Gene Roddenberry

GeneRoddenberry-sfw001.jpgEugene Wesley "Gene" Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 – October 24, 1991) was an American television screenwriter, producer, and futurist. He is best known for creating the original Star Trek television series and thus the Star Trek science fiction franchise. Born in El Paso, Texas, Roddenberry grew up in Los Angeles, California where his father worked as a police officer. Roddenberry flew 89 combat missions in the United States 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 to provide for his family, but began to focus on writing 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. Syndication of Star Trek led to increasing popularity, and Roddenberry continued to create, produce, and consult on the Star Trek films and the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation until his death. 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 aloft as into space (without success).

GeneRoddenberry-sfw003.jpgThe Star Trek franchise created by Roddenberry has produced story material for almost five decades; resulting in six television series consisting of 726 episodes, and twelve feature films.

Additionally, the popularity of the Star Trek universe and films inspired the parody/homage/cult film Galaxy Quest in 1999, as well as many books, video games, and fan films set in the various "eras" of the Star Trek universe.

Career

GeneRoddenberry-sfw002.jpgWhile Roddenberry worked for the LAPD, he wrote television scripts under the pseudonym "Robert Wesley" 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". In 1960, he wrote four episodes of the British (ITC Entertainment) made Australian western Whiplash.

Eventually, Roddenberry's dissatisfaction with his work as a freelance writer led him to produce his own television program. He came up with many story ideas and other concepts for his new television series that ultimately went unused, among them were Night Stick, Defiance County, and The Long Hunt of April Savage; meanwhile, 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.

GeneRoddenberry-sfw004.jpgRoddenberry developed Star Trek in 1964, as a combination of the two science-fiction series Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. He sold the project as a "Wagon Train to the Stars", and it was picked up by Desilu Studios. The first TV pilot went over its budget and garnered only modest approval from NBC. Nevertheless, the network commissioned a second pilot, which was unprecedented. The series premiered on September 8, 1966, and ran for three seasons, but began to receive low ratings. During the final season, Roddenberry left active involvement (retaining his executive producer title in name only) when the network reneged on its promise for a more desirable time slot. In 1970, Paramount agreed to sell him all rights to Star Trek, but Roddenberry could not afford the $150,000 price ($902,000 today).