Gene Roddenberry was born 90 years ago

Gene Roddenberry in 1976
Gene Roddenberry in 1976

Eugene Wesley “Gene” Roddenberry (photo ©Larry D. Moore) was born on August 19, 1921 in El Paso, Texas.

Gene Roddenberry grew up in Los Angeles, where he studied for some time at the Los Angeles City College then he went to the Columbia University, the University of Miami and the University of Southern California.

Gene Roddenberry was interested in aeronautical engineering so he obtained a license as a pilot and in 1941 he joined the USA Air Force. During World War II he fought in air battles in the Pacific and he was also decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

After the war Gene Roddenberry became a pilot on commercial flights and for the rest of his life he kept in touch with that world. In 1949 however he decided to start a career in Hollywood but to provide for his family at first he joined the Los Angeles Police Department, in this following in his parents’ footsteps.

In the ’50s Gene Roddenberry started selling his scripts to various radio and television series and in 1956 he resigned from the police to devote himself to that job full time.

After a few years Gene Roddenberry decided it was better for him to produce his own television series rather than writing for others. In 1964 he developed the idea he became most famous for: “Star Trek”. The first pilot was very cerebral for the standards of the time and was rejected by NBC, but he was asked him another one, an event that almost never happens.

Eventually “Star Trek” made its debut in 1966 and went on for three seasons. The audience wasn’t that great and over time it went down. Gene Roddenberry was only nominally the executive producer of the third season but actually he didn’t have an active role.

After its cancellation, “Star Trek” started having some success through syndication becoming a cult series, so much so that Gene Roddenberry started working on a new series. The success of “Star Wars” however convinced Paramount to produce a film that, despite receiving not exceptional criticism, was a success.

Thus not only in the following years new “Star Trek” movies were produced but Gene Roddenberry was also very active in the creation of the new television series “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. After the first season his role got much smaller but his name was still linked to the series and he was listed as the creator of the next Star Trek shows.

Over the years, Gene Roddenberry also worked on other projects however their reputation is incomparable to Star Trek. The TV movies “Genesis II” and “Planet Earth” have as the protagonist Dylan Hunt, the character who later was the protagonist in the series “Andromeda”, developed years later by his wife Majel Barrett. The series “Earth: Final Conflict” was developed in the ’90s based on other concepts invented by Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett produced it as well.

Gene Roddenberry died on October 24, 1991 and in 1997 part of his ashes were launched into space. His greatest legacy is the idea of an optimistic future in which humans seek to realize their dreams and inner aspirations rather than greedy ambitions. These more evolved humans travel in space not to conquer other planets but to explore strange new worlds and new civilizations to boldly go where no man has gone before.

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