It’s that day again — August 19 — when we celebrate Star Trek birthdays for Jonathan Frakes and Gene Roddenberry, as well as Trek threepeat actor Diana Muldaur too! (Above: The guys in early 1989, backstage for TNG S2’s “Up the Long Ladder.”)
Of all of them, we’re getting to congratulate Jonathan on his years of Rikering AND the fresh creative eye and soul he brings to our newest Treks. As director— and now, even Number One again. It’s a testament that Diana’s ubiquitous Pulaski is getting all kinds of new looks, too.
We wish our actor-directors well on their day — but our thoughts really turn to The Great Bird of the Galaxy* on Aug. 19, as Gene would have been 99 today. I’ve talked about him on his birthday before, and even about the unique and ironic connection between he and Jonathan.
And yet, with our lens on heroes and icons constantly being refocused as voices arise to give us new perspectives, Gene’s birthday celebration provides a chance to acknowledge that The Great Bird’s persona is getting new looks, too.
The guy whose mortgage-paying college tours in the 1970s transformed him from producer to “guru” in the eyes of first-gen Trek fandom … is now the guy whose “exuberances” once seen as sexual liberation might sometimes now seen, amid social upheaval, as a wince-point.
Certainly we are all here due to Gene’s creation and vision— they ARE the “reason for the season,” and affected my and so many others’ lives, careers and relationships. Nothing will ever take that away. And certainly far more hands, with every new generation of Trek creatives, is adding to his legacy and the impact worldwide of Trek diversity, representation, science and aspiration.
Well, here’s to hindsight and the complexity of creation…. and kudos to son Rod Roddenberry for allowing us to explore all aspects of his dad honestly, if need be, on my podcast The Trek Files. Gene did always say our species is still a child, right? Well, “The Human Adventure Is Just Beginning”…and we are still being reminded each year how that can be so.
We have a long way to go to get to The Vision…. but still we keep to the journey. And always remember where it all began, as well. With the wonderfully imperfect, but still inspiring, Eugene Wesley Roddenberry.
As we roll into his centennial of birth NEXT August 19, we’ll have a lot more to say on all of that. Stay tuned here, and across all my Trekland channels!
*The Great Bird of the Galaxy, inspired by Sulu’s line in the early TOS episode “The Enemy Within,” was bestowed on Gene soon after in sarcastic memo address by none other than Bob Justman, memo writer extraordinaire. First-gen fandom glommed onto it, and the tongue-in-cheek legend was off and running!