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Creator / Gene Roddenberry

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The strength of a civilization is not measured by its ability to fight wars, but rather by its ability to prevent them.
"During his speech he said something like, 'One day we'll be able to go out, get any movie we want, put it in our television and watch it at will.' I remember thinking, 'My God, how does he know these things?'"

Eugene Wesley "Gene" Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 - October 24, 1991), aka "The Great Bird of the Galaxy", was a USAAF bomber pilot, ex-cop, freelance scriptwriter, and creator of possibly the single most influential franchise in the history of television, Star Trek.

Roddenberry had intended to be a commercial pilot after WWII and even spent some time as a co-pilot with Pan-Am until 1947, when a fire on the Eclipse resulted in the Clipper crashing in the Syrian desert, killing fourteen people; Roddenberry, the only surviving crew member, aided in the rescue of the 19 survivors before retiring from his job the following year. Upon discovering television, Roddenberry correctly intuited that the new medium would be in need of writers. Already a published author of stories and poetry, he decided to change careers and enter into television writing.

At a friend's suggestion he joined the Los Angeles Police Department to gather experience and perspectives of which he could make use. At the same time, Dragnet creator Jack Webb was instituting a policy of buying stories from LAPD officers to be turned into scripts. Roddenberry began writing his fellow officers' accounts into more polished treatments in exchange for half the money paid to the officer. While his treatments weren't written in screenplay form, Roddenberry learned a lot about the process. By the time he left the LAPD he had successfully sold scripts to many of the dramatic shows of the period, including Mr. District Attorney (to which he made his first script sale, in 1953), Gruen Guild Playhouse, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre, The Kaiser Aluminum Hour, The Naked City and Chevron Hall of Stars (where he sold his first science fiction script, in 1956).

He later became a regular writer for both West Point and Have Gun – Will Travel, winning a Writers' Guild Award for an episode he penned for the latter show. note  While continuing to write freelance for other shows, Roddenberry moved into production, creating and producing the Marine Corps series The Lieutenant. And after The Lieutenant came the creation that would carry him for most of the rest of his life: Star Trek.

Between the end of the original Star Trek and the first of the Star Trek movies, Roddenberry produced a number of films and television pilots, including the 1971 theatrical release Pretty Maids All in a Row, Genesis II (1973) and The Questor Tapes (1974).

After 1979 and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, virtually all of Roddenberry's creative energies were applied to Star Trek. Between all the movies, TV series, and video games, he held a wide variety of posts, but until his death in 1991 he was still the final creative authority for the Trek universe, and known to fans as "The Great Bird of the Galaxy". During this time, presumably, he also developed the concepts that would later reach television audiences as Earth: Final Conflict (in 1997) and Andromeda (in 2000). These were shepherded into existence by his by-then-widow, Majel Barrett, who was also deeply influential in Star Trek and contributed to every incarnation of the franchise until Star Trek: Discovery.

Gene was a well-respected man, but not always well-liked. In many ways, his life and career reflects that of his British counterpart, Terry Nation — except with even more stories of outlandish and self-destructive behavior. He tomcatted around Paramount Studios; he screwed writers and composers out of their royalties; most importantly, Gene was stubbornly convinced that he always knew what was best for Star Trek — which, after all, he had created — and had a tendency toward the autocratic when it came to his staff. This uncompromising attitude led to tremendous flareups between him and Paramount, which clinched his removal from the Producer's chair after The Motion Picture. While he still held creative freedom over Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gene's recreational drug cocktails did his brain no good, and his health was in serious decline; by the end of the first season he had managed to alienate almost all long-time creative partners, including famed original series writers D.C. Fontana and David Gerrold (one ex-colleague told Harlan Ellison the reason Roddenberry was cremated was so nobody could piss on his grave). In general, though, many others regarded him as a friendly Gentle Giant of a man who had a remarkable and optimistic vision of the future.

He was married to Majel Barrett from 1969 until his death in 1991. They had one son, Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry, Jr., who has taken up the mantle of an Executive Producer in various more recent entries into the Star Trek franchise.

Industry Positions:
Member of the Writers Guild Executive Council
Governor of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
Doctor of Humane Letters from Emerson College in Boston, Mass.
Doctor of Literature from Union College in Los Angeles
Doctor of Science from Clarkson College in Potsdam, New York
(All honorary degrees)

First writer/producer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Related tropes:

  • Author Usurpation: Star Trek has overshadowed all of his other works.
  • Burial in Space: After his death, Roddenberry wanted to be launched into space. Roddenberry's ashes were part of the payload of the Peregrine Moon lander in 2024—though due to a fuel leak on the way to the moon, the lander was set off course and burned up over the Pacific Ocean on January 18.
  • He Also Did: In addition to being the creator and a writer of the most progressive science fiction show of its time, Roddenberry also produced and wrote Pretty Maids All in a Row, a 1971 Black Comedy starring Rock Hudson as a football coach who beds and murders various female students.
  • Humans Are Special: His idealism regarding human potential is so legendary at this point that "Roddenberry Idealism" is an actual term used to describe series that paint humanity as having/being capable of achieving emotional and philosophical greatness to the point that children will instantly accept the death of a parent without shedding a tear in grief. This famously caused some considerable conflict with films producer Harve Bennett and writer-director Nicholas Meyer: Bennett felt that Gene had forgotten that TOS had its fair share of conflict and violence, while Meyer summed it up thusly:
    "He was a utopian, he believed in the perfectibility of man. I don’t."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: While Roddenberry was known to be a lecher with substance abuse problems, and briefly became a He-Man Woman Hater following a spectacularly messy divorce in 1968, most sources indicate that he did genuinely strive to do better as difficult as it may have been for him personally.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Although he continued to provide feedback and guidance to the writers and producers until his death, the studio ultimately removed him from any direct control over the franchise after the tepid reception to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, handing such authority to Harve Bennett for the rest of the TOS films. His official title became "Executive Consultant," but he retained no real power over the direction of the series until the first two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation (which he didn't actually want to make, but was manipulated into by his lawyer, Leonard Maizlish).
  • Money, Dear Boy: He was rather infamous for finding every little way possible to pocket some extra money from Star Trek, from writing lyrics for the main theme so he could get co-composer credit to starting his own memorabilia company then writing a scene of Spock exalting a Vulcan symbol, IDIC, that was easily made into a pin or necklace.
  • Nominal Coauthor: He wrote lyrics to the Star Trek: The Original Series Theme Tune, never used on the show, and never intended to be used on the show, so he could lay claim to some of the royalties. The tune's composer, Alexander Courage, was new to contract law at the time and signed away his right to not have lyrics. Needless to say, Courage was not happy, and never forgave him.
  • Rule 34 – Creator Reactions: He found the whole thing to be hilarious. Pre-Internet, where Fanwork Ban was the norm, he famously told his lawyers to chill because there was no way some mimeographed K/S slash zine would be mistaken for official merch and the notoriety was free advertising. Star Trek became one of the few fandoms where one could more or less operate openly, which is why so many Fanfic Tropes can be traced back to Star Trek in some form.