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The Great Bird of the Galaxy Remembered

By Michael Hinman
Posted at October 24, 1999 - 5:00 AM GMT

I remember the day vividly. I was getting ready for school, and had CNN on. As I was getting out of the shower, I heard the news coming from Hollywood. Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, passed away in the arms of his wife.

It was Oct. 24, 1991. I was 15 years old at the time, and had been a fan of Star Trek almost the entire time. Hearing the news was a stab in the heart. I didn't know what to feel, or how to react. It was the same feeling I got when I lost my last grandparent almost two years before, except I had never met Gene in person. His work had touched my life so much, it sparked my interest for galactic unity of humankind.

No one knew back in the early 1960s that this young police officer turned television screen writer was going to make a societal impact so huge, it would rival the likes of William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton. Is Star Trek bigger than Hamlet? Is it heavier than gravity? Probably not, but no one can argue the impact Star Trek has made on all of our lives.

Gene called Star Trek his "wagon train to the stars," and in a story we have heard thousands and thousands of times, he carried his Star Trek story concept wherever he went in Hollywood, trying to find someone who would be willing to take the story from paper, and bring it to the big screen. He finally found that special someone in the company run by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. Looking for something different to offer to the Big 3 networks, Desilu was very interested in Gene's property, and it would be that brief partnership (before the Paramount takeover) that would make history.

How much of an impact did Gene Roddenberry really make to our society? If you're still thinking, then take a look around you. I'm sure you will find something Star Trek in it.

Right in front of me is a computer. We take advantage of computers being a big part of our lives. It's hard to imagine that back in the mid-1960s, a life partnered with a machine was very unthinkable, and highly unimaginable. Kirk's communicator that he always carried around with him was something else people 30 years ago could never imagine having. And you could clearly see a difference in the times when "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" rolled around in 1987 when Kirk's communicator was mistaken as a "pocket pager." Even that wasn't imagined just 20 years before ...

In the 1960s, there was very little to be positive about. We had the raging Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, with nuclear threat constantly appearing imminent. The Vietnam Conflict was claiming the lives of family members and friends. Racial tensions were nearing a head. It didn't look like there was very much light at the end of the tunnel.

But Gene was able to provide an escape. Gene showed us that not only would humans make it out of the 1960s, they would make it out of the 20th Century and beyond. And it wouldn't just be white men that would make it either. All nationalities from both sexes would be in a distant future where infinite diversities in infinite combinations would be forever celebrated. Where we could go well past the moon, and relate with other species who were very different from ourselves.

Gene Roddenberry was hardly a perfect man, even though some consider him to be a god. I do not worship him, but I know I share in the grief of all who still mourn for the Great Bird of the Galaxy even now, eight years after his death.

But I don't grieve that he is no longer with us, because he is. He is in all of our hearts, and his creations continue to entertain us today, and give us, our children, and our grandchildren a reason to look forward to the great wonders we will all find in the future.

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Michael Hinman is the webmaster of Sci-Fi news site SyFy World.

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