Shatner: Roddenberry Was A Chiseler

It appears that William Shatner’s media tour for his autobiography “Up Till Now” may never end. In many of the previous interviews Shatner has noted that he thinks his former co-stars (in particular George Takei) should ‘let go’ of previous grievances, but in a new interview (and in excerpts from his book) it is Shatner who is airing a grievance…this time with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

Shatner on Roddenberry (from Parade interview)

He was a chiseler who wanted a cut of outside money his cast earned, demanded to be called ‘master,’ and prohibited poor Nimoy from using a company pencil.

More in the book
Although Shatner is known for his wry sense of humor, from reading his new book it appears he is serious about this issue. In “Up Till Now” Shatner writes:

After the first thirteen episodes writer/producer Gene Coon was brought in and Roddenberry became the executive producer, meaning he was more of a supervisor than working on the show day -to-day. After that his primary job seemed to be exploiting Star Trek in every possible way.

There are also more details in the book on what Shatner was referring to in the ‘chiseler’ comment he said to Parade. The book contains the recounting of a story from Leonard Nimoy about how he was offered $2000 (more than he made in a week) for a personal appearance on a Saturday and to make it he would have to leave an hour early on Friday. Nimoy gave notice a few days in advance but didn’t hear anything back until Friday. Then Roddenberry called Nimoy to his office. Roddenberry demanded that Nimoy give him 20% of his speaking fee as an agent, even though Nimoy’s agent had lined up the appearance. Nimoy refused and, again from “Up Till Now“, Nimoy is quoted recounting the following exchange between himself and Roddenberry:

“He looked at me and said, ‘The difference between your agent and me is that your agent can’t get you out of here at five o’clock on Friday and I can. And all it’ll cost you is twenty percent ”
“‘Gene, I can’t do that to this agent,’ I said. ‘He got me the job.'”
“And then he said, and I will never forget his exact words, ‘Well, you’re just going to have to learn how to bow down and say master.'”

Nimoy refused and eventually Roddenberry backed down and allowed Nimoy to go, but Nimoy is quoted in the book saying it “was the end of any semblance of a friendship” with Roddenberry. Shatner’s comment about the pencils is also in the book, recounting how studio later sent Nimoy a memo “informing him that he was not permitted to use the studio’s pens and pencils.”

For his part, Shatner notes in the book that he refused to go along with one of Roddenberry’s money making schemes.

Gene and I had a similar argument about a small medal of honor he wanted me to award to a member of the crew on the show. It had absolutely nothing to do with the plot–and everything to do with the fact that this medal was going to be sold by Lincoln Enterprises. The actors’ contracts called for a minimal participation in merchandise revenue and this was just a clever way to get around that.

More new pics of Shat at Parade

Shatner stilling ‘puzzling’ why he isn’t in Abrams Trek
In case you have been hiding under a rock, William Shatner still wants to be in the new Star Trek movie. In a separate interview with the UK’s Press and Journal, Shatner notes

I find it peculiar that I wasn’t asked. It was a great role that was written for me and as I aged, they aged the captain. I know that the director and producer JJ Abrams is a nice guy. I wasn’t hurt, but I was puzzled. I didn’t need the movie as a crutch professionally because I have so much to do but I’m amazed they didn’t solve the storytelling problems to incorporate me.

See the Shat tonight
William Shatner will be appearing on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, tonight (Monday June 2nd). We will update with video from that appearance by midnight Pacific)


Up Till Now is available now in Hardcover and audio

Up Till Now (Hardcover)


Up Till Now (Audio)


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I love Shatner. I don’t care what anybody says.


I definitely think I have to go find that book

Shatner: “I didn’t need the movie as a crutch professionally because I have so much to do but I’m amazed they didn’t solve the storytelling problems to incorporate me.”

Um, Mr. Shatner, that’s because Kirk DIED in Generations. Kirk “died” after the Enterprise B incident and was gone for 78(?) years and then he “died” on Veridia III for real. They couldn’t write the character in. How hard is that to understand?!!

That little story about Roddenberry wanting to be called “Master” is hilarious…and I can’t get the image of Roddenberry in Sith robe out of my mind…lol!!!

The Shat is dense when it comes to not being able to figure out why he’s not in the new film…

And I, for one, am tired of hearing him and fans talk about it.

Shat needs to move out of his daughter’s basement and “Get A Life”.

I had understood the use of the IDIC pendant was also a marketing avenue for Lincoln Enterprises, and that Nimoy wasn’t too thrilled to be hawking them in “Is There In Truth Is No Beauty”.

I still have the little 35mm film frames sold by Lincoln in the late 60s, mounted into slides, that were taken from outtakes collected from editing room remants. They’re kinda cool, but am told that when Paramount bought out Desilu, they put a stop to Roddenberry’s practice of selling what was essentially studio property (albeit discarded material).

I read the book, and it’s pretty good. I’d definately reccomend it.

Gene Roddenberry was human. In some cases, he was nasty. I hate the part of hero worship where you have to realize that, but it’s true. And while I wish Gene were here to give his side, I just don’t doubt the words of Mr. Shatner or Mr. Nimoy.
Still love Trek. Still admire Roddenberry’s contribution. But, it’s time to put things in their proper place.
Thanks — um, Staff.

Wait… since when was Shatner NOT in the new movie?

Gene was a true visionary.
Surely he was also a egomaniac.
The Master thing is probably true.
Some liberal minded people
become fascists if they get drunk
with power. Gene seemed like
a thoughtful person & a nice guy.
However all people have a dark side.

It’s funny how often Star Trek episodes offered soap-box lectures about the evils of materialism, and here’s the Great Bird tripping about pencils and trying to get a ‘piece of the action’ from Nimoy.

Also, don’t forget about how GR ripped half the royalties from the TOS composer.

11 – is that a haiku?

Roddenberry is dead and cannot reply or bring his point of view. Maybe the Shat is right, maybe he’s wrong, but as a matter of fact that poisonous comments sound a little gratuitous.

Bob Justman and Herb Solow’s book is worth a read on Star Trek for balance, considering their intimate behind the scenes involvement.

They recount the IDIC story as well as Roddenberry getting co-credit to Courage’s Star Trek theme.

(Unrelated, but also worth a read is the story behin the studio’s canning of the No. 1 character from “The Cage”, and it has nothing to do about belivabilty of a woman as second in command.)

It’s hard sometimes to see our childhood heroes as less-than-perfect, but it does make them more human.

After learning about the “Alexander Courage’s theme song lyrics” underhandedness some years ago, I don’t doubt much of anything said about him.

Oh, #11

I think you mean dictatorial or tyrancial, not fascist?

I wonder whether Louis B. Meyer’s behaviour in real life would have turned off audiences to some of the great MGM movies. Probably not. In like fashion, Gene’s legacy is bigger than his failures to be a nice guy. OK, maybe he was an outright a-hole at times. I think you have to look at the whole picture. Do we discount FDR’s leadership because he lied in the lead-up to WWII? Do we admire Neil Armstrong less because he had bouts of depression? Heroes are full of problems. Welcome to life after age 8.


Same thing. I can tell you for sure since I am Italian, where fascism was born and expressed itself as a tyrannical regime.

I remember reading in one of Shatner’s older books that Robert Wise wished he never took the directors seat for TMP. Mr. Wise said that it was a nightmare having setup shots for the day, and then Gene coming in and changing the scenes around on Mr. Wise. Robert Wise was an excellent director, he didn’t need Gene hounding him on the site everyday.

Stories like this make me appreciate people like Gene Coon, Robert Justman, etc. all the more.

I remember listening to Mr. Roddenberry speak at an on-campus event many years ago. I wondered then why he referred to Leonard Nimoy as “the actor who plays Mr. Spock”. He never used ‘any’ actors names during the entire evening. I thought that odd.

Gene was NOT a good person. Star Trek fans often confuse this because the love she he created so much. He deserves praise for the show he created, but as a person, he probably deserves a good punch in the face.


I honestly don’t understand the Shatner-Haters, nor the Shatner-Apologists. I personally enjoy his work and his interviews, and he’s arguably the second most recognizable face of STAR TREK. He’s given a lot to the fans, whether it’s his performances as Kirk, his appearances at conventions or his willingness to parody himself, much to our delight. In that sense, I cannot fathom the out-and-out HATRED that this man seems to instill in so-called TREK fans.

But the other side of the coin are those who would boycott STAR TREK XI and cannot seem to grasp that it ISN’T some vast conspiracy against Shatner that keeps him from being in the new film. I’m sure it has everything to do with story and script first, and a huge payout second. In that sense, yes, Shatner has indeed shot himself in the foot by accepting a part in the lackluster GENERATIONS and continually whining about not being in TREK XI (not to mention asking for a whopping paycheck for almost anything he does these days).

Some keep saying they’re “tired” of all the Shatner stories. I’m just tired of the vitriol that gets spewed back and forth whenever his name pops up these days. I’d love to see him in TREK XI, too, and I’m still holding out some (tongue-in-cheek) hope that he might make it, but he’s probably not going to be in it and that’s fine, too. Where’s the middle ground with Trekkies these days, where the Shat is concerned…?

First and foremost, Star Trek was created as a gimmick to make money. Period. Money for the creators, money for the studio and money for anyone else who could feed off of it.

In that the show managed to catch lightning in a bottle and the fans took it to mythical proportions still doesn’t alter the sobering fact for many here that it was still all about money.

It was Gene Roddenberry’s vision that got the show rolling. It was the contribution of many – producers, writers, actors, production workers and executives that made it what it was. Roddenberry milked it for every penny he could. And why not? It was technically his baby.

I don’t understand the defication of Gene Roddenberry. I always had the impression he was just as surprised of the show’s success as was everyone else. He just rode the Trek Gravy Train as long as he could -as did everyone else involved with “the Franchise”.

it is very conveniant to out live people and get the last word…

Sounds to me like Gene and The Shat were just too much alike. The only time Shat really shows any interest in Trek is when there is a pay check attached to it……


Communism is on the far left and fascism is on the far-right, ideologically. Tyrants can emerge on either side, of course (… the communist dictator seems more the hypocrite than the other, somehow).

‘Liberal-minded fascism’ makes little sense to me, anyhow.

I prefer to leave the garbage outside and enjoy what TOS gave us. They were all young, ambitious, and relatively not-so-very wealthy. Many of us would have likely done the same.

But if I ever ask someone to “bow down and say master”, please shoot me and take me out of my misery.

As far as WS not appearing in the next movie, it appears that he does not understand that we go to movies for the story they tell and not only for the people in them. Possibly he is joking. I would, in his shoes. I still love him anyway, just as I love my friend’s d og that craps on the floor from time to time.

It’s funny that Shat makes those kind of statements about Roddenberry
(And I’m not saying that they’re not true)

Lots of people say the same kinds of things about him.

Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact=Gene Roddenberry. Sometimes, you have to realize your heroes are real, fallable people. FC, in many ways, is a broad parallel for the real-world creation of Star Trek. Gene created something lasting and beneficial for so many people out of some less than savory motives.

Oh and yes Shat has given the fans alot, but he’s taken alot too.

Like their money.

I can’t help but recall the story about the lady who Paid $200 to get her picture taken with him and Nemoy.

Neither one of them even said hi to her, she walked up behind them, the photographer shot the picture before she was ready or even looking at the camera, and they ushered her and her husband out and moved through the line as quick as possible.

Something I have learned as I get older is that people we revere or hold to high standards usually fall short. I’m sure overall Gene was a good guy and he made something wonderful, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a saint.

I hope these anecdotes take some of the shine off GR as the be all and end all in regards to the “GR Vision of Star Trek”. I gag every time I heard Abrams et al invoke “Gene Roddenberry’s Vision®” when they’re talking up the new movie.
Creatively I’m much more in love with the work of Gene Coon, Bob Justman, Matt Jefferies, Wah Chang, WW Theiss, and the fine writers who contributed to TOS. I don’t enjoy the “GR Vision” as presented in TMP and early TNG.

So everyone knows. do not buy the audiobook from itunes!
almost everyone has had trouble with the download. it restarts ipods after playing only a few seconds of the book.
I as well as a bunch of others have remarked on this problem in the rating section of itunes.. however i dont even know if there is a way to talk to anyone about this problem

anyone else have something similar happen?

“Riding on their armchairs
They dream of wealth and fame
Fear is their companion
Nintendo is their game
Never done jack and two thumbs Down
And sidekick don’t say dick
We’ll laugh at others failures
Though they have not done shit”

-William Shatner, ‘Has Been”


I agree with you in many aspects. But we have to give significant credit to the guy that make the spine that allows the body to walk. And that is the really tough part.

As Peter Weller said as Paxton on Enterprise: I’m not the first leader who failed to live up to his vision for a better world (paraphrased, cannonites don’t shoot please ).

That’s the way I look at it.

Richard Wagner wrote Beautiful music and was an unrepentant antisemite
Mozart wrote Beautiful music and was a ho’ fo sho’

With Roddenberry, the Shat and all the rest…. they are human and subject to all of our human deficiencies. What will remain dear to me is the art they shared and helped create that inspires me to want to better myself and my world.

he’s still not in the movie

Holy Shat! I got a chance to get the Shat sign my copy of “Up Til Now.” So far, it’s an entertaining book.

Gene Roddenberry was a visionary and a deeply thoughtful man. “The Last Conversation” is a must read for insight into his genius.
However, he was a complicated man. “Inside Star Trek” gives insight into another side of GR, his total disregard for his family in his “home away from home” with the woman who later became his wife and his “casting couch” shenanigans that he openly flaunted.
It’s important to understand his total character and not jump to conclusions of “sainthood”.

“Communism is on the far left and fascism is on the far-right, ideologically. Tyrants can emerge on either side, of course ”

The political spectrum is not a plane so much as a sphere. Radicals and reactionaries do tend to exist on opposite sides but as the extremes of both sides travel to the far side of the sphere, they essentially end up in the same place.

guys….lets not turn this into a yet another boring ‘left v right’ poltical debate…aren’t there enough other sites on the web for that?

Gene also did a lot of strange things in the 70s after TOS and before TMP.

Just because someone created your favorite tv show and played the protagonist for your favorite tv show doesn’t make them great people…

I have SHAT’s SH()() book read page 10 if you have it and tell me when Dale Jr Passed away? Come on get it right there is a differen’t to SR and JR. Get it right if your going to make Race Car Driver References. I have read up to page 33. I am not sure about going on with it. I am already mad at the MR SHATNER for the Fawl treatment I got from him at the Book Soup Book Store in West Hollywood. I was in my Army Uniform and wanted him to autograph the book “To The Troops” and I was going to send it out after I read it to a Soldier deployed overseas. I was going to radomemly ad it into a care package, but shatner wasn’t going to do that he said “I’ll only write names nothing else” and was really rude about it. Differn’t comments then he made on his website about the Walter Reed Medical Center problems that he wrote about last year. Anyways Thanks for letting me Rant you can see more of the rant on my site.

He can write all he wants about Gene Roddenberry, but Shatner can’t event halfway fill his shoes. Liked his comment that it was his agent that got him the job > BULL CRAP if it wasn’t for Gene Roddenberry he wouldn’t have had the job in the first place. Also he should have bowed down to his Master. LOL (I doubt Roddenberry was like that) Shatner needs to get knocked off his high horse litterly and start to find himself again to be a nicer person before he passes on a mean old man!

Roddenberry’s tyrannical behaviour is legendary. I suspect the problem for him was that Trek developed a life of its own and he was desperately trying to keep control of it.

Eventually, of course, Nimoy, Shatner and co took it over, creatively. As much as anything that’s why he created TNG: he (and his lawyers) desperately wanted to regain control of Star Trek. This was part of what became the ‘Cult of Roddenberry’, where it seems Roddenberry started to believe his own myths. I’m sick of this ‘Gene’s Vision garbage. It disrespects all the other people who took Gene’s initial idea and turned it into something bigger!

Roddenberry’s ‘Vision’ created ‘The Cage,’ ‘TMP’ and some of ‘TNG’. Most of TOS, and the rest of the TOS-based films were the result of a lot of other people’s contributions as well.

Oh did I forget to mention he was a WWII Pilot and a LAPD MotorCycle Cop he went far as he put his vision out there he took risks and made it happen. he went from a small town of El Paso Texas to Hollywood. He deserved every penny he made and his contributions were endless to what he put back to sociality. So what if he milked Star Trek, He created it was his vision it was his Intlectural property.



(Sorry for Type’os in a hurry for Finals.)

If the story Shatner wrote down is (litterly!) true, then Roddenberry had no excuse for being such an ass to Nimoy. Doesn’t change that what he started and helped to create is wonderfull on lots of levels. I just don’t see the need to write this down now of paying much attention to it as Shatner seems to do now.

And oh, 37, I’m just guessing that you do not mean to say that homosexuality is a “human deficiency”. That would be worse than everything Roddenberry alledgedly ever pulled.

Gotta love that Shat! Can’t wait for Leno tonight, should be good.

Spock’s quote to Saviik in Trek II sums this up best “Nobody’s perfect.” For my money , if all GR did was combine the words “Star” and “Trek” into a title, that’s enough to grab some cash, within reason of course.