Gene Roddenberry vs Star Trek

John, Ken, and Mission Log Executive Producer Rod Roddenberry talk over Star Trek with and without its creator – Gene Roddenberry. Plus questions from panel attendees. Once more from the Rio, we put Gene Roddenberry Versus Star Trek in the Mission Log.

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  1. Muthsarah says:

    Apparently, you guys aren’t looking forward to “The Game” any more than I am. :p

  2. CmdrR says:

    Heady stuff, this Trek! Love the discussions.

  3. Meghanf says:

    I really enjoyed listening to this. Something that it brought up for me, thinking about both the Gene/post-Gene division and, as one of the audience members brought up, the pre- and post internet and 24 hour news cycle division, is whether those two things are related to why it seems to me that the universe has stopped moving forward. Everything (canonical at least) since the end of Voyager: Enterprise, the reboot films, and now Discovery are looking backward at what has already been. Has the world become too self-aware and wary of instant on-line commentary to risk doing truly new things?

    • Durakken says:

      I think that has a lot more to do with going forward in the Trek universe leads to 2 very unfortunate things. All out war, which a lot of fans don’t want to see, between The Federation and several other major powers where they crumble and then rebuild. If we beyond that time period time travel becomes a thing as well as imagining technology that far surpasses what we already think about and have today is highly unrelatable… The Federation at that point is one of those god like races that we see in the series and the Q in TNG+ which doen’t make for very good stories, unless… tying it into the show, we go to the idea of “Everything is alright” and we start doing morality plays.

      • deaddropsd says:

        I think w the “Dominion War”- most of “Q”s assertions were borne out. In fairness, who wants to watch a show about people who get a long w everyone? I think Gene’s message may have been extrapolated a bit too far, suggesting, no conflict…but oh well…

    • rocketdave says:

      As I’ve heard Larry Nemecek say to naysayers who argue that Star Trek should keep moving further and further forward into the future, it’s all still in the future from our perspective. Within the vastness of the Star Trek universe, did absolutely nothing significant occur between Enterprise and the TNG era besides what we saw on screen? I feel like they can still find new, interesting stories to tell within unexplored areas of that time frame.

      • Meghanf says:

        I was less thinking about the quality of the stories being produced and more wondering if repeatedly working within the confines of what has come before was indicative of a certain aversion to risk. Is working between Enterprise and TNG like bowling with the kiddie bumpers in place? Sure you can bowl a perfect game and never need the bumpers, but why are you insisting that they be there?

    • Gail Gerard says:

      For some reason, every time I think of the Gene/Post-Gene argument, my brain also wants to include the Walt/post-Walt argument I’ve had so many times with hardcore Disney fans who can be just as stubborn and hardheaded about “What Walt would have wanted.” as the most rabid, movie prop replica phaser wielding, foaming at the mouth Trekkies are about what Gene would have wanted.

      • Durakken says:

        Not completely untrue. There is a thing where as things get worse entertainment gets more hopeful. As things get better entertainment get more bleak. So you can look at the 90s and the boom period that it was and see it as it correlates to a darker Star Trek. Likewise, as things have gotten worse in the world since that point the Star Trek movies have been more actiony or light.

  4. regeekery - JD says:

    today is Gene Roddenberry’s birthday!

    listened to the audio version of this panel but now I want to watch the video

  5. Robert Karma says:

    The Eaglemoss Starship collection is pretty doggone amazing. Just be careful to keep the boxes they came in which I didn’t do. When I moved I had to pack these ships the best I could but some of the ships still suffered some damage. So learn from my mistake and keep the boxes in storage to avoid my fate!

  6. Robert Karma says:

    It’s difficult to frame the first 25 years of Star Trek as just the Gene Roddenberry era. I think TOS presented a lot of action, fights and conflicts because Roddenberry & Company knew that was required in a late 60s TV series. Gene was able to slip in great social commentary and moral lessons while still being (mostly) action oriented. The 70s were kind of a Twilight Zone for Gene because Paramount couldn’t decide how to proceed with Star Trek. You had Paramount give a Star Trek movie a go with Planet of the Titans without Roddenberry. They dropped that to bring back Gene with the planned Phase II TV series. Then Paramount stopped production before it could air to morph it into what became The Motion Picture. Paramount and Roddenberry continued to be at odds during this time. Paramount decided to lock the release of TMP which led to a rushed and unfinished film that went over budget. Despite TMP making a lot of money, Paramount ditched Roddenberry in order to make budget friendly Star Trek movies where Gene was relegated to making notes and suggestions but the writers/producers/directors could ignore them and him. That’s why I think that TNG was the most realized vision of Star Trek by Roddenberry. He was older, wiser and more philosophical when TNG was created. It is a shame that his health started declining when TNG started. If he still had the stamina he had from the TOS era, who knows how TNG would have turned out. Still, TNG certainly reflected the most realized version of his positive Humanist worldview for humanity’s future.

    • Durakken says:

      I think it’s wrong to really even consider Star Trek as primarily Gene Roddenberry’s to begin with…. He literally had the idea of “submarine in space in the future” and essentially said let’s imagine the people in the sub come from a utopia, which isn’t at all uncommon considering that most people think of their country as perfect to begin with or at least will present it as such or an idealized version. That’s all Gene really did…

      The other writers and their stories along with fans seeing things in those stories and then applying them to a universe as a whole then influenced the narrative that came about with TNG… So I don’t even see the parts that are important to be Gene’s creation. You could have easily changed Gene and his contributions out with someone else and you’d have gotten more or less the same thing.

      It’s also made worse by the fact that the majority of Star Trek was out of the hands of Gene. 3 seasons with a lot of interference. 2? animated seasons that are largely ignored and 3-4 seasons of TNG that are considered “before it got good”, Gene was sick, and there was a lot of people again runnnig interference…DS9 and TNG after Gene’s death is more Star Trek content and arguably better than what Gene was involved with… and then there are the TNG Movies, Voy, Ent, and JJTrek… Based on that alone people it is really obvious that Gene wasn’t the biggest factor in Star Trek…

      A similar thing happens with Star Wars and Lucas. The majority. The aspects of SW that Lucas contributed was pretty much just taking standard fantasy and adding a tech skin on it. Most of the things that people consider good or great about Star Wars was contributed by other people that without Star Wars would not be anywhere near the classic it is considered to be.

      • Robert Karma says:

        I respectfully disagree with this assessment of Gene’s influence. Gene came up with the idea of a “Wagon Train to the Stars” where a diverse crew would have a new adventure each week going from planet to planet. He knew by placing this series in the future, it would allow him to comment on current political, social and cultural issues without too much interference from the censors. Gene created the series Bible as a guide for writers coming into his Star Trek sandbox. He infuriated many writers, most notably Harlan Ellison, with his rewrites to make their scripts fit his universe. He also ran the short-lived but critically acclaimed and official Star Trek canon Star Trek The Animated Series. He battled Paramount over TMP but was still heavily involved in that story.

        Where Gene lost influence was when Paramount brought in Harve Bennett on Star Trek II to cut the budget and make movies without Gene being in control. Yet TWOK was a sequel to the TOS episode Space Seed. TSFS was part of what became a trilogy dealing with the events of TWOK culminating in TVH. Shatner reworked the narrative of Gene’s story, The God Thing, in TFF as the crew of the Enterprise went to find “God.” Gene was ailing and saw TUC shortly before he died & he hated the open bigotry by Kirk and others in Starfleet.

        TNG was the most realized vision of Gene’s worldview for humanity’s future. Once again, the show’s Bible was his baby. Gene’s health did begin to fail him but he stayed involved up through his death in Season 4. The people who ran the show, Micheal Piller and Rick Berman were committed to Gene’s positive Humanist worldview where our species had evolved past most of our petty prejudices by the 24th Century. It was difficult for writers to come in to create scripts that would work under these constraints because they wanted conflict. You can read how those who ran Star Trek after Gene’s passing were determined to carry on his worldview. Yes, there were episodes that didn’t live up to that ideal but that is how Myth tales change over time and being told by different people, even if they are “inspired” by the myth’s creator.

        Without Gene Roddenberry, there would have been no Star Trek. The 25 years since his death has brought us many variations of the Myth story but they were all written based off of the original concept by Gene. Even with the Kelvin Reboot, you watch interviews with JJ Abrams, Robert Orci, Simon Pegg, Justin Lin, etc., and they all credit the original vision of Gene Roddenberry even if they put their own personal spin on his universe.

        We have Discovery coming in January and show runner Bryan Fuller is a huge fan of Gene Roddenberry’s vision. He has promised to bring that positive, inclusive, Humanist worldview to this new Star Trek series. Like Jesus of Nazareth, Gene Roddenberry inspired those who came after him with his vision for the future of humanity. I’m sure 2000 years from now we will have thousands of versions of Star Trek just like we have with Christianity today. Every generation interprets the myth story to work within their experience in the times in which they live. Gene is The Great Bird of the Star Trek Galaxy, the founder and guiding spirit. That doesn’t mean that Star Trek stories will march in lockstep with Gene’s personal beliefs an desires anymore than a modern Christian marches in lockstep with the personal beliefs and desires of Jesus of Nazareth. Interpretation always changes over time. I don’t expect anything less with Star Trek.

  7. Robert Karma says:

    I agree with John, the Star Trek discussion boards were horrific during the time of Enterprise. There was relentless negativity as many “fans” took great delight in tearing apart each episode. I think it partially contributed to the early demise of Enterprise. It will be interesting to see how Discovery handles the criticism surely to come on social media.

    • Durakken says:

      Enterprise I like more than a most of the other series, but I ended up not being able to keep up with it, because they kept changing the time and day when it came on with randomly repeating episodes. By the 2nd season I just gave up watching it.

      I avoid fan forums for a specific IP most of the time, because I find most of the “fans” care more for production flaw trivia and acting like irrelevant minutia is more important than anything else to show that they’re superior than others and if they’re not doing that they’re arguing in bad faith, especially with Enterprise where they ignore what is said and assume that if it isn’t 100% explained then the writers messed up canon.

      For example, one of many things that people say Enterprise broke canon about were the Ferengi who weren’t supposed to be “seen” until TNG, but this is wrong, the episodes say, they are rumors and thus they must have been seen by a number of people before the TNG episodes.

      And then there is the fact that what happens in Enterprise isn’t 100% canonical with the timeline to begin with,considering most of the series takes place in an altered timeline that is reset after the events transpire v.v

      I get really tired of trying to discuss these things with “fans” largely because they’re not interested in sitting down and talking about the stories or world or the messages, but rather just want be elitist snobs that show they’re better than you by knowing that data was wearing the wrong number of pips in some scene in some episode v.v

      • Robert Karma says:

        That is an enlightened way to be a fan of an entertainment product. That’s why I love the Mission Log Podcast because Ken & John do such a great job of digging into the messages, morals and meanings of each episode/film. They get to the heart of what I love about Star Trek without that elitist worldview that they are the final arbiter of what makes genuine Star Trek. It’s been a blast revisiting these episodes while listening to Mission Log each week.

        • Durakken says:

          It’s not so much “about the message”, but that’s a part of it. Someone sat down and created this universe and the story so they have meaning, but the things that most “fans” focus on are more happenstances, or accidents, that if you tossed out you may have a slightly different world, but you’d have largely the same IP.

          If you notice i always use quotes when I say fan, because I can’t consider people who clearly have less interest in knowing things about the thing they are fans of or only care about Production minutia as fans. Especially not in circumstances where I am not at all even close to being a fan yet know far more about the IP…

          It just gets infuriating to me and even interacting with the great majority of “fans” becomes unappeally to me, because if I’m interested in something I am interested in the world, the story, the message, not so much the production side and not a limited fraction of something… I would say “I wonder how people there are that stay away for the same reasons” but I unfortunately know that the majority of people aren’t like me, and don’t care much for all the work the writers/creators put into stuff…

          PS. Production stuff is important too, but overall it’s a small part of a larger whole. i just don’t want to give the impression that I think the production side is worthless. I just mean it’s not the core, and talking about “mistakes” like someone wearing the wrong number of pips serves no real purpose other than elitism.

    • Dave Steph Taylor says:

      I really liked the idea of Enterprise. A time when humans were not tone of the top dogs of the Galaxy.

      Unfortunately, the episodes were hit and miss. Some were outstanding, others a bit lame, but overall the series is enjoyable to watch.

  8. Robert Karma says:

    Good point about the 1st 25 Years of Star Trek being focused on Spock’s Journey! That’s a pretty darn cool insight!

  9. Troy Brooks says:

    It took several times through this episode before I realized why this question bothers me. I’ve got several points, so bear with me
    1. Sure Star Trek is Gene Roddenberry’s baby, but he is far from the only “parent”, D.C. Fontana, Gene Coon, David Gerrold, the rest of the writers, even the cast and crew “gave birth” to Star Trek.
    2. If we keep the “baby” metaphor, babies grow up. I’m not the person my parents expected me to be, not that there is anything wrong with their expectations but at some point I had to become my own person. In a lot of ways the first couple of seasons of TNG are Star Treks early 20’s where it’s trying to move out of it’s parents house and becoming it’s own thing. With that in mind. . .
    3. I really think everyone who argues that Gene Roddenberry is the only one who could head Star Trek I suggest you watch Chaos on the Bridge, a documentary about the first season of TNG

    • Troy Brooks says:

      4. “the future is better” is much different than “the future is perfect”. I, for one, wouldn’t want a future where children don’t mourn their parents.

      • Dave Steph Taylor says:

        I much prefer the Next Gen approach to the future of humanity. One where society as a whole has moved into harmony, but we as people still struggle.

        The movie Serenity, (from the Firefly series), is a prime example of what happens when a society tries to force everyone to comply.

    • Dave Steph Taylor says:

      Totally agree.

      Yes, Gene created a T.V. Series that was groundbreaking in many way, approached delicate subject of the day and presented what Gene thought was a perfect future.

      I agree that Gene was a visionary, but part of being a good leader is listening and working with those around you and recognizing when change needs to happen. If Next Gen had been an exact clone of TOS I suspect it would have only lasted one season.

    • deaddropsd says:

      I think it is….a concept? like Marvel Comics or DC or Star Wars? maybe franchise…not sure…but the maturation can only evolve so much before it’s just a perversion of the license. JJ Abrams and Lin are trying, but the explosion fest that is the new movies leaves me wanting… an extreme would be if new stories were showing nudity and nonsense gore just to “up the ante” – I think a lot of us are looking for some sort of attempt at a socio-political-ethical moral lesson to be taught relating to modern day issues.

      • Dave Steph Taylor says:

        I personally have no big issue with the new movies. Of course they are going to be “Blockbuster” style, most of the Trek movies are that way.

  10. mc900 says:

    I think it’s kind of crazy how John fixates on Jeremy Astor more specifically how he thinks the story is saying that Jeremy doesn’t feel the loss of his mother. Of course he does- I don’t think the writiers are saying at all that no one will feel something like that b/c “the future is so good”
    What you are seeing is a portrayal of a person in shock.
    Someone who isn’t allowing themselves to feel because they feel So Much.

    There are scenes where Jeremy does break down.
    I think this is another case where the hosts of this show can get snagged on a sharp angle they think they have found b/c they are flipping and examining these episodes to such a degree.

    • Hey there – that’s not exactly what the argument was about. When we covered the episdoe, we noted how Gene objected to the idea of following Jeremy Aster’s story becasue he contended that the death of a parent wouldn’t be dealt with the same way it is now – that Jeremy wouldn’t grieve because we are all so cool and understanding about death in the 24th century; even an 11 year old. It was Gene’s objection to the story that I found so strange, that something so fundamentally “human” (like love, loss, emotion, grief, etc.) would be a problem for him. Comparing that to the heightened emotional state of other stories Gene presided over, there’s something about his objection to Aster’s story that didn’t ring true.

      • mc900 says:

        Understandable. I think there might be more to his statements than the discovered documents suggest.

  11. Gail Gerard says:

    Really looking forward to listening to this (I’ve been trying to get caught up on my History Channel’s The Vikings podcast that I’ve been listening to) because SO many times I’ve heard “Well this isn’t what Gene would have wanted.” or “Gene would have said this.” or “This isn’t what Gene wanted Star Trek to be.”

    The truth is..we don’t KNOW what Gene’s Star Trek would have become because he died before TNG was finished, before Voyager was even a glint in somebody’s eye. LONG before J.J. Abrams said, “Hey. I wanna make a Star Trek movie with LOTS and lots of lens flares!”

    We can only guess what Gene would have wanted and do the best to make Star Trek interesting and fun and yes, full of action.

  12. JusenkyoGuide says:

    Ken… for the love of God… It’s NE-VA’-DUH not NE-VAH-DUH!

  13. Luther Blissett says:

    It is tricky to navigate between the Scylla of ‘nerd rage’ and the Charybdis of ‘corporate fanboy-ism’ so I congratulate the attempt. Yet I came away from this podcast without any deeper understanding of Roddenberry’s vision, which was disappointing because your episodic discussion of this topic are so interesting. Are there any essays that compile/articulate his views? Would a Roddenberry Star Trek would be more transhuman?

    The unmentioned 800-pound gorilla in the room is that the Paramount PR department has a vested interest in combating Scylla and supporting Charybdis. Also I’m not sure the varieties of ice-cream metaphor is apt, it might be the difference between nutritional and fast-food. As always, critical thought should be tempered with civility and vice versa.

  14. Arvis Jaggamar says:

    – LOL, “One thing you guys should definitely read is The Bible”
    I was like, “Ok cool, but where is Rod going with this?”

    – Great Supplemental, guys, really enjoyed it. Loved Andy’s comment about “getting back his fandom”. That may have been my favorite part. It’s cool when listeners make it on to the show.

  15. Eric M Smith says:

    Wonderful discussion. I’d like to award special commendations to Mr. Champion for the eloquent description of Spock’s journey at the end of the panel. Choked me up a bit. Great podcast, watching and listening my way through starting from TOS season 1 at the moment, should be caught up in a year or so. Thanks so much!

  16. Spike1138 says:

    I’ve seen it said that in later years, whenever he was asked any question containing the proposition, “When Gene Roddenberry first created Star Trek…”, Leonard Nimoy would simply break out into a smile and chuckle quietly to himself before answering.

    Because everyone knows that Star Trek and The Spock That We Know were not created and cut from whole cloth singlehandedly by Gene Roddenberry in 1964 – the whole thing was dreamed up by a writer of pulp Sci-Fi named Benny Goodman on the staff of Incredible Stories, living in Harlem in around about 1956.

    The average reader at that time was just not going to spend his hard earned cash on stories written by Knee-Graws.

    He was The Dreamer, and The Dream.

    So go now and write The Truth that’s in your heart. The Truth that shall set them free!

    Praise be The Word of The Lord. Praise to The Word of the Prophets.

  17. Eric Waldow says:

    I thought UC Timmy was a junior college south of Modesto.