This past weekend marked 19 years since the death of Gene Roddenberry, and it’s caused some of his closest associates to reflect back on what those days working with Star Trek’s “Great Bird of the Galaxy” was like … and the memories aren’t always good.
David Gerrold, who catapulted into the “Star Trek” limelight with his popular episode “The Trouble With Tribbles,” remembers good times with Roddenberry, but not-so-good times with those who tried to replace him in the Star Trek universe. Speaking to a panel at the Necronomicon convention in St. Petersburg, Fla., this past weekend, Gerrold said the mass exodus of crew from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in its first season moved Roddenberry to tears.
“Gene was crying because all of his friends were gone,” Gerrold said. “It was because Maizlish chased them away.”
Maizlish was actually Leonard Maizlish, Roddenberry’s attorney who attempted to take over the Star Trek franchise once his client started to become ill. Gerrold’s memories of Maizlish are not fond, and it was because of him people like Gerrold, D.C. Fontana and others from the classic “Star Trek” run didn’t stay around long for Capt. Picard and his crew of the Enterprise-D.
“Gene was having very small strokes in meetings, and he wasn’t nearly as active as he hoped he would be,” Gerrold said. “We all stayed there as long as we did because of Gene. If it were any other show, we would say, ‘Fuck you,’ and walk off.”
Maizlish was soon fired (and even banned by Paramount Television from the set), Gerrold said, but while Rick Berman was not exactly a “scumbag” as Roddenberry’s lawyer was, he didn’t do much to help move things along in those early days either.
“It really pissed us off not being allowed to be the best,” Gerrold said of the creative team behind the show’s early inception. “Berman would tell us that you can’t take chances with [Paramount’s] flagship.
“You can play to win, or you can play to not lose. But when you play to not lose, you’re never going to win.”
Harve Bennett, a producer that took over the film franchise and helped bring about productions like “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” didn’t have much to say about Maizlish, but had plenty to share about Roddenberry. Or more specifically, his dislike of Roddenberry.
“I did not like Gene Roddenberry, he did not like me,” Bennett told a crowd at the Varsity Theatre in Oregon where he was being honored for his work, according to Blastr. “I found him to be egocentric and difficult to work with.”
But that doesn’t mean Roddenberry was all bad.
“That does not diminish his contribution, his genius and that special ability that Gene had which I would call promotional genius,” Bennett said. “He knew how to take things and make them instantaneously important.”