Gene Roddenberry 1921–1991
(Born Eugene Roddenberry) American screenwriter and producer.
Roddenberry is best known as the creator/producer of the television series Star Trek. Although the show failed to produce high ratings, many critics felt that it did succeed in achieving a level of sophistication and thoughtfulness not commonly found on television. The series was awarded an Emmy, an international Hugo Award for outstanding science fiction writing, and the Image award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In spite of this acclaim, NBC cancelled Star Trek after its third season. A relatively small but strong and vocal group immediately emerged to protest the network's move. This group's continued growth and energetic efforts to keep the show alive comprise one of the most interesting phenomena of recent popular culture.
Against the unfamiliar background of twenty-third century outer space, Star Trek explored such themes as equality, racism, sexism, and politics. Roddenberry feared that television in the 1960s might not be ready for such subjects and thus envisioned his series as a kind of "Trojan horse." He hoped that under the guise of relatively simple outer space adventure stories he might address meaningful, timely philosophical and moral questions. Many of Roddenberry's concerns are expressed through The Enterprise's Prime Directive, which is meant to steer the starship away from the war-torn past to a future of discovery, toleration, and brotherhood.
Although many critics lauded Star Trek, others termed it a melodramatic and cliche-ridden morality play. However, few deny that Roddenberry did at least conceive of a potentially dynamic and meaningful series.
Roddenberry's production of Star Trek—The Motion Picture received mixed reviews. Skeptics addressing this movie express the belief that, as with the series, Roddenberry is less an innovator and social conscience than a shrewd marketeer. Regardless, the extreme popularity of the series may indicate that parts of the television audience, especially young people, were touched by the message which Star Trek attempted to relay.