Scandals That Rocked The Star Trek Universe To The Core

Scandals That Rocked The Star Trek Universe To The Core


Just about every popular entertainment franchise
has had its share of scandal, and despite its high-minded ideals, the Star Trek universe
is no exception. Here are the biggest scandals to boldly go
where no scandals have gone before. If you’re a fan of Star Trek, you probably
have a lot of gratitude in your heart for Gene Roddenberry, the man who introduced Mr.
Spock and Captain Kirk to the world. But it turns out that the creator of Star
Trek may have been a bit of a jerk. Maybe that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise,
though. The original Star Trek, after all, often featured
women in skirts so short that bending over to retrieve a fumbled communicator was never
an option. Furthermore, many of the women in those early
episodes weren’t exactly the strong, self-sufficient type. And that’s probably because Roddenberry didn’t
really respect women all that much. Before reaching the height of his fame, he
was already well-known for having affairs with secretaries, and once he was firmly established
in Hollywood, there was no stopping him. While married to his first wife, he was having
an affair with actress Majel Barrett, whom he would later marry, and it wasn’t exactly
a secret. He also had an affair with Nichelle Nichols,
who played Lt. Uhura. A former assistant to a Trek writer told the
National Review, “[Roddenberry] would have women walking from
[the costume designer’s] fitting rooms through to his office in the skimpiest outfits so
he could perv them.” Roddenberry’s vision was definitely worthy
of respect. But the man himself, perhaps not so much. George Takei, who played Sulu in the original
Star Trek, is openly and unapologetically gay and a fearless champion of LGBTQ rights. With that in mind, actor and writer Simon
Pegg decided that the rebooted version of Sulu, as played by John Cho, ought to be gay,
too. So Pegg wrote a scene for 2016’s Star Trek
Beyond in which Sulu is depicted raising a child with a male partner. “‘Cause there really hasn’t been an LGBT character
in the Star Trek universe, and people have been very great about it.” It was meant to be a respectful homage to
Takei, who came out in 2005. Everyone thought that he would love the new
direction for the character, but alas, he didn’t. He told The Hollywood Reporter, “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately it’s a twisting of Gene [Roddenberry’s]
creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.” According to Takei, Roddenberry never envisioned
Sulu as gay, even though he was a supporter of LGBTQ rights even before all those initials
existed. When Takei found out about the new plans for
the character, he tried to convince John Cho that a completely new gay character would
be a better choice. After all, if Sulu did turn out to be gay
it’s pretty clear that he was in the closet all those years, and it’s disappointing to
imagine that in the 23rd century there would still be that closet. Every major franchise that boasts rabid fans
is going to inspire fan fiction. Some creators love and even encourage it,
while others find it endlessly annoying and call it copyright infringement. Star Trek tends to lean towards the latter. There’s even a list of guidelines that filmmakers
should follow if they want to produce a Star Trek fan film. They limit all such films to no more than
two 15-minute episodes, no bootleg props or costumes, no professional actors or producers,
no fundraising in excess of $50,000, and no distribution for profit. So essentially, you can make a film, but you
can’t make money off of it. But you can help enrich the franchise by only
using official merchandise. There’s been at least one high-profile case
of these rules being broken. The fan film Axanar was slated to be feature-length,
it was supposed to star professionals like Richard Hatch and Tony Todd, and it had a
million dollars in crowdsourced money to back it up. Unsurprisingly, Paramount and CBS took the
team behind Axanar to court in 2015, and the filmmakers ultimately lost. Under the terms of the settlement, Axanar
was allowed to go forward, but only as two 15-minute installments. Gene Roddenberry was rarely happy with any
script anyone gave him. After all, Star Trek was his vision, and it’s
really hard for other writers to get into the head of a visionary and produce work that
precisely lines up with his standards. One of the most beloved Star Trek episodes
of all time is “The City on the Edge of Forever,” a time-traveling tale written by Harlan Ellison. The script accomplished all the things that
fans love about Trek, as it featured important themes and a meaningful story. But despite Ellison’s credit, the script was
ultimately largely rewritten by Roddenberry, as well as other regular Star Trek writers. “TV Guide called it one of the one hundred
greatest moments in television history. Okay.” Most writers understand that rewrites and
editing are a part of the process, and most of them will happily accept the credit even
if the rewrites don’t fall exactly in line with their own personal vision. Not Harlan Ellison, though. He went to his grave, more than 50 years after
“The City on the Edge of Forever” first aired, still angry that the script had been edited. “I think felt that they had mucked it up badly,
and it took, I think, six or seven years before Gene Roddenberry and I even spoke to each
other again.” At one point he demanded to have his name
removed from the credits. In 1995, he even published the original version
of the script, which included a rambling opening in which he lamented the, quote, “greedy little
pig-snouts” who ruined everything. Fans have been commenting for a long time
about the sometimes-uncanny similarities between Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and Babylon 5. But until recently, the evidence that one
of them stole from the other was mostly circumstantial. Babylon 5 was pitched to Paramount before
Warner Brothers picked it up, but then Paramount later went on to green-light Deep Space 9. Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski just
ignored the similarities between the two, mostly because he disliked the idea of spending
money on litigation and the general ugliness that would ensue. But then in 2013, a commenter on an iO9 article
about Babylon 5 came forward with some information. “Wait! Picking up disturbance. Trying to get a fix.” The commenter claimed to have been working
at Warner Brothers during the time that both series were conceived. He said that Warner Brothers and Paramount
had actually been planning to launch a joint television network featuring one science fiction
series: Deep Space 9. But Warner Brothers had already agreed to
purchase Babylon 5. As the commenter put it, “I was told they purposely took what they
liked from the B5 script and put it in the DS9 script. In fact, there was talk of leaving the B5
script intact and just setting it the Star Trek universe.” In the end, though, the joint network never
happened. Ironically, that might be what ultimately
saved Babylon 5, since the two shows wouldn’t have gone forward separately if the deal hadn’t
fallen through. Today, women have more professional opportunities
than ever, and it’s generally easier for them to pursue careers in traditionally male industries,
though the landscape is still far from perfect. Decades earlier, it was even harder, and that
was true even in the Star Trek writers room. In 1960, Dorothy Fontana was an aspiring scriptwriter
working as a production secretary on a Western series called The Tall Man. Her boss knew about her ambitions and encouraged
her to show him some story ideas, which led to her first sale at the age of 20. She had a lot of success with The Tall Man,
but she was having some trouble selling her ideas to other showrunners. As she told Future Science Fiction Digest
in 2019, “People would say, ‘I don’t know if Dorothy
can write this.’ Up to that moment, I had put Dorothy C. Fontana
on my scripts. So I said, ‘I’m going to do this, I’m
going to write a script for Ben Casey, which was a series also on our lot, and I’m going
to write D.C. Fontana on the front page.'” According to Fontana, using initials was her
idea, but some sources say she continued to use them because Gene Roddenberry thought
she would get less respect if she wrote under her own name. Occasionally, she would even use the male
pseudonym “Michael Richards.” The Star Trek universe is a utopia of progressive
ideals, but in the harsh reality of the real world, it was made possible through cheap
non-union labor. According to the book Star Trek FAQ: Everything
Left to Know About the First Voyages of the Starship Enterprise, costume designer William
Theiss was under a lot of pressure to produce enough costumes for the many actors on the
original series. So much pressure, in fact, that he decided
he simply couldn’t accomplish the task in a way that was completely ethical. Theiss spent time looking for weird, futuristic-looking
fabrics in discount fabric stores, and then he would bring them to his regiment of seamstresses
working inside the apartment he’d rented near the studio. The seamstresses, who were all non-union,
would violate union rules by working through the night in order to get the costumes finished
in time for production. So all those outfits in that progressive,
utopian society were basically made in a sweatshop. Star Trek has never shied away from using
sex appeal to get ratings, but at least off-camera the actors usually got to escape from all
the gawking. Unfortunately for Jeri Ryan, who played Seven
of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager, nobody ever got tired of looking. Her personal life even became a huge political
scandal for her ex-husband Jack Ryan, when he was running for Senate in Illinois against
an up-and-coming Barack Obama in the 2004 election. Attorneys from media organizations obtained
the details of the couple’s divorce, in which Jeri said that her husband would often take
her to bizarre clubs against her will, and pressure her to get busy in front of another
couple. Obama, to his credit, said it wouldn’t be
“appropriate” for him to comment on what was in those divorce papers. Ryan ended up dropping out of the race and
was replaced by another candidate as Obama went on to win the election. Most people who knew Gene Roddenberry acknowledged
that he was a genius. But they also had less flattering things to
say about him, like that he was controlling and apparently quite greedy. That was clear enough after he hired composer
Alexander Courage to write the Star Trek theme music and then basically stole half the credit. In the entertainment industry, composers are
paid royalties every time their songs are played on TV. After about a year of Courage collecting all
those royalties, Roddenberry had enough of some other guy getting the credit for his
show’s theme song. So he wrote some lyrics to go along with the
tune and was then able to claim half the royalties as a co-composer, even though the lyrics were
never used on the air or anywhere else. Courage, naturally, was incensed. Even though the move was legal, it was obvious
to everyone that Roddenberry deserved none of the credit or royalties for the score. When pressed, Roddenberry simply said, “Hey, I have to get some money somewhere. I’m sure not going to get it out of the profits
of Star Trek.” Gates McFadden played Dr. Beverly Crusher
in Star Trek: The Next Generation. She was a popular character, but by the end
of season one she was gone, and no one really had any idea why. There were lots of rumors, with McFadden believing
that her departure had to do with a male writer-producer whom she clashed with over what she saw as
sexist writing. Producer Rick Berman wasn’t shy about saying
who this male writer-producer actually was. He told Redeeming Culture, “The head writer on the show during the first
season…was a gentleman named Maurice Hurley. Wonderful guy. Maurice did not like Gates. He had a real bone to pick with Gates. They just didn’t get along. He didn’t like her acting, he didn’t like
her.” Eventually Hurley convinced Berman to fire
McFadden. It didn’t last though, and in fact, Hurley
was let go himself not long afterwards, and by the third season Dr. Crusher made a comeback. McFadden has said that she credited the fans
for bringing her back. “I know how difficult it was for you being
away.” Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
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11 Replies to “Scandals That Rocked The Star Trek Universe To The Core

  1. You are 100 per cent incorrect, Mr Grunge!
    Rodenberry loved women…unlike you, you little, pathtic snowflake, queer!

  2. Little assholes like you should need to get a special license, before posting, unresearched horse-crap, like this!
    You are not good at, whatever you think, your job is!

  3. B5 was the superior of the two shows. It seemed pretty clear to me at the time, one was copying the other. Since J. Michael Straczynski reportedly had the whole series pretty much written out before season one started filming, it was obvious who did the copying.

  4. Tasha Yar should've been on here. Granted I never liked her character but she either quit or was fired depending on which version you believe and was killed off suddenly and pointlessly as a final slap in the face

  5. 0:24 – (sigh) Why do so many of the people we looked up to when we were younger turn out to have such dark sides. Is it just impossible to be a super-creative innovater without also having a large dark side?
    3:55 – Now I'll always wonder what the episode would have been like if it had been left the was Ellison wrote it!
    4:35 – Any idea where I can get of copy of Ellison's original version?? 😀
    8:23 – I can think of a lot of politicians who would have made all the political hay they possibly could out of something like that. To Obama's credit indeed!
    9:18 – Lyrics to the Star Trek theme? I'm gobsmacked!
    Um… Second?

  6. Scandals left out:

    The Star Trek/Nimoy issues that almost kept him out of the movies
    William Shatner's need to "Kiss" Every female cast member
    Kate Mulgrew's attempt to sabotage Jeri Ryan's career while on Voyager
    The Retconning of the Klingons in Discovery to the point of almost killing the franchise
    The Discovery/Tardigrade scandal (Still ongoing)
    The fact that "Of Gods and Men" got made as a two one-hour film series, while Axanar gets two 15 minute releases
    The insane Lawyer of Gene Roddenberry
    Gene Roddenberry's beef with Nicholas Meyer over Star Trek 6
    White-Washing Khan Singh in "Into Darkness" (Even if Ricardo Montalban was Latin, and not Arabic)
    TNG Episode "Code of Honor……… ALL OF IT….

    I Love Trek, as I grew up on the Reruns of TOS, and the first run of TNG was my favorite live-action show from age 5 (When it debuted) But all of what was mentioned, the whole "Roddenberry being a dick" thing, and in Trek Fandom, the scandals of how Trek began to move away from sexualizing women in TNG in the final two seasons, only to backtrack with Seven and T'Pol later, even if DS9 had Leeta and the Dabo Girls (They were basically the draw to gamble at Quark's) but I would be foolish to not point out glaring issues with the series' BTS issues and questionable/immoral decisions made by Roddenberry, Berman, Braga, Abrams and Kurtzman through the 53 years of it's lifespan….

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