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Gene Roddenberry

Eugene Wesley Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 - October 24, 1991) is best known as the creator of the science fiction television series Star Trek.

Life and work

Roddenberry was married twice. He had two children by his first wife, Eileen Rexroat (to whom he was married 26 years) -- Dawn, and the late Darleen. His second marriage was to Majel Barrett, who played Nurse Christine Chapel in the original series, and is well known for her portrayal of Lwaxana Troi and the voice of the computer in the later three series.

Before Star Trek, he worked in westerns and tried to get other science fiction series off the ground, mostly without success.

Star Trek ran for three seasons. Although it was cancelled prematurely due to low ratings, the series gained wide popularity in syndication. The Star Trek episode "Assignment: Earth" was meant to be the pilot for a spinoff series which never came to fruition. Nevertheless, several feature films and a new television series, "Star Trek: The Next Generation", were created in the 1980s. Roddenberry was deeply involved with creating and producing this new show, although his involvement lessened in seasons 2 and 3 due to deteriorating health. Over time, several more Star Trek television series were created.

Roddenberry only produced the first Star Trek film. Due to cost overruns and a problematic relation with the Paramount management, Roddenberry was ousted and replaced by Harve Bennett. He continued in an advisory capacity on several subsequent films.

Writers on the show have charged that ideas they developed were later passed off by Roddenberry as his own, or that he lied about their contributions to the show at Star Trek conventions. Roddenberry was confronted by these writers, and apologized to them, but according to his critics, he continued to repeat the false claims. [1] In her autobiography, actress Nichelle Nichols who played Uhura in the first Star Trek series, reported having had a love affair with Gene Roddenberry. She felt that his strong inclination to get her on the show (a controversial move at the time, as Nichols is a black woman) had a lot to do with their relationship.

Roddenberry's life and work has been favorably chronicled in the biography Inside Trek: My Secret Life with Star Trek Creator Gene Roddenberry by Susan Sackett, his close associate for 17 years. It has been described as inaccurate by his critics.

Gene Roddenberry was as a secular humanist [2]. After his death, a lipstick-sized capsule of his ashes was sent into space to orbit the earth for six years (after which they burned up in the earth's atmosphere). There is an asteroid named in his honor called 4659 Roddenberry.

Since his death, two of his science fiction projects, Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda, have become reality under the guidance of Majel Barrett.


[1] See Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek by Joel Engel, books by Star Trek Producer Bob Justman, science-fiction convention talks by Star Trek writer Dorothy C. Fontana, and books and articles by Harlan Ellison.

[2] Interview in The Humanist, March/April 1991

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