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“Of all the souls I have ever known, mine is the most...human.”
Eugene Wesley "Gene" Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 – October 24, 1991) was an American television screenwriter, producer and futurist, best known for creating the American science fiction series Star Trek.
With the creation of the quasi-religion Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry became one of the most influential people of the 20th and 21st centuries. Along with L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology, Rich DeVos's Amway, and Edgar Cayce's Disneyland, Roddenberry's Star Trek forms the base of the pyramid of modern Sci-Fi religious movements.
Birth of the Prophet
Gene Roddenberry was born in 3 BC to a Jewish carpenter, Joe, and his unpregnant wife, Mary Richards-Joe. They were traveling to the town of his father's birth, Flatonia, Texas, to participate in a census demanded by the evil Roman emperor, Irwin Allen. Finding no lodging available at the Flatonia Inn and Suites, they settled for spending the night in a truck stop on U.S. 10, where young Gene was birthed and wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Arrival of the Wise Men
Within minutes of Gene's birth, three Wise Men (Baltar, Eeyore, and Mike) appeared at the rest stop, announcing that they'd been trekking across the country, following the image of a star on a series of billboards. "So," said Joe, "you're on some sort of 'star trek?'" Baltar agreed, surveying the scene around him and declaiming, "So--this is Texaco!"
A World at War
After a largely uneventful (and extraordinarily long) childhood and adolescence, Gene joined the U.S. Army Hair Corps in 1941 at the advanced age of 1,944. Expecting little more than a five-year mission of haircuts, shaves, and the odd perm here and there, Gene was surprised to learn that he'd misheard the recruiter, and was in fact in the U.S. Army Air Corps. The next thing he knew, he was at the controls of a B-17 in the Pacific Theatre. The theatre, located in Vancouver, Canada, was barely large enough to hold the huge aircraft, so Gene confined himself to just turning the wheel a lot and saying "zoom, zoom, ack-ack-ack-ack-ack!" (Trivia: Gene Roddenbery invented the phrase "Pilot to bombardier!")
A World Not at War
After World War II, Gene decided to become a commercial pilot, and got his commercial pilot's license. There wasn't much demand for pilots in commercials, however, and Gene quickly ate his poop.
Gene next headed to Los Angeles, where he enjoyed a short stint in the LAPD (Lard-Ass Parking Detail). Bored with writing parking tickets day-in and day-out, Gene decided he'd rather write television scripts day-in and day-out. He sold scripts to many popular shows, including Have Gun, Want to See It, Why Don't We Just Go Up to My Room?
Casting about for a series idea to sell, Gene accidentally cast off a script about castaways stuck on an island, with a cast including a ship's captain, his first mate, a professor, a millionaire and his wife, a movie star, and America's Sweetheart, Dawn Wells. The script was found in a trashcan by then-janitor Sherwood Schwartz, who went on to produce the blockbuster show under the title Lost.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Gene had settled on a concept he called Car Trek, which he described as "Wagon Train, but with cars." It was a miserable failure, rejected by all three major networks and fourteen used car dealers. (No, it was not later produced as the Pixar movie Cars, that would be too bleedin' obvious, wouldn't it?)
Next, Gene came up with a concept he called Bar Trek, which had nothing to do with television and everything to do with how he was dealing with his inability to sell a series concept. Then-janitor James Burrows, noting this, later turned the idea into a show he called Cheers.
Deciding that the next big thing would be medical dramas, Gene penned a script for a series set in a medical lab, calling it Jar Trek. After a quick review, Gene decided he was just pissing in the wind and flushed the idea.
Briefly fascinated with professional golf, Gene wrote a treatment for a series about an itinerant golfer, entitled Par Trek. This was quickly followed by a series about college shell teams (Oar Trek), and just as quickly abandoned. Now desperate, he banged out a script about a fire department forensics expert (Char Trek) and was chagrined to see the idea go up in smoke.
Disappointed, disillusioned, and dispirited, Gene set out on a road trip, walking from San Clemente to San Luis Obispo over a series of weeks, cussing the entire time. In later years Gene would reflect that this was his "swear trek."
Late one night, Gene finished the final touches to his magnum opus, a story about a group of explorers flying from star to star in a spaceship, finding adventures every week. By unimaginable coincidence, a descendent of the evil Roman emperor was working in the next office, one Irwin Allen CCXVIII. Gene burst into Allen's office, waving the script and shouting about how this was his big break. Allen asked to see it, and was impressed with what he read. "Look, kid," Allen said, "this is big stuff. I could use some big stuff right now. It's gonna be years before I can make a disaster movie, so I'll buy this from you. My series idea isn't working--too cerebral, for one thing. How about I give you a hundred grand for that?"
Gene was stunned. That was more money than he'd ever had in his life--and in that era, it was a huge amount of money. He agreed. Irwin Allen took the script, wrote a check, and said, "Thanks kid. Hey, you know what--why don't you take my series idea? It's crap, no one will ever watch it--even if you get it on TV, it probably won't last three years--but I got no use for it now."
Gene took the script and the check, and walked back to his office, dazed.
Irwin Allen sold Gene's idea to CBS, and produced it as Lost in Space.
Gene took Allen's idea and sold it to CBS as The Bob Newhart Show.
The Rest, as They Say, is History
The rest, as they say, is history.
Death and Transfiguration
Gene Roddenberry died in 1991, and was scheduled to be buried in space in a lipstick-sized container holding his ashes. Due to a slight--yet zany--miscue, his wife's actual lipstick was launched instead, which made Revlon's Cherries in the Snow the first lipstick in space. Gene is still sitting on Majel's vanity top, hidden behind a bottle of expired hand lotion, and wondering just what the Hell is going on.