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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
Roddenberry, Gene (1921-1991)
"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


Eugene Wesley Roddenberry was an American scriptwriter and producer. He is best known as the creator of the science fiction television series Star Trek, and was one of the first people to be buried in space.

Personal life
Born in El Paso, Texas to Eugene Edward Roddenberry and Caroline Glen, Roddenberry spent his boyhood in Los Angeles, California, where his family had moved so his father could pursue a career with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Following in his father's footsteps after high school, Roddenberry took classes in police studies at Los Angeles City College, and headed that school's Police Club.

In that role, he liaised with the FBI, thanking them for sending speakers and securing copies of the FBI Code and publications for club use, and attempted to take fingerprint records of the college community for the FBI's Civil Identification Division.

He later transferred his academic interest to aeronautical engineering and qualified for a pilot's license. Roddenberry joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941 and became an aviator. He flew many combat B-17 missions in the Pacific Theatre and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

After leaving the service, he was a commercial pilot for Pan American World Airways (Pan Am). He received a Civil Aeronautics commendation for his efforts following a crash in the Syrian desert, while on a flight to Calcutta. Roddenberry left Pan Am to pursue writing for television in Los Angeles. He fell back on his early training as a policeman and joined the LAPD. He served the LAPD from 1949 – 1956.

Roddenberry was married twice. He had two children by his first wife, Eileen Rexroat (to whom he was married 27 years) — Dawn, and the late Darleen. His second marriage was to Majel Barrett, who played Nurse Christine Chapel in the original Star Trek series, Lwaxana Troi, and the voice of the computer in all of the Star Trek series with the exception of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine & Star Trek:Enterprise. They were married in Japan in a traditional Buddhist-Shinto ceremony on August 6, 1969. He had one child, Rod Roddenberry, with Barrett.

Gene Roddenberry was a secular humanist. After his death, a lipstick-sized capsule of his ashes was sent into space to orbit the earth for six years (after which they burned up in the earth's atmosphere).

Television career
Before Star Trek, Roddenberry wrote scripts for many of the popular television series of the 1950s, such as Have Gun, Will Travel. (His first-season episode 'Helen of Abajinian' won an Emmy Award.) He produced The Lieutenant, a 1963-1964 ABC series about the United States Marines. He was also trying to get other science fiction series off the ground, mostly without success.

Roddenberry developed his idea for Star Trek in 1964 after looking for material to rival Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. The series was finally picked up by Desilu Studios by Gene selling the idea as a "Wagon Train to the Stars". The original $500,000 pilot received minor support from NBC, but the network commissioned an unprecedented second pilot. The series premiered on September 8, 1966 and ran for three seasons.

Although it was cancelled due to low ratings, the series gained wide popularity in syndication. In the third and final season of Star Trek Roddenberry--who had offered to demote himself to the position of line producer in a final attempt to ensure the show's success if the program was given his desired timeslot--lessened his workload when these demands were not met and accepted a staff producer position with MGM.

His first project with the studio, Pretty Maids All In A Row, was a sexploitation film adapted from the Francis Pollini novel by Roddenberry and directed by Roger Vadim. With a cast including established stars (Rock Hudson, Angie Dickinson, Telly Savalas, Roddy McDowall) alongside Star Trek regulars (James Doohan, William Campbell) and beautiful unknowns (among them Gretchen Burrell, the wife of country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons), the film was expected to be one of the biggest blockbusters of 1971. Even with the support of a Playboy pictorial featuring Burrell, the film only managed to break even at the box office. Roddenberry's relationship with MGM was all but terminated because of this, although he did continue to pursue ideas into 1972.

Following the cancellation of Star Trek and the relative failure of his first feature film, Roddenberry pitched four sci-fi tv series concepts that all had pilot movies produced but were not picked up; The Questor Tapes, Genesis II, Planet Earth, and Strange New World. He also co-wrote and was executive producer on the made for TV movie, Spectre (1977).

Unable to find work in the television and film industry and fearful that he would be unable to support his family, Roddenberry heeded the advice of good friend Arthur C. Clarke and began to find steady employment on the college lecture circuit, where contemporaries in a similar predicament (William Shatner, Timothy Leary) had also found success. He amused the fandom attendees (many of whom bestowed upon him the affectionate nickname "The Great Bird of the Galaxy," after a mythical creature referenced in "Man Trap," the first aired episode of Star Trek) with anecdotes from the Star Trek set, spoke of his visions of the future and showed the Star Trek Blooper Reel, a collection of outtakes from the original series.

He also exhibited a black and white print of unaired first series pilot The Cage. The screenings of the Blooper Reel drew criticism and ire from Leonard Nimoy (Spock), who felt that Roddenberry was exploiting his mistakes for money and eventually sued the writer-producer and Paramount for the Blooper Reel screenings and uncompensated use of his image in a Heineken promotional campaign. The matter would be resolved shortly before production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Beginning in 1975, go-ahead was given by Paramount for Roddenberry to develop a sequel "Star Trek" television series based around as many of the original cast as could be recruited. This series was to be the anchor show of a new network (the ancestor of the modern-day UPN), but plans by Paramount for this network were scrapped and plans were changed to do a Star Trek feature film.

The resulting Star Trek: The Motion Picture received a lukewarm critical response, but performed well at the box office. As a result, several feature films and a new television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, were created in the 1980s. Roddenberry was deeply involved with creating and producing Star Trek: The Next Generation, although his involvement lessened in seasons 2 and 3 due to deteriorating health. Star Trek also spawned the television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise.

Roddenberry only produced the first Star Trek film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The production was characterized by his rampant meglomania. Screenwriter Harold Livingston found his work constantly rewritten (inferiorly, in the opinion of himself and the studio) by Roddenberry and quit three times--only to be rehired by a fearful Paramount on each occassion. Actors regularly complained of the garish period costumes, cut so tight in the crotch that male performers often found it uncomfortable to sit. Visual effects produced by industry titans John Dykstra and Douglas Trumbull took nearly a year to film, while director Robert Wise was clearly out of his element.

When it came time to produce the obligatory sequel, Roddenberry was ousted and replaced by Harve Bennett. He continued as executive consultant on the next four films - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. In this position Rodenberry was allowed to view and comment upon all scripts and dailies emanating from the production, although the creative team was free to disregard Roddenberry's advice as Bennett almost always elected to do.

The last film based on the original Star Trek series, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was dedicated to Roddenberry's memory; he reportedly viewed a version of the film a few days before his death, aged 70.

In addition to his film and TV work, Roddenberry also wrote the novelization for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was published in 1979 and was the first of hundreds of Star Trek based novels to be published by Pocket Books. It has been claimed by some that Alan Dean Foster was the ghostwriter of the book, but this has been debunked by Foster on his personal website and is a classic instance of the broken telephone game, as Foster did ghostwrite the novelization of Star Wars and contribute to the original treatment of the Star Trek film. Roddenberry talked of writing a second Trek novel based upon his original rejected 1975 script for the film but died before he was able to do so.

Controversy
Writers on Star Trek have charged that ideas they developed were later passed off by Roddenberry as his own, or that he lied about their contributions to the show at Star Trek conventions. Roddenberry was confronted by these writers, and apologized to them, but according to his critics, he continued to repeat the false claims.

In her autobiography, actress Nichelle Nichols who played Uhura in the first Star Trek series, reported having had a love affair with Roddenberry. She felt that his strong and controversial inclination to get her on the show had a lot to do with their relationship.

Roddenberry's life and work has been chronicled in several works. Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, authored by friend David Alexander, is a flattering portrayal of Roddenberry's life that was received favorably by most readers, obscuring and eschewing many of the troubles Roddenberry encountered in his later years. Far more controversial was Inside Trek: My Secret Life with Star Trek Creator Gene Roddenberry by Susan Sackett, his close associate for 17 years.

While she displays unwavering affection, respect, and admiration for her employer and (presumable) lover, Sackett's account is hardly an haigographic account. Recounted in brutal detail are his elongated dry spells throughout the 1970s, addiction to cocaine, impotence, inability to finish creative projects, and mental and physical decline from roughly 1989 on. The book (initially published electronically via her website) received a barrage of negative reactions from certain Star Trek fans and solicited the threat of a defamation lawsuit from Roddenberry's widow.

Despite his reduced management of Star Trek near the end of his life, Roddenberry was still respected enough that Paramount Pictures, owners of the various Star Trek series, agreed to his request that the Star Trek Animated Series not be considered canon by the studio. According to the reference work The Star Trek Chronology, Roddenberry reportedly considered elements of the fifth and sixth Trek films to be apocryphal, though there is no indication that he wanted them removed from Trek canon.

Legacy

After his death in 1991 in Santa Monica, California, Roddenberry's estate allowed the creation of two long-running television series based upon some of his previously unfilmed story ideas and concepts. Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda were produced under the guidance of Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. A third Roddenberry storyline was adapted in 1995 as the short-lived comic book Gene Roddenberry's Lost Universe.

There is an asteroid called 4659 Roddenberry and a crater on Mars that were named in his honor.

On October 4, 2002, the El Paso Independent School District Planetarium was renamed The Gene Roddenberry Planetarium. Eugene W. Roddenberry Jr. cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony.

Roddenberry was born at 1907 E. Yandell Street in El Paso and lived there for nearly two years. The site is now a flower shop within a strip mall, but there is a wooden plaque marking the historical site.

Additional Quotation

"Its seems to me -- it's likely that heaven's here right now. If you could take life with its pain and misery, where you fail and you sometimes win, and if you package it into a game, people would pay a fortune to have this game. And I don't know that I'd want it to be resolved so peacefully that the game would be all over."

 
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