Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Remembering Gene Roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek series, died 25 years ago today of a heart attack at the tender age of 70.

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I've been a Star Trek fanatic since I was a child. I wanted to live on the USS Enterprise and proudly serve under Captain James T. Kirk. (not in that way!)

The series was a magnificent escape mechanism for me, promising a future world in which race and gender were irrelevant. I used to joke that I developed 90% of my moral fiber from that series. There were invaluable social lessons lurking just under the surface for those willing to pay attention.

One of my favorite episodes involved Kirk having his consciousness stolen by a woman who was his ex-lover. Trapping his consciousness in her body, she took his in an attempt to take control over the Enterprise. There was quite a bit of gender confusion and some major bending taking place in that one. That episode, "Turnabout Intruder," first aired in 1969.

At 10 years of age, the 1990s seemed so futuristic and far away, and I had the greatest expectations for humanity and technology for that decade and on into the 21st century. (Hey, but how 'bout them 80s?)

Technology certainly hasn't disappointed me. I can walk around with my Motorola RAZR "communicator" and do just about anything except zap someone or beam myself up to the mothership (I still used an old-fashioned medicinal combo for that trick).

As for humanity, I am very disappointed. Debates rage on about same-sex marriages, racial prejudice and inequality are very much alive and well, starvation and poverty are rampant in many areas of the world, and not very many people in power are really doing very much about any of these issues except fanning the flames.

Roddenberry is dead. DeForest "Bones" Kelley died in 1999. James "Scotty" Doohan died last year and his ashes were shot into space per his request last month. I am afraid my expectations for a civilized world in which fairness and equality are the rule rather than the exception are slowly dying with them.

"I had insisted on half women on board [the Enterprise]. The network came to me and said, 'You can't have half women. Our people say it will make it look like a ship with all sorts of mad sexual things going on -- half men and half women.' So we argued about it like a poker game and they finally said, 'Okay. We'll settle for one-third women.' I figured one-third women could take care of the males anyway."

"If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear."

--Gene Roddenberry

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