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