You are on StarTrek.com today for one reason: the genius of Gene Roddenberry. The creator of Star Trek: The Original Series was born this week in 1921, and we're pleased to mark the occasion by sharing 8 things you should know about the man behind one of sci-fi's most enduring franchises.
Roddenberry the Pilot
Born in El Paso, Texas, Roddenberry served in World War II as an Army Air Force pilot and earned both the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. He later became a commercial pilot for Pan Am.
Everyone thinks of Roddenberry as a writer and producer, and he moved to L.A. to pursue those goals. However, when jobs in the then-fledgling television industry proved elusive, Roddenberry joined the Los Angeles Police Department in order to pay the bills, writing scripts on the side.
Just Before Trek
The Lieutenant marked one of Roddenberry's earliest series as a producer. It premiered in 1963 and ran for ony a single season, but it featured a galaxy of future Star Trek actors and actresses as regulars and guest stars, among them Gary Lockwood, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Madlyn Rhue, James Gregory, and Majel Barrett, as well as such behind-the-scenes figures as Gene L. Coon and Joe D'Agosta.
We Love Lucy
MGM, in 1964, rejected Roddenberry's Star Trek pitch. Fortunately, Desilu — with Herbert Solow convincing Lucille Ball — put the pilot (the first of two, of course) into production.
The feature film Pretty Maids All in a Row was Roddenberry's first post-TOS project. Directed by Roger Vadim and released in 1971, its cast included James Doohan, William Campbell and Roddenberry's daughter, Dawn.
Roddenberry has the disinction of being the very first television writer to be honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His Star ceremony was held in 1985.
On October 24, 1991, Roddenberry passed away at the age of 70. Some of his ashes were blasted into space -- and returned to Earth -- aboard the space shuttle Columbia on October 22, 1992.
A Crater for the Creator
There's a crater on Mars called Roddenberry. It's located at 49°S 4°E, to the east of Argyre Planitia in Noachis Terra. The crater was given the name Roddenberry in 1994 by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). There's also an asteroid, 4659 Roddenberry, named after the Star Trek creator.