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Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry Hardcover – June 1, 1994

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Roc; First Edition edition (June 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451454189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451454188
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #391,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Alexander was editor of the Humanist when Roddenberry (1921-1991) chose him as his biographer. The result is a panegyric in the sharpest possible contrast to Joel Engel's Gene Roddenberry (Nonfiction Forecasts, Mar. 21). In tracing his subject's career in the Army Air Corps in WW II, as a Pan Am pilot and member of the Los Angeles Police Department, the author shows Roddenberry as a brave and adventurous man who proved to be hardworking and tenacious as well. While the original Star Trek series lasted for three years and lost money every year until 1969, when it was cancelled, by 1972 it was a huge hit in syndication. Then followed a series of movies starting in 1979 and another TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation , beginning in 1987, followed by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine . As for "warts," Alexander treats Roddenberry's compulsive womanizing as a lovable idiosyncrasy; he also presents without details a list of six science fiction writers who worked for Roddenberry on Star Trek but would no longer do so. Exhaustive but exhausting. Filmography. Photos not seen by PW. 100,000 first printing.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The authorized biography of Star Trek's mastermind is a monumentally documented work, drawing largely from Roddenberry's papers as well as the papers of and interviews with those close to him. It portrays an ambitious and talented man, restless and unsettled in his personal life yet fixed on his career goals. Roddenberry's family, his experiences as a World War II bomber pilot in the South Pacific and an airline pilot after the war, and his relatively short but eventful career in the Los Angeles Police Department all helped shape him. Although sometimes the sheer mass of detail makes the narrative difficult to follow, that same wealth of information provides fascinating insights into not only Roddenberry and his correspondents but also the worlds of sf and its fandom and the making of TV and movies. The many letters between Roddenberry and Isaac Asimov constitute a particularly interesting bonanza, and the appended Roddenberry filmography is useful. All in all, Alexander makes a significant contribution to the understanding of an enigmatic man and his creations. (See also Engel's Gene Roddenberry.) Dennis Winters

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By "snopes" on September 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
1) This is a hagiography written by a friend, not an objective biography. Roddenberry's character flaws (and there were many) are barely touched upon or completely glossed over. (The one-sided, multi-page attempt to discredit detractor David Gerrold is embarrassingly silly, for example.)
2) For a book written by someone who was supposedly Robbenberry's friend, precious little of the story comes from the man himself. Nearly half the book (and almost all of the latter sections) consists of transcripts of memos and letters written by Roddenberry.
3) The editing is sloppy; typos abound, most frequently in people's names. Usually they're just annoying, but when you see uncorrected misspellings such as "Harland Ellison" and "Leslie Nielson," you have to wonder just how well the author knew the details of what he was writing about, and whether he was simply parroting material given to him by others.
I'd recommend sticking with Joel Engel's biography of Roddenberry as an antidote. It too has its slant, but it's nonetheless a far more rounded effort than this volume.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 31, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
While I agree with one of the previous reviewers, that Roddenberry could have chosen a more experienced chronicler, I understand why he
did not. Still, despite its shortcommings, Star Trek
Creator should be applauded for going beyond
what a "Trekkie" would necessarily want to hear to
becomming a book about one man's journey into
making a living in Hollywood.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JWE055 on September 3, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this to be a very enjoyable and illuminating read. The author does an excellent and thorough job exploring Gene's early years, his upbringing, his service in WW II, his heroism as a commercial pilot for Pan Am and his remarkable journey creating this enduring franchise.

The author perhaps relies too much on letters and notes at times, and it makes for tedious reading. But there are other moments, when Gene is corresponding with fellow Sci Fi thinkers and writers where the contours of his vision and philosophy become apparent, and the reader can appreciate the franchise, indeed perceive the franchise, with a different and fresh perspective. This is in and of itself worth the trouble of working through the copious detail of this work.

The book is also honest in pointing out Gene's less than admirable traits, but does not dwell on them.

The book is light on exploring The Next Generation, likely because insufficient time passed at the time of the writing obtain the required detail for a retrospective. Perhaps also because Gene passed in the middle if the run, and was growing more ill after the early seasons and became less involved in the show.

The work does capture the struggle, deep and enduring, that was required to stay true to Gene's vision of what Star Trek represented. It tells the story of his efforts to preserve that vision from being co-opted (from his perspective) by folks at the network and even members of the original cast. Sometimes he was successful, and sometimes he was not.

But, by the conclusion of this story, Gene's contribution is made plain, and is rooted not in blind fandom but rather in the understanding in the man, his principles, and his life. This is the goal of any biographer, and it was amply achieved.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Robinson on April 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I very much enjoyed this book. Why?

Lots of detail: the writer unearthed old documents and interviewed aging witnesses to put together a portrait of Roddenberry which starts from before his birth to the moment of his death.

Is it hagiographic? No. Why?

The author clearly, and repeatedly, reveals Roddenberry's tendency to be a womanizer and does not directly excuse him for this. He merely reports it.
The writer also reveals at least one episode of outright gratuitous cruelty on the part of Roddenberry.

Is it fully satisfying? Not quite. Why?

I wish there was more material on Roddenberry's home life with his first wife and their children. I also wish there were more material about Roddenberry's non-professional interests, hobbies, if any, etc. However, I forgive this lack because I know that a larger and longer book might not have been economically viable. And, after all, it is Roddenberry's role as the creator of Star Trek that we care about.

What about the controversies regarding other peoples' contributions to Star Trek?

This book, and indeed every other book I have ever read about Star Trek over the past 30 years including interviews with Roddenberry, make it very clear that MANY people contributed to Star Trek. But, the concept was Roddenberry's and he was the necessary and unique filter through which everybody else's ideas had to pass. This has been obvious to me for decades and I was happy to see that this book touched on this as well. There is really no basis for controversy.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James E. Farkas on August 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Offers a different treatment of Star Trek. Contains many documents Roddenberry wrote to promote the idea of ST. Gives interesting insight of Gene's early life with the Los Angeles Police Department and his conversion to TV. There are many ups and downs. I know him better due to this book. ST is the biggest thing in TV, the hottest property, an expansive franchise, and it almost didn't happen at all. Not many TV shows reach from 1966 to beyond our lifetimes. Star Trek will.
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