Leonard Maizlish was the attorney to Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. According to one documentary, Maizlish caused a lot of problems on the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Leonard Maizlish isn’t exactly a household name, but he became familiar to legions of Star Trek fans after so many production insiders told stories about the man for the documentary Chaos on the Bridge. That documentary, hosted by William Shatner, chronicles the chaotic first three years behind the scenes at Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Here are some facts about a man who influenced Star Trek from behind the scenes, but not always for the better.
1. Many Fans Learned About Leonard Maizlish From a Documentary
Of *course* Leonard Maizlish was invited!
— IanRW (@ianrw) March 16, 2018
According to multiple members of the TNG production staff who spoke on camera for the documentary Chaos on the Bridge, Maizlish often tried to do more than give Roddenberry legal advice. According to the documentary, shortly after Leonard Maizlish moved into the production offices in February of 1986, strange things started to happen.
Multiple writers interviewed in the documentary accuse Leonard Maizlish of writing or editing scripts, which he was not only unqualified to do, but was actually against the rules of the Writer’s Guild. The documentary notes that at one point, Leonard Maizlish got banned from the production lot, but eventually snuck back in. This left one writer so frustrated, he was quoted in the documentary about his desire to push Leonard Maizlish out of a window on one occasion.
2. Maizlish Was Once in Hot Water With the SEC
Maizlish’s bad reputation doesn’t just come from the documentary. According to one Securities and Exchange Commission document from 1964, Maizlish was being investigated “misrepresentations and omissions which he reasonably should have known were false and misleading.” That year, he withdrew himself from further appearances before the SEC. According to a later SEC document, he had his ability to litigate restored the following year.
3. The Documentary Wasn’t the First Time Leonard Maizlish Got Called Out
season one, Leonard Maizlish, Gene's lawyer, would hand me a script saying these were Gene notes. I'm pretty sure they were Leonard's notes.
— Rick Berman (@berman_rick) April 5, 2013
It’s also worth noting that Star Trek insiders have called out Leonard Maizlish in the past. There are two notable print publications that have more detail on this lawyer and his impact on the world of the show.
1996’s Inside Star Trek, a reference book, is packed with insider information from those who worked on the series. The book was written by Herbert Solow, a studio executive involved with the original series, alongside veteran Trek producer Robert “Bob” Justman. Much of the book consists of material from Justman’s personal collection. Justman worked on both the original series, as well as TNG.
One notable written account about Maizlish from this book is on page 195. In that anecdote, the authors of the book relay that Maizlish altered some contract language for the original series’ composer, forcing him to split royalties with Roddenberry.
Also in 1996, an issue of Starlog featured an interview with Justman, who expanded on his personal relationship with Maizlish during the TNG years.
“Maizlish made my life hell,” he told the publication. “I spent half my days being angry at Gene’s lawyer…He was getting in my way and causing me big problems. My blood pressure rose suddenly – I’ve always had a great heart – and I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
4. One ‘Trek’ Writer Called Maizlish a ‘Scumbag’
In the video above, former writer David Gerrold talks about why he left TNG.
Gerrold, who wrote for both the original series and the first season of The Next Generation, went so far as to call Maizlish “a scumbag of a human being” while speaking to TrekMovie.com in 2014.
In the same interview, he speculated that Roddenberry allowed Maizlish such a broad range of creative input on the series because of fear.
“Gene was terrified that the studio would try and take the show away from him,” Gerrold argued, “So we ended up with this bizarre circumstance that Gene was so afraid of losing his show that he gave control away to his lawyer and he didn’t trust me or [writer] Dorothy Fontana after. That was the part that hurt Dorothy and I the most, is that Gene stopped trusting us and started treating us as the enemy.”
In a separate interview with StarTrek.com, writer David Gerrold was asked if he ever regretted leaving Star Trek: The Next Generation after its first season. He immediately stated that he did not, and explained that Maizlish was the reason why.
“Part of the problem on TNG was Gene’s lawyer…was making it impossible for anybody to do any real work,” he explained. “It was one of the worst working environments I’d ever been in…after I left the show I walked myself around the block and decided that it was time for me to have my own life and my own career, separate from Trek.”
5. The Lawyer May Have Contributed to Roddenberry’s Sadness
The man who acted as Gene Roddenberry’s lawyer had a colorful reputation, and that reputation ultimately seems to have divided Rodenberry from even his oldest and most trusted collaborators in the end.
In their coverage of the 2010 Necronomicon convention in St. Petersburg, Florida, Airlock Alpha quoted writer David Gerrold at a panel discussion. During the panel, Gerrold said that Roddenberry was upset after so many of the crew left at the end of season 1 of TNG.
“Gene was crying because all of his friends were gone,” Gerrold told the audience. “It was because Maizlish chased them away.”