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10 things you never knew about Gene Roddenberry

The 'Star Trek' creator went from pilot to space pioneer.

Top image: The Everett Collection

Gene Roddenberry's name is synonymous with the Star Trek franchise. However, there is more to this sci-fi icon than Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise. As we continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the brilliant original series, we present 10 things you never knew about the series' creator, Mr. Gene Roddenberry.

1

He was a decorated pilot.

Roddenberry was born in El Paso, Texas, and fought during World War II. He served as an Army Air Force pilot, earning the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. After WWII, Roddenberry went on to become a commercial pilot. 

2

He worked for the LAPD.

After moving to Los Angeles, Roddenberry had trouble finding work. He started working at the Los Angeles Police Department, where he worked in the traffic and newspaper divisions. He maintained his writing habit on the side, tapping out his first script in 1951.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

3

His first TV series was about the Marines.

The Lieutenant ran for just one season. Debuting in 1963, the military drama featured future Trek actors Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, James Gregory and Madlyn Rhue. Majel Barrett, the future Mrs. Barrett-Roddenberry, was also cast. Perhaps the most notable, however, was Nichelle Nichols, who appeared alongside Don Marshall in an episode that confronted America's racism. Fearing controversy, the network refused to air it or pay for it.

Image: Everett Collection 

4

One major studio turned down Trek.

MGM turned down Star Trek after Roddenberry's initial pitch to the studio in 1964. He shopped his idea to Lucille Ball's Desilu Productions, who picked it up. Thanks, Lucy!

Image: Everett Collection

5

His first project after 'Star Trek' was going to be a Tarzan flick.

After finishing his work on Star Trek: The Original Series, Roddenberry looked to the world of feature films. He played with the idea of an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's I Robot, and wrote a script for a Tarzan film National General Pictures. The proposed budget was slashed, and the project downgraded to TV movie status, so he bailed. Alas, the films never panned out. 

6

Instead, his first project post-Trek was a slasher movie.

Roddenberry instead wrote and produced a film titled Pretty Maids All in a Row. Directed by Roger Vadim, the 1971 sexploitation film featured more Trek regulars like James Doohan, William Campbell and Roddenberry's daughter, Dawn, alongside stars Rock Hudson and Angie Dickinson. A serial killer stalks sexually awakened teens at Oceanfront High School.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

7

His kids appeared on 'Star Trek,' too.

Speaking of Dawn… she and her sister Darleen both appeared (although briefly and uncredited) in "Miri" on Star Trek: The Original Series

8

He was the first TV writer with a star on the Walk of Fame.

Roddenberry earned his place on the Hollywood sidewalk in 1985. 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

9

He received the first space burial.

Some of Gene Roddenberry's ashes were blasted into space, and returned to Earth, aboard the spaceshuttle Columbia in October of 1992. This became the first space burial.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

10

There are places in space named after him.

Roddenberry crater can be foud on Mars. It is located 49S 4E to the east end of Argyre Planitia in Noachis Terra — in case you're planning a trip. It was named after him in 1994 by the International Austronomical Union (IAU). Elsewhere, the 4659 Roddenberry asteroid drifts in the inner asteroid belt.

Image: uahirise.org

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