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- Name: Gene Roddenberry
- Birth Name: Eugene Wesley Roddenberry
- Nickname: The Great Bird of the Galaxy
- Date of Birth: August 19, 1921
- Birthplace: El Paso, Texas
- Died: October 24, 1991
- Location of death: Santa Monica, California
- Cause of death: Heart Failure
- Remains: Cremated, Launched into space
- Occupation: Screenwriter, film and television producer
Gene Roddenberry is best known as the creator and executive producer of Star Trek, one of the most popular and enduring television series of all time.
Gene Roddenberry (Eugene Wesley Roddenberry) was born in El Paso, Texas, on 19 August 1921, and spent his childhood in the city of Los Angeles.
After High School, he studied three years of college pre-law and then transferred his academic interest to aeronautical engineering and qualified for a pilot's license. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941 and became an aviator.
In the Air Force, from 1941 to 1945, he piloted a B-17 Flying Fortress on 89 missions, including Guadalcanal and Bougainvillea. Among his several decorations were the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. In the years following the war Roddenberry initially became a commercial pilot for Pan American World Airways, which he left shortly after surviving a crash in the Syrian desert.
After that he pursue writing for television in Los Angeles. He fell back on his early training and joined the Los Angeles Police Department. He served with them from 1949-1956. By the time he became Sergeant, Roddenberry was selling scripts to such shows as "Goodyear Theatre", "The Kaiser Aluminum Hour", "Four Star Theater", "Dragnet", "The Jane Wyman Theater", and "Naked City". Established as a writer, he turned in his badge and became a freelancer.
Star Trek (1966-1969)
After a successful decade of writing for cop shows and westerns, Roddenberry developed his own television series about space adventurers in the 23rd century. Star Trek (1966-1969) starring William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, and Leonard Nimoy was born.
The first of two pilots was pronounced "too cerebral" by the network and rejected. Once on the air, however, Star Trek developed a loyal following and became the foremost cult TV show in history. The series was a sci-fi excursion like no other. Intelligently written and focused on relationships and modern issues as much as action and adventure, Star Trek was an optimistic, humanist vision of the distant future in which people of all races struggled to find peace. Among its innovations was the first interracial crew that worked without racial discrimination, a hot topic during the mid-sixties.
Although the series found a permanent place in the heart of numerous television fans, it was axed after only three seasons. Network executives were less impressed with its futuristic message (a peaceful and united humanity, making the cosmos a better place through knowledge and technology) than its budget overruns.
After the third season, Roddenberry left Star Trek to try other venues. He wrote and produced a non-SF theatrical film, Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971), but its lack of success brought him back to TV and SF. He produced and wrote (or co-wrote) several TV movies, each a pilot, although none resulted in a series. These include Genesis II (1973), Planet Earth (1974), the fantasy-horror Spectre (1977), and The Questor Tapes (1974).
In the late '70s, Roddenberry returned to the Star Trek venue to produce and write the screenplay for Star Trek: the Motion Picture, the first of a long series of related feature films.
In September 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation continued the legend that Roddenberry began 25 years prior with Star Trek, the original series. This new show offered Roddenberry the technical possibilities and the budget to realize his vision. Never would a science fiction series become so popular.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, in its first year in syndication, was awarded with the 1987 Peabody Award for the Best of the Best. To date, the series has garnered a total of eleven prestigious Emmy awards. In February 1990, the March of Dimes honored Roddenberry with the Jack Benny Memorial Award for lifetime achievement.
On September 4, 1986, Gene Roddenberry's fans presented him with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the FIRST writer/producer to be so honored. Paramount Studios named a building for him. An asteroid and a crater on Mars also share his name.
On October 24, 1991 Gene Roddenberry passed away and a world mourned the loss of one of television's foremost pioneers.