“The human race is a remarkable creature, one with great potential, and I hope that ‘Star Trek’ has helped to show us what we can be if we believe in ourselves and our abilities.”
Twenty five years ago today the creator of Star Trek passed away while serving as executive producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation, leaving behind a legacy that would continue long after his passing.
Born August 19th, 1921, the creator of the Star Trek franchise has become an infamous figure both in fandom, and through his industry.
Best known for creating Star Trek, Gene roddenberry’s goal wasn’t always to work in television. In his formative years Roddenberry followed in his fathers footsteps, majoring in police science at LA City College, later developing an interest in aeronautical engineering and earning himself a pilots licence through the US Army Air Corps, where he would eventually enlist to be commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1942.
An avid reader filled with imagination, particularly fond of EE Smiths Skylark series, Roddenberry’s career was an eclectic one, moving form army to crash investigator, to airline pilot to police officer. Once again in the shadow of his father, he began to find his purpose in the world, finding his way into becoming a speech writer for the LA police and assigned as a technical adviser for the TV show Mr. District Attorney.
Under the name ‘Robert Wesley’, he began to write television scripts for Highway Patrol and Have Gun, Will Travel and also contributed to westerns like Boots and Saddles and Whiplash.
Roddenberry’s imagination was too large for basic freelance work and was often in overdrive. Unhappy with writing stories for other people, he became determined to write his own, to free the tales in his head and begin to create his own world. The task wasn’t as easily as he’d hoped, and his first attempt, a World War 2 adventure series titled APO 293, was turned down by the networks. But with determination and hard graft, his concept for a show titled The Lieutenant was a success, running for one season in the early 60’s.
It was his next series that would solidify his status for all time. Taking inspiration from his favourite books and sci fi serials, he began to develop a western in space. Infamously known as a ‘Wagon Train to the Stars.’
The idea didn’t have the best start. After being commissioned for a pilot in 1964, it went over budget and felt a little off for the networks. But NBC gave him a second shot. More action, more adventure, less spending. Star Trek was born.
It only lasted three seasons and didn’t have the instant success he wanted. But fifty years later, his low budget TV show has become a multi-million dollar franchise, and his insistence on inclusion and diversity an inspiration. Roddenberry passed away on October 24, 1991, just within 48 hours of the screening of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which was dedicated to his memory.
Gene Roddenberry changed the world in a very fundamental way, boldly going where no man has gone before.
The original version of this article was published in the September 2016 edition of Comms, available free to all members of SFC Quadrant 2. Logged in members can read and download Comms now, or non-members can sign up for access to all our member exclusive content and groups nationwide.