Thursday, April 14, 2011

Texas Tidbits: Mr. Spock - Vulcan or Texan?

The Rod
The answer to the question in the title of this post is a definite "kind of". Let me splain. Mr. Spock is a product of the fertile mind of one Eugene Wesley Roddenberry, creator of the phenomenon known as Star Trek. "OK, so what's the connection to Texas?", you ask. Gene Roddenberry was born in El Paso on August 19, 1921. There's your "Texas Connection".

Star Trek is the everlasting legacy of Gene Roddenberry, no doubt, but the man had quite an interesting life before creating Captain James T. Kirk, his crew and the USS  Enterprise. Gene was raised in Los Angeles, where his Dad was a cop. Gene attended several colleges, earned an Associate of Arts degree  from Los Angeles City College and later studied pre law and aeronautical engineering. It was also during this time that he became a licensed pilot. During World War II, Roddenberry piloted the B-17 Flying Fortress on 89 missions earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. After the war, Gene was a pilot for Pan Am and later an LA Policeman. It was 1953 when Roddenberry left the LA Police Department to become a full time screenwriter. That decision had an impact on television and hundreds of millions of people who would later become "Trekkies". I'll have more on that in a minute.

A few years after becoming a screenwriter, Roddenberry became the Head Writer for a great old TV Western called Have Gun, Will Travel". He would later produce a TV show called The Lieutenant, which is said to be the inspiration of the G.I. Joe Action Figure. From the website Famous, we get this: As a fan of science-fiction, Roddenberry saw similarities between space explorers and American pioneers.  He envisioned a science-fiction series for television that, like the westerns he wrote, would have continuing characters. At the time he conceived it in 1963, this would have been a first for TV. Based on the popular show, "Wagon Train," Roddenberry called it a "wagon train to the stars," or a "star trek." With the airing of the first episode of Star Trek in 1966, Roddenberry not only created a history-making TV show, but an entire industry built around it. I think it's safe to say that there have been hundreds of billions of dollars spent on Star Trek merchandise and memorabilia since its inception. Star Trek conventions are held by the hundreds every year all over the world, Star Trek movies have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars and the original TV show has inspired (insert number here) spin off TV series. The Star Trek brand is a monster that keeps feeding on its own and producing new monsters like rabbits make babies. And I mean "monster" in a good way. The continued success of all things Star Trek is truly mind boggling, especially considering it's been almost fifty years since the original TV series made its debut. Not a bad run, huh?

(Doing my best "Scotty" impersonation) Dammit, Jim, I gave her all she's got! And I have given her all she's got in this post. I have only one thing to say. "Beam me up, Scotty".

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All Original Material © Toby Shoemaker