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Gene Roddenberry
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Gene Roddenberry

Eugene Wesley Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 - October 24, 1991), was born in El Paso, Texas, USA, spent his boyhood in Los Angeles, California, and is best known as the creator of the science fiction television series Star Trek.

Life and work

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, and Lwaxana Troi and the voice of the computer in the later three series. He had one child, Rod, with Majel.

Gene Roddenberry listens to a fan after a lecture at the University of Texas at Austin (late 1970s).

Roddenberry joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941 and became an aviator. After leaving the service, he was a commercial pilot for Pan American World Airways and then served on the Los Angeles Police Force from 1949 - 1956. Before Star Trek, he wrote scripts for many of the popular television series of the 1950s. He was also trying to get other science fiction series off the ground, mostly without success. During the latter 1970s, Roddenberry lectured at universities around the country. He amused the attendees 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.

Star Trek ran for three seasons. Although it was cancelled due to low ratings, the series gained wide popularity in syndication. The Star Trek episode "" was meant to be the pilot for a spinoff series which never came to fruition. Nevertheless, 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 ', although his involvement lessened in seasons 2 and 3 due to deteriorating health. Star Trek also spawned the television series ', ' and '.

Roddenberry only produced the first Star Trek film, . Due to cost overruns and a problematic relation with the Paramount management, Roddenberry was ousted and replaced by Harve Bennett. He continued as executive consultant on the next four films - Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. The last film based on the original Star Trek series, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was dedicated in Roddenberry's memory.

Writers on the show 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. [1] In her autobiography, actress Nichelle Nichols who played Uhura in the first Star Trek series, reported having had a love affair with Gene 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 favorably chronicled in the biography Inside Trek: My Secret Life with Star Trek Creator Gene Roddenberry by Susan Sackett, his close associate for 17 years. The book has been described as inaccurate by his critics.

Gene Roddenberry was a secular humanist [2]. 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). There is an asteroid named in his honor called 4659 Roddenberry. A crater on Mars is named after him.

Since his death, two of his science fiction projects, and Andromeda, have become reality under the guidance of Majel Barrett.


[1] See Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek by Joel Engel, books by Star Trek Producer Bob Justman, science-fiction convention talks by Star Trek writer Dorothy C. Fontana, and books and articles by Harlan Ellison.

[2] Interview in The Humanist, March/April 1991

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