In Memoriam: Gene Roddenberry, 25 years gone

The Shuttle Enterprise rolls out of the Palmdale manufacturing facilities with Star Trek television cast members and creator Gene Roddenberry.
The Space Shuttle Enterprise rolls out of NASA manufacturing facilities with many Star Trek TV cast members and creator Gene Roddenberry. (NASA)

On Oct. 24, 1991 — 25 years ago — Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry died. He’d seen his original 1960s television “wagon train to the stars” idea to the big screen and back to the small, bringing Star Trek: The Next Generation into successful first-run syndication in 1987 before letting others take the reins as his health failed.

Roddenberry was far from perfect, but he was utterly human — and his creations, and their descendants, have always shared that quality.

Less than two months later, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country — the final outing with the entire original ensemble case he assembled — would hit theaters, bearing a simple memorial dedication at the beginning. He saw a near-final cut of the film and is said to have approved of it, but he had well-known objections to much of the script while it was in production. He was known for such creative clashes, but he hardly invented the phenomenon.

Since 1991, we’ve seen the Trek universe expand to include the grittier power struggles of Deep Space Nine, the dogged determination of Voyager, the beginnings of the Federation in Enterprise, and a whole new theatrical timeline blending old and new since 2009. In May 2017, we’ll return to the original timeline and medium (sort of) with CBS All Access’ Discovery.

Star Trek lives. For that, we have Gene Roddenberry to thank.

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