A no-holds-barred look at the complex and driven visionary who created Star Trek gives a backstage portrait based on inside sources that reveals the whole man, alcoholic, self-promoting, womanizing, yet intensely creative.
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According to Engel ( Rod Serling ), Roddenberry, who died in 1991, is a seminal figure of our time ("His indirect impact on aspects of popular culture . . . has been eclipsed, arguably, only by Elvis Presley"), creator of one of the most enduring of TV and film series and a figure of adulation to countless "Trekkies." Yet in this well-researched biography, the author offers a critical view of a man who, he claims, was a mediocre writer who bullied as well as charmed top science-fiction authors into working for him while never publicly acknowledging his debt to them. Roddenberry led a rough-and-tumble early life, flying a B-17 bomber during WW II and serving with the Los Angeles Police Department for five years before turning to TV-writing for series like Have Gun, Will Travel . In 1964, he wrote a treatment for what he called "Wagon Train in the Sky," with Star Trek debuting in the fall of 1966. The series lost money for its entire three-year run. Granted new life through syndication, however, Star Trek grew into a cult phenomenon, inspiring sequels and spin-offs. Meanwhile, despite the myth of his creative genius, Roddenberry apparently became "a willing one-trick pony," an alcoholic and sex-obsessed tyrant: a prime example of a case in which, as Engel entitles the final chapter of his hard-hitting book, "The Clothes Have No Emperor."
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Roddenberry, the self-described "Great Bird of the Galaxy," was a complex, contradictory man. Adored and adulated by millions of Star Trek fans, he was often hated and feared by his close professional contacts. His vision of the future, depicted in the various incarnations of Star Trek, expressed his idealistic side. Engel shows, however, that Roddenberry's desire for control of that vision made him increasingly difficult and then nearly impossible to work with, and increasingly irrelevant to Star Trek's ongoing manifestations. By the end of his life, Roddenberry thought himself the embodiment of Star Trek and the mentor of humanity's future--a belief tragically at variance from reality, in which he was a sick man humored or ignored by those actually realizing his dream. Engel's warts-and-all biography, by concentrating on Roddenberry's intransigence and drug and alcohol abuse and by rectifying the myths and legends (many created by Roddenberry) that grew up around him, has made a notable contribution to the Star Trek literature. Dennis Winters
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