October 24, 1991.
It’s one of the saddest dates in Star Trek history. Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, passed away that day, leaving behind his wife, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, who survived him by 17 years, as well as three children and millions of fans. He’d been ill for a while with a variety of ailments that had forced him to pull back from his day-to-day work on The Next Generation. But it was still a shock when word spread that the 70-year-old Roddenberry suffered a blood clot in his heart and died at a Los Angeles hospital.
People can, do and always will debate who came up with this humanistic notion or who thought of that unforgettable character or eye-popping alien race or daring/thought-provoking/allegorical storyline for the original Star Trek. People can, do and will credit those around Roddenberry for helping him realize TOS and The Next Generation, both before his passing and for the two decades since, and for building upon that foundation with Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, as well as the subsequent TOS and Next Generation feature films and, of course, the recent reboot feature. People can, do and will continue to comment on Roddenberry as a decent yet flawed man, husband, father and friend.
But let’s be clear: Roddenberry created Star Trek. There’d be no other shows and no movies, conventions, toys, clothes or StarTrek.com were it not for Roddenberry, the former cop and decorated World War II pilot. Star Trek was his baby, the groundbreaking product of his creative vision and vivid imagination as a storyteller, and he possessed the talent and tenacity to see it through, to get it on the air, when few believed his “Wagon Train to the Stars” would fly.
It flew, all right.
It’s still flying high -- and may it continue to do so for many, many years to come.