Truth OR Myth – The Roddenberry Myths

Hello and welcome to Truth OR Myth, a Star Trek web series that takes a look at the truth or canon to dispel myths that have propped up over the years on any given topic.

Today we’re going to look at some behind the scenes information that has come light about the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself Gene Roddenberry, in order to set the record straight about some of the myths surrounding the Star Trek Giant.

As exciting Star Trek is on your screen or television, there has been quite a bit of excitement and controversy behind the scenes as well, and today we’ll dive into some…

Gene Roddenberry was an amazing man, but he was only a man. Many Star Trek fans tend to view him as some sort of a god and why not? After all, he created Star Trek, a franchise that grew to have one of the largest pop culture fan bases in television history.

But what most of us as fans don’t realize is that Roddenberry was somewhat of a storyteller, and as a result, is single-handedly responsible for several large myths about Star trek that have shown up over the years… this video isn’t intended to diminish the man or his accomplishments… it’s merely been created to set the record straight and give credit where credit is due.

So what are the sources for debunking these Myths? Well, first Herb Solo who was the Vice President of Desilu Studios, Vice President of Paramount Television, and the executive in charge of Star Trek itself, and then Robert “Bob” Justman who was the associate then later co-producer of Star Trek. Two very talented men that deserve almost as much of the credit for Star Treks creation as Roddenberry himself. Justman would also go on to work with Gene on Star Trek: The Next Generation’s first season, remaining a close friend of Roddenberry’s up to the end of Roddenberry’s life.

But that wasn’t enough for me, so I needed at least a third source for each debunking… And so every myth that is reported on here is backed up by at least one of the Biographies from the TOS main cast actors and usually more than one. Mainly though William Shatner as his Star Trek Memories Biography he went around and interviewed so many people involved in the show and mostly collaborated everything the other two men have claimed.

(CBS) Majel (Barrett) Roddenberry – No1 – “TheCage”

The Female First Officer…

One of the biggest and first myths I remember was surrounding Star Trek’s first pilot the Cage. As the story goes, apparently after screening the pilot the network execs said it wasn’t what they wanted but then made the unprecedented move and commissioned a second pilot. But this pilot would have strings attached. One is that they didn’t want a female first officer, that they felt it wasn’t believable…. This was a story that Roddenberry himself loved to tell, and it is a great story, but that’s all it is a story.

You see the truth is rather more complex. According to Herb Solo, Robert Justman and William Shatner, Roddenberry loved women. So much so in fact that shortly before Star Trek began he had a short affair with Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura on Star Trek but also began a long term affair with Majel Barrett.

According to Nichols, “At the time, Roddenberry wanted to remain in an open relationship with both of us… but after I saw Majels devotion to him, I ended the affair, as I did not want to be “the other woman to the other woman”

So what does that have to do with the female-first officer position? Roddenberry was married at the time and having Majel on the set meant they could spend a lot of time together and keep the affair relatively secret.

Well, the network execs knew all about his affair. First off they didn’t care much for Majel as an actor and felt she couldn’t carry a series as a lead. Second, they didn’t much like the idea of being used by Roddenberry so he could have an affair. And third, if the good upstanding people of 1960s America got wind of what was actually going on, the scandal could seriously harm the network. And so the network told him Majel had to go…

So what did Roddenberry do? He did what he did best, he came up with a story to tell Majel and eventually the world that would put him and her in a good light while at the same time not hurting her feelings. And later it would paint the network in a bad light to trekkers and Trekkies since he had had a falling out with the Network at the end of season 2 and it seemed like a great opportunity to smear them. So no, the Network never had a problem with a female first officer but simply had a problem with Majel herself and Gene’s affair with her…

One other thing of note in regards to Majel is that gene loved to tell the story about how he got her back on the series as Nurse Chapel. That he had her dye her hair and use her maiden name and the Network never knew.

This was also a tall tale as the Network knew exactly who she was… But since it was a minor character that would not be on set very much they simply agreed to let him have that one… And so nurse Chappel was born…

(CBS) The Cast of “The Orginal Series”

In The Beginning…

Another famous myth is that Gene in order to sell his Star Trek idea dressed in his LAPD outfit and demanded to see the execs at Desilu… Then finally being allowed in he pulled what would become known as the Star Trek bible out, slammed it on Solos desk and said read it, and then walked out into mist… Solo is so enthralled by this immediately read the bible several times and so impressed by it, called Roddenberry up the next day and a deal was struck.

The truth is rather more underwhelming. Desilu, which was owned by Lucille Ball at the time, you know everyone’s favourite comedy redhead, had made some horrible decisions and as such was desperate for an idea to make into a series to keep them afloat.

In April of 1964, Roddenberry showed up for his scheduled appointment with Solo, an no he wasn’t dressed as a police officer, as solo recalls, “My first impression of Gene was a tall unkempt man who had quite learned how to dress himself yet. He was shy and mumbled often.”

That’s a far stone’s throw from the myth though, isn’t it?

(CBS) “The Great Bird”

Credit Where Credit Is Due…

Roddenberry also loved to take credit for things whether they were his creations or not.

Take for example the main theme of Star Trek: The Original Series… If you look closely you’ll notice that there is a co-writing credit for Roddenberry. Why? Well back then royalties was a big supplement to a person like Gene’s income… And so after the theme had been recorded, Gene took that sheet music wrote lyrics to the theme song and therefore included him in the royalty pool. That’s right every time that music was heard Roddenberry got a piece of the action even though he never had anything to do with the music and his lyrics to the theme were never used and only known by the most hardcore fans.

The true hero of the main theme was Alexander ‘sandy” courage, no one else really… So Instead of receiving 100% of the royalty for his creation, now that 100% would be split into 50% for Courage and 50% for Roddenberry…

And Courage would also be responsible for a lot of the planetary sounds used in the Original Series… In fact, when Gene was trying to find a sound for the open credits when the Enterprise whizzed by, it was Courage who came up with it by picking up a microphone and making whooshing noises into it! He was truly an amazing and talented Musician… it’s no wonder that Courage would become disillusioned with Star Trek and his friendship with Roddenberry. He would end up scoring only two of the first episodes and then leave Star Trek, never looking back…

Another example of this occurs for the episode of “Mudd’s Women.” Steve Kandall and Roddenberry pitched story ideas back and forth before settling on the one he Kandall would write… A Few weeks later Kandall gave his script to Gene and Kandall said he would polish or rewrite anything that needed it. Gene responded that he only wanted to change a few things about the script so there would be no need. However, once the script was finalized, with those very minor changes, Gene submitted his name as the story creator, something which wasn’t really true at all…

In fact, the iconic line, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which Roddenberry has also often taken credit for was created by Sam Peeples and Not Roddenberry. Sam Peeples wrote the 2nd pilot by the same name…

Now it should be noted that Roddenberry, in fact, did write a numerous amount of what was known as Springboard papers. These were a paragraph or 2 about what a story should be about and then there would be handed to a writer who would take that idea and run with it… But many an arbitration would result as Roddenberry would oftentimes demand the story created by credit for these springboards. This would often time really tick off the writers of Star Trek, and as such the pool of writers would grow ever smaller, filling back up with inexperienced writers who really just wanted the paycheck!

In fact, John D.F. Black was so angered by Roddenberry that when his writer’s contract expired he cracked open a bottle of champagne and toasted the fact that he no longer worked for Roddenberry.

Roddenberry would also take credit for many other concept and creations for the show… For example, The Klingons and their culture were actually created by Gene Coon, not Roddenberry, and the Captain Log, that was a concept created by herb Solo himself to speed up exposition needed to inform the audience what the Enterprise was up to that week.

The Doctor Is In…

Another Myth told by Roddenberry was that Deforest Kelley was turned down by the Network to be the Starships Doctor for the two pilots. Only after Genes constant nagging to the Network and then casting him in a pilot for another TV Show that the Network passed on did they relent to his demands…

This is also untrue… In fact, the only reason Deforest was not considered for either of the pilots was simply that Roddenberry had never even submitted his name… it was only after Kelley appeared in an unsold pilot did Gene see the potential and submitted his name to the Network for the series run…

(Paramount) Gene Roddenberry On Set Filming “The Motion Picture”

A True Story…

Interestingly enough, one-story Roddenberry never embellished was that of the network’s renewal of Star trek’s third season and what happened to cause him to pull back almost completely from it.

With the third season renewal, Roddenberry seemed renewed and invigorated, promising an increased involvement in that season. However, this would not come to be. Why?

Well the Network’s attempt to juggle all its series into an effective schedule moved Star Trek to Friday night at 10 pm, the graveyard slot. So named because any series that ended up there would tend to die a slow and painful death.

This was especially poignant for Star Trek. Its audience, mainly teens and those in their early twenties tended to not be home Friday nights to watch anything. And so in a desperate gambit to keep trek alive Gene issued an ultimatum to the network, either restore Star Trek to its original time slot or he would cut his creative involvement with Star Trek to a bare minimum ensuring its death.

The Network, however, would not relent and Gene was left with no choice but to pull back. As he tells it, “I was caught between a rock and a hard place. If I didn’t pull back as I had threatened, the Network Execs would never again take me or my threats seriously, I’d be a joke to them. And if I did pull back, Star Trek would surely die after the 3rd season.”

So with the fourth season of Star Trek not guaranteed, but future jobs for the network more than likely, Gene upheld his threat and the third season would indeed become Star Trek: the original Series last season.

These are only a few of the bigger myths surrounding the man, and you may be asking why did I make this video… Well for one, a lot of people have been requesting behind the scenes Star Trek information and Roddenberry seemed the place to start.

There can be no denying what he created and that, of course, is Star Trek. But we oftentimes forget all the people who were right there along for the ride creating just as much of Star Trek as Gene was responsible for. The truth deserves to be known, and credit is given where credit is due and I have no qualms about exposing those myths. I’m also sure some people will be upset that I had the nerve to make this about a man who they view as the god of the franchise. And to those people, all I can say is understand how you feel… It never feels good to have an idol of yours brought back down to reality, but the truth is the truth… And what is the first duty of every Starfleet Officer?

In the end, Roddenberry was a great man, there’s no denying that, he gave us Star Trek and that can never be forgotten… But remember this, HE WAS, only a man…

Thank you for watching today’s episode of Truth OR Myth. What do you think about Roddenberry and the almost godlike myths that surround him? Well leave a comment in the section below and don’t forget to like the video and subscribe to the channel hitting that little bell icon so you won’t miss a single video we release.

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Thanks again for watching, live long and prosper…

Watch episode 92