Almost every idea that, from the outset, defined TNG as distinct from its predecessor was Gerrold's idea, not Roddenberry's:
- Families living aboard a starship;
- The First Officer should lead landing parties, so as not to place the Captain in any danger;
- The office of a ship's therapist or counselor;
- The idea of a Klingon on the bridge.
There are probably a few more I'm forgetting. That last one was an idea that Roddenberry resisted for an extremely long time; Worf was actually the last member of the bridge crew to be cast. Indeed, there are some early promotional materials that don't include Worf at all.
In fairness, there were a few ideas that Gerrold wrote that didn't make it to the series. One of them (years before SeaQuest!) was that the Galaxy-class Enterprise would have giant tanks to hold dolphins and whales, for both research, and to allow the cetaceans to work as navigators, made easier by their natural ability to think in three dimensions. Apparently, TNG held Cetacean intelligence very highly, if they were actual parts of the crew. I'm actually kind of glad this ideas wasn't used, as it would have dated the series terribly. The faddish American love of all things dolphin reached a crazy feverishness in the late 1980s.
In some ways, what happened in the first series of TNG was understandable. Gene Roddenberry had the Star Trek movies taken away from him after the cost overruns of The Motion Picture, where he had to acept the humiliating credit, "Creative Consultant." In fact, I remember hearing the idea for what Gene's version of Star Trek II would have been like: it would have involved Klingons going through the Guardian of Forever to assassinate JFK, which sounds as goofy as some of the silliest episodes of the original series, where Kirk battled evil alongside Abe Lincoln.
One of the biggest not-so-secret secrets of Star Trek (along with Wesley being Picard's son and Shatner wearing a rug) was that Gene Roddenberry was responsible for the plot leaks during production of Star Trek II, which he did to whip up fan outrage over the death of Spock. Nichelle Nichols, Gene Roddenberry's mistress during his first marriage, explained and defended Gene's actions on this point. Still, Gene vowed that if he got the chance, he would do HIS Trek, and the Great Bird of the Galaxy controlled his series with paranoid zeal that alienated a lot of the people that worked there, who claim Roddenberry took sole credit.
This is why it is so surprising to see a TV spot with David Gerrold. Writers have described First-Season TNG as an armed camp, with Roddenberry against the writers’ room. People that have worked on Star Trek for decades, including Dorothy Fontana and David Gerrold (arguably TNG’s co-creator) left Trek at this time. There was one very moving scene, remembered by Gerrold, where he once found Roddenberry face-down on his desk, weeping, and said “all of my friends have abandoned me.”
It’s obvious this atmosphere didn’t affect TNG for the better. The First Season of Next Generation was mostly unwatchable and boring. Everything the critics said about TNG was mostly true: it wasn’t a worthy sequel to the original series. The gigantic, unreal popularity of TNG was at least a season or two away.