David Gerrold: Roddenberry Disliked Berman

By Michelle
July 30, 2004 - 9:30 PM

David Gerrold, who wrote the classic Star Trek episode "The Trouble With Tribbles" and the legendary guidebook The World of Star Trek, as well as episodes of Babylon 5, Sliders and other shows, plus a long-running column in a popular science fiction magazine, spoke extensively about his career and his frustrations with Star Trek: The Next Generation in a recent interview.

Gerrold alleged in his talk with TV Shows On DVD that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's mental health was failing near the end of his life, though he added that Paramount would not acknowledge it. The writer of "The Cloud Minders" and a sometime script doctor on the original series, he was originally hired as a producer on the fledgling Next Generation, "but they kept whittling my duties. And my title. And my pay."

Though a favourite with fans because of his episodes of the previous shows, "finally got the very clear message that Gene's lawyer didn't like me. And that whatever Gene promised me, the lawyer was going to take away." He believed that the lawyer, Leonard Maizlish, was afraid that Roddenberry could lose creative control of the show, "so what he was doing was significantly undermining everybody that might be a threat to Gene, so that he could stay in control."

Though Gerrold characterised Roddenberry as a heavy drinker who "could sit down with a bottle of Scotch and a ream of paper...and eight hours later he'd get up and he'd have a finished script and a half-empty bottle of scotch", he compared the show's creator to Ernest Hemingway and said that compared to Roddenberry, Rick Berman was brought in by the studio to manage the details. Gerrold said the studio had blamed Roddenberry for the failure of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and "Gene didn't like Rick, at all. But Rick was installed on the show by the studio as a way to keep a control on the show...to keep the budgets in line, make sure that the scripts were done." Ultimately, said Gerrold, Berman ended up in control rather than Maizlish because Berman played the politics of the studio more effectively.

Officially a consultant in the Next Generation credits, Gerrold left and claimed that the studio lawyer harrassed him, claiming that he was mentally ill. Putting Star Trek behnd him, Gerrold said that he told himself, "'I am going to write the ten best books that I can, in the next ten years, and then ten years from now I'll look and see where am I.'" Fifteen years later, "I've got a Hugo and a Nebula and a Locus Readership Poll...I've got a lot of books in print. So there's all this stuff that wouldn't have been written if I had stayed with Star Trek." He also wrote scripts for other TV shows, including a remake of Land of the Lost.

Though Gerrold stated that Paramount denied working on a remake of "The Trouble With Tribbles" until TV Guide confirmed the news to him, he said that Berman ultimately invited him to appear as a crewmember in "Trials and Tribbleations", petting one of his furry creations. "I said, 'Look, Rick: there's enormous publicity here. I can be useful to you.' He got it. But apparently they thought I was at war with Star Trek over there. I'm not. I don't care. Give me a break; life is too short."

Gerrold said he had heard that Columbia House had the rights to the animated Star Trek and that no interviews had been conducted yet for a DVD release, but he expected it to be out by early next year. Asked what he thought should be done with Star Trek today, Gerrold said, "Star Trek, at its best, is when it remembers that it is about taking on the big challenge of considering the question, 'What does it mean to be a human being?'" He emphasised the need for episodes that tackled issues like ecology and the environment, like his own War Against the Chtorr.

In the first part of the interview, Gerrold discussed bringing Star Trek writers to Land of the Lost; in the second part, he discusses his film The Martian Child, in production by New Line Cinema. The excerpts above are from part three at TV Shows on DVD.

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