|Digital List Price:||$29.99|
|Kindle Price:|| $2.99 |
Save $27.00 (90%)
Your Memberships & Subscriptions
Follow the Author
The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, Creator of Star Trek Kindle Edition
September 8, 2016 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the debut of the world's most successful science fiction television series: Star Trek. In this new biography Lance Parkin, author of Aurum's acclaimed Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore, will go in search of the show's creator, Gene Roddenberry.
This book reveals how an undistinguished writer of cop shows set out to produce 'Hornblower in space' and ended up with an optimistic, almost utopian view of humanity's future that has been watched and loved by hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Along the way Lance will examine some of the great myths and turning points in the franchise's history, and Roddenberry's particular contribution to them. He will look at the truth in the view that the early Star Trek advanced a liberal, egalitarian and multi-racial agenda, chart the various attempts to resuscitate the show during it's wilderness years in the 1970s, explore Roddenberry's initial early involvement in the movies and spin-off Star Trek: The Next Generation (as well as his later estrangement from both), and shed light on the colourful personal life, self-mythologising and strange beliefs of a man who nonetheless gifted popular culture one if its most enduring narratives.
About the Author
- ASIN : B01HY5ULTI
- Publisher : Aurum; 1st edition (July 19, 2016)
- Publication date : July 19, 2016
- Language : English
- File size : 1761 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 390 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,255,275 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
It is surprising, however, in view of Parkin’s track record, to find a considerable number of factual misstatements and highly debatable assertions in the book. Some examples follow:
1. Parkin repeatedly implies or states that Roddenberry’s role during his main years on the original Star Trek program was that of executive producer (see for example page 93 [twice], 223 and page 341). In fact, at the outset of the series, Roddenberry was the series’ producer.
2. The author’s suggestion that Roddenberry was barely aware of the stirrings of the Star Trek fandom movement in the early 1970s (see for example pp. 9, 124) is not convincing, especially in view of the fact that Roddenberry ran a Star Trek merchandising company.
3. Page 6 lists “tractor beam” among the terms due to Star Trek. In fact, the concept and term “tractor beam” predated Star Trek.
4. Star Trek’s pilot, “The Cage.” is said to provide “the only glimpse of Earth we are given in the whole of the original TV show” (p. 58). This statement overlooks the fact that later episodes including “City on the Edge of Forever” featured visits to Earth (albeit not that of the Enterprise’s era).
5. On page 62, Roddenberry is said to have told Star Trek convention attendees that the removal of the Number One character (played by Majel Barrett) was the fault of network executives who doubted the sophistication of the audience. However, this characterization of Roddenberry’s account does not recognize the fact that Roddenberry stated to a convention audience that executives should not be casually blamed for the decision, for the character had done poorly with test audiences. See Roddenberry’s remarks in Starlog #112, November 1986, p. 25.
6. Parkin states (p. 63) that it is scholarship and archival research of the last two decades that has had led to the result that “many of the studio memos and other pieces of correspondence have been unearthed.” This gives the impression that it was this research that first brought Star Trek-related memos into print. But some memos featured prominently even in the 1968 book The Making of Star Trek. Indeed, Alan Brennert once observed (Starlog #48, July 1981, p. 88) that he was disappointed to discover that “The Making of Star Trek notwithstanding, most people on TV shows do not spend the majority of their time writing funny memos to one another.” (A later discussion in Starlog #228, July 1996, p. 57, stated that the memos in the book had become legendary.) The presence of these memos in The Making of Star Trek is itself sufficient to make Parkin’s claim that Roddenberry “didn’t write a word of the book” (p. 95) a considerable overstatement. In fact, the last quotation appears in one of several passages in which Parkin’s book lurches into overstatement—another example being the claim there is only one instance among William Shatner’s acting performances in which Shatner sounds subdued (p. 160).
7. On page 103, the author says that between 1973 and 1993 “Gene L. Coon almost completely disappeared from accounts of the creation of Star Trek.” There are two problems here. First, the context indicates that the author really means “development,” not “creation.” Second, Coon did receive prominent coverage in accounts in the 1973 to 1993 period. For example, Allan Asherman’s Star Trek Compendium credits the thematic emphasis in Coon’s scripts with bringing “one of the greatest reasons for Star Trek’s continued popularity” (p. 51 of 1986 and 1989 editions), while Edward Gross’s History of Trek (1991) stated (p. 39): “Gene Coon is generally considered to be one of Star Trek’s greatest strengths.” Roddenberry himself said on the record in 1986: “I only wish Gene could be here to see this [the twentieth anniversary]. He was the gentlest and loveliest man. When we lost Gene, we lost a dear, dear person.” (Starlog #112, November 1986, p. 27.)
8. Page 129 gives the first cities to start syndication reruns of Star Trek as Boston, Cleveland, and Detroit. This neglects one of the most important markets (and the location of the first Star Trek convention), New York City, which is implied as picking it up for syndication somewhat later than Fall 1969 (see page 130). In fact, the New York Daily News (August 25, 1969, p. 35) stated: “Star Trek will fade from the NBC screen this week. But don't you fret. Channel 11 has scheduled repeats of the series... for the daily 6:30-7:30 p.m. time slot, beginning Sept. 10.”
9. Variety is really a newspaper, not a magazine, so it should be described as having front-page stories, not a “front cover” story (p. 152).
10. Parkin refers to a 1972 newspaper interview in which Roddenberry discussed his non-Trek projects. In doing so, Parkin repeatedly refers to the interviewer as “Richard K. Skull.” (See pages 154, 164, 167, 377, 388.) This appears to be a result of reading a blurred online scan of the article. The interviewer was actually Richard K. Shull, a prolific reporter and columnist whose newspaper articles on entertainment subjects have been cited in numerous books.
11. The prohibition of references to the animated Star Trek series in Star Trek comics and books was not imposed by the 1980s, as claimed on page 164. It only became enforced strictly by late in that decade.
12. Leonard Nimoy’s appearance in Star Trek Into Darkness, while brief, was not a cameo (notwithstanding its description as one on p. 192).
13. Page 211 claims that a premise of the Star Trek series is that, in Kirk’s era, “machines supply every material need,” a claim that neglects Kirk’s statement in Season 1 (“Charlie X”): “There are a million things in this universe you can have and a million things you can’t have. It’s no fun facing that, but that’s the way things are.”
14. Page 231 states that Rock Hudson’s move to television in the early 1970s was a demotion, but the period in question was one of an industry-wide slump in moviemaking and several major film stars became television show leads.
15. Page 231 gives Rising Damp as an example of a precedent to Star Trek of a television series becoming a movie. But the Rising Damp movie came out in 1980, after the Star Trek film.
16. Robert Wise is said to have become attracted to making Star Trek—The Motion Picture by the innovations made by “new movies like… The Black Hole” (p. 234), but this movie came out after Star Trek—The Motion Picture.
17. It is said on page 247 that in Star Trek—The Motion Picture “the crew were dressed in virtually identical uniforms that were, by general consent, uncomfortable and unflattering.” This is erroneous on two counts. First—even putting aside the very different uniform Scotty wears in the Engineering Room—the Star Trek—The Motion Picture costumes were not virtually identical to one another, as the sharp differences in uniform color in the crew-briefing scene in Star Trek—The Motion Picture makes clear. Second, there was not “general consent” that the costumes were unflattering, as Leonard Nimoy stated, “I thought they were sleek, even cool…” (I Am Spock, pp. 166-167).
18. Gene Roddenberry is implied as having chosen to use the name “Vejur” in his Star Trek—The Motion Picture novelization as an act of defiance of the convention by the filmmakers of calling the probe “V’ger” (p. 252). Surely a more plausible explanation is that Roddenberry chose the spelling to provide a better cloak of the probe’s identity of Voyager. Roddenberry used the term “V’ger” in internal memos (see David Alexander, Star Trek Creator, 1994, pp. 487-488).
19. Page 259 gives a character in the Star Trek—The Motion Picture novelization as Loni. This should be Lori.
20. Parkin states (p. 259) that in his Star Trek—The Motion Picture novelization, “Roddenberry clarifies that by Kirk’s time, marriages are conducted on a fixed-term basis.” The fixed-term contract idea had, however, already been advanced in earlier authorized ST novels.
21. Star Trek—The Motion Picture is said by Parkin to be a film in which “very little happens very slowly.” The film can be criticized, but surely the saving of the Earth is not a case of very little happening.
22. The book seems to overstate the cast’s dissatisfaction with the filming of Star Trek—The Motion Picture and the negativity of their initial reaction to the movie itself. For example, a statement like “all of the actors were soon covered in bruises” (p. 249) in filming one scene, and that they “all noticed that every revision [of the script]” reduced on-screen evidence of camaraderie among the Enterprise crew, become untrue if they are not true of literally all the main cast. Similarly, William Shatner’s initial reaction to Star Trek—The Motion Picture was likely not as negative as portrayed (p. 260), and during 1979 and 1980 he praised the film and its success. The same is true of a number of other cast-members--see the quotations in the book Return to Tomorrow.
23. It is stated that after Star Trek—The Motion Picture, Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner would only do a Star Trek sequel if it was a cinema release and not a television movie (p. 287). This is not so. Shatner agreed to Star Trek II not knowing for certain whether it would be a cinema release (Starlog #51, October 1981, p. 18). As for Nimoy, he appeared in a television miniseries around the same time as he made Star Trek II.
24. Harve Bennett was not really the creator of the Six Million Dollar Man series (p. 268). Also he was not formally the producer of Star Trek II, yet he is so identified on page 280.
25. On page 274 it is said that the “Revenge of the Jedi” title was announced by Twentieth Century Fox some time after August 1981 (p. 274). But the title appeared in print prior to that as the designated next Star Wars film—for example in Starlog #40, November 1980, p. 16, and Starburst #32, April 1981, p. 9.
26. The starship introduced in Star Trek III was not the Excalibur (as stated twice on page 295) but the Excelsior.
27. The miniseries Winds of War was broadcast in the U.S. in 1983, not “1984” (p. 304).
28. Pages 286 to 287 state that ahead of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Roddenberry, “confided to friends that he didn’t think he had the energy for the twelve or fourteen-hour working days that making a television show required.” This was not really something that needed to be confided, as it was public information. For example, Majel Barrett stated (Starlog #112, November 1986, p. 88): “I know Gene would never go back on a weekly basis.”
29. Pages 305 to 306 state with regard to Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Roddenberry and his cast and crew had signed up to make a show that would be the centerpiece of a national network television channel…” as opposed to first-run syndication. This is not correct. Roddenberry stated explicitly when the go-ahead for the show was announced, and before it had been cast, that he looked forward to it *not* being a network show (Starlog #114, January 1987, p. 73).
30. It’s not really appropriate to describe juries in civil trials as finding individuals guilty (p. 326), as opposed to liable.
One final point. The author repeatedly points out instances in which Roddenberry’s articulateness as a writer was lacking. It is the case, nevertheless, that Roddenberry’s writing is a valuable source of guidance on one area in which the book reviewed here is sometimes lacking—namely appropriate choice of style. Although a highly adept writer, Parkin makes numerous jarring choices of words and phrases in his book: trendy phrases (“incentivized” instead of “encouraged,” “invested in” instead of “attached to”), inappropriate shortenings (“invite” and “advert” as shortenings for invitation and advertisement, respectively, and “grassroot” instead of “grassroots”), and off-base word placements (“coherent” is used when “cohesive” is meant [p. 159], and “company who” is used [p. 176] instead of “company that”). But these questionable choices are as nothing compared with Parkin’s inappropriate use of the word “where.” A useful rule of style is that the word “where” should be reserved for use in connection with specific physical locations. It should not be used in connection with times, events, actions, concepts, documents, or media. Gene Roddenberry seems to have embraced this rule, as is evident in his use of the phrase “time in which” (see, for example, David Alexander, Star Trek Creator, p. 312). In contrast, Parkin uses the word “where” profligately and often in incorrect contexts, as the following list of phrases from his book indicates: universe where, world where, incidents where, instance where, system where, conventions where, event where, examples where, times where, episode where, stories where, years where, school where, ending where, moment where, book where, show where, society where, piece where, shots where, sequence where, take where, film where, movie where, treatment where, document where, weeks where, franchise where, finale where. This usage is wearing.
The opening chapter mentions how Roddenberry was locked out of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and quotes William Shatner as saying Roddenberry “prohibited poor Nimoy from using a company pencil.” The writer also mentions his affairs and drug abuse.
The book is as current as it could possibly be at Star Trek’s 50-year mark. The author points out that more Trek movies have now been made after Roddenberry’s death than when he was alive.
The book is one big collated report about Roddenberry’s career, including bunches of behind the scenes details about Trek and other parts of Roddenberry’s career, including a story I had never heard about him revamping Tarzan to make him more like James Bond.
He also, according to the book, announced he was divorcing his wife while at his daughter’s wedding. It’s tough to reconcile the neat things he came up with vs. the slapnuttery of his personal life. So in that vein, this book may be a tough sell for those who consider Roddenberry’s life immune from criticism.
The book doesn’t criticize, just reports, with extensive footnotes. It’s good for both its sci-fi history, and good for warts-and-all biography fans.
At the same time, to the book’s credit, it doesn’t talk down to or reject the effect Trek has on fans and pop culture.
This book does a fine job with a crazy task of documenting everything about Star Trek’s creator and Star Trek’s influence and legacy. (reviewed by Joe Crowe, [...]