Gene Roddenberry: The Last Conversation by Yvonne Fern

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Gene Roddenberry

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

There is something sad and final about this book, since Roddenberry knew he was about to “shuffle off this mortal coil” after a very productive life and career, but the tone is optimistic rather than morbid. In his foreword, Arther C. Clarke writes that “few men have left a finer legacy than Gene Roddenberry” and praises STAR TREK for promoting “ideals of tolerance for differing cultures, with respect for all life forms.” The television series set a standard for multiculturalism twenty years before that concept became a buzzword. George Takei notes in his autobiography TO THE STARS (1994) that when he first came aboard the starship Enterprise in 1967 there were hardly any positive roles for Asian Americans. Nichelle Nichols makes a similar point for African Americans in her autobiography BEYOND UHURA (1994). The Star Trek “enterprise” continues on to a second “generation” in film and television after Roddenberry has himself gone on to explore the “undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns.” The book remembers Roddenberry after his death in 1991 for these achievements.

Fern is an eager disciple in attempting to chronicle Roddenberry’s last thoughts. Her interview technique often puts her subject in the background rather than in the forefront when she quotes him to compliment herself: “I think your questions are a lot more intelligent than my answers are going to be.” When Fern asks “What do you most fear?” Roddenberry answers in a word: “Humanity.” He then turns the question on his interviewer, who needs 500 words to answer her own question. When Fern herself vents confusion about who is interviewing whom, the reader begins to lose confidence. Yet a conversation is a two-sided affair, and Roddenberry seems to be producing it.

Perhaps to counterbalance the text Fern inserts long quotations from earlier times, a lecture in 1993 at an unspecified university, or an...

(The entire section is 463 words.)