In a Star Trek group on Facebook, someone asked if Gene Roddenberry would be happy with how his vision — by which the poster meant Star Trek in general — has evolved since he died. It seemed to me like trolling for people to bash Discovery as not being “real Star Trek,” or perhaps to bash the Bad Robot movies, or all the spinoffs since TNG, or whatever. Anyhow, it prompted me to dig up this rant from January 2016.
Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion in Star Trek fan circles about the lawsuit that CBS/Paramount has taken out against the Axanar fan film. This post is not about that, and I have no specific comment on it, as I Am Not A Lawyer, and anyhow, that’s not what’s pissing me off right now.
What’s pissing me off right now are the declarations of “what Gene Roddenberry would have wanted,” as if that matters.
Yes, Roddenberry created Star Trek, and that’s not unimportant. But this isn’t a case like, say, J. Michael Straczynski with Babylon 5 or Joss Whedon with Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Aaron Sorkin with The West Wing or Vince Gilligan with Breaking Bad. Yes, Roddenberry created Trek — though, by WGA guidelines, he should, at the very least, share that creator credit with Samuel A. Peeples, who actually wrote the pilot episode that sold the series. And while Roddenberry was partially responsible for making Star Trek what it was, he was hardly the only one. Gene L. Coon was the show-runner for the latter first season and first half of the second season, not coincidentally when the show was at its strongest. Roddenberry himself wasn’t involved with even the day-to-day of the third season, and while he was the executive producer, it was Coon and John Meredyth Lucas who did most of the show-running work for most of those two seasons he was there, and Fred Freiberger entirely ran the third season. Roddenberry had very little direct involvement with the animated series, and after that, the only parts of the franchise he was directly responsible for were The Motion Picture — a bloated disaster that got his ass fired from the movie franchise — and the first season of The Next Generation — which most people try to forget. It’s also not a coincidence that TNG started getting good when Roddenberry was too ill to run the show anymore.
What people also forget is that Roddenberry spent 1982 going to conventions and begging fans not to go see The Wrath of Khan, because he wasn’t involved and it wasn’t “real” Star Trek. (Sound familiar?)
Argue however you want about what constitutes “real” Star Trek and who should be running things and all else, but don’t cite Roddenberry as your argument. For starters, he’s been dead since 1991, so nobody’s in any position to say what he would have liked. For another, his is not the only voice that matters, and one could argue it matters less than most.
(Thanks to Steve Roby, whose similar rant on Facebook inspired this post.)