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Roddenberry Sucked, But No One Else Made a Successful Star Trek Series

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William Shatner has found another way to extend his career with the Chaos on the Bridge documentary.

As everyone knows, TNG had a shaky start. As everyone also knows, everyone involved hated Gene Roddenberry.

Fine. Roddenberry was by many accounts an ass. By many accounts most of those taking shots at Roddenberry, including Shatner, were also asses who were difficult to work with.

We’ve had the myth that Roddenberry didn’t have much to do with the success of TOS. And of course he didn’t have much to do with the success of TNG.

So why is it that no one else has been able to make a successful Star Trek series?

All those amazing TNG veterans. The guys who really made it work flamed out with three spinoff shows, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise alienated fans, went into the ratings basement and have mostly been forgotten except by niche cults.

We’re still talking about TNG. Is anyone going to be doing a documentary about DS9’s first season or Voyager’s last season or what the hell happened on Enterprise? Maybe Tim Russ will get around to it.

Roddenberry wasn’t a good writer. But he was a good showrunner. Some of his ideas were stupid, but he could put together a Star Trek show that would talk to people and still be popular long after it went off the air.

Rick Berman, Ira Steven Behr, Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga couldn’t make a Star Trek series that would do what TOS and TNG did. Maybe one day someone else will, but right now the franchise’s TOS legacy is being milked by Abrams. And when that’s done, it’ll be back to square one with a franchise no one knows how to move forward.

But if Gene Roddenberry were here and younger, he would have.

Roddenberry had his faults, but he wouldn’t be sitting on his ass making documentaries about how everyone else sucks.

Top 10 fan rejected TV Guide suggestions for ‘fixing Star Trek’

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This week’s issue of TV Guide featured a selection of readers’ suggestions for fixing Star Trek. Unfortunately some suggestions were deemed too controversial ‘out of the box’ and were censored by the editors of TV Guide.

John Mansur: Everybody loves monkeys. Every time I watch an episode of Star Trek I think of how much better it would be with monkeys in it. For instance in The Crossing instead of the Enterprise crew being possessed by wisp aliens, they should have been possesed by monkeys. It would have made the episode like twice as good.

Andrew Lewiston: There’s one thing and only thing that can save Star Trek. Captain Sulu. Paramount had its chance to approve the Excelsior series and they failed. But it’s still not too late. Assuming that Sulu in the original series was actually much older than he looked, he could still be alive during the current series as an infant. A  super-intelligent infant who takes over as Captain of the Enterprise when Archer dies in a freak dog decontamination accident.

Jean Tyler: Star Trek originally used to be about tolerance and embracing diversity but the refusal to have a gay character on 5 Star Trek series contradicts that entire image. To compensate Star Trek must now make 5 of Enterprise’s cast of characters gay immediately.

Samantha Limon: The reason Star Trek isn’t as popular as it used to be is because during the Original Series there were only three networks and now there are six. Tthe only answer is for Star Trek fans to band together and destroy FOX, UPN and the WB by any means necessary.

Warren Mitchell: With all the conflicts and hatreds in the world today, what Star Trek needs to do is teach tolerance by bringing back the aliens who were half white on one side of their faces and half black on the other. I know before that episode I used to hate people who were half black on one side of their faces and half white on the other but after that episode, I didn’t hate them nearly as much anymore.

Terrence Bach: Star Trek needs to be more realistic. Every time somebody dies on Star Trek it always looks so fake. I think that when somebody dies on Star Trek, they should kill him for real. I bet that would get great ratings.

Dana Weiner: Star Trek’s greatest flaw has been a fear of addressing religion. DS9 tried to change that but it didn’t do nearly enough. I think the Star Trek crews should all find different religions and address world events by constantly arguing and fighting to the death over which religion is better. Eventually when one religion wins out they could get a new mission of going around the galaxy and forcing other people to join their religion.

Michael Wilson: Four words. Bring back Gene Roddenberry. I know he’s dead but isn’t that what Ouija boards are for? He can rap once if he wants Enterprise to pursue more socially relevant episodes and rap twice if he wants the entire cast to wear miniskirts.

Rick Engels: The producers have spent too much time placing profits before quality. They need to forget profits entirely. Star Trek should be done on a non-profit basis on PBS.

Harold Mosley: It’s become clear on reading these suggestions that fans know how to run Star Trek better than its producers do. So why not have a Star Trek series with a mostly gay cast headed by Captain Sulu wearing mini-skirts while constantly fighting off monkeys on PBS with Gene Roddenberry communicating from the spirit world as its
executive producer?

How much worse could it be anyway?

The Destruction of Five Science Fiction TV Shows

About the only thing worse than seeing a brilliant SciFi television series with lots of potential be prematurely canceled is seeing it worn down over a year or two into something outrightly unrecognizable, its stories dumbed down, its cast members purged and its potential wiped away.

This is the story of how it happened to five Science Fiction TV series.

1. Sliders

Arguably Sliders remains one of the most notorious examples of this in part because of just how brilliant the premise of Sliders was. Television had its share of time travel and space travel SF series but Sliders was something else, a brilliant and simple premise of travelers moving between alternate universes in which history had taken another turn at some point and produced an entirely different outcome creating worlds similar to ours and yet different. Worlds in which the United States lost the Cold War or the Revolutionary War. Worlds where the gender balance was different resulting in a matriarchal rather than a patriarchal society and worlds where your parents never met or where your own life had come out in dramatically different ways.

A project of Star Trek The Next Generation writer and producer Tracy Torme, Sliders launched on FOX to high expectations and high acclaim. Yet FOX had managed to destroy more unique and promising Science Fiction TV series than anyone else and Sliders would prove to be no exception.

Beyond the promising premise a good deal of the series’ appeal came from the charm of its cast, with Jerry O’Connell as Quinn Mallory, an obtuse but brilliant physics student who with the help of an alternate universe double produces a device capable of punching a wormhole through universes, John Rhys Davies as Professor Maxmillian Arturo, Sabrina Lloyd as Wade Wells, Quinn’s naive computer store colleague with a crush on him and Cleavant Derricks, as Rembrandt Brown, a singer known as “The Crying Man” trying to get his career back on track. Strange as it might seem the foursome clicked instantly and while they were together even the more mediocre episodes of Sliders were watchable.

Yet what the menaces of alternate universes could not do, FOX did, cancelling Sliders twice and finally bringing in David Peckinpah who proceeded to wreck and destroy the series both on FOX and after its relocation to the SciFi Channel. John Rhys Davies who had provided much of the show’s charm and gravity was fired in a vicious fashion and replaced by Kari Wuhrer, a B Movie actress with no acting ability whose career was mainly premised on a willingness to appear naked on camera. Then Sabrina Lloyd was disposed of in an even more vicious fashion than John Rhys Davies had been. Jerry O’Connell insisted on bringing his brother on board who couldn’t act. Both of them left the show leaving Cleavant Derricks as the only remaining cast member who had been transformed into a soldier. By then no one was watching anymore.

After five years, Sliders had not only become a shadow of its own self but had been warped and distorted, its creators and original actors driven off and the show transformed into something outright repulsive, as well as being used by David Peckinpah as a forum for payback against actors he didn’t like, portraying the character of Maxmillian Arturo being killed several ways and Wade Wells being raped in a breeding camp. Much of this was the doing of FOX as well as later SciFi Channel executives who failed to interfere and put a stop to what was going on. The tragedy of Sliders is only outmatched by the loftiness of its premise and potential.

2. Earth Final Conflict

The first attempt to create a TV series, supposedly based on Gene Roddenberry’s own plans by his widow Majel Barrett Roddenberry, Earth Final Conflict debuted as a sensitive thoughtful series about the arrival of the Taelons, an alien race to earth, seemingly possessed of wisdom and yet also ruthless and determined to achieve their purposes. Some worship the Taelons and others fear them but the Taelons have their own plans for humanity.

At least that was the original premise. The first season was a promising collection of episodes that balanced William Boone’s need to learn about the Taelons with his desire to bring down the Taelons and see justice done for the murder of his wife by Sandoval, a servant of the Taelons, implanted with a device that makes him absolutely loyal to the Taelons.

By the second season William Boone had been killed off and replaced with Robert Leeshock as Liam Kincaid. Unfortunately unlike Kevin Kilner who had played Boone, Robert Leeshock couldn’t act. Still Earth Final Conflict continued on with an amazing second season finale that saw a staged assassination and the imposition of Taelon enforced martial law on earth at the direction of the President.

The third season saw Lilly killed off and replaced with Reene Palmer, Jayne Heitmeyer whose acting skills were equal to Robert Leeshock. Jonathan Doors, a mainstay of the series was killed off too. Season Four took the series off the rails and with the entire original cast of the characters besides Sandoval dead, it finished off by wiping out the Taelons too. The fifth season became Renee the Atavus Slayer, now on her own, fighting vampiric aliens who were basically vampires with more makeup. By then the show had completely come apart. A brief attempt to bring back Boone failed. A series finale that had Renee turn into Captain Kirk and go exploring through the stars failed to redeem what Earth Final Conflict had been

3. Star Trek

It isn’t the first series that springs to mind but the original Star Trek was cancelled by the end of Season 2 and while the series did go on to a third season, it was a pale shadow of its former self, deprived of Gene Roddenberry who had departed the series. Season 3 was responsible for some of the worst episode of the classic Star Trek TV series and perhaps even the franchise as a whole, generating such stinkers as the infamous Spock’s Brain, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, The Way to Eden, The Cloud Minders and Turnabout Intruder.

With Season 3, Star Trek the original series was cancelled. It returned later as an animated series and then as a series of films but the show which had begun it all was over.

4. Andromeda

The second series to be launched after Gene Roddenberry’s death supposedly inspired by Roddenberry’s notes, Andromeda got off to a troubled start that only grew more troubled. Possessing a promising premise of the Captain of a massive intelligent starship with a visible avatar in the Commonwealth, a vast confederation of worlds destroyed in a nietzscheans attack and finding the Starship Andromeda thrust forward into the future where nietzscheans rule over Earth as well as many of the worlds in the former Commonwealth, Kevin Sorbo as Captain Dylan Hunt and a ragtag crew was meant to rebuild the Commonwealth. Instead the series avoided the story of rebuilding the Commonwealth instead focusing on one shot stories. By the second season, Tribune Entertainment did to Andromeda what it had done to Earth Final Conflict and what it would later do to Mutant X.

Andromeda’s creator, former DS9 producer Robert Hewitt Wolfe was gone and was replaced by SeaQuest’s Engels in a coup masterminded in part by series star Kevin Sorbo. The series had alienated its fans by then and the series became increasingly uneven and confused. What had been a promising premise devolved into chaos. RevBem, the series’ spiritual alien left the series. Trance, its purple skinned other alien, got a sexier makeover. The show ran for several more seasons but few knew it even existed by that point and primarily focused on foreign resale rights.

5. SeaQuest DSV

SeaQuest DSV was meant to be the underwater answer to Star Trek The Next Generation. Frequently filled with derogatory references to the space program, this was one of a number of Stephen Spielberg’s ill fated TV ventures. Yet audiences demonstrated a limited interest in the show’s original more realistic take on undersea explorations. That’s when the aliens entered the picture and everyone went off into space to fight a war with the aliens. The show’s Captain played by Roy Scheider, departed the series in disgust and was replaced by Michael Ironside. The cutesy factor was gone replaced by militarism and a war against some sort of evil Micronesian empire and then genetically engineered soldiers. It was a sad state of affairs in a handful of seasons for a formerly top rated series with a high pedigree and an impressive cast that had been at the center of a battle royale with Lois and Clark.

However executives and producers and studios and cast members contrive to ruin a series, it is always sad to see the descent of a promising TV show into something worse than oblivion, but the perdition of botched efforts and missed opportunities.

Five Moral Dillemas in Star Trek

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Five Moral Dilemmas in Star Trek Examined

Moral dilemmas have been one of the fundamental cores of Star Trek. Rather than a mere space adventure series, Star Trek from its inception had been concerned with questions of morality, debates over right and wrong, the philosophical issues of power and technological near omnipotence and the choices that we make.

Each Star Trek television series has had episodes that examined a moral question and here we take a look at five of them, one for each of the five Star Trek series.

A Private Little War (Star Trek: The Original Series)

A Private Little War has often been described as Star Trek’s own Vietnam War analogy. A Private Little War was broadcast around the time of the Tet Offensive, a turning point in the Vietnam War when support had begun to drain away and the public perception of it had taken a decided turn for the worse. Indeed the episode even indirectly references Vietnam.

The screenplay for A Private Little War had been written by Gene Roddenberry himself and Gene Coon, the man who besides Gene Roddenberry had done the most to make Star Trek what it was. The result was an episode that posed the impossible dilemma and the same one that the United States was facing in its worldwide struggle with the Soviet Union. With the Klingons arming one native faction on the planet Neural, Captain Kirk returns to a world he had once explored and fondly remembered to face a troubling choice, between arming the pacifist villagers who are his friends or witnessing their destruction and the rise of Klingon influence on a valuable planet.

In other words in combating evil, how much evil can you yourself do? The question would haunt the United States for much of the second half of the 20th century and well into today’s era. It continues to raise trouble questions about military tactics and proxy war. In A Private Little War, Gene Roddenberry, who had served in the Air Force, and Gene L. Coon, a former United States Marine, represented the uneasy answer of two military veterans to the question. Some have treated and even condemned A Private Little War for an endorsement of the Vietnam War but A Private Little War was no open endorsement of war, instead it was a troubled recognition that sometimes there are no easy answers.

A Private Little War is no gung ho patriotic enterprise, it does not glorify or celebrate Kirk’s actions, like Kirk himself, it treats it as a bad answer which for lack of a better answer, is the one that we are left with. Sometimes violence is called for, sometimes the Prime Directive must be broken and sometimes the ends make the means necessary. It is not an ideal answer but it is the one that commonly runs through Star Trek whose crews are dedicated to peace and yet carry phasers, who practice war yet work for a better future.

Suddenly Human (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Suddenly Human, in contrast to many of Star Trek’s more ambitious and star spanning moral issues about the dangers of power and the morality of intervention, raised a question about intervention on a much smaller scale, at the level of the family.

Suddenly Human featured the discovery of a human boy, Jeremiah Rossa, on board a Talarian ship. The Talarians had once fought a war with the United Federation of Planets and had booby trapped their ships. In the process they had attacked human colonies and killed Jeremiah’s parents. Jeremiah himself had been taken and adopted by the Talarian Captain Endar to be his own son. While before the episode had aired there had been rumors that it would deal with child abuse, a hot topic then at the time the episode aired driven by tabloid journalism and media sensationalism, in actuality it addressed questions of culture and rights. Whose rights were to prevail and whose wishes?

That of Captain Endar whose culture gave him the right to take the children of his enemies and raise them for his own. That of Jeremiah’s grandmother, a Starfleet Admiral. That of Jeremiah’s parents, murdered by Captain Endar, who surely would have wanted their child to be raised by family. That of Jeremiah himself who has been raised as Talarian and as a human child in an alien environment overcompensated to fit in and who clings to his Talarian upbringing even while a human part of him is slowly coming awake. After Jeremiah Rossa stabs Captain Picard, Picard makes the decision to send him back to the Talarians.

Captain Picard throughout the series always displayed his discomfort with children and while he made the attempt to engage Jeremiah who was drawn to him as the Captain, a substitute father figure for his Talarian father, Captain Endar, he never became comfortable with Jeremiah. The entire familial issue was not one that Picard was ever comfortable addressing and with Jeremiah’s desperate and violent outburst, he took the opportunity to rid himself of the problem.

On the one hand Suddenly Human endorsed Star Trek The Next Generation’s ‘culture centered morality’, in which human values had to defer to alien values, which were considered equally legitimate due to cultural relativism. On the other hand like A Private Little War, Captain Picard recognized that he was making an unsatisfactory decision, a bad choice which was all he had for lack of a better choice. The situation could never be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction and so in the spirit of the Prime Directive (even though it did not apply here), he restored the status quo instead.

In The Pale Moonlight (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)

War arguably raises the most moral dilemmas and Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War raised many moral issues. In The Pale Moonlight featured the direct and open sort of war which required similar moral compromises to that of A Private Little War. Rather than the open war of starships and phasers, In The Pale Moonlight featured a dirtier war of shadows and deceit fought by moonlight in which Sisko recruits Garak to help him bring the Romulan Empire into the war and the moral price he has to pay for allowing Garak to do it the old fashioned Obsidian Order sort of way.

Sisko has never been a commander too obsessed with morality as For The Uniform amply demonstrated, yet even he had moral lines that he felt uncomfortable crossing and In the Pale Moonlight, he is forced to deal with treachery and assassination being carried out in his own name. Yet in the end Garak appears correct, to survive the Federation needs the Romulan Empire in the war and the Dominion no doubt did have an attack plan aimed at the Romulans. Garak made the hard choices that Sisko would not make. They are not choices Gene Roddenberry would have approved of but as a former military man he might have understood.

Tuvix (Star Trek Voyager)

Tuvix was one of the most troubling Star Trek episodes ever featuring a transporter accident that blended Tuvok and Neelix into a single entity, Tuvix, a man with both their qualities and yet his own personality and mind. The resulting creation is an individual and a loyal crew member eagerly serving as a friend and fellow officer until a way is discovered to reverse the transformation and restore Tuvok and Neelix by destroying Tuvix.

Tuvix protests his own destruction and yet finds no allies among a stepford Voyager crew but the Doctor who refuses to carry out an act that will murder a sentient and intelligent creature. So it is Janeway herself who pulls the metaphorical switch, murdering Tuvix to restore Tuvok and Neelix.

The troubling issues of Tuvix and Janeway’s role in the murder of a defenseless person raised questions within fandom for some time after. Tuvix had been a unique creation with his own personality. He had come about through no fault of his own and had not set out to destroy Tuvok or Neelix. His murder might be comparable to keeping Tuvok and Neelix alive by killing a third party and harvesting their organs. Yet ironically when Neelix’s own organs were harvested, Janeway let it go. That kind of confused morality was an unfortunate hallmark of Star Trek Voyager as well as Captain Janeway’s continued inability to distinguish between crew and family.

Damage (Star Trek Enterprise)

In a season featuring the deaths of hundreds of millions on earth and the annihilation of humanity, Damage was still arguably the season’s darkest episode as Captain Archer on board a battered Enterprise has to make a terrible decision, to turn pirate and raid and strand the crew of another ship in order to be able to make a rendezvous with Xindi allies who might be able to stop the destruction of Earth.

It is a dark hour, all the more so because like Captain Kirk in A Private Little War and Captain Sisko in In The Pale Moonlight and unlike Captain Janeway in Tuvix or Captain Picard in Suddenly Human, Captain Archer is well aware of what he is doing and the moral toll of his actions. Yet what is at stake is so crucial and so great that he simply has no choice.

And that lack of choice is the darkest end to the moral dilemmas of Star Trek. For dilemmas in which choices are easy are also easily resolvable. The most difficult are those where there is no true right answer.

Andromeda’s Kevin Sorbo gives interview speaking candidly about his vision for the show

Andromeda’s Kevin Sorbo speaks candidly about his vision for the show.

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Between his duties as Andromeda’s lead actor, executive producer and spokesman for the ‘Crimson Hope’ Adult Chicken Pox foundation, Kevin Sorbo might be said to be shouldering a truly ‘Herculean’ burden, but he still took time out of his busy schedule to speak with us about Andromeda’s third season.

“There have been a lot of rumors floating around about the things that have been happening at the show but I just want to clear them up and say that our series is in good hands.” Kevin Sorbo chuckled. “For a while Andromeda was dark and confusing like the universe on the series but then I and one of the producers of SeaQuest came to restore the light of clarity and make it a happier and brighter place. After all if viewers trust me to command this huge starship on television, they should have no trouble with me commanding the TV series itself.”

Sorbo is also dedicated to bringing a lighter touch of comedy to the once dark and melodramatic SciFi series.

“For too much of my career people have taken me seriously with heavily dramatic roles like Hercules and now I want people to laugh at me.” The actor declaimed. “Andromeda is serious a lot of the time but there’s no reason that it can’t be a joke too. For instance in an upcoming episode instead of shooting at aliens, we’re going to throw pies at them because Harper discovers that the aliens are fatally allergic to cherry pie. In this way we can do comedy without undermining the credibility of the series itself.”

And Kevin Sorbo has increasingly ambitious plans for Andromeda to help the series expand its audience in its third season around the world.

“The thing that holds back a lot of North American shows in the international market is that they’re in English and people in other countries speak a whole bunch of foreign languages instead. So what we need to do to improve our worldwide share is reduce the amount of English talking on the show in favor of more non-verbal communication.” Sorbo explained. “Scientists say that up to 95 percent of communications are non-verbal like grunting, hand gestures and facial tics and I plan to make sure that at least half of Andromeda’s dialogue from now on will also be non-verbal so that Andromeda will translate better to the worldwide market without any dialogue getting in the way.”

The actor and Andromeda producer is also talking freely about the changes that will be made to his charachter and to the series premise in general.

“Last season we had this whole Commonwealth storyline and nobody except our old showrunner knew what that was about, so now we’re just going to have fun. We’re going to dump the uniforms. From now on everyone will just loosen up and walk around in their underwear, except for like ceremonial occasions when my charachter might decide to put on a shirt or maybe not because he’s a renegade now and doesn’t wear shirts anymore.” Sorbo said. “He’s given up on this whole Commonwhatever thing and now he just goes around to different planets helping people who are in trouble. Like Jesus. Also he discovers that he has magic powers because he’s actually the son of a God. But more like Jesus than Hercules. Some people might say that’s blasphemous but I say that it’s exactly what this show needs to appeal to a wider audience. The Bible after all is the best selling book of all time and we need to tune into that demographic.”

Sorbo nevertheless remains very concerned about what the fans think.

“We’ve had some critical feedback from the fans about some of the changes made to the show and we listened and we’re going to address the problem by giving the SciFi crowd lots more exploding ships and me gunning down the same three aliens over and over again in slow motion.” Kevin Sorbo said. “But people need to understand that Andromeda as it is today was not the show that was pitched to me when I agreed to come on board. That was a series premise about a half-man half-cyborg Santa Claus who travels through time on a starship crewed by transvestite mutants while battling evil flying monkeys from the future who want to eat up all the candy in the universe. Or maybe that wasn’t actually the series premise but a crazy dream I had when I got bored and fell asleep while they were pitching me the actual series premise. Either way I’m determined to make Andromeda live up to that standard and fire anyone who stands in my way.”

The noted thespian and former toilet paper pitchman is also quite mindfull of the Herculean task of living up to Gene Roddenberry’s legacy.

“Gene Roddenberry was a great man. He invented the atom bomb, the telephone and Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. And though some cynics might disagree with me, I think Andromeda was the greatest of his inventions because the telephone and the atom bomb have killed millions, but Andromeda has to my knowledge only killed three people. ”

“Gene Roddenberry was a dreamer. He dreamed of a different kind of world. A world where telephones armed with atom bombs would force people to watch episodes of Andromeda thus ensuring global unity. And we want to keep that dream alive and when our latest episode with our crew communicating with each other through grunts, facial tics and emphatic gestures while throwing pies at invading aliens arrives in Malaysia or Senegal, in some small way we’ll be keeping that dream alive. And I’m happy to know I’ll be doing my part.”

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