Review of 'Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry'

Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry by David Alexander

star_trek_creator.jpg In this biography of Gene Roddenberry we are taken through the life of this extraordinary man. In college aiming to follow in the footsteps of his father he studied police sciences. He obtained his pilots licence and joined the US Air Force during the second world war where he became a bomber pilot then, after an accident, became an plane crash investigator. After the war he became a Pan Am pilot including surviving another plane crash. Applying for the Los Angeles Police Department he became Chief of Police's speech writer though a career as a writer was calling him as he started writing for various television programs. It is this, of course, that he is best known for. “Star Trek Creator” follows in great detail Roddenberry's career in television and film including the struggles he had to retain control of his most famous creation. In the end the stress of his creation helped hasten his demise…along with his taste for drugs and alcohol.

This book is doubtless meticulously researched with Alexander having access not only to the great man himself as a friend and Roddenberry's chosen biographer (working closely together for more than two decades) but also to his archives, friends and family, however, “Star Trek Creator” reads much like a book that was hurried to publication following the death of it's subject to capitalize on the moment. This is perhaps not helped by being written by an unknown author. Not only are there numerous spelling, grammatical and layout issues (maybe minor but distracting nonetheless) but the narrative also jumps about in a very distracting manner making the book a very difficult read. It often relies heavily on quotes and exposition of facts rather than actually telling a story with huge digressions that cause the reader to lose track of what might have been going on. It is this focus on research that means the book fails to really talk much about the man and how he lived on a day-to-day basis. For example, the main emphasis of the Star Trek sections is on the various political and economic wrangling rather than any personal engagement Roddenberry had with the cast or production or even any of his travels or personal activities at the time. Reading this you would think he spent all of his time in heated meetings and writing scathing memos which can't have been true. Five stars for research but anyone can put a bunch of quotes in a book. What is missing here is the talent to place them in the context of narrative with the aim of giving us a readable understanding of the man. In this focusing on details the book is quite difficult to read and is really only best appreciated by Star Trek/Roddenberry obsessives or completists rather than a more general audience. Having said all this, it has to be said that there are some interesting things here that no doubt hit the headlines when originally published back in 1994 (three years after Roddenberry's death).

What is clear from “Star Trek Creator” is Roddenberry's frank and determined manner in all aspects of his life, never accepting anything as a given but forging his own way. He was a man that called it as he saw it suffering little tolerance for those who disagreed though, often, surprisingly willing to give everyone their say (yet still disagree). He was incredibly protective of his creation and fought any corruption he saw of it. Throughout his life he was incredibly hard working with an incredible number of writing credits (an appendix makes an attempt to list these) and doubtless untold more uncredited. Later in his life when depressed he admitted to his doctor he felt guilty when he was not writing, seeing it as failure. This was a driven man whose attitude no doubt contributed in no small way to the success of Star Trek. This attitude did not make him a huge amount of professional friends despite being widely accepted as a gentle, friendly, and affable guy more comfortable being an introvert than in the limelight.

A remarkable man though a somewhat difficult book to read, “Star Trek Creator”, though difficult to read, covers much of the enigma that was Gene Roddenberry.

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2021-05-22

Genre: Autobiography

Publisher: ROC

Publication Date: 1994

ISBN: 0451454189