Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek

Joel Engel, Author Hyperion Books $22.45 (283p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6004-3
According to Engel ( Rod Serling ), Roddenberry, who died in 1991, is a seminal figure of our time (``His indirect impact on aspects of popular culture . . . has been eclipsed, arguably, only by Elvis Presley''), creator of one of the most enduring of TV and film series and a figure of adulation to countless ``Trekkies.'' Yet in this well-researched biography, the author offers a critical view of a man who, he claims, was a mediocre writer who bullied as well as charmed top science-fiction authors into working for him while never publicly acknowledging his debt to them. Roddenberry led a rough-and-tumble early life, flying a B-17 bomber during WW II and serving with the Los Angeles Police Department for five years before turning to TV-writing for series like Have Gun, Will Travel . In 1964, he wrote a treatment for what he called ``Wagon Train in the Sky,'' with Star Trek debuting in the fall of 1966. The series lost money for its entire three-year run. Granted new life through syndication, however, Star Trek grew into a cult phenomenon, inspiring sequels and spin-offs. Meanwhile, despite the myth of his creative genius, Roddenberry apparently became ``a willing one-trick pony,'' an alcoholic and sex-obsessed tyrant: a prime example of a case in which, as Engel entitles the final chapter of his hard-hitting book, ``The Clothes Have No Emperor.'' (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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