“We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.”
― Gene Roddenberry
Gene Roddenberry, often affectionately referred to as the “Great Bird of the Galaxy,” led a life as colorful and exciting as almost any high-adventure fiction. He was born in El Paso, Texas, on August 19, 1921, and nearly escaped death as a toddler, when a house fire almost took Gene’s life, as well as his siblings, Bob, Doris, and their mother, but a milkman came along and woke them in time to avoid any injuries.
Gene spent his boyhood in Los Angeles, where he later studied three years of policemanship and then transferred his academic interest to aeronautical engineering and qualified for a pilot's license. He volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps in the fall of 1941 and was ordered into training as a flying cadet when the United States entered World War II. As a Second Lieutenant, Roddenberry was sent to the South Pacific where he entered combat at Guadalcanal, flying B-17 bombers out of the newly captured Japanese airstrip, which became Henderson Field. He flew missions against enemy strongholds at Bougainville and participated in the Munda invasion. He was decorated with the Distinguished flying Cross and the Air Medal.
It was while in the South Pacific, that Mr. Roddenberry began to write. He sold stories to flying magazines, and later poetry to publications, including The New York Times. He even wrote a song lyric "I Wanna Go Home", which became a popular song during the war.
At war's end, he joined Pan American World Airways. It was on a flight from Calcutta that his plane lost two engines and caught fire in flight, crashing at night in the Syrian desert. As the senior surviving officer, Roddenberry sent two Englishmen swimming across the Euphrates River in quest of the source of a light he had observed just prior to the crash impact. The Englishmen reached a Syrian military outpost, which sent a small plane to investigate. Roddenberry returned with the small plane to the outpost, where he broadcast a message that was relayed to Pan Am, which sent a stretcher plane to the rescue. Roddenberry later received a Civil Aeronautics commendation for his efforts during and after the crash.
Roddenberry continued flying until he saw television for the first time. Correctly estimating television's future, he realized that the new medium would need writers and decided that Hollywood's film studios would soon dominate the new industry. He acted immediately, left his flying career behind and went to Hollywood, only to find the television industry still in its infancy, with few openings for inexperienced writers. At a friend's suggestion, he joined the Los Angeles Police Department, following in his father's footsteps and gaining experiences which would be valuable to a writer.
It wasn't until 1966 when Roddenberry created and produced Star Trek, that he found his voice in Hollywood. The first of the two pilots were pronounced "too cerebral" by the network and rejected. Once on the air, however, Star Trek developed a loyal following as viewers grew to love the Starship Enterprise and its crew, which included the heroic Captain Kirk and the logical Vulcan, Mr. Spock.
As a freelance writer, Roddenberry wrote scripts for Highway Patrol, Have Gun–Will Travel and other series, before creating and producing his own television series The Lieutenant. In 1964, Roddenberry created Star Trek, which premiered in 1966 and ran for three seasons before being canceled. Syndication of Star Trek led to increasing popularity, and Roddenberry continued to create, produce and consult on the Star Trek films and the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation until his death. In 1985 he became the first TV writer with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:110 and he was later inducted by both the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. Years after his death, Roddenberry was one of the first humans to have his ashes "buried" in outer space.
The Star Trek franchise created by Roddenberry has produced story material for almost five decades; resulting in six television series consisting of 726 episodes, and twelve feature films.
Additionally, the popularity of the Star Trek universe and films inspired the parody/homage/cult film Galaxy Quest in 1999, as well as many books, video games and fan films set in the various "eras" of the Star Trek universe.
Gene Roddenberry in 1976 with most of the cast of Star Trek at the rollout of the Space Shuttle Enterprise at the Rockwell International plant at Palmdale, California, USA Roddenberry developed Star Trek in 1964, as a combination of the two science-fiction series Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. He sold the project as a "Wagon Train to the Stars", and it was picked up by Desilu Studios. The first TV pilot went over its budget and garnered only modest approval from NBC. Nevertheless, the network commissioned a second pilot, which was unprecedented. The series premiered on September 8, 1966, and ran for three seasons, but began to receive low ratings. During the final season, Roddenberry left active involvement (retaining his executive producer title in name only) when the network reneged on its promise for a more desirable time slot. In 1970, Paramount agreed to sell him all rights to Star Trek, but Roddenberry could not afford the $150,000 price ($887,000 today).
Brannon Braga has said that Roddenberry made it known to the writers of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation that religion and mystical thinking were not to be included, and that in Roddenberry's vision of Earth's future, everyone was an atheist and better for it. He stubbornly resisted the effort of network execs to put a Christian chaplain on the crew of the Enterprise. It would be ludicrous, he argued, to pretend that all other religions would have become obliterated by this point, or that such a cosmopolitan people would impose one group's religion on all the rest of the crew.
The series went on to gain popularity through syndication.
Once upon a lifetime, a bold, adventurous and daring man shared his dream, presented to the world an aspiration laden with enduring, undaunted visions of what the future could be. He excited the hearts and minds of men around the world.
One man’s dream challenged humanity to explore and reach beyond the unknown, and to embrace a vast and wondrous world that awaits those who seek to discover freedom, endless possibilities, and hope—brotherhood among all men.
Now and forever, the vision, the dream will live on in the hearts of man and in the immortalized phenomenon called Star Trek. The walls of segregation were torn asunder, and he brought the world of man ever closer together. Race, gender, religion and personalities became insignificant as hope, life, unity and adventure intermingled to create a universe of belonging, one where humanity could celebrate infinite diversity in infinite combinations.
Gene generated a strong influence on global culture via his science fiction stories and myths, urging us to "reach for the stars" at a young age.
Also see Russell Wright