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Gene Roddenberry

Roddenberry in 1976
Born Eugene Wesley Roddenberry
August 19, 1921(1921-08-19)
El Paso, Texas, U.S.
Died October 24, 1991 (aged 70)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Occupation Television producer and television writer
Spouse(s) Eileen-Anita Rexroat (1942–1969)
Majel Barrett (1969–1991)

Eugene Wesley "Gene" Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 – October 24, 1991) was an American screenwriter, producer and futurist. He created the American science-fiction series Star Trek, an accomplishment for which he was sometimes referred to as the "Great Bird of the Galaxy" due to the show's influence on popular culture.[1] He was one of the first people to have his ashes "buried" in space. Gene Roddenberry has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame on January 20, 2010.[2]


Early life

Gene Roddenberry was born on August 19, 1921, in El Paso, Texas,[3] to police officer[4] Eugene Edward Roddenberry and Caroline "Glen" Golemon Roddenberry. He grew up in Los Angeles, California and attended Berendo Junior High School (now Berendo Middle School) before graduating from Franklin High School.

After graduation, Roddenberry took classes in Police Studies at Los Angeles City College and became head of the Police Club, liaising with the FBI. He went on to study at Columbia University, the University of Miami, and the University of Southern California but did not graduate.[4]

Military and police service

Roddenberry developed an interest in aeronautical engineering and subsequently obtained a pilot's license. In 1941 he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, which in the same year became the United States Army Air Force. He flew combat missions in the Pacific Theatre with the 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bombardment Wing of the Thirteenth Air Force and on August 2, 1943, Roddenberry was piloting a B-17E Flying Fortress named the "Yankee Doodle", from Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides when mechanical failure caused it to crash on take-off. In total he flew eighty-nine missions for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal before leaving the Air Force in 1945.[5][6][7] After the military, Roddenberry worked as a commercial pilot for Pan American World Airways (Pan Am). He received a Civil Aeronautics commendation for his rescue efforts following a June 1947 crash in the Syrian desert while on a flight to Istanbul from Karachi.

Pursuing a career in Hollywood, Roddenberry left Pan Am and moved to Los Angeles. To provide for his family, he joined the Los Angeles Police Department on February 1, 1949. He became a Police Officer III in 1951 and was made a Sergeant in 1953. [8] On June 7, 1956, he resigned from the police force to concentrate on his writing career.[9] In his brief letter of resignation, Roddenberry wrote:

I find myself unable to support my family at present on anticipated police salary levels in a manner we consider necessary. Having spent slightly more than seven years on this job, during all of which fair treatment and enjoyable working conditions were received, this decision is made with considerable and genuine regret.[9]

Television and film career

While Roddenberry worked for the LAPD, he wrote television scripts for the series Highway Patrol and both the TV and radio versions of Have Gun, Will Travel. In 1957, he wrote an episode for the Boots and Saddles western series entitled "The Prussian Farmer".

Eventually, Roddenberry's dissatisfaction with his work as a freelance writer led him to produce his own television program. His first attempt, APO 923, was not picked up by the networks, but in 1963, he created and produced The Lieutenant, which lasted for a single season and was set inside the United States Marine Corps with Nichelle Nichols starring in the first episode.


Star Trek

Roddenberry developed Star Trek in 1964 thinking it as a combination of the science-fiction series Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. It was picked up by Desilu Studios when Roddenberry sold the premise as a "Wagon Train to the Stars". The first pilot went over its US$500,000 budget and received only minor support from NBC. Nevertheless, the network commissioned an unprecedented second pilot and the series premiered on September 8, 1966 and ran for three seasons. The show began to receive low ratings, and in the final season, Roddenberry offered to demote himself to line producer in a final attempt to rescue the show by giving it a desirable time slot.

The series went on to gain popularity through syndication.[10]

Gene Roddenberry (third from the right) in 1976 with most of the cast of Star Trek visiting the Space Shuttle Enterprise, at Palmdale, USA

Beginning in 1975, the go-ahead was given by Paramount for Roddenberry to develop a new Star Trek television series, with many of the original cast to be included. It was originally called Phase II. This series would be the anchor show of a new network (the ancestor of UPN, which later became part of The CW Television Network), but plans by Paramount for this network were scrapped and the project was reworked into a feature film. The result, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, received a lukewarm critical response, but it performed well at the box office – it was the highest grossing of all Star Trek movies until the release of First Contact in 1996.[11]

When it came time to produce the obligatory theatrical sequel, Roddenberry's story submission of a time-traveling Enterprise crew involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination was rejected. He was removed from direct involvement and replaced by Harve Bennett.[12] He continued, however, as executive consultant for 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.

Roddenberry was deeply involved with creating and producing Star Trek: The Next Generation, although he only had full control over the show's first season. The WGA strike of 1988 prevented him from taking an active role in production of the second season and forced him to hand control of the series to producer Maurice Hurley.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was the last film with the cast of the original Star Trek series and was dedicated to Roddenberry. He reportedly viewed an early version of the film a few days before his death.[12]

In addition to his film and TV work, Roddenberry also wrote the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It was published in 1979 and was the first of hundreds of Star Trek-based novels to be published by the Pocket Books unit of Simon & Schuster, whose parent company also owned Paramount Pictures Corporation. Because Alan Dean Foster wrote the original treatment of the Star Trek: The Motion Picture film, there was a rumor that Foster was the ghostwriter of the novel. This has been debunked by Foster on his personal web site. (Foster did, however, ghostwrite the novelization of George Lucas's Star Wars.) Roddenberry talked of writing a second Trek novel based on his rejected 1975 script of the JFK assassination plot, but he died before he was able to do so.[13]

Roddenberry is reported to have made comments regarding what was to be considered canonical material in the fictional Star Trek universe, even toward the end of his life. In particular, claims have been made about his expressed opinions in this regard for the films Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and Star Trek: The Animated Series. See main article, Star Trek canon.

"Star Trek" is a rare instance of a television series gaining substantially in popularity and cultural currency long after cancellation (see main article, Cultural influence of Star Trek). Perhaps inevitably, then, there has been some contention over the years regarding proper attribution of artistic credit and assignment of royalties related to the show. A few writers for the series have said that ideas they developed were later claimed by Roddenberry as his own, or that Roddenberry discounted their contributions and involvement. Roddenberry was confronted by these writers, and he apologized to them; but according at least one critic, he would continue to claim undue credit.[14]

"Star Trek" theme music composer Alexander Courage long harbored resentment of Roddenberry's attachment of lyrics to his composition. By union rules, this resulted in the two men splitting the music royalties payable whenever an episode of Star Trek aired, which otherwise would have gone to Courage in full.[15] (The lyrics were never used on the show, but were performed by Nichelle Nichols on her 1991 album, "Out of this World.") Later, while cooperating with Stephen Whitfield for the latter's book The Making of Star Trek, Roddenberry demanded and received Whitfield's acquiescence for 50 percent of that book's royalties. As Roddenberry explained to Whitfield in 1968:

"I had to get some money somewhere. I'm sure not going to get it from the profits of Star Trek."[16]

Herbert Solow and Robert H. Justman observe that Whitfield never regretted his fifty-fifty deal with Roddenberry since it gave him "the opportunity to become the first chronicler of television's successful unsuccessful series".[17]

Star Trek was used as the basis for further television series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Star Trek: Voyager; and Star Trek: Enterprise.

Other television work

Aside from Star Trek, Gene produced Pretty Maids All in a Row, a sexploitation film adapted from the novel written by Francis Pollini and directed by Roger Vadim. The cast included Rock Hudson, Angie Dickinson, Telly Savalas, and Roddy McDowall alongside Star Trek regulars James Doohan and William Campbell. It also featured Gretchen Burrell, the wife of country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons; a pictorial of her was published in an issue of Playboy Magazine about this time. Despite Roddenberry's expectations, the film was not a success.

In the early 1970s, Roddenberry pitched pilots for four sci-fi TV series concepts, although none were developed as series: The Questor Tapes; Genesis II; Planet Earth; and Strange New World.

Roddenberry feared that he would be unable to provide for his family, as he was unable to find work in the television and film industry and was facing possible bankruptcy.

Personal life

In 1942, Gene Roddenberry married Eileen Rexroat. They had two daughters, Darlene and Dawn, but during the 1960s, he went on to have affairs with Nichelle Nichols (said by Nichols to be the reason he wanted her on the show).[18] and Majel Barrett. Twenty-seven years after his first marriage, Roddenberry divorced his first wife and married Barrett in Japan in a traditional Shinto ceremony on August 6, 1969 and they had one child together, Eugene Wesley, Jr.[19]

Although Roddenberry was raised as a Southern Baptist, he instead considered himself a humanist and agnostic. He saw religion as the cause of many wars and human suffering.[20] Brannon Braga has said that Roddenberry made it known to the writers of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation that religion and mystical thinking were not to be included, and that in Roddenberry's vision of Earth's future, everyone was an atheist and better for it.[21] However, Roddenberry was clearly not punctilious in this regard, and some religious references exist in various episodes of both series under his watch. The original series episodes Bread and Circuses, Who Mourns for Adonais?, and The Ultimate Computer, and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Data’s Day are examples. On the other hand, Metamorphosis, The Empath, and several others reflect somewhat, his Humanist/Agnostic views.

Roddenberry and his wife Majel were honored by the Space Foundation in 2002 with the Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award [22], in recognition of their contributions to awarenes of and enthusiasm for space.

Burial in space and posthumous series

Roddenberry's star at 6683 Hollywood Blvd on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, presented in 1986.

Roddenberry died on October 24, 1991, of heart failure. On April 21, 1997, a capsule carrying a portion of Roddenberry's ashes, and the ashes of Timothy Leary and nineteen other individuals, was launched into orbit aboard a Pegasus XL rocket from near the Canary Islands. By 2004, the capsule's orbital height deteriorated and it disintegrated in the atmosphere. Another flight to launch more of his ashes into deep space along with those of Barrett, his widow who died in 2008, is planned for launch in 2012.[23]

After his death, Roddenberry's estate permitted the filming of Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda, two television series which were based on his unused stories. A third story idea was adapted in 1995 as the comic book Gene Roddenberry's Lost Universe (later titled Gene Roddenberry's Xander in Lost Universe). Gene Roddenberry's Starship, was a computer-animated series that was proposed by Majel Barrett and John Semper but was not produced.[24]


  1. ^ "Gene Roddenberry Biography". Retrieved December 18, 2007. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ Freeman, Roger A., with Osborne, David., "The B-17 Flying Fortress Story", Arms & Armour Press, Wellington House, London, UK, 1998, ISBN 1-85409-301-0, page 74
  6. ^ Alexander, David, "Star Trek Creator", ROC Books, an imprint of Dutton Signet, a division of Penguin Books USA, New York, June 1994, ISBN 0-451-54518-9, pages 75-76
  7. ^ Edward B. Kiker (Winter/Spring 2004). "SOLDIERS OF VISION: We Don’t Stop When We Take off the Uniform" (PDF). Army Space Journal. Retrieved December 21, 2008. "He took part in 89 missions and sorties, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal." 
  8. ^ David Alexander.(1994) "Star Trek Creator : The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry," Roc, p.104
  9. ^ a b Alexander, p.141
  10. ^ Sackett, Susan (2002). Inside Trek: My Secret Life with Star Trek Creator Gene Roddenberry. Hawk Publishing Group. ISBN 1930709420.
  11. ^ Star Trek Movies: Which is the Best? by Neha Tiwan
  12. ^ a b Susan Sackett (2002). Inside Trek: My Secret Life With Star Trek Creator Gene Roddenberry. HAWK Publishing Group. ISBN 1-930709-42-0. 
  13. ^ Starlog #16, September, 1978, "Star Trek Report" by Susan Sackett as quoted by "The God Thing: Gene Roddenberry's Lost Star Trek Novel" at
  14. ^ Engel, Joel (1994). Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek. Hyperion Books. ISBN 0786860049.  Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996) commentary by Star Trek producer Herbert F. Solow, science-fiction convention talks by Star Trek writer Dorothy C. Fontana, and books and articles by Harlan Ellison.
  15. ^ "Unthemely Behavior". Urban Legends Reference Pages. August 8, 2007. Retrieved May 20, 2007. 
  16. ^ Herbert F. Solow & Robert H. Justman, Inside Star Trek: the Real Story, Pocket Books, 1996, p.402
  17. ^ Solow & Justman, p.402
  18. ^ Nichelle Nichols, Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories, G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York, 1994.
  19. ^ David Alexander (1994). Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry. Roc. ISBN 0-451-45440-5. 
  20. ^ "Roddenberry Interview". The Humanist 51 (2). March/April 1991. 
  21. ^ Braga, Brannon (June 24, 2006). "Every religion has a mythology". International Atheist Conference. Reykjavik, Iceland. Retrieved May 11, 2009. 
  22. ^ Foundation Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award
  23. ^ "Ashes of 'Star Trek' Creator's Widow to Fly in Space". 
  24. ^ "Mainframe Entertainment Lands Gene Roddenberry's 'Starship' for Computer Animated Television Series". BNet Research Center. October 20, 1998. Retrieved December 18, 2007. 

Further reading

  • Alexander, David. Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry.
  • Engel, Joel. Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek.
  • Fern, Yvonne. Gene Roddenberry: The Last Conversation.
  • Gross, Edward and Mark A. Altman. Great Birds of the Galaxy: Gene Roddenberry and the Creators of Star Trek.
  • Sackett, Susan. Inside Trek: My Secret Life with Star Trek Creator Gene Roddenberry.
  • Van Hise, James. The Man Who Created Star Trek: Gene Roddenberry.

Cast autobiographies

  • Doohan, James and transcribed by Peter David. Beam Me Up, Scotty: Star Trek's "Scotty" in his own words. ISBN 0-671-52056-3.
  • Koenig, Walter. Warped Factors: A Neurotic's Guide to the Universe. ISBN 0878339914.
  • Nichols, Nichelle. Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories. ISBN 1572970111. Published 1995.
  • Nimoy, Leonard. I Am Not Spock. ISBN 9780890871171. Published 1977.
  • Nimoy, Leonard. I Am Spock. ISBN 9780786861828. Published 1995.
  • Shatner, William and transcribed by Chris Kreski. Star Trek Memories. HarperCollins. ISBN 0060177349; ISBN 978-0060177348. Published 1993.
  • Shatner, William and transcribed by Chris Kreski. Star Trek Movie Memories. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-017617-2. Published 1994.
  • Solow, Herbert F. and Robert H. Justman. Inside Star Trek: The Real Story. ISBN 0671896288. Published 1999.
  • Takei, George. To The Stars: The Autobiography of George Takei: Star Trek's Mr Sulu. ISBN 0-671-89008-5. Published 1994.
  • Whitney, Grace Lee and transcribed by Jim Denney. The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy. Foreword by Leonard Nimoy. ISBN 188495605X; ISBN 9781884956058. Published 1998.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Eugene Wesley Roddenberry (August 19, 1921October 24, 1991) was born in El Paso, Texas and spent his boyhood in Los Angeles. 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 in space.



  • A man either lives life as it happens to him, meets it head-on and licks it, or he turns his back on it and starts to wither away.
  • Star Trek speaks to some basic human needs: that there is a tomorrow—it's not all going to be over with a big flash and a bomb; that the human race is improving; that we have things to be proud of as humans. No, ancient astronauts did not build the pyramids—human beings built them, because they're clever and they work hard. And Star Trek is about those things.
    • in an interview on 1988-09-20 CE (seen on "Star Trek: The Next Generation", Season 5, DVD 7, "Mission Logs: Year Five", "A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry", 0:26:09)
  • The strength of a civilization is not measured by its ability to fight wars, but rather by its ability to prevent them.
    • shown at the end of an episode of Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict. ([1])


  • I condemn false prophets, I condemn the effort to take away the power of rational decision, to drain people of their free will - and a hell of a lot of money in the bargain. Religions vary in their degree of idiocy, but I reject them all. For most people, religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain.
  • In a contrast between 1960's astronauts consuming "Tang" and crewmen on the Enterprise eating solid food: "Why should a man give up the joy of ham and eggs if the technology will allow it?"
  • In the 24th century there will be no hunger, there will be no greed, and all the children will know how to read.
  • The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity.
  • We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.


External links

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Simple English

Gene Roddenberry
File:Gene roddenberry
Roddenberry in 1976
Born Eugene Wesley Roddenberry
August 19, 1921(1921-08-19)
El Paso, Texas
Died October 24, 1991 (aged 70)
Santa Monica, California
Occupation Television producer and writer
Spouse Eileen-Anita Rexroat (1942–1969)
Majel Barrett (1969–1991)

Eugene Wesley "Gene" Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 – October 24, 1991) was an American screenwriter and producer. He is best known as the creator of Star Trek, an American sci-fi series. He was sometimes called the "Great Bird of the Galaxy" because he helped start Star Trek. [1] He was one of the first people to have his ashes "buried" in space. [2]

Personal life

Gene Roddenberry was born in El Paso, Texas in 1921. His parents were Eugene Edward Roddenberry and Caroline Glen. He grew up in Los Angeles, California, where his father worked in the police. He became interested in engineering and got a pilot's license. In 1941, he joined the United States Air Force. He flew many combat missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. [3]

After he left the military, he became a commercial pilot (which means he flew passenger aircraft) with Pan American World Airways. He then stopped flying in 1949 so he could write television shows. While writing he also worked in the police so he could provide for (look after) his family. In 1956, he quit his job as a policeman to write full time.

Roddenberry was married twice and had three children. He married Eileen Rexroat first, and they were married for 27 years. They had two daughters, Darlene (1947-1995) and Dawn (1953-). In the 1960s, he also started romantically seeing Nichelle Nichols [4] and Majel Barrett (1932-2008). He divorced Rexroat and married Barrett in Japan in a traditional Shinto ceremony on August 6, 1969. They had a son, Eugene Wesley, Jr. Roddenberry's marriage to Barrett lasted until his death in 1991.

He died in 1991 of heart failure. He was 70 years old. In 1992, some of his ashes were sent into space on board the Space Shuttle Columbia. In 2012, some more of his ashes will be sent into space with his wife Majel's ashes. [5]


  1. Biography of Gene Roddenberry - URL accessed 15 March, 2009
  2. The New York Times - "A Final Turn-On Lifts Timothy Leary Off" - URL accessed 15 March, 2009
  3. "SOLDIERS OF VISION: We Don't Stop When We Take off the Uniform" - URL accessed 15 March, 2009
  4. Nichelle Nichols, Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories, G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York, 1994.
  5. Ashes of 'Star Trek' Creator's Widow to Fly in Space - URL Accessed 15 March, 2009


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