Ask almost anyone who Gene Roddenberry was and most people will tell you that he created Star Trek. In an unauthorised biography Lance Parkin delves deeper into his life and work.
Well timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, Lance Parkin has written an in-depth biography of the man undisputedly credited with creating the phenomenal science fiction franchise that spans television, film, literature and new media.
It’s hardly a surprise to discover that in Gene Roddenberry’s officially commissioned biography the man is portrayed positively and very much as the guiding hand behind all things Star Trek throughout his lifetime.
Unofficial biographies are less flattering, focussing on his less favourable personal attributes and crediting him as getting lucky with his single good idea which was developed and made popular by the work of others. The truth, as most could reason, falls somewhere in between.
Through extensive research Lance Parkin attempts to give an unbiased version of the life and work of Gene Roddenberry in this unauthorised biography – ‘The Impossible Has Happened’.
Roddenberry’s achievements before Captain Kirk and crew are quickly summarised in the opening chapter with the bulk of the rest of the book dedicated to the phenomenon that grew from the original series of Star Trek. There’s a lot to fit in too.
‘The Impossible Has Happened’ is packed with facts and trivia, from the unprecedented requirement of, not one – but two pilot episodes being required before the network would commission the first season of the original series in 1966, to the voice of the on-board computer in the current rebooted movie franchise.
Throughout the course of the book Parkin explores the common misconception that Roddenberry had autonomy over all things Star Trek at all times. He explains the multiple occassions where networks and studios distanced Star Trek’s creator from various ‘Trek’ projects and credits those that influenced the look, canon and success of the shows and movies. Parkin also reveals Roddenberry’s tremendous resilience and uncanny knack for returning to the fold, justifying how important the Roddenberry stamp of approval is to Star Trek.
Gene Roddenberry – Creator of ‘Star Trek’
The author keeps events in chronological order whilst aptly referencing events, future and past, that give context to that moment in the story. Roddenberry is not presented as the god-like personality many fans perceive him to be. Rather he is described as a fallible human being prone to multiple love affairs, shady dealings, petulant behaviour and, in later life, problems with drink and drug abuse. It’s not a character assassination though. Gene Roddenberry had moments of genius and believed in a brighter future for mankind. He held high aspirations and ideals for his vision of Star Trek and nurtured a loyal and loving fanbase.
Whilst the focus is, for obvious reasons, centered around Star Trek, Roddenberry’s other works are explored, often linking back to a central recurring theme within his creations.
Does ‘The Impossible Has Happened’ offer a genuine look at the life of an icon? After all, facts for this book are collated from second hand source material (diligently catalogued at the back of the book) rather than from first hand interviews and accounts. My answer would be yes. Lance Parkin appears to deliver a balanced, clear and easy-to-digest account of the life and work of Gene Roddenberry which certainly feels well researched. The author doesn’t appear to have an agenda in mind and offers credit and criticism in equal measures.
Lance Parkin has written a book that is a fascinating read for Star Trek and sci-fi fans alike. ‘The Impossible Has Happened’ is an engaging page-turner that could easily warrant multiple reads given the abundance of facts, trivia and relationships explored over the lifetime of Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry.
‘The Impossible Has Happened’ is available in hardcover now from Aurum Press, a paperback printing is due in May 2017.