Gene Roddenberry | Wikipedia audio article


Eugene Wesley Roddenberry (August 19, 1921
– October 24, 1991) was an American television screenwriter, producer and creator of the
original Star Trek television series, and its first spin-off The Next Generation. Born
in El Paso, Texas, Roddenberry grew up in Los Angeles, where his father was a police
officer. Roddenberry flew 89 combat missions in the Army Air Forces during World War II,
and worked as a commercial pilot after the war. Later, he followed in his father’s footsteps
and joined the Los Angeles Police Department, where he also began to write scripts for television.
As a freelance writer, Roddenberry wrote scripts for Highway Patrol, Have Gun–Will Travel,
and other series, before creating and producing his own television series The Lieutenant.
In 1964, Roddenberry created Star Trek, which premiered in 1966 and ran for three seasons
before being canceled. He then worked on other projects, including a string of failed television
pilots. The syndication of Star Trek led to its growing popularity; this, in turn, resulted
in the Star Trek feature films, on which Roddenberry continued to produce and consult. In 1987,
the sequel series Star Trek: The Next Generation began airing on television in first-run syndication;
Roddenberry was heavily involved in the initial development of the series, but took a less
active role after the first season due to alcoholism and ill health. He continued to
consult on the series until his death in 1991. In 1985, he became the first TV writer with
a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he was later inducted by both the Science
Fiction Hall of Fame and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. Years after
his death, Roddenberry was one of the first humans to have his ashes carried into earth
orbit. The popularity of the Star Trek universe and films has inspired films, books, comic
books, video games, and fan films set in the Star Trek universe.==Early life and career==Roddenberry was born on August 19, 1921, in
his parents’ rented home in El Paso, Texas, the first child of Eugene Edward Roddenberry
and Caroline “Glen” (née Golemon) Roddenberry. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1923 after
Gene’s father passed the Civil Service test and was given a police commission there. During
his childhood, Roddenberry was interested in reading, especially pulp magazines, and
was a fan of stories such as John Carter of Mars, Tarzan, and the Skylark series by E.
E. Smith.Roddenberry majored in police science at Los Angeles City College, where he began
dating Eileen-Anita Rexroat and became interested in aeronautical engineering. He obtained a
pilot’s license through the United States Army Air Corps-sponsored Civilian Pilot Training
Program. He enlisted with the USAAC on December 18, 1941, and married Eileen on June 13, 1942.
He graduated from the USAAC on August 5, 1942, when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.He
was posted to Bellows Field, Oahu, to join the 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bombardment Group,
of the Thirteenth Air Force, which flew the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.On August 2, 1943,
while flying B-17E-BO, 41-2463, “Yankee Doodle”, out of Espiritu Santo, the plane Roddenberry
was piloting overshot the runway by 500 feet (150 m) and impacted trees, crushing the nose,
and starting a fire, killing two men: bombardier Sgt. John P. Kruger and navigator Lt. Talbert
H. Woolam. The official report absolved Roddenberry of any responsibility. Roddenberry spent the
remainder of his military career in the United States, and flew all over the country as a
plane crash investigator. He was involved in a further plane crash, this time as a passenger.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.In 1945, Roddenberry began
flying for Pan American World Airways, including routes from New York to Johannesburg or Calcutta,
the two longest Pan Am routes at the time. Listed as a resident of River Edge, New Jersey,
he experienced his third crash while on the Clipper Eclipse on June 18, 1947. The plane
came down in the Syrian Desert, and Roddenberry, who took control as the ranking flight officer,
suffered two broken ribs but was able to drag injured passengers out of the burning plane
and led the group to get help. Fourteen (or fifteen) people died in the crash; 11 passengers
needed hospital treatment, and eight were unharmed. He resigned from Pan Am on May 15,
1948, and decided to pursue his dream of writing, particularly for the new medium of television.Roddenberry
applied for a position with the Los Angeles Police Department on January 10, 1949, and
spent his first 16 months in the traffic division before being transferred to the newspaper
unit. This became the Public Information Division and Roddenberry became the Chief of Police’s
speech writer. He became technical advisor for a new television version of Mr. District
Attorney, which led to him writing for the show under his pseudonym “Robert Wesley”.
He began to collaborate with Ziv Television Programs, and continued to sell scripts to
Mr. District Attorney, in addition to Ziv’s Highway Patrol. In early 1956, he sold two
story ideas for I Led Three Lives, and he found that it was becoming increasingly difficult
to be a writer and a policeman. On June 7, 1956, he resigned from the force to concentrate
on his writing career.==Career as full-time writer and producer
=====Early career===
Roddenberry was promoted to head writer for The West Point Story, and wrote 10 scripts
for the first season, about a third of the total episodes. While working for Ziv, in
1956, he pitched a series to CBS set aboard a cruise ship, Hawaii Passage, but they did
not buy it, as he wanted to become a producer and have full creative control. He wrote another
script for Ziv’s series Harbourmaster titled “Coastal Security”, and signed a contract
with the company to develop a show called Junior Executive with Quinn Martin. Nothing
came of the series. He wrote scripts for a number of other series
in his early years as a professional writer, including Bat Masterson and Jefferson Drum.
Roddenberry’s episode of the series Have Gun – Will Travel, “Helen of Abajinian”, won
the Writer’s Guild of America award for Best Teleplay in 1958. He also continued to create
series of his own, including a series based on an agent for Lloyd’s of London called The
Man from Lloyds. He pitched a police-based series called Footbeat to CBS, Hollis Productions,
and Screen Gems. It nearly made it into ABC’s Sunday-night lineup, but they opted to show
only Western series that night.Roddenberry was asked to write a series called Riverboat,
set in 1860s Mississippi. When he discovered that the producers wanted no black people
on the show, he argued so much with them that he lost the job. He also considered moving
to England around this time, as Lew Grade wanted Roddenberry to develop series and set
up his own production company. Though he did not move, he leveraged the deal to land a
contract with Screen Gems that included a guaranteed $100,000, and became a producer
for the first time on a summer replacement for The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show titled Wrangler.Screen
Gems backed Roddenberry’s first attempt at creating a pilot. His series, The Wild Blue,
went to pilot, but was not picked up. The three main characters had names that later
appeared in the Star Trek franchise: Philip Pike, Edward Jellicoe, and James T. Irvine.
While working at Screen Gems, an actress, new to Hollywood, wrote to him asking for
a meeting. They quickly became friends and met every few months; the woman was Majel
Leigh Hudec, later known as Majel Barrett. He created a second pilot called 333 Montgomery
about a lawyer, played by DeForest Kelley. It was not picked up by the network, but was
later rewritten as a new series called Defiance County. His career with Screen Gems ended
in late 1961, and shortly afterward, he had issues with his old friend Erle Stanley Gardner.
The Perry Mason creator claimed that Defiance County had infringed his character Doug Selby.
The two writers fell out via correspondence and stopped contacting one another, though
Defiance County never proceeded past the pilot stage. In 1961, he agreed to appear in an advertisement
for MONY (Mutual of New York), as long as he had final approval. With the money from
Screen Gems and other works, Eileen and he moved to 539 South Beverly Glen, near Beverly
Hills. He discussed an idea about a multiethnic crew on an airship travelling the world, based
on the film Master of the World (1961), with fellow writer Christopher Knopf at MGM. As
the time was not right for science fiction, he began work on The Lieutenant for Arena
Productions. This made it to the NBC Saturday night lineup at 7:30 pm, and premiered on
September 14, 1963. The show set a new ratings record for the time slot. Roddenberry worked
with several cast and crew who would later join him on Star Trek, including: Gene L.
Coon, star Gary Lockwood, Joe D’Agosta, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, and Majel Barrett.The
Lieutenant was produced with the co-operation of the Pentagon, which allowed them to film
at an actual Marine base. During the production of the series, Roddenberry clashed regularly
with the Department of Defense over potential plots. The department withdrew its support
after Roddenberry pressed ahead with a plot titled “To Set It Right” in which a white
and a black man find a common cause in their roles as Marines. “To Set It Right” was the
first time he worked with Nichols, and it was her first television role. The episode
has been preserved at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York City. The show was not
renewed after its first season. Roddenberry was already working on a new series idea.
This included his ship location from Hawaii Passage and added a Horatio Hornblower character,
plus the multiracial crew from his airship idea. He decided to write it as science fiction,
and by March 11, 1964, he brought together a 16-page pitch. On April 24, he sent three
copies and two dollars to the Writers Guild of America to register his series. He called
it Star Trek.===Star Trek===When Roddenberry pitched Star Trek to MGM,
it was warmly received, but no offer was made. He then went to Desilu Productions, but rather
than being offered a one-script deal, he was hired as a producer and allowed to work on
his own projects. His first was a half-hour pilot called Police Story (not to be confused
with the anthology series created by Joseph Wambaugh), which was not picked up by the
networks. Having not sold a pilot in five years, Desilu was having financial difficulties;
its only success was I Love Lucy. Roddenberry took the Star Trek idea to Oscar Katz, head
of programming, and the duo immediately started work on a plan to sell the series to the networks.
They took it to CBS, which ultimately passed on it. The duo later learned that CBS had
been eager to find out about Star Trek because it had a science fiction series in development—Lost
in Space. Roddenberry and Katz next took the idea to Mort Werner at NBC, this time downplaying
the science fiction elements and highlighting the links to Gunsmoke and Wagon Train. The
network funded three story ideas, and selected “The Menagerie”, which was later known as
“The Cage”, to be made into a pilot. (The other two later became episodes of the series.)
While most of the money for the pilot came from NBC, the remaining costs were covered
by Desilu. Roddenberry hired Dorothy Fontana, better known as D. C. Fontana, as his assistant.
They had worked together previously on The Lieutenant, and she had eight script credits
to her name. Roddenberry and Barrett had begun an affair
by the early days of Star Trek, and he specifically wrote the part of the character Number One
in the pilot with her in mind; no other actresses were considered for the role. Barrett suggested
Nimoy for the part of Spock. He had worked with both Roddenberry and Barrett on The Lieutenant,
and once Roddenberry remembered the thin features of the actor, he did not consider anyone else
for the part. The remaining cast came together; filming began on November 27, 1964, and was
completed on December 11. After post-production, the episode was shown to NBC executives and
it was rumored that Star Trek would be broadcast at 8:00 pm on Friday nights. The episode failed
to impress test audiences, and after the executives became hesitant, Katz offered to make a second
pilot. On March 26, 1965, NBC ordered a new episode.Roddenberry developed several possible
scripts, including “Mudd’s Women”, “The Omega Glory”, and with the help of Samuel A. Peeples,
“Where No Man Has Gone Before”. NBC selected the last one, leading to later rumors that
Peeples created Star Trek, something he always denied. Roddenberry was determined to make
the crew racially diverse, which impressed actor George Takei when he came for his audition.
The episode went into production on July 15, 1965, and was completed at around half the
cost of “The Cage”, since the sets were already built. Roddenberry worked on several projects
for the rest of the year. In December, he decided to write lyrics to the Star Trek theme;
this angered the theme’s composer, Alexander Courage, as it meant that royalties would
be split between them. In February 1966, NBC informed Desilu that they were buying Star
Trek and that it would be included in the fall 1966 television schedule.On May 24, the
first episode of the Star Trek series went into production; Desilu was contracted to
deliver 13 episodes. Five days before the first broadcast, Roddenberry appeared at the
24th World Science Fiction Convention and previewed “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.
After the episode was shown, he received a standing ovation. The first episode to air
on NBC was “The Man Trap”, on September 8, 1966, at 8:00 pm. Roddenberry was immediately
concerned about the series’ low ratings and wrote to Harlan Ellison to ask if he could
use his name in letters to the network to save the show. Not wanting to lose a potential
source of income, Ellison agreed and also sought the help of other writers who also
wanted to avoid losing potential income. Roddenberry corresponded with science fiction writer Isaac
Asimov about how to address the issue of Spock’s growing popularity and the possibility that
his character would overshadow Kirk. Asimov suggested having Kirk and Spock work together
as a team “to get people to think of Kirk when they think of Spock.” The series was
renewed by NBC, first for a full season’s order, and then for a second season. An article
in the Chicago Tribune quoted studio executives as stating that the letter-writing campaign
had been wasted because they had already been planning to renew Star Trek. Roddenberry often rewrote submitted scripts,
although he did not always take credit for these. Roddenberry and Ellison fell out over
“The City on the Edge of Forever” after Roddenberry rewrote Ellison’s script to make it both financially
feasible to film and usable for the series context. Even his close friend Don Ingalls
had his script for “A Private Little War” altered drastically, and as a result, Ingalls
declared that he would only be credited under the pseudonym “Jud Crucis” (a play on “Jesus
Christ”), claiming he had been crucified by the process. Roddenberry’s work rewriting
“The Menagerie”, based on footage originally shot for “The Cage”, resulted in a Writers’
Guild arbitration board hearing. The Guild ruled in his favor over John D. F. Black,
the complainant. The script won a Hugo Award, but the awards board neglected to inform Roddenberry,
who found out through correspondence with Asimov.As the second season was drawing to
a close, Roddenberry once again faced the threat of cancellation. He enlisted the help
of Asimov, and even encouraged a student-led protest march on NBC. On January 8, 1968,
a thousand students from 20 different schools across the country marched on the studio.
Roddenberry began to communicate with Star Trek fan Bjo Trimble, who led a fan writing
campaign to save the series. Trimble later noted that this campaign of writing to fans
who had written to Desilu about the show, urging them to write NBC, had created an organized
Star Trek fandom. The network received around 6,000 letters a week from fans petitioning
it to renew the series. On March 1, 1968, NBC announced on air, at the end of “The Omega
Glory”, that Star Trek would return for a third season.The network had initially planned
to place Star Trek in the 7:30 pm Monday-night time slot freed up by The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
completing its run. Instead, the enraged George Schlatter forced the network to insert Rowan
and Martin’s Laugh-In into the slot, and Roddenberry’s series was moved to 10:00 pm on Fridays. Realizing
the show could not survive in that time slot and burned out from arguments with the network,
Roddenberry resigned from the day-to-day running of Star Trek, although he continued to be
credited as executive producer. Roddenberry cooperated with Stephen Edward Poe, writing
as Stephen Whitfield, on the 1968 nonfiction book The Making of Star Trek for Ballantine
Books, splitting the royalties evenly. Roddenberry explained to Whitfield: “I had to get some
money somewhere. I’m sure not going to get it from the profits of Star Trek.” Herbert
Solow and Robert H. Justman observed that Whitfield never regretted his 50-50 deal with
Roddenberry, since it gave him “the opportunity to become the first chronicler of television’s
successful unsuccessful series.” Whitfield had previously been the national advertising
and promotion director for model makers Aluminum Model Toys, better known as “AMT”, which then
held the Star Trek license, and moved to run Lincoln Enterprises, Roddenberry’s company
set up to sell the series’ merchandise.Having stepped aside from the majority of his Star
Trek duties, Roddenberry sought instead to create a film based on Asimov’s “I, Robot”
and also began work on a Tarzan script for National General Pictures. After initially
requesting a budget of $2 million and being refused, Roddenberry made cuts to reduce costs
to $1.2 million. When he learned they were being offered only $700,000 to shoot the film,
which by now was being called a TV movie, he canceled the deal. Meanwhile, NBC announced
Star Trek’s cancellation in February 1969. A similar but much smaller letter-writing
campaign followed news of the cancellation. Because of the manner in which the series
was sold to NBC, it left the production company $4.7 million in debt. The last episode of
Star Trek aired 47 days before Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon as part of the Apollo
11 mission, and Roddenberry declared that he would never write for television again.===1970s projects===
Following the cancellation of Star Trek, Roddenberry felt typecast as a producer of science fiction,
despite his background in Westerns and police stories. He later described the period, saying,
“My dreams were going downhill because I could not get work after the original series was
cancelled.” He felt that he was “perceived as the guy who made the show that was an expensive
flop.” Roddenberry had sold his interest in Star Trek to Paramount Studios in return for
a third of the ongoing profits. However, this did not result in any quick financial gain;
the studio was still claiming that the series was $500,000 in the red in 1982. He wrote
and produced Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971), a sexploitation film directed by Roger Vadim,
for MGM. The cast included Rock Hudson, Angie Dickinson, Telly Savalas, and Roddy McDowall
alongside Star Trek regular James Doohan, and William J. Campbell, who had appeared
as a guest in two Star Trek episodes, “The Squire Of Gothos” and “The Trouble With Tribbles”.
Variety was unimpressed: “Whatever substance was in the original [novel by Francis Pollini]
or screen concept has been plowed under, leaving only superficial, one-joke results.” Herbert
Solow had given Roddenberry the work as a favor, paying him $100,000 for the script. Faced with a mortgage and a $2,000-per-month
alimony obligation as a result of his 1969 divorce, he began to support himself largely
by giving college lectures and appearances at science fiction conventions. These presentations
included screenings of “The Cage” and blooper reels from the production of Star Trek. The
conventions began to build the fan support to bring back Star Trek, leading TV Guide
to describe it, in 1972, as “the show that won’t die.”In 1972 and 1973, Roddenberry made
a comeback to science fiction, selling ideas for four new series to a variety of networks.
Roddenberry’s Genesis II was set in a postapocalyptic Earth. He had hoped to recreate the success
of Star Trek without “doing another space-hopping show.” He created a 45-page writing guide,
and proposed several story ideas based on the concept that pockets of civilisation had
regressed to past eras or changed altogether. The pilot aired as a TV movie in March 1973,
setting new records for the Thursday Night Movie of the Week. Roddenberry was asked to
produce four more scripts for episodes, but before production could begin again, CBS aired
the film Planet of the Apes. It was watched by an even greater audience than Genesis II.
CBS scrapped Genesis II and replaced it with a television series based on the film; the
results were disastrous from a ratings standpoint, and Planet of the Apes was quickly canceled.The
Questor Tapes project reunited him with his Star Trek collaborator, Gene L. Coon, who
was in failing health at the time. NBC ordered 16 episodes, and tentatively scheduled the
series to follow The Rockford Files on Friday nights; the pilot launched on January 23,
1974, to positive critical response, but Roddenberry balked at the substantial changes requested
by the network and left the project, leading to its immediate cancellation. During 1974,
Roddenberry reworked the Genesis II concept as a second pilot, Planet Earth, for rival
network ABC, with similar less-than-successful results. The pilot was aired on April 23,
1974. While Roddenberry wanted to create something that could feasibly exist in the future, the
network wanted stereotypical science-fiction women and were unhappy when that was not delivered.
Roddenberry was not involved in a third reworking of the material by ABC that produced Strange
New World. He began developing MAGNA I, an underwater science-fiction series, for 20th
Century Fox Television. By the time the work on the script was complete, though, those
who had approved the project had left Fox and their replacements were not interested
in the project. A similar fate was faced by Tribunes, a science-fiction police series,
which Roddenberry attempted to get off the ground between 1973 and 1977. He gave up after
four years; the series never even reached the pilot stage.In 1974, Roddenberry was paid
$25,000 by John Whitmore to write a script called The Nine. Intended to be about Andrija
Puharich’s parapsychological research, it evolved into a frank exploration of his experiences
attempting to earn a living attending science fiction conventions. At the time, he was again
close to losing his house because of a lack of income.The pilot Spectre, Roddenberry’s
1977 attempt to create an occult detective duo similar to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson,
was released as a television movie within the United States and received a limited theatrical
release in the United Kingdom.===Star Trek revival===Lacking funds in the early 1970s, Roddenberry
was unable to buy the full rights to Star Trek for $150,000 from Paramount. Lou Scheimer
approached Paramount in 1973 about creating an animated Star Trek series. Credited as
“executive consultant” and paid $2,500 per episode, Roddenberry was granted full creative
control of Star Trek: The Animated Series. Although he read all the scripts and “sometimes
[added] touches of his own”, he relinquished most of his authority to de facto showrunner/associate
producer D. C. Fontana.Roddenberry had some difficulties with the cast. To save money,
he sought not to hire George Takei and Nichelle Nichols. He neglected to inform Leonard Nimoy
of this and instead, in an effort to get him to sign on, told him that he was the only
member of the main cast not returning. After Nimoy discovered the deception, he demanded
that Takei and Nichols play Sulu and Uhura when their characters appeared on screen;
Roddenberry acquiesced. He had been promised five full seasons of the new show, but ultimately,
only one and a half were produced.However, the groundswell of vociferous fan support
(6,000 attended the second New York Star Trek convention in 1973 and 15,000 attended in
1974, eclipsing the 4,500 attendees at the 32nd World Science Fiction Convention in 1974)
led Paramount to hire Roddenberry to create and produce a feature film based on the franchise
in May 1975. The studio was unimpressed with the ideas being put forward; John D. F. Black’s
opinion was that their ideas were never “big enough” for the studio, even when one scenario
involved the end of the universe. At the time, several ideas were partly developed including
Star Trek: The God Thing and Star Trek: Planet of the Titans. Following the commercial reception
of Star Wars, in June 1977, Paramount instead green-lit a new series set in the franchise
titled Star Trek: Phase II, with Roddenberry and most of the original cast, except Nimoy,
set to reprise their respective roles. It was to be the anchor show of a proposed Paramount-owned
“fourth network”, but plans for the network were scrapped and the project was reworked
into a feature film. The result, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, troubled the studio because
of budgetary concerns, but was a box-office hit. Adjusted for inflation, it was the third-highest
grossing Star Trek movie, with the 2009 film coming in first and the 2013 film second.In
1980, Roddenberry submitted a treatment for a proposed sequel about the crew preventing
the alien Klingons from thwarting the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Mindful of the tumult
that suffused the production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Paramount rejected the
proposal. After he was replaced on the project by television producer Harve Bennett, Roddenberry
was named “executive consultant” for the project, a position he retained for all subsequent
Star Trek franchise films produced during his lifetime. Under this arrangement, he was
compensated with a producer’s fee and a percentage of the net profits of the film in exchange
for proffering non-binding story notes and corresponding with the fan community; much
to his ongoing chagrin, these memos were largely disregarded by Bennett and other producers.
An initial script for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was circulated to eight people; Bennett
attributed the subsequent plot leak of the death of Spock to Roddenberry. About 20% of
the plot was based on Roddenberry’s ideas.Roddenberry was involved in creating the television series
Star Trek: The Next Generation, which premiered with “Encounter at Farpoint” on September
28, 1987. He was given a bonus of $1 million in addition to an ongoing salary to produce
the series, and celebrated by purchasing a new Rolls-Royce for $100,000. The arrangement
did not entitle him to be executive producer of the series. However, Paramount was already
concerned about the original cast not returning, and fearing fan reaction if Roddenberry was
not involved, agreed to his demand for control of the show. Roddenberry rewrote the series
bible from an original version by David Gerrold, who had previously written The Original Series
episode “The Trouble with Tribbles”, and The Animated Series follow-up, “More Tribbles,
More Troubles”. According to producer Rick Berman, Roddenberry’s
involvement in The Next Generation “diminished greatly” after the first season, but the nature
of his increasingly peripheral role was not disclosed because of the value of his name
to fans. While Berman said that Roddenberry had “all but stopped writing and rewriting”
by the end of the third season, his final writing credit on the show (a co-teleplay
credit) actually occurred considerably earlier, appearing on “Datalore”, the 13th episode
of the first season.Although commercially successful from its inception, the series
was initially marred by Writers Guild of America grievances from Fontana and Gerrold, both
of whom left the series under acrimonious circumstances; frequent turnover among the
writing staff (24 staff writers left the show during its first three seasons, triple the
average attrition rate for such series); and allegations that longtime Roddenberry attorney
Leonard Maizlish had become the producer’s “point man and proxy”, ghostwriting memos,
sitting in on meetings, and contributing to scripts despite not being on staff. Writer
Tracy Tormé described the first few seasons of The Next Generation under Roddenberry as
an “insane asylum”. In 1990, Nicholas Meyer was brought in to
direct the sixth film in the series: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Creatively,
Meyer clashed with Roddenberry, who felt that having the Enterprise crew hold prejudices
against the Klingons did not fit with his view of the universe. Meyer described a meeting
with Roddenberry he later regretted, saying:His guys were lined up on one side of the room,
and my guys were lined up on the other side of the room, and this was not a meeting in
which I felt I’d behaved very well, very diplomatically. I came out of it feeling not very good, and
I’ve not felt good about it ever since. He was not well, and maybe there were more tactful
ways of dealing with it, because at the end of the day, I was going to go out and make
the movie. I didn’t have to take him on. Not my finest hour. In Joel Engel’s biography,
Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek, he states that Roddenberry watched
The Undiscovered Country alongside the producers of the film at a private screening two days
before his death, and told them they had done a “good job”. In contrast, Nimoy and Shatner’s
memoirs report that after the screening, Roddenberry called his lawyer and demanded a quarter of
the scenes be cut; the producers refused.In addition to his film and television work,
Roddenberry wrote the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Although it has
been incorrectly attributed to several other authors (most notably Alan Dean Foster), it
was the first in a series of hundreds of Star Trek-based novels to be published by the Pocket
Books imprint of Simon & Schuster, whose parent company also owned Paramount Pictures Corporation.
Previously, Roddenberry worked intermittently on The God Thing, a proposed novel based upon
his rejected 1975 screenplay for a proposed low-budget ($3 to $5 million) Star Trek film
preceding the development of Phase II throughout 1976. Attempts to complete the project by
Walter Koenig, Susan Sackett, Fred Bronson, and Michael Jan Friedman have proven to be
unfeasible for a variety of legal and structural reasons.==Personal life==While at Los Angeles City College, Roddenberry
began dating Eileen-Anita Rexroat. They became engaged before Roddenberry left Los Angeles
during his military service, and married in June 1942 at the chapel at Kelly Field. They
had two children together, Darleen Anita, and Dawn Allison. During his time in the LAPD,
Roddenberry was known to have had affairs with secretarial staff. Before his work on
Star Trek, he began relationships with both Nichelle Nichols and Majel Barrett. Nichols
only wrote about their relationship in her autobiography Beyond Uhura after Roddenberry’s
death. At the time, Roddenberry wanted to remain in an open relationship with both women,
but Nichols, recognising Barrett’s devotion to him, ended the affair as she did not want
to be “the other woman to the other woman”.Barrett and he had an apartment together by the opening
weeks of Star Trek. He had planned to divorce Eileen after the first season of the show,
but when it was renewed, he delayed doing so, fearing that he would not have enough
time to deal with both the divorce and Star Trek. He moved out of the family home on August
9, 1968, two weeks after the marriage of his daughter Darleen. In 1969, while scouting
locations in Japan for MGM for Pretty Maids all in a Row, he proposed to Barrett by telephone.
They were married in a Shinto ceremony, as Roddenberry had considered it “sacrilegious”
to use an American minister in Japan. Roddenberry and Barrett had a son together, Eugene Jr.,
commonly referred to as Rod Roddenberry, in February 1974. From 1975 until his death,
Roddenberry maintained an extramarital relationship with his executive assistant, Susan Sackett.===Religious views===
Roddenberry was raised a Southern Baptist; however, as an adult, he rejected religion,
and considered himself a humanist. He began questioning religion around the age of 14,
and came to the conclusion that it was “nonsense”. As a child, he served in the choir at his
local church, but often substituted lyrics as he sang hymns. Early in his writing career,
he received an award from the American Baptist Convention for “skillfully writing Christian
truth and the application of Christian principles into commercial, dramatic TV scripts”. For
several years, he corresponded with John M. Gunn of the National Council of Churches regarding
the application of Christian teachings in television series. However, Gunn stopped replying
after Roddenberry wrote in a letter: “But you must understand that I am a complete pagan,
and consume enormous amounts of bread, having found the Word more spice than nourishment,
so I am interested in a statement couched in dollars and cents of what this means to
the Roddenberry treasury.”Roddenberry said of Christianity, “How can I take seriously
a God-image that requires that I prostrate myself every seven days and praise it? That
sounds to me like a very insecure personality.” At one point, he worked a similar opinion,
which was to have been stated by a Vulcan, into the plot for Star Trek: The God Thing.
Before his death, Roddenberry became close friends with philosopher Charles Musès, who
said that Roddenberry’s views were “a far cry from atheism”. Roddenberry explained his
position thus: “It’s not true that I don’t believe in God. I believe in a kind of God.
It’s just not other people’s God. I reject religion. I accept the notion of God.” He
had an ongoing interest in other people’s experiences with religion, and called Catholicism
“a very beautiful religion. An art form.” However, he said that he dismissed all organized
religions, saying that for the most part, they acted like a “substitute brain… and
a very malfunctioning one”. Roddenberry was also critical of how the public looked at
certain religions, noting that when the King David Hotel bombing took place in 1946, the
American public accepted it as the action of freedom fighters, whereas a car bombing
by a Muslim in Beirut is condemned as a terrorist act. While he agreed that both parties were
wrong in their use of violence, he said that the actions of both were undertaken because
of their strong religious beliefs.According to Ronald D. Moore, Roddenberry “felt very
strongly that contemporary Earth religions would be gone by the 23rd century”. Brannon
Braga said that Roddenberry made it known to the writers of Star Trek and Star Trek:
The Next Generation that religion, superstition, and mystical thinking were not to be included.
Even a mention of marriage in a script for an early episode of The Next Generation resulted
in Roddenberry’s chastising the writers. Nicholas Meyer said that Star Trek had evolved “into
sort of a secular parallel to the Catholic Mass”. Roddenberry compared the franchise
to his own philosophy by saying: “Understand that Star Trek is more than just my political
philosophy, my racial philosophy, my overview on life and the human condition.” He was awarded
the 1991 Humanist Arts Award from the American Humanist Association.==Health, decline and death==
In the late 1980s, Roddenberry was likely afflicted by the first manifestations of cerebral
vascular disease and encephalopathy as a result of his longstanding recreational use of legal
and illicit drugs, including alcohol, methaqualone, methylphenidate, Dexamyl, and cocaine (which
he had used regularly since the production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Throughout
much of his career, he had routinely used stimulants to work through the night on scripts,
especially amphetamines. The effects of these substances were compounded by deleterious
interactions with diabetes, high blood pressure, and antidepressant prescriptions.Following
a stroke at a family reunion in Tallahassee, Florida, in September 1989, Roddenberry’s
health declined further, ultimately requiring him to use a wheelchair. His right arm was
paralyzed after another stroke in early October 1991, causing him ongoing pain as the muscles
began to atrophy. It also caused problems with the sight in his right eye and he found
communicating in full sentences difficult. At 2:00 pm, on October 24, he attended an
appointment with his doctor, Dr. Ronald Rich. He arrived in the building with his staff,
and began to travel up to the ninth floor in the elevator. As they reached the fifth
floor, he began struggling for breath, and was wheeled into the doctor’s office, where
he was reclined and a nurse administered oxygen. Barrett was sent for. Upon her arrival, she
held Roddenberry while encouraging him to breathe. He had a cardiopulmonary arrest,
and he died in the doctor’s office shortly afterwards. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
was attempted with no effect, and paramedics arrived to take him across the road to the
Santa Monica Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.The funeral was arranged for
November 1, with the public invited to the memorial service at the Hall of Liberty, within
the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Hollywood Hills. It was a secular service; Roddenberry
had been cremated before the event. More than 300 Star Trek fans attended, and stood in
the balcony section of the hall, while the invited guests were on the floor level. Nichelle
Nichols sang twice during the ceremony, first “Yesterday” and then a song she wrote herself
titled “Gene”. Both songs had been requested by Barrett. Several people spoke at the memorial,
including Ray Bradbury, Whoopi Goldberg, Christopher Knopf, E. Jack Neuman, and Patrick Stewart.
The ceremony was closed by two kilted pipers playing “Amazing Grace” as a recorded message
by Roddenberry was broadcast. A four-plane flypast, in the missing man formation, followed
some 30 minutes later. After his death, Star Trek: The Next Generation aired a two-part
episode of season five, called “Unification”, which featured a dedication to Roddenberry.Roddenberry’s
will left the majority of his $30 million estate to Barrett, in a trust. He also left
money to his children and his first wife Eileen. However, his daughter Dawn contested the will
based upon the grounds that Barrett had undue influence on her father. In a hearing held
in 1993, the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that improprieties existed in the management
of the trust and removed Barrett as executor. In another decision, the court found that
Roddenberry had hidden assets from Star Trek in the Norway Corporation to keep funds away
from his first wife, and ordered the payment of 50% of those assets to Eileen, as well
as punitive damages. In 1996, the California Court of Appeals ruled that the original will,
which stated that anyone who contested it would be disinherited, would stand. As a result,
Dawn lost $500,000 from the estate, as well as a share of the trust upon Barrett’s death.
The appellate court also overturned the earlier decision to award Roddenberry’s first wife,
Eileen, 50% of his assets. The judge called that case one “that should never have been”.===Spaceflight===
In 1992, some of Roddenberry’s ashes were flown into space, and returned to Earth, on
the Space Shuttle Columbia mission STS-52. On April 21, 1997, a Celestis spacecraft with
7 grams (a quarter of an ounce) of the cremated remains of Roddenberry, along with those of
Timothy Leary, Gerard K. O’Neill and 21 other people, was launched into Earth orbit aboard
a Pegasus XL rocket from a site near the Canary Islands. On May 20, 2002, the spacecraft’s
orbit deteriorated and it disintegrated in the atmosphere. Another flight to launch more
of his ashes into deep space, along with those of Barrett, who died in 2008, was initially
planned to take place in 2009. Unlike previous flights, the intention was that this flight
would not return to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The payload was to include the
ashes of James Doohan in addition to the Roddenberrys’ and several others and was scheduled to fly
in 2016 on the Sunjammer solar sail experiment, but the project was canceled in 2014. At this
time, it is not known if there is another mission being planned.==Legacy==In 1985, Gene Roddenberry was the first television
writer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When the Sci-Fi Channel was
launched, the first broadcast was a dedication to two “science fiction pioneers”: Isaac Asimov
and Roddenberry. The Roddenberry crater on Mars is named after him, as is the asteroid
4659 Roddenberry. Roddenberry and Star Trek have been cited as inspiration for other science
fiction franchises, with George Lucas crediting the series for enabling Star Wars to be produced.
J. Michael Straczynski, creator of the Babylon 5 franchise, appreciated Star Trek amongst
other science fiction series and “what they had to say about who we are, and where we
are going.”David Alexander collaborated with Roddenberry on a biography over two decades.
Titled Star Trek Creator, it was published in 1995. Yvonne Fern’s book, Gene Roddenberry:
The Last Conversation, detailed a series of conversations she had with Roddenberry over
the last months of his life. In October 2002, a plaque was placed at Roddenberry’s birthplace
in El Paso, Texas. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted Roddenberry in 2007, and
the Television Academy Hall of Fame in January 2010.===Posthumous television series===
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was already in development when Roddenberry died. Berman
said that while he never discussed the ideas for the season, he was given a blessing by
Roddenberry to pursue it. Berman later stated, “I don’t believe the 24th century is going
to be like Gene Roddenberry believed it to be, that people will be free from poverty
and greed. But if you’re going to write and produce for Star Trek, you’ve got to buy into
that.” In early 1996, Majel Barret-Roddenberry uncovered scripts for a series called Battleground
Earth. The project was sent to distributors by the Creative Artists Agency, and it was
picked up by Tribune Entertainment, which set the budget at over $1 million per episode.
The series was renamed Earth: Final Conflict before launch.Two further series ideas were
developed from Roddenberry’s notes, Genesis and Andromeda. After an initial order for
two seasons, 110 episodes of Andromeda were aired over five seasons. Tribune also worked
on another Roddenberry series. Titled Starship; they aimed to launch it via the network route
rather than into syndication. Rod Roddenberry, president of Roddenberry Productions, announced
in 2010, at his father’s posthumous induction into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
Hall of Fame, that he was aiming to take The Questor Tapes to television. Rod was developing
the series alongside Imagine Television. Rod would go on to create the two-hour television
movie Trek Nation regarding the impact of his father’s work.===Awards and nominations===The majority of the awards and nominations
received by Roddenberry throughout his career were related to Star Trek. He was credited
for Star Trek during the nominations for two Emmy Awards, and won two Hugo Awards. One
Hugo was a special award for the series, while another was for “The Menagerie”, the episode
which used footage from the original unaired pilot for Star Trek, “The Cage”. In addition,
he was awarded the Brotherhood Award by the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People for his work in the advancement of African American characters on television.
Following the end of Star Trek, he was nominated for Hugo Awards for Genesis II and The Questor
Tapes. Following his death in 1991, he was posthumously awarded the Robert A. Heinlein
Memorial Award by the National Space Society and The George Pal Memorial Award at the Saturn
Awards, as well as the Exceptional Public Service Medal by NASA.==See also==
Herbert Franklin Solow==Notes

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