The late TV pioneer was born 101 years ago and contributor Peter Bosch pays quiet tribute…
By PETER BOSCH
Eugene Wesley Roddenberry (better known to us as Gene, naturally) was born in El Paso, Texas, on August 19, 1921 — 101 years ago.
In 1923, his father moved the family to Los Angeles in order to take a job as a police officer. During his college days, Gene studied police science at Los Angeles City College and also obtained a flying license. Eleven days after the Pearl Harbor attack, he enlisted as a pilot. After leaving the service in 1945, he became a pilot with Pan American World Airways.
In 1949, he joined the Los Angeles Police Department and became a speech writer for the chief. He also started writing scripts for television and sold to Mr. District Attorney, Highway Patrol, Boots and Saddles (one of which featured future “Dr. McCoy,” DeForest Kelley), and Have Gun – Will Travel, among many others.
In 1963, he got his first producing credit, for a TV series he also created, The Lieutenant. The program starred Gary Lockwood as William T. Rice, a Marine training others at Camp Pendleton. The “T” stood for “Tiberius,” which was also the middle name for James Kirk in Star Trek. (Speaking of Star Trek, guest actors on The Lieutenant included Leonard Nimoy, Majel Barrett (the future Mrs. Roddenberry), Walter Koenig, and — in an unaired episode — Nichelle Nichols. And, of course, Lockwood was in the second pilot for Star Trek, which was edited to become the series’ third episode.)
With Star Trek, so much has been written in the almost-60 years since it aired in 1966 that it is folly for me to try to find anything new. After the show left the air, Roddenberry was involved in other TV series, as well producing the first Star Trek movie and acting as the executive consultant for others in the franchise. He was also the creator and executive producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Roddenberry died October 24, 1991 in Santa Monica, California. He had wanted to go into space but never did while he was alive. However, one year after his death, some of Roddenberry’s cremated ashes were flown into outer space aboard the space shuttle Columbia and then returned to Earth.
It’s nice to know that even after he died, his dream still came true.
— The STAR TREK Top 13 Episode Countdown. Click here.
— 13 Completely Bonkers Gold Key STAR TREK COVERS. Click here.
PETER BOSCH’s first book, American TV Comic Books: 1940s-1980s – From the Small Screen to the Printed Page, has just been published by TwoMorrows. He has written articles and conducted celebrity interviews for various magazines and newspapers. Peter lives in Hollywood.