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Star Trek

Gene Roddenberry
and the Creation of Star Trek

Gene Rodenberry
Gene Roddenberry

Eugene Roddenberry was born on 21 August 1921 in El Paso Texas. When he was two, his parents moved to Los Angeles where his father became a policeman.

During the Second World War, Gene was a bomber plot and air crash investigator. In 1940, he married his childhood sweetheart, Eileen Rexroat. After the War, he joined Pan American Airways.

In 1947, Gene was involved in a air crash in Syria and decided to quit flying and seek a career writing for the newly booming television medium. When he failed to find work as a writer, he joined the Los Angeles Police Department. As a sideline, he sold stories told to him by his fellow police officers to the producers of the Dragnet television series.

In 1954, the LAPD appointed him as technical adviser on a new television series, Mr District Attorney. Gene felt he could write better scripts than those he was advising on. He submitted a script which was accepted. He continued writing TV scripts on a part-time basis until 1954 when he quit the police to become a full-time freelance writer. He became head writer for Have Gun, Will Travel.

Over the period to 1963, Gene developed the idea of an adult science fiction series that he described as "a Wagon Train to the stars". (Up to that time, TV science fiction had been either a single play or a series aimed at children.) NBC eventually agreed to produce a pilot, The Cage, which they rejected because they didn't like the story. When Gene pointed out that NBC had selected the story, they made the unprecedented decision to make a second pilot, which they accepted.

Gene had wanted the second-in-command to be played by Majel Barett but the network would not agree to a woman could possibly be in a command position. Gene however drew the line at the studio suggestion that the crew should include a chaplain. As well as equality of the sexes, Gene tried to depict racial equality - one episode of Star Trek showed the first inter-racial kiss on American television (between Kirk and Uhura) .

Gene rewrote almost every episode of the first two series to ensure that they remained true to his idea. The show was cancelled in 1969 because of poor ratings although some at NBC argued for its continuation because, although it had only a small number of viewers, they were a particularly affluent and influential group.

Gene married Majel Barett (Nurse Christine Chapel from the original series) in 1969. 

Repeats of the original series continued to be popular long after its cancellation leading to decisions to make movies and further series based on it.

When the opportunity arose to make Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gene saw it as a chance to correct some of the flaws he saw in the original series. He wanted the show to be more intellectual and less violent and to give a more prominent role to women and non-whites. (Gene's wife Majel played Lwaxana Troi,  the domineering mother of the psychic Counsellor Deanne Troi in The Next Generation.)

Gene Rodenberry died from a heart attack in October 1991 during filming of an episode of The Next Generation. In 1992, his ashes were carried into space on board the space shuttle.

Star Trek Memorabilia now available (at eBay):

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