THE DAVID GERROLD TAS INTERVIEW
is the Hugo and Nebula
award winning author of
When HARLIE Was One
The Man Who Folded Himself
A Matter For Men
A Day For Damnation
A Rage For Revenge
A Season For Slaughter
A Method For Madness
The Voyage Of The Star Wolf
Jumping Off The Planet
Bouncing Off The Moon
Leaping To The Stars
The Martian Child
"The Trouble With Tribbles" episode of Star Trek.
And the main subject of this interview,
"More Tribbles, More Troubles", and "Bem" episodes of Star Trek Animated.
TAS: So, what were your feelings when you heard Trek was coming back in animated form?
Gerrold: Originally, there was a lot of skepticism; but the folks at Filmation were very serious about doing a good job, and when we saw their first artwork, we began to think that maybe there was a chance to do something special. And it was Star Trek, of course, so our enthusiasm began to grow as we got into the job. There were still lots of stories we wanted to tell.
TAS: What was working with DC Fontana like?
Gerrold: DC Fontana is one of the very best story editors or producers I've ever worked with. She's methodical, careful, thoughtful, insightful -- great qualities for any producer. She was always one of the hidden strengths of Star Trek and she's never gotten one tenth of the credit she deserves.
TAS: What was Roddenberry's involvement with the show, did he approve your stories, re-write them at all?
Gerrold: Roddenberry started out by saying he was going to be personally involved in every script, but as time wore on, he didn't have the strength to continue. Gene didn't write any of the scripts himself. The real problem was that Gene was having some difficulties at the time and he couldn't always remember what he'd previously said about a story; so from one draft to the next, he was always changing direction. His notes on "BEM" were very confusing and he added elements that I felt pulled the story way off its original premise. When in doubt, Gene always had Kirk get into a fight with God.
TAS: I've read that your two TAS stories were originally pitched for the third season of the original series. What was cut from them to make them fit the half hour format? Did it hurt the stories?
Gerrold: Surprisingly, nothing was cut. In fact, the animated scripts were almost as long as the live action scripts -- but as animation they played faster. That gave us the opportunity to do the stories in depth.
TAS: Are there original versions of your two scripts that are significantly different than what made it on the screen?
Gerrold: No. There are some differences in the outlines, but they're all out in the garage and I don't feel like going out there to look them up.
TAS: Did you have to make changes because of the Saturday morning time slot?
Gerrold: Not really. The only thing we didn't do was give Kirk a love affair in every episode. That gave us an extra twenty minutes per episode for more story and more action.
TAS: Did you pitch any other stories for TAS?
Gerrold: No, I didn't. I was starting to get involved with two other shows and my time was very limited.
TAS: You slipped in a rather sly reference to science's inability to create quick "fix-it"s for problems with the genetically modified tribbles, only to have it lead to more problems. Was this intentional?
Gerrold: Yes. I am a strong believer in the law of unintended consequences. Every "fix" creates its own problem.
TAS: You did some voice work for the show, how many did you do?
Gerrold: I only did the one voice of Em-three-green. I wasn't all that happy with how it turned out. I figured out a better voice two days later.
TAS: Do you think the animated series deserves to be canon again? Any inside information as to why it de-canonized in the first place? (This is a hot topic in discussions of TAS)
Gerrold: Arguments about "canon" are silly. I always felt that Star Trek Animated was part of Star Trek because Gene Roddenberry accepted the paycheck for it and put his name on the credits. And DC Fontana -- and all the other writers involved -- busted their butts to make it the best Star Trek they could.
But this whole business of "canon" really originated with Gene's errand boy. Gene liked giving people titles instead of raises, so the errand boy got named "archivist" and apparently it went to his head. Gene handed him the responsibility of answering all fan questions, silly or otherwise, and he apparently let that go to his head.
TAS: Do you have a favorite TAS episode, and why?
Gerrold: Yesteryear, by DC Fontana. Brilliant storytelling, and some great background on Spock.
TAS: Did you give Kirk his middle name Tiberius? BEM was the first time it was ever mentioned.
Gerrold: Yes, I did. I think it happened at a Star Trek convention, where we all started speculating about what the T stood for. I, Claudius had just aired on PBS, so I said "Tiberius" as a joke. Later on, others picked up on it. So when TAS started, I wrote it in as a line of dialog. DC Fontana passed it by Gene at some point, and it stuck.
TAS: You made your first Trek appearance in More Tribbles, More Troubles (sort of), and I know you wrote a part for yourself in Trouble with Tribbles (although they wouldn't let you play it), Do you always try to write yourself into your scripts, and have you ever appeared in any other shows?
Gerrold: I don't always write myself into scripts. But Trek was special. So I wrote a little cameo for myself. That's all.
TAS: Do you have the animation cel of yourself from the show?
Gerrold: At one time I did, but we lost a lot of stuff in the earthquake, in a small fire, and in a major garage cleaning. If I still have it, it's buried in some stack of other stuff somewhere.
TAS: Another question I'm asked, in fact it's probably my most frequently asked question, will TAS ever be released on DVD? I know you probably have no way of knowing, but I had to ask.
Gerrold: I have no way of knowing if it will ever be released or not. But there's enough interest in it that I expect that it will someday be released. I have it on laserdisc, and at some point I intend to copy those discs to DVD, so at least I'll have it on DVD.
TAS: Why have you never written for Trek again?
Gerrold: I'm not a Star Trek writer, I'm a science fiction writer. I like building my own worlds more than share-cropping in someone else's.
TAS: Why did you leave The Next Generation?
Gerrold: I left Next-Gen because Gene Roddenberry's lawyer made the working conditions untenable. Gene's health was failing and the lawyer told him not to trust his own staff. Over thirty other people left the show that first year (a television record) because of the office politics. Even today, if you mention the lawyer's name on the lot, people roll their eyes and say, "We don't mention him." (Like what? Is that going to whitewash something?)
TAS: Any opinions on the newer series, or Trek literature?
Gerrold: Not really. I've said it elsewhere that Star Trek is the McDonald's of science fiction. This isn't an insult, it's an acknowledgment that it sets a standard by which all other television science fiction is measured. Is it as good as? Is it better than? But it's also an acknowledgment that this isn't prime rib either. It's a franchise, even Paramount calls it that. As science fiction, Star Trek is more double-talk than science. I find that disappointing -- because thirty years ago, we used to get fan letters from NASA.
TAS: Have you read Allan Dean Foster's novelization of your TAS scripts?
Gerrold: I like Alan a lot. I thought he did a fine job.
TAS: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions Mr. Gerrold! We wish you continued success for the future.
You may visit David Gerrold's website here.
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