I had the honor of doing a two hour interviewing the Great Bird of the Galaxy several years before his death.
Roddenberry was an extremely patriotic man, very proud of his military service and the years he spent as a cop. He was also very much “law and order”. Star Trek was envisioned as a “wagon train to the stars”, with the premise that any good science fiction should be tried as a western. If it worked as a western, then it would work as science fiction. Roddenberry specialized in writing scripts for the classic television westerns but was a closet science fiction writer who finally managed to get a break.
He was not Marxist, communist, or even a socialist, and was very much an admirer or Ronald Reagan. (I think he even wrote a couple of Death Valley Days episodes). I came away from the interview thinking he was probably a Republican.
The “idealism” of future came after Roddenberry realized that he was attracting a rather unusual fan base. I think the former cop in him “kicked in” as he literally profiled the people who were becoming involved as “Trekkies”. Roddenberry told me he realized he had a responsibility to those people, who were, he felt, literally rudderless and were “followers”. Very critical of cults and those who manipulated people, Roddenberry told me that he realized there was a possibility that he could give these people some ethics, morals and some values. Then – he began instilling these things into Star Trek.
His original vision was a product of the Cold War. He envisioned a time where humanity had finally recovered from a world that had gone to war and literally nearly bombed itself into the dark ages. He loved this nation so much, that one episode in particular, “The Omega Glory” reflected his view that freedom, though crushed, will eventually win over oppression.
The socialism came later, not as much as a statement of Roddenberry’s politics but how he saw the evolution of society as it became more and more technical.
One of the over-riding themes in much of what he wrote was the idea of honor, especially within the military, which he very much admired.
The later shows – DS-9, Voyager, and even Next Generation had a mean socialist strain in them, but the original was not socialist, but rather Utopian. Star Trek Classic was nothing more than the Great Bird of the Galaxy’s Utopian vision of what he wanted the future to be.
Roddenberry, for all his flaws, believed in the decency, honor, and the great future of mankind. He was an optimist who loved science, and the space program. One of the greatest events of my life was to be present at a panel moderated by Ted Koppell. On the panel were the following: Carl Sagan, Ray Bradbury, Buzz Aldrin, and Gene Roddenberry. All four men were positive about the future of humanity and our future in space. Indeed, that was what Gene Roddenberry was all about – our future in space.