the original Star Trek which is that Kirk has an interesting problem to solve that forces him to deal with a moral dilemma….” – David Gerrold

Where have I heard this exact criticism, almost in these exact words, many, many, many times before? BR Trek lacking character growth and overarching themes and relying too much on action and FX….

Wait, nobody tell me…I wanna guess this one on my own.

Man…it’s on the tip of my tongue

John in Canada, eh?
September 12, 2014 6:39 pm

I’m a fan of Mr. Gerrold’s work. I loved his novels ‘When HARLIE was One’, and ‘The Man Who Folded Himself’. His Chtorr novels are great (well, the first three), and his “World of Star Trek” is a great read. In it he points out several flaws in TOS, many of which are corrected in TNG. His book “The Galactic Whirlpool” is easily the best of any of the Bantam Star Trek novels. And there are a paragraphs in his novelization of “Encounter at Farpoint” that I can recite by memory, they’re just so beautifully written and inspirational.

But I can’t agree with his comments on the first JJ Abrams movie, that there was no emotional development or growth. I think Kirk’s journey from ‘genius-level repeat offender’ who broke the rules into a true Starfleet leader was well-handled in ST (2009). [But I can’t make that same argument for ST:ID — he nailed it for that one.]

Nice to have interviews in September with those involved in TOS. Just feels right.

Harry Ballz
September 12, 2014 6:40 pm

@2

Careful, Cygnus-X1, if any of us try to say that we were right, the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers here will start with their moronic “haters gotta hate” garbage.

CmdrR
September 12, 2014 6:57 pm

I’m glad he didn’t give up.
I love GR, but I have known for some years that a saint he ain’t. … wasn’t.
The 80’s burned up a lot of good people.

Stelios Arianoutsos
September 12, 2014 6:57 pm

Thank you TrekMovie for having the guts to publish this one. Well done.

I never understood why crew conflict is so different between TOS and TNG. All those years I consider it like a creative decision. Like “species evolution” let’s say. Never liked my “explanation” but didn’t have anything else to excuse it.

Now I know. Thank you.

Cygnus-X1
September 12, 2014 7:04 pm

4. Harry Ballz – September 12, 2014

What?

Sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of my own hating hate-filled hatefulness.

Obviously, it’s hate for hate’s sake (“I spit my last breath at thee”) that has been motivating my persistent comments about BR Trek over the years and not rational ana|ysis combined with time spent thinking about it.

And I hate myself for that. All of it.

I hate myself sooo much…It it the fee— it…flames…

…flames…

Flames, on the side of my face, breathing…breathle— heaving breaths…heaving brea—

Cygnus-X1
September 12, 2014 7:22 pm
3. John in Canada, eh? – September 12, 2014 But I can’t agree with his comments on the first JJ Abrams movie, that there was no emotional development or growth. I think Kirk’s journey from ‘genius-level repeat offender’ who broke the rules into a true Starfleet leader was well-handled in ST (2009). And, just out of curiosity, what was it in ST09 that gave you the feeling that Kirk had undergone an internal, emotional journey and grown as a person? Where was that part in the movie exactly? Was it when he used Spock Prime’s inside info to trick Alt Spock into coming unglued? Was that Kirk’s emotional journey? Or, maybe when he offered a helping a hand to Nero, and when Nero refused, Kirk fired lots of phasers and photon torpedoes to destroy Nero and his ship? Was that Kirk’s emotional journey? Or, maybe it was when he got a medal pinned on him and was awarded command of the Enterprise at the end? Is that the part of the story that shows us how Kirk has changed as a person? He has a medal on his chest and a ship at the end, so shows us that he’s grown as a person, right? But, where was the harrowing, emotional journey that Kirk went through in ST09, where events forced him to face hard truths about himself and ultimately overcome them to emerge a better, wiser, more emotionally mature man for it? Where was that part again? Sorry, I… Read more »
Red Dead Ryan
September 12, 2014 7:29 pm

#2. Cygnus,

Here you go taking advantage of another opportunity to bash the BR movies while (very conveniently) staying silent on Rick Berman’s and Gene Roddenberry’s obnoxious, homophobic and hateful behaviour during the early years of TNG. Your lack of objectivity is very apparent.

Anyway, I guess it’s a good thing Rick Berman is no longer working in Hollywood. We don’t need these types around anymore.

Now we know who’s strictly to blame for the lacklustre first couple of years of TNG. How can any writer expect to put out quality scripts under the conditions David Gerrold just described?

Jonboc
September 12, 2014 7:55 pm

I knew after the first half-dozen episodes that TNG wasn’t Star Trek, as I understood it. It had the name but none of the spirit or character dynamics. It was all very frustrating. I knew Roddenberry was losing it when he cobbled together the Motion Picture…like TNG, it was called Star Trek but it seemed so unfamiliar. Now I know why TNG was so different from it’s namesake! And not for the better, IMO.

And Mr. Gerrold is making the same mistake as many on this site, expecting the growth and evolution of a character over 79 episodes to be duplicated in 4 hours of film time. It’s the same balancing act that the series had. Action, adventure, drama, humor and romance. You only have 120 minutes to tell a story using all of those ingredients, and, being action/adventure in nature, those elements are given whatever screen time they can afford, in order to tell and pace the story properly. You’re NEVER going to achieve the same level of character growth in a 2 hour movie that you enjoyed over 79 hours of storytelling. You’re just not.

Bill Peters
September 12, 2014 8:16 pm

I agree wtih Jonboc, I think the BR Movies are Great take on Trek and more like TOS then TNG also why the hate BR Trek, funny Star Trek II,II, VI had a lot of Action…

Cygnus-X1
September 12, 2014 8:35 pm
10. Jonboc – September 12, 2014 And Mr. Gerrold is making the same mistake as many on this site, expecting the growth and evolution of a character over 79 episodes to be duplicated in 4 hours of film time. Ever see a little movie called Empire of the Sun? Directed by a guy named Steven Spielberg? It’s about the harrowing journey, both emotional and physical, of a proper, privileged English boy of 10 or so who becomes separated from his upper parents in the middle of WW2 as the Japanese occupy China, where the boy had been living with his upper-class parents in a huge mansion. Throughout his months spent struggling for survival and looking to opportunistic mercenary types for the help that he desperately needs to stay alive, the boy is so transformed, both internally and externally, that when he is finally reunited with his parents at the end of the movie, they barely recognize each other. That’s what you call a “character arc,” “character development, “overarching theme,” and as David Gerrold put it, “an emotional through-line.” And that movie ran 2hrs 30 min. So, don’t tell me that it can’t be done due to the commercial constraints of the art form. And, to a somewhat more basic degree, but even more relevant by virtue of its genre, I point you to a little movie called The Matrix. Not the two sequels. Forget about those. Just the original. Sci-fi movie. Great concept. LOADS of action. LOADS of FX. And… Read more »
Cygnus-X1
September 12, 2014 8:49 pm

9. Red Dead Ryan – September 12, 2014

Normally, you’re telling me to shut up. And now you want me to talk even more, about Berman and Roddenberry?

I got an impression of what GR was like from the Solow & Justman book. David Gerrold’s account doesn’t surprise me, except for the bit about GR having ceded so much control to the scumbag lawyer.

I’m a fan of GR, but I don’t fool myself about his shortcomings. Ever read the lyrics to the TOS theme? Yes, it had lyrics. And they’re a joke. GR wrote them just so that he’d be entitled to half of the royalties, much to the dismay of the theme’s composer, Alexander Courage. GR was good at looking out for #1. Maybe he’d been screwed over enough in life that he decided not to be anybody’s fool any more. Or, maybe he was just greedy. Or, maybe both. I really don’t know.

As for Rick Berman, I’ve never been a fan of his. But, he’s out of Trek now. No need to complain about him.

Cap'n Calhoun
September 12, 2014 9:03 pm

“they don’t get us back to the heart and soul of the original Star Trek which is that Kirk has an interesting problem to solve that forces him to deal with a moral dilemma of the prime directive, being a Starfleet captain, and following the rules”

He just gave a plot summary of Into Darkness…

Cygnus-X1
September 12, 2014 9:05 pm

12. Cygnus-X1 – September 12, 2014

P.S.

I shouldn’t say that Neo’s character arc in The Matrix was “more basic,” but rather that it’s a bit clunkier, less smooth and less detailed than Empire of the Sun in terms of showing vs. telling. In Empire of the Sun we live the journey and are more along for the ride with the protagonist, Jamie. The Matrix is still a great movie, though. And still a good example to illustrate the shortcomings of BR Trek.

Platitude
September 12, 2014 9:26 pm

Really interesting article, thanks for doing this! Sounds like the early TNG days were pretty rough. Not sure what to make of his homophobe accusations of Berman, but either way I’m glad Berman is out of Trek. (Anyone who bashes on the new Trek movies seems to forget the last Trek movie that came before them.)

I think that Trek 09 and Into Darkness is great movies, but its probably true that they are more like Star Wars than Star Trek. They are going for a different style and tone than the TV shows. I like the exciting action-based nature the new movies have. If you don’t like it, thats fine. There are what, five Trek shows that you can go watch on Netflix right now? I don’t understand why these comment threads turn in to so much of accusing people or putting people down for the Trek they enjoy. There is enough of different types of Star Trek out there that everyone should be able to go watch the one they like and just let it be at that.

Strange that its so hard to find civility among Trekkies these days.

kmart
September 12, 2014 9:31 pm

Agreeing with CygX on pretty much all, but just for the record, EMPIRE OF THE SUN cost 35 mil back when that was a decent chunk of change and it really didn’t do good biz at all. But it is still a fine example of what is lacking or failing in attempting vis a vis the Abrams pics, dramatically.

To me, the most valid example for trek folks would be SERENITY, which delivers everything I would want from a TREK movie, while also appealing to folks who never saw FIREFLY. You have character warmth, character growth, a story that works, and stuff that really hurts as well as the smiles.

endeavour crew
September 12, 2014 9:34 pm

BR Trek?

Not JJ Trek?

Nick
September 12, 2014 9:48 pm

Really interesting & illuminating article. Thank you.

September 12, 2014 10:08 pm

Kudos to TrekMovie for having the courage to run a piece like this one.

If you’d like to hear more about the other side of Gene Roddenberry, there’s a biography out called “Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek,” by Joel Engel. Engel quotes Roddenberry’s physician about the dementia that Roddenberry had during the last decade or so of his life, dementia brought on — as Gerrold says — by substance abuse.

Dorothy Fontana wrote a foreword to the book, in which she talks about the way that Roddenberry treated her during the TNG years, which came as a great shock to her after they’d been great pals and co-workers during the TOS years. She confirms what Gerrold is saying here, about Roddenberry’s lawyer having his hand in everything and Roddenberry’s being nasty and paranoid. It’s a very sad tale, but it explains a lot, from how different TMP felt from TOS to how dull the first two years of TNG were.

Roddenberry’s strengths were larger than life … and so were his weaknesses. It’s a sad picture, but the truth is always illuminating.

Although we wouldn’t have Star Trek without Roddenberry, so much of what we loved in TOS was actually the contribution of Gene Coon, Dorothy Fontana, Bob Justman, Leonard Nimoy, Marc Daniels, and Joseph Pevney. It takes a village to make a Star Trek. :-) When afflicted with alcohol-induced dementia, Mr. Roddenberry forgot that.

Cygnus-X1
September 12, 2014 10:16 pm

17. endeavour crew – September 12, 2014

BR Trek? Not JJ Trek?

Same thing.

Though we don’t exactly know the degree of JJ’s involvement in the next one—it might be more of an Orci movie than a JJ movie—but, it’ll still be a Bad Robot production. And obviously there were other people additionally responsible for the first two—Kurtzman, Lindelof, Burke.

dswynne
September 12, 2014 11:22 pm

@2. (Cygnus-X1): Putting aside your smugness, no one says that NuTrek lack solid characterization. The disagreement is that you and those like you think NuTrek is either a) not Star Trek or, b) bad Star Trek. IMO, I disagree because there are enough ‘Trek elements that I enjoy as pure entertainment value, with a little bit of pathos thrown in. And I’ve always said that had it not been the failure of the fans to maintain a solid base of supporters, there would not have been a need to do a “preboot” in the first place. So unless you, and those like you, watched every series up through “Enterprise”, while going to see “Nemesis”, you have only yourself to blame. BR was hired to reinvigorate a dead franchise, which was done successfully. And while I have had problems with the script, which you graciously pointed out as the source of the problem with STiD, I’m fine with BR handling ‘Trek.

I just hope that CBS gets off its duff to put out a series where a more character and thematic study can be properly looked into.

smike
September 12, 2014 11:25 pm

“But a real story has a character that is growing and you are tracing the emotional journey, not the physical journey. But a lot of the movies being produced by the studios have fallen into the blockbuster trap of we have to have big moments, big blockbuster, CGI, exciting moments. And so what gets sacrificed is the emotional growth of the characters.”

Lack of character development is NOT the main problem with the reboots… Both JJ movies suffered from a lack of conceivable plot and coherence, even the “physical journey” doesn’t make much sense…
Nero’s “mission”, that Delta Vega being a Vulcan moon of sorts, Transwarp beaming to Qu’onos, the E standing still at the moon, then crashing down into Earth’s atmosphere… There is no cohesion and coherence, even within the new movie series. If don’t mind plotdriven stories if the plots make any sense.

smike
September 12, 2014 11:29 pm

“but it explains a lot, from how different TMP felt from TOS to how dull the first two years of TNG were.”

Most interesting: these are the two Trek properties I probably love the most. TMP and TNG S 1+2 are still my favourite kind of Trek.

dswynne
September 12, 2014 11:45 pm

^^
Oops, forgot a word:

“Putting aside your smugness, no one says that NuTrek DIDN’T lack solid characterization…”

I wish there was an edit feature on these things.

But, I also want to add that there was definite character growth in ST09 for Kirk: he rose, he fell, he rose. Add “diamond in the rough” elements into the script, and you have the classic hero’s journey. The problem with STiD was that the lessons in the ST09 were lost or ignored for the sake of a gimmick (i.e. the mission on Nibiru, dealing with Khan/Marcus, etc.). In the case of the Nibiru mission, Kirk should have been truthful about what he did, and flatly stated that he, in good conscious, could not allow a primitive culture to perish. THAT is what James Kirk would have done. He wouldn’t have knowingly lied on a report. Sure, Kirk would have faced the possibility of a hearing, but at least there would have been some principles involved. Heck, he could have referred to his experience on Vulcan, and how the lost of a great people had given him a reason to be protective of the people of Nibiru.

Oh, and I wouldn’t have killed off Pike just to provide a motive for Kirk to go after John Harrison. A standard trope that has been done to death.

Anyway, good interview with David Gerrold.

Cygnus-X1
September 12, 2014 11:50 pm

17. kmart – September 12, 2014

just for the record, EMPIRE OF THE SUN cost 35 mil back when that was a decent chunk of change and it really didn’t do good biz at all.

You’re right, I flubbed the math. It made $65 million, but would probably have needed to make over $70 million to break even.

And I agree with you about Serenity. I’ve mentioned previously that the Firefly/Serenity relationship would be great for Trek—use the feature film format to focus on, flesh out and resolve a particular issue or issues left unresolved and/or undeveloped in the TV series, e.g. the mysteries of the River and the Reavers in Firefly. That’s also what TWOK did in exploring and resolving the issue of what ever happened to Khan after Space Seed, and most people think that turned out well. Insurrection is interesting as an example of the exact opposite—they took a resolved issue from TNG Journey’s End (7×20), and then unresolved it and had our heroes begin the story with pretty much the opposite position on the issue as they’d had in the TV episode.

Anyway, The Matrix is a better example of a profitable movie with an overarching theme and character development. Looking at the numbers now…can you believe that the first Matrix grossed $171.5 million and the second did $742 million? Word of mouth effect, I guess…I hope.

Kevin A
September 13, 2014 12:15 am

Gees About time someone published something non-rosie about Star Trek. Good on you Trek Movie! I am an avid Start Trek fan from the 60s right through to now. I always felt Star Trek alumni were homophobes; given there resistance to breaking ground on gay issues, I must say my respect for Gene R and Rick B has taken a battering. I still love Star Trek but this interview is something I’ve been waiting years to see.

Cygnus-X1
September 13, 2014 12:17 am
22. dswynne – September 12, 2014 I disagree because there are enough ‘Trek elements that I enjoy as pure entertainment value, with a little bit of pathos thrown in. Well, that makes things very simple. The fleeting thrill of the action scenes combined with the cheap tear-jerking ploy of killing off a character at the beginning of the story isn’t enough for me. And the writing problems, which you acknowledge, are so bad to me that the movies don’t hold up well at home after I’ve had a chance to think about them. I simply don’t want to watch them because there are so many annoying bits in them. But, it’s more than just that. The TNG movies were even worse, in terms of plot holes, at least. And the TNG protagonists weren’t written well, either (though, the villains were written somewhat better). The difference is the whole mentality and sort of “mission statement” (or lack thereof) underlying the BR movies. Everything about the BR movies is as shallow and superficial as it could possibly be. Judging purely by what I see on screen, I’d conclude that the people who wrote them had never had an interesting or deep thought in their entire lives and had never experienced anything worth even talking about. They’re just there to make money because someone even more shallow than them hired them. They try to fool the audience into thinking that the movies are deep and meaningful, when the exact opposite is true. And… Read more »
Cygnus-X1
September 13, 2014 12:26 am

25. dswynne – September 12, 2014

But, I also want to add that there was definite character growth in ST09 for Kirk: he rose, he fell, he rose. Add “diamond in the rough” elements into the script, and you have the classic hero’s journey.

Are you kidding me? What “classics” have you been reading/watching?

See if you can answer what I asked in #8. What did Kirk confront and overcome about himself as a person, his mentality, his emotional being, that took him from who he was at the beginning of the story to who we’re meant to think he is at the end? What did Kirk “learn” via that story? And point to the places in the movie where we see the evolution of his character. Getting beat up a few times and learning absolutely nothing from it doesn’t qualify. Kirk is cocky at the beginning of the story and he’s cocky at the end of the story. Getting beat up didn’t “teach” him anything. Try again.

Jemini
September 13, 2014 2:37 am

I have a very vague feeling David didn’t really watch the movies lol. That sounds like generic critique (intercharchable with most nowadays franchises) purposely avoiding to mention too much details from the plot he didn’t like… For example, the second movie did deal with the prime direttive, I mean…
Either way, JJ is the director he didn’t write the story… pretty much like Roddenberry didn’t really write star trek and David should know this difference well ;)

Jemini
September 13, 2014 2:59 am

Man, the first movie gave more emotional development to Spock as a character with the destrouction of vulcan and all, than the TOS writers did in 40 years… Just that scene between him and Sarek…
Perhaps because he’s treated as a character and not the hero’s sidekick and ‘Tonto of star trek’
Gerrold himself in one of his books said that in TOS only Kirk was relevant as the main male character based on other main male characters of the time from other stuff (thus he was stereotyped too in ‘the role’) while the rest of the characters were treated as functions of the ship not the story. That their Kirk was so well developed, though, it’s still debatable for me.

Perhaps, nowadays movies follow the patterns of this era but their TOS was even worse in this regard as it also was deeply influenced by the biases and limits of that era that didn’t really make it so the characters could have this big character develpment that David is talking about. And the old writers had 3 seasons and a bunch of movies versus only 2 JJ&co have, context and all.
At its best, TOS was a melodrama with stereopypes abound that reflected on all the characters.

Late Night Trekkie
September 13, 2014 4:03 am
I don’t post often but I do read the comments sometimes but it can get pretty annoying because a lot of the most frequent posters seem to just be professional JJ haters. Let’s face it, we’re all fans and at the end of the day we’re fooling ourselves it we don’t admit that we’re jealous of JJ, Orci, Kurtzman et. al because we wanted it to be us and we just know that we would have done it so much better. The truth is that if anyone of us superfans had been hired by Paramount to do this that our purist vision, as we see it, would still be different from all the other superfans and we’d be the ones getting raked over the coals on this site instead of the BR guys. No matter how much a purist any of us thinks we are, we all would have kept what we thought was good but tried to change/improve what we thought in our infinite wisdom were the weaknesses of Trek. I can’t agree enough with Cap’n Calhoun and Jemini. I thought exactly the same thing when I read Gerrold’s comment about STID that his very criticism was essentially a plot synopsis of the very movie he was criticizing. My next thought was what Jemini said about not really being sure that he actually watched the movie. The truth is JJ is very restrained, by modern standards, in terms of the CGI work. I think the quality of the FX… Read more »
Steve Gennarelli
September 13, 2014 4:13 am

I don’t think Gerrold has really seen the JJ movies …or at least he can’t remember them too well.
In STID, Kirk’s character is more than humbled. Besides losing his life “at least temporarily”, he gets the hell beaten out of him by Khan, the guy who killed his mentor. He also doesn’t get command of the Enterprise at the start of the film.
So all of those things gave the young, once cocky, but now not as much, James T. Kirk …a full story arc…where his character has changed within those 2 plus hours we sat with him.
…and as someone else already stated more eloquently than I, Spock went thru his humbling story arc in ST09. Losing Vulcan, Losing his mother, learning from Spock Prime..He is a changed man at the end of that film.

Disinvited
September 13, 2014 5:19 am
# 22. dswynne – September 12, 2014 ” BR was hired to reinvigorate a dead franchise,…” — dswynne The published reports evidence simply doesn’t support this claim. Kurtzman and Orci were approached and sounded out because Sumner Redstone’s solution to problems caused primarily by Moonves’ mogul ambitions rent Paramount asunder and rebooted the studio, itself, replacing its experienced movie makers with the likes of execs whose sole experience was in television, i.e. Brad Grey and Gail Berman, and giving it an entirely new corporate identity which made it “Paramount” in name only. Berman, anxious to make a name for herself in her new inexperienced role as moviemaker, simply wanted clear title to the kudos for any movie being produced under her wings’ success and didn’t want it to be fettered with trade whispers that all she had done was simply slapped her name on all the hard groundwork done by the far more experienced and liked DeLine. So she jettisoned the old Paramount’s active Trek movie script development (Necessitating paying off what previous financial commitments had been inherited with it.) and started one she could unquestionably call her own (At the prodding of Moonves’ who told her he was going to take Trek elsewhere if she didn’t get things rolling.) in what pretty much ended up being a standard Hollywood regime change. But still being a movie neophyte, she decided to draw on her strengths from her experiences with the BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER tv series and sought out scriptwriters,… Read more »
Disinvited
September 13, 2014 5:49 am

#30. Jemini – September 13, 2014, #32. Steve Gennarelli – September 13, 2014

Oh come on now, even if your preposterous notions held the slightest credence, the article clearly establishes that David Gerrold is a Guild member! You think that when the 2009 script was nominated for a WGA that he might have had access to the copy they put up for consideration?

In my neck of the woods, Gerrold was a regular fixture on a local science fiction radio show for decades. I can assure you from that, that as the article strongly suggests: he doesn’t take the Guild or its business lightly.

Cervantes
September 13, 2014 5:59 am
Wow, such an illuminating article. So we have a lawyer without a clue to the dynamics of the original series to thank for the blandness of the ‘Next Gen’ series then? I remember looking forward to the new show so much, and wondering why on earth it was such a departure from the fun and friction of TOS. Now I understand, and just look on the whole ‘Next Gen’ side of Trek as existing in a totally seperate ‘alternative universe’ to the TOS show due to it’s very different tone, sadly. It’s such a pity that the supposedly strong-headed Roddenberry seems to have capitulated to this guy so much, if these comments are accurate. It’s ironic that the lawyer who insisted on ‘love all round’ between the show’s characters, managed to stir up so much ill-feeling between the people he interacted with in real-life! If only the show had ended up showing some of that kind of ‘internal drama’ going on in the actual storylines, and the writers hadn’t been so ‘boxed-in’… And I completely agree that the show went from being one of ‘ideas’ to merely one that was safely protective of the fact it was a successful franchise now. Too bad, and I hope that any future show will learn from it’s many mis-steps. As far as the whole ‘gay character/s’ thing goes…yes, the IDIC boat that the Trek makers claimed, has long since sailed and been missed as an opportunity to comment on that issue in a… Read more »
Jonboc
September 13, 2014 6:56 am
#12. “Ever see a little movie called Empire of the Sun? Directed by a guy named Steven Spielberg? It’s about the harrowing journey, both emotional and physical, of a proper, privileged English boy of 10 or so who becomes separated from his upper parents in the middle of WW2 as the Japanese occupy China, where the boy had been living with his upper-class parents in a huge mansion. Throughout his months spent struggling for survival and looking to opportunistic mercenary types for the help that he desperately needs to stay alive, the boy is so transformed, both internally and externally, that when he is finally reunited with his parents at the end of the movie, they barely recognize each other. And that movie ran 2hrs 30 min. So, don’t tell me that it can’t be done due to the commercial constraints of the art form” Sure, if you want to jettison the balance established in TOS (you know, the series the movies are BASED on) and do the Jim Kirk story. Which, personally, I would enjoy, but then you would hear the cries of how Spock was neglected, how Bones was neglected, how the ensemble was forgotten. The mandate was to bring the crew together and eventually bring them into the 5 year mission and get audiences excited about Trek again. They’ve done just that. You just need to realize, you’re type of Trek (TNG) is gone, and you’re never going to see that mindset in the BR movies, it’s… Read more »
Mr Smock
September 13, 2014 6:57 am

Hard or believe we managed to get TNG out of that whole mess. Sounds like it wasn’t much fun. I’ve heard Gene was a dick, but this sheds some more light on the exact dickness he possessed. The bit about his lawyer made me spit my coffee. Hilarious.

Marc Henson
September 13, 2014 7:18 am
I always felt that the first season of TNG was a little dull. It was just because some of them were a little boring. But later seasons were great and Yesterday’s Enterprise is still one of my favorites. And they did that without David Gerrold. Sure, he wrote good stuff, “The Trouble With Tribbles,” is the most famous episode of all probably. But The Next Generation DID get good eventually and honestly I can’t picture Data being called something else. I think that the show would have benefited from his presence though, and because of that, I can’t argue with his opinion of Gene Roddenberry. I never really bought the whole “great bird of the galaxy” thing either. But I respect the man, he created the best science fiction franchise ever made. As for his opinion of the JJ films, I don’t entirely agree with them. They are what they are and I like them from that. I think it’s okay to have a few major action films in the franchise. Even if one can say the plot is incoherent, at least we can say that the characters weren’t that bad. I felt that everybody’s fairly true to their TOS counterparts. Not so sure about Uhura though. But it really doesn’t matter much, being an alternate timeline. In any case we do need Trek on TV, but the movies do need to be bigger. And these days bigger is hard to do, especially since films like “The Matrix” came out… Read more »
SoonerDave
September 13, 2014 7:22 am

On more than one occasion here at TM, folks have posted some unflattering comments about Gene Roddenberry, and some have responded with a mixture of denial and umbrage that anything negative could be said about him. I think DG’s frankness here helps put a great deal of perspective on the realities of Roddenberry “The Trek Creator” vs Roddenberry the “real person.”

Those of us who started watching Next Generation and felt the bland oatmeal that came out of the bridge of the Enterprise knew *something * was wrong those first few seasons, and I think DG’s comments clearly bear out the genesis of that blandness. Perhaps, amid all the studio hassles, network interference, etc etc, we just have to admit that one of the biggest obstacles in the production of Trek was, in fact, Trek’s creator himself. Not intending nor desiring to throw dirt on the man’s grave, but simply to offer that a more realistic view of who Roddenberry was and later became gives us quite a bit more perspective on the ultimate direction the Trek franchise took/is taking over its nearly 50 years.

Irony can be pretty ironic.

Vultan
September 13, 2014 8:56 am

Wow, interesting article. Thanks!

Gerrold really nails the flaws of both TNG and the Abrams movies, though, as he pointed out, this is a problem with a lot of modern blockbuster movies (with a few exceptions).

FYI, check out Edge of Tomorrow when you can. It’s a different kind of summer movie that unfortunately did do as well as it should have in theaters. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was also good. Surprisingly emotional for a movie starring CG apes.

Vultan
September 13, 2014 8:57 am

That should be “…DIDN’T do as well as it should have…”

The Transformed Man
September 13, 2014 9:01 am
I tend to take a lot of Mr. Gerrold’s stories with a grain of salt. While there were certainly problems on TNG out of the gate I tend to believe Mr. Gerrold is really oversimplifying the problems surrounding the production, and placing blame on people for his own shortcomings: 1) The scapegoating Leonard Maizlish: I’ve read Engel’s book, and multiple accounts of the early days of the TNG, and while I believe Mr. Gerrold probably believes what he’s saying about his account of Maizlish, he’s simply directing his ire at the wrong person. Maizlish was a lawyer, and he was hired to protect Gene Roddenberry’s estate and his legacy. Maizlish was not a showrunner, and he had no aspirations about running the production… he was Gene Roddenberry’s legal representative; nothing more. The dictates coming from Maizlish were in fact Gene’s wishes. I’m sure at times Maizlish ran interference when he heard things that were contradictory to earlier states by Roddenberry, but he wasn’t some overlord trying to direct the show. Let’s face it, despite Gene’s Utopian vision that there would be no money in the future, or greed, Gene was in fact a fairly greedy person who tried to squeeze every penny out of the franchise he created. His experiences with NBC during the early days of Lincoln Enterprises probably had a lot to do with that. By the early 80s Paramount had basically shut him out of his own franchise. Now he was in control again. Based on numerous… Read more »
dswynne
September 13, 2014 9:23 am

@28 (Cygnus-X1):

But there is a hero’s journey with Kirk, something that you want to play down in order to congeal your overall points. That doesn’t mean that I down see the flaws in the journey (i.e. blowing up Vulcan), but the script narrative is still there; just no executed as well and as succinctly as it should be. I’m just not bothered by it as much as you and some others are, that’s all.

If there is one criticism we should all agree upon, it is that the films were boiled down to simplistic level because, unfortunately, as the studios have found out, blockbuster summer films profit on a simplistic approach (i.e. Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise). You have simple plots, cartoon characterization and gimmicks thrown into such films. I prefer more complex, sophisticated affairs in my genre films (i.e. The Matrix, as you pointed out), but apparently, what I want isn’t going to make money. As a ‘Trek fan, I see NuTrek as a snack, rather than a meal: I like snacks, but snacks are not going to sate my appetite (hence my slightly disappointment to STiD).

So, rather than just hate on the films, I take the good, with the bad, and enjoy NuTrek for what they are. Bonus if the script is good. That’s all.

dswynne
September 13, 2014 9:33 am

@34 (Disinvited): How is what I wrote not true? BR has a solid track record of making successful summer blockbusters and television shows. Meanwhile, Berman and company had trouble getting a new film off the ground after the dismal performance of “Enterprise” and NEM (from a marketing standpoint). Ergo, you want to hire a production crew that could reboot a property that can be used to pump up the sales of other aspects of that property (i.e. the DVD sales). Ergo, BR was hired to reinvigorate a dead franchise. Having said that, I am not discounting what you’ve written, especially since CBS isn’t inclined to take advantage of ‘Trek renewed interest by the public, opting only to put out old material as a safe investment (not to mention the fact that CBS turned down BR’s proposal to create a new series based upon NuTrek.

In other words, CBS was more interested in the films ability to showcase the ‘Trek franchise, using the popularity of the films to do so, rather than put any real investment in it, which is a shame.

Harry Ballz
September 13, 2014 10:06 am

@38 Mr Smock “I’ve heard Gene was a dick, but this sheds some more light on the exact dickness he possessed”

Hmmm…….

maybe they should have called the last movie STAR TREK INTO DICKNESS

Ahmed
September 13, 2014 10:12 am

@44. dswynne

“If there is one criticism we should all agree upon, it is that the films were boiled down to simplistic level because, unfortunately, as the studios have found out, blockbuster summer films profit on a simplistic approach (i.e. Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise). You have simple plots, cartoon characterization and gimmicks thrown into such films.”

Precisely. This is the main problem with STID. It was just another typical dumb blockbuster movie with lots of explosions, action scenes & very little time for our characters to engage in meaningful conversations. But again, it should come as no surprise to anyone given the fact that NuTrek is written by the same group that wrote the Transformers.

“As a ‘Trek fan, I see NuTrek as a snack, rather than a meal”

LOL, you’re not the only one who see it that way. Matt Singer over the Dissolve wrote in his retrospective review of STID:

“This movie is the cinematic equivalent of a Big Mac box: bright, colorful, carefully designed, and intended to be discarded after a single use, without any consideration whatsoever.”

http://thedissolve.com/features/one-year-later/591-one-year-later-star-trek-into-darkness/

Who cares
September 13, 2014 10:18 am

I haven’t made it all the way through Trek Nation yet but did Rod talk about Gene having the problems with drug abuse that Gerrold is talking about? I’ll take Rod’s word on it before Gerrold’s.

NCC 1701-LOLZ
September 13, 2014 11:19 am

So where’s Robbert Orci? I thought an alarm goes off in his office whenever someone criticizes ST09 or ITD on this site.

SoonerDave
September 13, 2014 11:20 am
@43 The Transformed Man Your comments re Gerrold and his “transforming” TNG into what his World of Star Trek suggested make a lot of sense *except* for the fact that Roddnberry could very easily have avoided the problem by *not bringing Gerrold into the TNG project in the first place*. If he were truly *that* paranoid about Gerrold taking over, eliminate the problem up front. Heck, he could have cut him out of the “guest appearance” in ST:TMP; but, no, there he was, right there with D.C. Fontana et al. Strange way to treat someone you’re convinced is trying to usurp your control. The reality here is that there are two options. GIven Roddnberry’s established history over the years, you can opt to say Gerrold’s story is either more or less likely to reflect consistency with that history. Given that high-profile individuals engaged in alleged substance abuse often find themselves under the undue influence of people near and dear to the power and money they imply, that this lawyer type was “protecting the franchise” relative to a possibly chronically impaired Roddenberry makes an awful lot of sense, and also tends to echo the kinds of things we’ve come to know about Roddenberry over his later years. Either that, or Gerrold is making the whole thing up, but for what point? I can’t fathom an angle of leverage or benefit to Gerrold for manufacturing a strained relationship between himself and Roddenberry, any more than I have doubted most anyone *else’s* stories… Read more »
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