GENE RODDENBERRY, CREATOR OF "STAR TREK",
THE SHAKESPEARE OF THE SPACE AGE
Adapted by the Editor from an Interview
in "Penthouse" Magazine
Roddenberry fits the romantic image of an internationally famous writer, ruggedly handsome, broad-shouldered, six foot three. Before choosing Hollywood for a career he had been a pilot for Pan American Airways, also a poet published in the New York "Times" no less. His wide reading included the Captain Horatio Hornblower series. This helps to account for the nautical terminology in the Star Trek series, and helps viewers to relate the stories to present day life even though they are set in the 22nd Century.
Another of his favorite characters out of Western literature is Sherlock Holmes, traces of whose personality are obvious in Spock, First Officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise. To this occultist this also gives Roddenberry a strong mental connection with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the Sherlock Holmes series -- which also enjoyed -- and continues to enjoy -- international renown. It is easy to see that Doyle has been one of the Guiding Lights of Roddenberry and his stable of TV writers from the Inner Planes, helping to give the series the high moral tone which has made it so emotionally satisfying and uplifting to millions of viewers.
In 1948 television was young but Roddenberry correctly saw it as the great communications medium of the future; so he changed careers in mid-stream, so to speak, and decided to become a TV writer. It took him five years of struggle to break in to the new field, but by the time he was ready to create Star Trek in 1964 he was a master of his craft. He had credits for over 70 TV shows including "Dr. Kildare", the "Kaiser Aluminum Hour”; he had been head writer for "Have Gun, Will Travel", and producer of one series called "The Lieutenant".
Roddenberry is more than a commercial TV writer. He is a philosopher with deep convictions about the sanctity of life and the goal of evolution. The capacity to write poetry indicates the higher levels of his mind are open and functioning, the level where abstract principles and ideals begin to translate themselves into practical results in the lower worlds. This abstract level of thought is where the Master Teachers of the race impress their ideas on the naked minds of their pupils, men and women in the flesh. Gene Roddenberry had been chosen -- or did he choose himself, long before birth in this life -- to be a central figure in educating mankind to the coming marvels of the Space Age. Is it surprising that science-fiction was high on the list of Roddenberry's favorite reading matter?
He told Penthouse interviewer Linda Merinoff that he created and produced Star Trek for two reasons. "One was that I thought science fiction hadn't been done well on television and it seemed to me, from a purely selfish point of view, that if I did it well I would be remembered . . .
"The second reason is that I thought with science fiction I might do what Jonathan Swift did when he wrote 'Gulliver's Travels' . He lived in a time when you could lose your head for making religious and political comments.
"I was working in a medium, television, which is heavily censored, and in contemporary shows I found I couldn't talk about sex, religion, politics and all or the other things I wanted to talk about. It seemed to me that if I had things happen to little polka-dotted people on a far-off planet I might get past the network censors, as Swift did in his day. And indeed that's what we did."
In other words Star Trek had a message. It had meaning, which set it apart from most other TV series; and it came at a time when America desperately needed positive statements about "equality, personal heroism, honor and optimism". We were getting too many cynical anti-hero types on the national scene, from the White House down.
The first Star Trek episode hit the air Sept. 8, 1966. The NBC vice-presidents finally gave it the ax in March 1969. They pushed it off into the doghouse of television, Friday nights at 10 p.m. -- which guaranteed poor ratings -- and then used that as an excuse to drop the show completely.
But television is insatiable in its demand for shows and in the fall of 1969 Paramount began syndicating Star Trek for re-runs to independent and to network stations. Then the program really took off in the public's estimation. It is now re-running on 142 domestic stations and in 47 countries overseas! Star Trek is educating the world to the Space Age, and Gene Roddenberry is its teacher. The magnitude of the influence of this TV Science Fiction series frightens him. The first Star Trek convention in New York City in 1972 attracted 3,600 people. Next year more than 10,000 attended.
Mrs. Crabb and I see the Teachers of our race behind this. A great reservoir of energy has been set aside to throw an aura of glamor over the dramas and its leading characters:  Captain James T. Kirk, First Officer Spock, Doctor McCoy and Nurse Chapel, and Lieutenants Uhura, Sulu and Chekhov, and First Engineer Scott. Every day now this crew of actors and actresses holds millions of people spellbound with their portrayals of Americans as everyday space travelers in the 22nd Century; and they tell us that the need for conflict, for struggle, will still be as necessary 200 years from now as it is today. Only the scene is enlarged to include the Zodiac and the Galaxy, and to include intelligent beings from non-human streams of evolution on other planets. What a teaching program! It makes Roddenberry the Shake-speare of today.
IT STARTED 400 YEARS AGO WITH FRANCIS BACON
Here we have a drawing of young Francis Bacon, lawyer and playwrite. The older Sir Francis Bacon, philosopher and statesman, took his early plays and reworked them into his philosophical system which he divided into six parts. The first part was an inventory of the stock of knowledge in the world or his day. The "Advancement of Learning" belongs to this section. The second part is concerned with human understanding, giving the rules by which it should be guided in the search for truth. "Novum Organum" belongs here. The third part was a collection of facts and scientific observations, "History of Winds", "History of the Dense and Rare", etc.
The fourth part of Bacon's system was a study of man's mental, emotional and moral nature. To this part belongs the great comic, tragic and historical dramas which he wrote under the pen names of Marlowe and Shakespeare; for he felt that "man's character can be more powerfully delineated in action than in formal criticism . . . and history can be abridged and made to teach in a few hours artificially, on the mimic stage, what in actual life may require the ambages of time." He didn't pretend that his dramas were true to life. They were exaggerated, visual teaching aids by which he illustrated lust, in "Antony and Cleopatra"; ingratitude, in "King Lear"; ambition in "Macbeth"; envy, in "Julius Caesar"; jealousy, in "Othello"; pride of birth, in "All's Well That End's Well"; pride of character, in "Coriolanus"; fidelity, in "Cymbeline", and love, in "Romeo and Juliet".
As a playwrite he knew very well that to get and hold the attention  of the mass of people he must resort to violence. "The stage must be drenched in blood," he put it bluntly in his introduction to "Di Sapientia Veterum" he observes that in earlier times myth and fable were used to dramatize meaning, "a method of making it understood; the understanding of men being then rude and impatient of all subtleties that did not address themselves to the senses . . . And even now, if any one wish to let new light on any subject into men's minds, and that without offence of harshness, he must still go the same way and call in the aid of similitudes."
That was the early 1600s. Today, if a writer-philosopher such as Gene Roddenberry would give meaning to his ideas, for general distribution, he must be aware of the public's impatience with subtleties and address himself to their senses, especially those which arouse the passions, just as Bacon did 400 years ago with the Shakespeare Plays, a comparatively new thing at that time.
GETTING THE LIGHT OF TRUTH INTO MEN'S AND WOMEN'S MINDS
In his "Temporis Partus Maculus" Francis Bacon wrote: "Do you suppose that when the entrances to the minds of all men are obstructed with the darkest errors -- and those deep seated and, as it were, burnt in -- smooth, even spaces can be found in those minds, so that the light of truth can be accurately reflected in them? A new process must be instituted by which we can insinuate ourselves into natures so disordered and closed up.
"For as the delusions of the insane are removed by art and ingenuity, but aggravated by opposition and violence, so must we choose methods here that are adapted to the general insanity. Indeed, it is sufficient if my method of delivery in question be ingenuous, if it afford no occasion for error, if it conciliate belief, if it repel the injuries of time, and if it be suited to proper and reasonable readers. Whether it have these qualities or not, I appeal to the future to show."
The "new process" was the Elizabethan stage and the great dramas which insinuated themselves smoothly into the darkest corners of men's and women's minds. Eventually they became reading material in thousands and thousands of schools and libraries in the Western world, as well as the drama departments of the universities. This fulfilled one of Francis Bacon's objectives that he brought with him into birth in London, at Windsor palace, Jan. 22, 1561, to formalize the English language into a medium of worldwide communication. Another project, an important part of achieving that objective, was supervising the translation and publishing of the King James version of the Bible, in 1611. As "learned counsel" of the King he was in a key position to see the work through to completion, reading it through from beginning to end three times to make sure of the unity of style which characterizes the work.
Edwin Reed, in his book "Francis Bacon Our Shake-speare" (Boston,  1902) wrote: "Bacon took great pains to secure for them (his writings) the widest publicity in his own time, dedicating them successively to members of the royal family, presenting them to influential friends, and depositing copies, as soon as printed, in public libraries." This included, of course, the Great Folio Edition of the Plays in 1623. At that time the illiterate actor, Wm. Shaxburre, had been dead for seven years; and the Elizabethan stage was in the doldrums; but, with the force of the Teachers of the Race behind them the Plays enjoyed revival after revival in succeeding generations; until now they are an important part of the Western world's literature; the same is true of Roddenberry's Star Trek series.
OVER A MILLION COPIES ALREADY!
A body of Star Trek literature is building up, both paper backs and comic books, with recorded dialog to go with it. Most important of all is the Star Trek "Star Fleet Technical Manual" which has already sold over a million copies. This "manual" was originally developed for the stable of science fiction writers Roddenberry assembled to create scripts for the Series; this was so the general background -- quarters on the SS Enterprise, for instance -- and technical aspects would be consistent from episode to episode. When Star Trekkies heard of this they wanted copies; so the "Star Fleet Technical Manual" has found its way into Western literature.
Among other things the Manual contains a 20-page copy of the "Articles of Federation", outlining the laws under which the Earth belongs to the United Federation of Planets in the 22nd Century. Daily, for millions of viewers the world over, the Star Trek series is insinuating this idea smoothly and unobtrusively into their minds, the next logical step in our evolution. We had the United States and the United Kingdom in the 18th and 19th Centuries, the League of Nations and the United Nations in the 20th Century; so Earth will join the United Federation of Planets, or Inter-Planetary Federation in the 21st Century! As it says in the opening paragraphs of the Articles of Federation:
"We the intelligent life-forms of the United Federation of Planets determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of intra-galactic war which has brought untold horror and suffering to our planetary social systems, and
"To reaffirm faith in the fundamental intelligent life-form rights, in the dignity and worth of the intelligent life-form person, to the equal rights of male and female and of planetary social systems large and small, and
"To establish conditions under which justice and mutual respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of inter-planetary law can he maintained, and
"To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom."
THE STAR TREK SERIES HAS MEANING!
Penthouse journalist Merinoff asked Gene Roddenberry why he thought the Series "appealed to so many intelligent young people"?
"First of all," replied Roddenberry, "we live in a time in which everyone, and particularly young minds, are aware that we face huge troubles ahead. There are many people saying, 'I doubt if we'll make it through the next twenty or thirty years.' And indeed if you read the newspapers it seems so.
"Star Trek was a rare show that said, 'Hey, it's not all over. It hasn't all been invented. If we're wise, why the human adventure is just beginning.' And this is a powerful statement to young-minded people, to this that the explorations and discoveries and challenges ahead of us are greater than anything in the past.
"I think also Star Trek was unusual in that it was about something. Star Trek took points of view on tolerance, points of view against petty nationalism that's destroying our planet. It talked about meaningful things. And I think the audiences are a lot brighter than the networks believe. I think that the audience does like to have their minds challenged . . .
"Thirdly, I think the reason for the popularity of Star Trek is a really old-fashioned sort of reason. Star Trek came along at a time in which most television leads were anti-heroes. On Star Trek we decided to go for real heroes in an old fashioned sense, people whose word was their bond, who believed that there were things more important in life than personal security or comfort. That indeed there are some things worth risking your life for, even dying for if necessary. As a result principal characters were ones about whom a person could say, 'Hey, I'd like to be like that.' Or, 'I'd like my children to be like that.'
"And it seems to me that possibly the greatest hunger there is in the world today is for heroes to admire and to emulate. When I grew up it was much simpler, it was the president of the United States. But we don't even have that left.
"One reason I don't object to the Star Trek fan phenomenon is the fact that if there's got to be some show that people want to model their lives after, or point to for their children, I'd much rather they do it out of this show than some limited show that is saying that doctors are Jesus Christ, or if we just let our police have more guns we can solve the crime problem."
SPOCK, ALIEN FROM ANOTHER PLANET
It is easy to see traces of Sherlock Holmes in the coldly logical Spock, First Science Officer of the SS Enterprise; and the genius of Roddenberry made Spock a Vulcan, planet closest to our sun and now invisible to normal sight. It is also easy to see why a racist vice-president of NBC would strongly object to an alien among the chief officers of the Enterprise; but Roddenberry -- with plenty of moral support from his Teachers on the Inner Planes, no doubt --  was adamant in retaining Spock as one of the leading characters in the Series from the very start; and the Vulcan, played by actor Leonard Nimoy, was a success from the beginning -- even though the part had to be played down somewhat because of the insistence of network brass. Alien Visitors from outer space were not wanted -- until the Series began to make money -- and the Spock character was one of the chief reasons for its success! The Vulcan first officer with the huge pointed ears had a way of turning women on!
STRANGERS ON A STRANGE PLANET
Roddenberry was correct in assuming people would strike a sympathetic note with Spock. They "would identify more closely with Spock than with the other characters because in a very real sense we all feel like strangers on a strange planet, hoping that some day we are going to reach someone. If we're fortunate in our lives we'll make contact with three or four of these strange beings."
We'll take your reasoning a step further into occult science, Gene, and say that there are millions of people in embodiment here on the planet earth whose souls started their human evolution on other planets in the solar system. That is why there are these vague feelings within us that we are indeed strangers on a strange planet. But most of us have to remain here in this jail of the solar system until we earn our deliverance, prove that we are rehabilitated by living constructive lives, mastering the lessons of Matter which must be learned here, while clinging to the Vision of better times, better places than those offered on this sorrowful star.
Roddenberry admits that he is a propagandist, as are all writers. He says that in Star Trek "we are constantly talking about moral issues. Don't forget that our monsters were never the monsters of bad sci-fi. There always were motivated beings who might be ugly, but had beauty inside of them. We were constantly saying, 'Because something looks different doesn't mean that it's bad. Or because other people have a different life-style doesn't mean they're wrong.' If there was one theme in all of Star Trek it was that the glory of the universe is its infinite combinations of diversity. What a terrible boring world it would be if everyone agreed with everyone else. And if there weren't different shapes and colors and ideas . . ."
WE DO HAVE A FUTURE
Star Trek was written and produced in the 1960s. Now we are in the 1970s. Interviewer Linda Merinoff asked Roddenberry if he was still as optimistic about the future of the human race, and its forward movement into membership in the United Federation of Planets  225 years from now.
"Yes," replied Gene, "but I think that if we have an earth of the Star Trek century, it will not be an unbroken, steady rise to that kind of civilization. We're in for some very tough times. Our 20th Century technological civilization has no guarantees that it is going to stay around for a long time . . .
"We've had civilizations fall before and we build a somewhat better one on the ashes every time. And I'd never consider the society we depicted in Star Trek necessarily a direct, uninterrupted outgrowth of our present civilization, with its heavy emphasis on materialism. I think we're in for another Dark Ages. But my optimism is not for our society. It's for the essential ingredient in humankind. And I think we humans will rebuild and, if necessary, we'll lose another civilization and rebuild again on top of that until slowly, bit by bit, we'll get there."
THE THREAT OF TELEVISION
One of the major factors threatening the downfall of this our current civilization -- as Roddenberry sees it -- is television! And this newspaper ad for "Tunnelvision", a current movie satire on television, dramatizes that threat.
"I think television is one of the most dangerous forces in our lives today," says Gene. Up until the 1940s books -- and especially fiction -- were the major force in forming our opinions and patterning our lives. The system of books was a fine system in its uncensored state. Any author could write about anything and you had a choice to buy it or not . . . but the insidious thing about television is that its purpose is not at all to convey ideas to people and to disseminate information -- the purpose of television is to sell a product. It could also become very much an opiate, a much stronger and more efficient opiate of the masses than religion ever was.
"I sat in a meeting many years ago where one of the heads of syndication was talking to some other syndicators. (Now that Star Trek is no longer a network show it is "syndicated" to individual network and independent stations the world over.) They were discussing the sales of TV programs in Africa. At that time Africa had newly emerging states in turmoil. And this gentleman said something that  chilled me. He said, 'Don't give me the armies of Africa. I don't need the control of the governments. You give me television in Africa for ten years and in ten years I'll own the continent.'" (Meyer Anselm Rothschild, move over!)
NOT ENTERTAINMENT, PRODUCT SALES!
Television is not to entertain people, nor to amuse them, nor to instruct them, says Gene. The primary purpose is to sell beer, soap, automobiles, deodorants, tooth paste and other products and services, such as insurance. "The sole question behind what gets on the air is 'Will it attract a mass audience and hold them sufficiently long enough to get the commercial messages over to them?
"Censorship then comes along because the people who want to sell products, feeling no obligation to uplift people, do not want to have anything in their programs that offends people, that makes them angry -- because that anger may be transferred against the product. So they don't censor programs because networks are dull or stupid or evil. They censor because networks are products salesmen . . .
"If I wanted to write a show saying I believed organized religion was evil, I couldn't. No matter how entertaining a drama I wrote, I couldn't get it on television. I couldn't get a show on television questioning whether the United States was a mistake. I cannot write a television drama commenting seriously on unions or management, or on the armament sales that we are involved in. I couldn't write -- assuming that I wanted to -- a pro-Arab, anti-Israel drama.
"Now the answers that you get are that 'Yes, but we do very brave things in news and public affairs programming.' What they miss is the fact that fiction affects people more strongly than news and public affairs. The reason being that drama makes you identify with what's happening."
ELIZABETH IDENTIFIED WITH RICHARD II
Richard II was the only English king to be deposed for his ruthless, brutal, corrupt regime. The reign of Queen Elizabeth was so ruthless, brutal and corrupt that the English people of her day were crying for relief from this insufferable dictatorship. To show her oppressed people that English kings -- and Queens! -- could be kicked off the throne, Francis Bacon reached back to Richard II's ill-starred reign of the 12th Century and wrote a historical drama with which the stage-struck Elizabethans of the 16th Century -- 1597 to be exact -- could identify as oppressed Englishmen. But Elizabeth identified herself with Richard II and the reaction of her government was immediate. The Curtain, the Globe and other London playhouses were immediately shut down, for months. The players made extensive tours of the countryside. Actor-manager Will Shagsburr fled to safety across the Channel until things cooled off, and young Bacon tried to commit suicide at the family home of Gorhambury -- anything to avoid being thrown in the Clink and tortured on the rack.
GUT-WRENCHING VIET NAM
The same kind of censorship from Washington and Wall Street was in effect here in the United States in the 1960s, when the war was on, to prevent the American people from identifying with the ruthlessness and brutality of our soldiers, sailors and airmen.
"If a good writer, or many good writers, during the Vietnamese conflict had been permitted to write fictional tales of what was happening in Vietnam," says Roddenberry, "making you identify and become a Vietnamese peasant whose daughter has just been burned to death by napalm or had we been able to write fiction so you could feel the horrible changing of a man that produced a Lieutenant Calley and made you become that man and wrench your guts as it happened, I'm absolutely certain that the war would have been over two years earlier."
In view of this kind of restriction on creativity, Roddenberry was asked why he kept on as a television writer and producer?
"Because you cannot ignore a medium which hits fifty million people in one evening! I think that the purpose of all writing is to reach people and say something you believe in and think is important. You may do it as a scientific or philosophical tract, but with fiction and drama and a certain amount of adventure you reach them easier and you reach more of them, and you can infiltrate your messages into them.
"I think people forget too often that literature -- usually fiction -- is responsible for more changes in public opinion than news articles of sermons. An excellent example of this is 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' -- actually it's not a very good book -- which probably did more to propel us into the Civil War than any other writing of the time. So, historically this has been true of literature and whether we like it or not television is literature . . ."
And so Roddenberry's Star Trek is propelling us into the Space Age of the 22nd Century, where the Earth has a world government which speaks for all mankind in joining an interplanetary federation, and earth men and women help carry the load of patrolling Space and of carrying on the exploration of the farther reaches of the Galaxy.
Nimoy sums it up in his autobiographical work, "I Am Not Spock": "There is hope. In the 22nd century, we exist. We have survived the atomic and hydrogen age. We have contacted intelligent life on other planets. We base joined in an intergalactic federation to work together for the common good. We are useful to ourselves and to others, we respect truth and recognize that beauty exists in many diverse and interesting forms. We have survived the wasting and near destruction of earth's natural resources. We fight dictatorship and political demagoguery, and we win. It is a good place to be and a good time to be there."
* * *
- Merinoff, Linda. "Penthouse Interview: Star Trek's Gene Roddenberry." Penthouse Mar. 1976: 92-95, 118, 120. Print. [Digital with photo: <http://trekcore.com/specials/artifacts/article31/>]
- Reed, Edwin. Francis Bacon, Our Shake-Speare. Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed, 1902. Print. [Digital: <https://archive.org/details/cu31924013153766>]
- Star Fleet Technical Manual: Training Command, Star Fleet Academy. New York: Ballantine Books, 1975. Print. <http://amzn.to/1zRRzLw>
- Nimoy, Leonard. I Am Not Spock. Milbrae, Calif: Celestial Arts, 1975. Print. <http://amzn.to/1wONQK6>