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Biography

Jump to: Overview (2)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Trivia (5)  | Personal Quotes (8)

Overview (2)

Born in Chicago, Illinois, USA
Birth NameJerrold Friedman

Mini Bio (1)

David Gerrold was born on January 24, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois, USA as Jerrold Friedman. He is a writer and actor, known for Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II (2004), Star Trek (1966) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993).

Trivia (5)

Wrote "The Trouble With Tribbles", the most-popular episode of Star Trek (1966)
In 1992, Gerrold adopted an 8-year-old boy named Sean.
Guest of honor at WESTERCON 28 science-fiction convention (Oakland, CA, July 3-6, 1975).
Wrote a syndicated column for "Starlog" magazine in the 70's and 80's.
Gerrold said he was an extra in a crowd in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) and "I can point to me in that shot".

Personal Quotes (8)

'Real drama' is about the human condition; it's about angst, anguish, suicide, incest. It's about people failing to put their lives together. Science-fiction is about what do we build next. (It) gets into what is the nature of reality, what does it mean to be a human being. Those are answers you don't get in an ordinary story.
No, I did not get the idea for the 'War Against The Chtorr' series when my dog got worms. Here's the truth. When I was a kid, my favorite movies were the George Pal version of War Of The Worlds, Them, and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Those movies were SCARY! They haunted my nightmares for years, so when I started writing, I wanted to write a story that was just as big and just as scary. I wanted to write about some kind of biological invasion from space, and if you read the series you'll see that I've got giant insects who dig deep nests; but the big insight occurred while sitting and schmoozing with some writer and artist friends at the Boskone convention in Feb. of 1970. That's when I realized that you don't invade a planet, you COLONIZE it. You terraform it. You take all of your support species with you -- dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, horses, cows, pigs, wheat, corn, carrots, broccoli, apples, bananas, honeybees, lizards, frogs, fish, etc., because there are all these complex interactions necessary for survival. (Then I had to figure out how to send a whole ecology from there to here, but that's another conversation.) But as it grew, I realized that the story was never really about the worms at all; it's about all of the other creatures in the ecology. The focus on the worms was one of the distractions that kept our heroes from realizing what they were really up against for the first three or four books. BTW, the dog is fine, thanks!
There were a lot fewer people working when I started, so there was a lot less competition. It seemed easy to me, but later on I realised how hard it was.

What happened was that Star Trek (1966)'s first episode came on the air on a Thursday night. I tuned in to watch it with some curiosity and an enormous amount of anxiousness, because there had been so much science fiction on the air that hadn't been very good. I thought, "Well, this show has promise, but nobody's really done science fiction right on television yet."

I looked at it and thought, "Well, gee, that transporter beam, mmm, I don't know, I'd really rather they had a shuttle craft. That guy with the pointed ears, I don't think he's going to work out at all." But I liked what I saw enough that I wrote an outline and submitted it to Star Trek.

They were all bought up for the first season but they said, "Please submit for the second season," so I wrote a whole bunch of outlines which I turned in and they picked one.

Now the way I approached it, and I think this is the advice I would give to anybody wanting to try to get into any TV show, is to realise there's a finite number of stories that they can do. They had twenty episodes a season, so what you have to do is come up with a story that is so good that they actually want to put aside something else they've planned [in order] to do your story.

You're not just competing with what they've got, you're competing with everybody else who's pitching stories, so you actually have to write not just the best story you can but the best story they've ever done. My approach to Star Trek was, "I know science fiction, and I know screen writing."

That was very arrogant of me, but you really need to be a little bit arrogant to think that what you have to say is good enough to justify the expense of hundreds of thousands - now millions of dollars - to make an episode of the TV show. So you have to say to yourself, "What can I do that's better than anything that anyone else has done?" And that means putting aside your own fantasies of, "Gee, how about the teenage girl who falls in love with Spock," and actually do the one that challenges the format of the show, the nature of science fiction, and you.

I would say they picked the right one. I wanted to do the Tribble [Star Trek: The Trouble with Tribbles (1967)] episode and I had submitted five or six stories, and they picked the right one because that one I felt was totally unlike anything else they had ever done. It gave them all a chance to do comedy and ultimately, and I have to admit even I'm surprised by this, it proved, according to Paramount, to be the most popular episode of the series.

Here's the joke. We had a party at my house when the show aired, on December 29th, and I invited all my friends from college who were still finishing school. One of the folks there was Robert Englund who played Freddie Kruger in all the A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) movies. He's a very talented actor, and he said, 'Boy, David that turned out very very nice.'

I said, 'You know I'm proud of it but I'm going to be real honest, I don't think in 20 years anyone's going to remember this, it's just one episode of one TV series and after the last rerun it will be forgotten'. Well, there's never been a last rerun and here it is almost thirty-five years later and everybody knows about this thing. I think everybody on the planet has seen it now and it's a little scary. And kind of flattering too.
I had always been fascinated by the whole idea that Australia was this different ecology and that when rabbits and prickly pears and other things from Europe were introduced into Australia they ran amok. I always thought this was a remarkable story about the law of unintended consequences, so I thought, "What if you could have rabbits or mice [in a story]."

The girl I was seeing at the time had a little fuzz ball on the end of her key chain and I thought, "What if you had little fuzz balls that bred like crazy," and the next thing it was like, "Yes that's obvious because all we have to do is get little fuzz balls off the key chains, we'll go and buy five hundred key chains."

Actually we didn't do it that way, but that was where the idea came from. Essentially, it's what if you had rats on the space ship - where do you go from there? And it turned out to be a lot of fun.

I think for me the most fun was that I would visit the set and for the actors it was the first time they had really had the chance to do a show that was a comedy. They were just having a party. Everybody was having an enormous amount of fun, especially William Shatner who's normally a very funny man.

I think this was one of the first chances he'd ever gotten to do a comedy of any kind. Previously he'd done a couple of The Twilight Zone (1959) episodes where he'd done the very intense guy who sees the thing on the wing, the gremlin on the wing of aeroplanes, stuff like that. He'd done an episode of Thriller (1960) where there was this painting that was hacking people to death.

He was only doing dramatic parts and I know he loved the opportunity to do comedy, so for him this was a chance to break out. I think it's part of the reason people look at him as a comic actor today, where he can do things like Miss Congeniality (2000). Last time I spoke to him he said he loved doing the comedy.
They denied they were doing a tribble sequel over and over and over, and I kept hearing the rumours, over and over and over.

Finally they announced it, and I picked up the phone and called Rick Berman. I said, "Rick I just got a phone call from [someone], and they want an interview and I told them I'd get back to them. It would be really embarrassing for you guys if I said Paramount hasn't told me anything at all about this, it would be a lot better for everybody if I could say this is really a great thing". Rick said "You know, you're absolutely right."

He was an absolute gentleman about it, so they bought me in to be an extra in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Trials and Tribble-ations (1996). They gave me a copy of the script and treated me very kindly. I read the script and I said, "You guys are going to get an Hugo nomination off of this, this is the best Star Trek (1966) script I've ever read, it is absolutely brilliant."

They did a marvellous job of taking the Deep Space Nine characters and weaving them into the [Original] Star Trek (1966) characters. There was a moment with the director Jonathan West when everybody was lined up in front of a monitor with a video tape of Star Trek: The Trouble with Tribbles (1967), because they wanted to see how this scene that we were about to shoot was going to fit in.

They're saying, "Well it's, there's the scene where they're all lined up and Kirk is balling them out," and they're running through the tape and I was standing there and I'm looking at it and I say, "No, you should scan that tape backward, reverse it because the scene you're looking for happens [there]."

On the sound stage, nobody ever contradicts the director and there's this silence, and the director says, "David's right, if there's anybody who knows this show it's David," so they run it back to the right scene.

A minute later they're setting up the tribbles in the corridor and he says, "Are there enough tribbles or are there too many tribbles? Or what?" I said, "Well this scene comes between this scene and that scene and you're fitting it in here, therefore there's too many tribbles, we need to take about seven or eight of them away..." I suddenly realised I'm directing the director.

The episode turned out beautiful. I think it was the best episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) ever and possibly the best episode of Star Trek (1966) after the Original Series. I want to give a lot of compliments on that one. The Art Department totally recreated the original sets, they recreated the look and feel, they got the same paints, the same size cords to make the corridors the same, they matched everything.

There were only two things they couldn't match and they found matches for them both by accident. They couldn't find the original stuff but they were able to create matches that photographed perfectly. They used the same make-up from thirty years ago, the same lenses, the same lights, the same lighting, even the same film stock, so that when you go back to that it looks identical and it matches perfectly to the original Star Trek (1966) footage.

Then they did a new master of the original Star Trek (1966) footage to get an absolutely pristine copy and it looked perfect. It looked so good that the studio decided to remaster all of the seventy-nine episodes for the DVDs. All in all I think it was one of Paramount's best ideas.
I'm frustrated with Hollywood and television and the movies because they see science fiction as an excuse for eye candy, for lots of great special effects.

I love seeing the dinosaurs and the space ships and the time machines and whatever they want to create, I love it, but once they get there, they don't start asking, "What does it mean, what's the next step?" It's just an excuse to have the dinosaur chase somebody in a jeep or whatever.

I say, "No, there's more to this!" Science fiction is a unique literature. Science fiction is the first literature that says, "Tomorrow is going to be different than yesterday, it's going to be a lot different." This really started just in the last hundred years, it started with Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and Arthur Conan Doyle a little bit, where you had guys predicting possibilities.

When you get to Wells talking about the time machine, to me that's the breakthrough story, because he's saying the future will be vastly different than the past. In the 20th century we had a century where at the beginning of the century, most of the world was agricultural and industry was very primitive.

At the end of that century we had men in orbit, we had been to the moon, we had people with cell phones and colour televisions and the internet and amazing medical technology of all kinds. We could photograph atoms. We had telescopes that could look to the far end of the universe and our computers could say, "If this trend continues we'll have this much pollution or we'll have this little something or other," and we actually could look into our own future in a way that we'd never been able to do before.

If you were a kid in 1955 you would pick up a copy of Popular Science and it would say, "This is the kind of car you're going to be driving in five years or in 20 years you'll be able to take a jet plane from New York to London in four hours," or something like that. We actually got used to the idea that the future's going to be different.

Star Trek (1966), as a popular phenomenon, brought that idea into the mainstream of human thought. It was no longer science fiction as this fringe thing, now here it's on television, we're saying, "Look, the future's going to be different." To me that's the first step.

The second step is if we have this future that's going to be different, then we also have the responsibility to design our future. If we're going to be able to design our future then we have to ask ourselves what future are we going to design? Who are we? Who do we want to create? How do we want to create it?

Ultimately it comes back to the question of what does it mean to be human. Who are we as human beings? What are we going to give up from the past? We have to give up a lot of stuff, we have to give up superstition, some of the fairy tales that we've wrapped up our faith in. I'm all in favour of faith but if you have true faith you don't need all of the fairy tales.

If we can get rid of superstition then we're going to ask ourselves questions about how we relate to each other as human beings. How do we treat each other? What does it mean to be in love? What does it mean to communicate? Who are we? And to me that's the essential question that's always been in science fiction. A lot of science fiction stories are - at their very best - evocations of that question.

When we look up at the night sky and wonder, "Is there anyone else out there?" we're also asking who we are we in relation to them. When we go into the past, go into the future, when we postulate alternate kinds of human beings we're asking what's the core of humanity. If we could grow gills so we could breathe underwater, would we still be human? Well, our bodies wouldn't be human as we define humanity [now] but would our souls be human? To me science fiction has always been about that question.
I got tired to going to conventions that were all the same. I thought. "I keep getting invited to conventions, I've got to do something to make the convention worthwhile."

Celeste Holm carries this little purse with her and any time someone asks for an autographs she asks for a dollar and it goes to the Heart Association I believe. I heard about that, and thought, "That's a great idea."

I started carrying around a jar and the money was going to the AIDS project in Los Angeles. Other charities have [also] been the beneficiaries of this, right now it's the Science Fiction Writer's Emergency Medical Fund, and there will be other charities in the future.

I went to a lot more conventions, holding auctions and asking people for money and I got real good at asking people for money without feeling guilty about it. I liked it so now I go to conventions and the idea is - I have this game I play, how much money can I raise. Oh, let's see, there's three hundred people at this convention, okay I'm going to raise three hundred dollars, or if there's ten thousand people at this convention, I'm going to go for ten thousand dollars.

The idea is to see how much money I can raise for whatever charity I'm working on at the time. It's just a fun game to play.
You cannot believe how many doors the tribbles have opened for me. I've gotten into the Houston Space Centre and NASA and JPL (the Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and just every studio I can get into [by saying], "I'm the guy who wrote the tribbles", "Oh, come on in!" So I don't mind, it's a great door-opener and I've dined out on it for 35 years [as of 2002.]

What I wish is that people would look beyond the tribbles and see I've written some other books that I really would like people to notice. There's The Man Who Folded Himself, there's The Martian Child, which is about my son and the adoption. There's The War Against The Chtorr, which is my magnum opus, my great epic story. So there's so much other stuff I've done.

Yes, I'd like people to read those books but I don't mind it, it's fun, and I live in hope that somebody will tell me a tribble joke I haven't already heard.

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