William Shatner on Gene Roddenberry’s Role in Star Trek: The Original Series

In a new interview, Shatner claims Gene Roddenberry didn't have much to do with Star Trek past Episode 13.

Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek, but the franchise has lived on long past his death. In a new interview with William Shatner (via IGN), the Original Series captain talks about Roddenberry’s role in shaping that first incarnation of Star Trek, which Shatner claims was limited after the first 13 episodes.

According to Shatner, Roddenberry “had little to do with Star Trek after the first 13 shows.” To put that in context, the first season consisted of 29 episodes altogether and there were 79 episodes of The Original Series altogether.

As the IGN article points out, Roddenberry worked with associate producers Robert Justman and John D.F. Black in the first half of Season 1. Black left the show in August of 1966 and Roddenberry brought in Gene Coon (who created many, though not all, of the most familiar elements of Star Trek) to replace him. Coon would leave after Season 2 because of a dispute with Roddenberry. He was replaced by John Meredyth Lucas.

While Roddenberry’s writerly presence is more visible in early Season 1 before he transitioned to executive producer, he had a handful of writers credits on Star Trek episodes throughout the three series. It is generally stated that Roddenberry revised and rewrote many of the scripts in Seasons 1 and 2, though was much less involved in the show in Season 3 after a falling out with the network. 

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Speaking more generally about his working relationship with Roddenberry, Shatner said: “Gene was a typical writer in that he lived in his head a lot. It’s my view that people write — professional writers, people who do a lot of writing, sit in their office, their chair, wherever they’re writing, and are by themselves and living in their head. And they may do so because they’re not adept at dealing with people. So they make fiction.”

Shatner added:

Then, when they become hyphenates — which they did in those days — so the writer became a producer, writer-slash-producer. The fit may not have been exact, if I could be — if I could put it that way. … And so it was with him. He was a… he was a cool customer. He had his own way of doing things, and needed… no, I’d better not go there.

So… it doesn’t seem like William Shatner was Gene Roddenberry’s biggest fan.