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Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind "Star Trek" Hardcover – 16 Jun 1994

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Virgin Books; 1st Uk Edition edition (16 Jun. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852274395
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852274399
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 187,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Roddenberry the flawed human being 25 Feb. 2006
By Wayne Klein - Published on
Format: Paperback
Well written and well researched Joel Engel's book on Gene Roddenberry provides a unique glimpse into the man who created the most durable franchise in the history of science fiction. Following Roddenberry from his earliest beginnings in the police force through to his work on "Have Gun Will Travel" and, of course, "Trek". We discover that "the Great Bird of the Galaxy" feared that "Trek" would be seen as a fluke and struggled with creating something comparable throughout his career as a writer. We also learn that Roddenberry could be generous to a fault but also a glory hound taking credit for what others did on "Trek".

Engel's done a pretty thorough job of interviewing both admirers and critics of Roddenberry (and the Harlan Ellison issue with "City on the Edge of Forever" gets revisited although it isn't the sole focus of the book). Many of Roddenberry's peers including Samuel Peeples (who wrote the pivotal "Where No Man Has Gone Before" which sold "Trek" when Roddenberry's pilot "The Cage" failed to garner support because it was thought to be too intellectual)laud Roddenberry for his insight, his ability to see the problems with a script and fix them the first time around while critics like Ellison suggest that he "could barely write". Everybody has their own ax to grind and it's pretty apparent from the interviews.

Engel also documents Roddenberry's descent into drug and alcohol abuse as well as his erratic behavior after the series of strokes that incapacitated him. While Roddenberry might not have been a writer on the level of the best of the day he truly was a visionary that believed and could see his future like no one else. Unfortunately he couldn't be part of it as the typical flaws of human nature controlled his life just as much as any one elses. This book is a nice companion piece to the preening book written in cooperation with Roddenberry and his estate. Engel's book often isn't pretty but it does contain a warts and all portrait of a complex, driven man that wanted recognition for his contribution even if that meant sometimes not recognizing others.
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
The Myth debunked, the man revealed... 23 May 2000
By Rabbi Yonassan Gershom - Published on
Format: Paperback
Reading this book knocked Gene Roddenberry off the pedestal that I had put him on for so many years -- and that's why it's such an important book for anyone interested in the history of Star Trek. Basing his research primarily on interviews, firsthand accounts, studio memos and other source materials, author Joel Engels dares to go where no biographer had gone before. He gives Gene credit where credit is due, but does not shrink from reporting the less-than-savory sides of his life, too. The result is a book that, as the title says, explores both the Myth and the man.
It was in this unauthorized bio that I first learned of Roddenberry's lifelong abuse of alcohol and other substances, his deep insecurities about his writing career, the origins of his animosity toward religion, his inappropriate fixation on sex, and the fact that he did not single-handedly create Star Trek. In short, he was a fallible human being with some serious character flaws. But, as the Myth grew, Gene felt that he had to mold his public image into the "Star Trek Creator" that the fans expected him to be. Unfortunately, in the process, he often failed to give credit where credit was due, and ended up alienating many of the actors, writers, and producers who had also contributed to the group effort that became the Star Trek universe.
One of the most interesting chapters in this book is about a project for a film called "The Nine," in which Roddenberry was hired to write a script about a skeptic who was investigating a group of psychics that channeled New-Age type messages from UFO aliens. (No, I'm not making this up -- it's in the book!) As part of the research for this movie, Gene actually attended a spiritualist retreat for a while, and even got a past-life reading about what purported to be his previous incarnations. The script itself was never produced, but one gets the feeling that Gene had his mind stretched a bit on paranormal issues. But, oddly, there is no mention of "The Nine" in the official biography (Star Trek Creator), except to list it as an unproduced script in his writing credits. Which is why, if you are interested in a balanced understanding of the life of Gene Roddenberry, you should read BOTH the authorized version and this one.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Gene Roddenberry does not equal Star Trek 9 April 2014
By Krshwunk - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was amazing. I've been a diehard Star Trek fan for all my life. I've seen every episode of every series and every one of its movies. This book confirmed a suspicion I had for the longest time, namely, that Gene Roddenberry had hijacked way too much credit for everything. A Trekker may be tempted to hate the book on the basis that anything bad said about Gene is something bad said about Star Trek, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Star Trek was not the work of one god-like man. It was the masterpiece of many creative minds who have been unjustly forgotten. Giving due credit to all its creators is the way to truly honor Star Trek. Insisting that Roddenberry keep his sacred idol status is not only superfluous to Trek but detrimental to it. No doubt Roddenberry was gifted with a profound vision and deserves enormous credit for what he did do, but the extent to which he would slap his signature on other people's work approached the outright criminal. Especially in his later years, he literally lost his mind through alcoholism and drug abuse of all sorts, making his family and colleagues miserable. It wasn't the sort of forgivable genius temperament that produced good ideas either. Toward the end, Gene contributed some of the worst ideas of the franchise, largely responsible for the mediocrity of The Motion Picture and Next Generation's rough beginning. It's tempting for some to demand he retain his quasi-saint-like status, simply because that's how it's been ... and it's always easier honoring just one guy instead of the many others who deserve it. Surely, the Great Bird has been worshipped enough. It's time for enlightenment. It's time to put away the myth.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Gene Roddenberry man behind Star Trek 27 Sept. 2013
By AngryHam_Lincoln - Published on
Format: Hardcover
well written by the author with attention to detail on interviewing Star Trek co workers with the truth coming out about a very complex man.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A tiresome hatchet job 20 Jan. 2014
By Anthony Thompson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This writer started out with an agenda / point of view and then went hunting for the people / quotes which would allow him to write the book he wanted to. That's intellectually dishonest and disingenuous.
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