Visionary creator of the long-running Star Trek franchise.
August 19, 1921 – October 24, 1991
Gene Roddenberry will be forever known for the Star Trek franchise, which used science fiction to present a future in which humanity has finally set aside personal differences to explore the galaxy together.
A science fiction fan from an early age, Roddenberry strongly believed in racial and gender equality, and he often argued with television executives over these issues. In 1959 he turned down a job on Riverboat when he learned there would be no black characters, and in 1963 the Pentagon stopped cooperating on his show The Lieutenant because of an episode that featured a friendship between black and white Marines.
Roddenberry realized that setting stories in an imaginary future would make it easier to slip controversial ideas past the censors. But the ideas—such as equality, diversity, and the folly of war—were absolutely relevant to the present. As Roddenberry said, “I have no belief that Star Trek depicts the actual future. It depicts us, now.”
In 1979 Roddenberry produced the feature film Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Further films continued the adventures of the starship Enterprise. Roddenberry created a new series in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation. A long line of films and spin-off series have followed, establishing Star Trek as the most enduring and popular science fiction franchise ever made.