The final frontier | EW.com

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The final frontier

Science-fiction father figure Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, died Oct. 24, 1991.

In Star Trek’s first televised episode, broadcast Sept. 8, 1966, the earnest Hikaru Sulu, played by George Takei, invokes a mythic winged creature of the 23rd century when a yeoman on the USS Enterprise brings him his lunch: ”May the Great Bird of the Galaxy bless your planet,” he says.

After the death of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry on Oct. 24, 1991, from a heart attack, legions of distraught fans worldwide offered their own wishes: ”Sleep well, Great Bird of the Galaxy,” read one online posting.

The avian nickname — bestowed upon Roddenberry by members of the classic series’ cast, which included William Shatner as James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock — was appropriate for a man whose life was spent in flight, first serving in the military, then giving wing not just to Star Trek but to the attendant mythology and social phenomena surrounding it. A decorated B-17 pilot in the Pacific during World War II, Roddenberry worked as a commercial pilot for Pan Am before he turned to television, penning episodes of Dragnet and Naked City and eventually taking the reins as head writer for the 1950s Western series Have Gun Will Travel.

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