As a young man, I knew one day I would meet Gene Roddenberry. I didn’t know how. Or when. I just knew I would. Then one day, in 1990, I got an idea on how I could finally make it happen. At the time I was a Paramount Pictures Licensee and I’d created a Star Trek 25th Anniversary Poster which I was actively trying to promote.
As part of the promotion, I reached out to the National Space Society to pitch them a 25th anniversary article about Star Trek and its impact on society and the Space Program. I told them the article would include an interview with Gene Roddenberry — an interview conducted by me. To my delight, they bought my pitch and a meeting with Gene was arranged. Yes! After all these years I’d manifested a meeting with Gene Roddenberry!
With great anticipation, I drove out to interview Gene at his office on the Paramount Studios Lot. I waited patiently in the outer office until I heard Gene buzz his assistant, Susan, and tell her he was ready to see me. I got up from my seat and followed Susan into Gene’s inner office. At long last, there he was, Gene Roddenberry, seated at his desk. We were finally face to face.
Upon seeing Gene for the first time, I still remember being struck by how tall he was. He leaned back in his chair and held his palms close together, fingertips touching. His hands were huge. His fingers, long and slender. I thought to myself: “He doesn’t look quite human.”
Now of course I didn’t mean that in the pejorative. It’s just that everything about Gene seemed otherworldly. He had a sense of calm about him. Very serene. It was like meeting a man from the future. Gene was a kind and gracious host but he was also battling health issues and we only had thirty minutes to talk. When my time was up and I had to leave, I left hoping I’d get a chance someday, somehow, to return and continue my conversation with Gene.
Later, I had the good fortune to meet Nichelle Nichols at a space technology event and we hit it off. (Nichelle played Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek TV series.) I asked if she was willing to participate in a licensing project I’d been developing; a Star Trek-Space themed park balancing fact and fiction. Nichelle said ‘yes’ and became the project’s icon for science fiction while Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, became the icon for Fact.
One night, Nichelle brought me with her as her “date” to a party at Gene’s house. A party where Marina Sirtis, her husband, as well as the cast of the original Star trek series were also in attendance. At the party, I had the opportunity to talk to Gene again and get to know him better. I know I must have made a good impression because in the weeks to come I would be invited back several times to talk to Gene. I would get the call from Majel Barrett, Gene’s wife: “He wants you to come over.”
He always gave me great advice. He told me to learn to “think like a writer.” He believed in the importance of a well-written morality play. He was always eager to share what he knew — what he believed.” As his health continued to deteriorate, I never knew how much time I’d have with Gene. Generally we spoke for one or two hours per visit, but sometimes he could only speak for a few minutes. I was always happy to have whatever time he could give me.
I told Gene how much his work inspired me and that someday I wanted to make a science fiction TV series as real as his own. It was 1991. During one of our conversations I told him about a revolutionary new development in technology called “the world-wide-web.” The world-wide-web had just been introduced in July of 1990.
As a side note, I’d wanted to put the Star Trek 25th anniversary posters on the web to sell, but there were two factors working against me: One: download speeds at the time were incredibly slow and it took people forever to see the poster. Two: even if they were patient enough to view the poster there were only about eight thousand people online. Not nearly enough potential customers to make web sales worth the effort. I had tried to start an internet company too soon.
Despite that, I remember telling Gene I believed in the future potential of the internet. I told him how I believed one day people would use the world-wide-web to send audio and video signals and how Star Trek would be viewed online all around the world. No one ever believed me when I told them that. But Gene did. He was tickled by the idea and clasped his hands together in delight. “How soon?” he asked me. “Sooner than you think,” I replied.
Gene expressed to me how he hoped the shows I create might one day be shown on the world-wide-web too. That meant the world to me. I told myself I would make every effort to have Gene’s prognostication come true. It’s not like I had a choice, right? I promised Hollywood Legend Gene Roddenberry that I would. It’s a promise I absolutely knew I had to keep.
So I did.