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Few people in science fiction have not heard of Gene Roddenberry, the man who created Star Trek. Much has been written both about the show and the people involved. Unfortunately, much of this has been a little partisan, either wishing to preserve Gene as the only creative force behind Star Trek, or wishing to deconstruct the myth by telling lurid tales of Gene's private live, somewhere there is a middle ground where most of the truth really resides.
The Impossible has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry: Creator of Star Trek (2016. 390 pages) written by Lance Parkin tries, and succeeds, in telling the tale of a moderately successful writer who has the best idea he will ever have - one that will both reward him financially, but also stifle any real further success.
The book charts Gene's early years when he left the forces, joined the police and got the writing bug. He got some work via his job, but had to hide the fact that he was writing for television until it paid well enough to become his only job. He created and wrote The Lieutenant, a show which would highlight many of Gene’s favourite themes, but also would demonstrate his lifelong objectification of women as sex objects.
The book moves on to Star Trek and covers the shows, the films and the subsequent shows, with most of the detail covering the original cast. The book covers the dichotomy of a writer who has had a great idea but lacks many of the skills to take it forward in an entertaining way. Gene would often stand in front of fans stating how he had always known Star Trek was ahead of its time and that the fact that it only ran for three seasons was everyone else fault, but not Gene's. On the other hand, when the show had ended he tried to flog the rights to it to his ex-wife for $1000.
Gene presents as a contrary character often saying one thing whilst living a life which was at odds with his supposed philosophy. At times he seemed greedy, wanting to take the credit for much of Trek which he had little hand in creating.
Overall, you get the feeling that Gene was never overly comfortable to have come up with his one idea of the century, an idea which was heavily embellished by the many who worked on the show. As he got older, and his drinking and drug taking made him more erratic, the studios effectively stepped over him.
Having read many books on Star Trek it’s nice to see someone try and find the man behind the myth, Parkin charts Gene's rise, fall and rise again, bringing into focus his many personal and public fights as well as his occasional triumphs all set on the page without favour to either side.