Star Trek Icon Quoted His Own Character At Gene Roddenberry’s Funeral

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

star trek gene roddenberry funeral

Gene Roddenberry’s funeral was a somber occasion for Star Trek fans around the world. After all, Roddenberry had given us perhaps the most ambitious and optimistic science fiction franchise in history, and the loss of such a talented figure was a loss for us all. Many Star Trek stars attended Roddenberry’s memorial service, and in a surprising twist, Patrick Stewart ended up quoting his own Captain Picard character during the memorial service.

Roddenberry’s Passing

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When Gene Roddenberry died in 1991, the memorial service after his funeral turned into an impromptu Star Trek convention. That’s because the public was invited to the memorial service at Hall of Liberty in Hollywood Hills.

Over 300 fans attended the event, giving them a chance to hear from many of the major stars who were invited.

As you might expect, Gene Roddenberry’s funeral was a secular one reflecting his own lack of explicit religious beliefs.

The Star Trek creator had been cremated before the event. Fortunately, the memorial service gave fans and stars alike the opportunity to achieve closure after Roddenberry’s passing.

Stewart Speaks

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During the service, Nichelle Nichols sang two songs, and guests ranging from Ray Bradbury to Whoopi Goldberg offered their thoughts on Roddenberry’s life and career.

Patrick Stewart was the last to speak, though he emphasized that this was due to everyone speaking in alphabetical order. Early into his speech, Stewart praised Roddenberry for identifying his own potential.

“This man looked at a common, hairless Shakespearean actor and said, ‘I want you to be Captain,’” Stewart said.

He then relayed the now-famous anecdote that Paramount executives thought that the future would have invented a cure for baldness. Roddenberry countered this idea by saying, “in the future, they will not care!”

Where Silence Has Lease

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Such words honoring Gene Roddenberry were fairly common, both at the funeral and at the memorial service. However, Stewart went on to do something completely uncommon–specifically, he quoted his own Captain Picard character from the season 2 episode “Where Silence Has Lease.”

The parts that he quoted were written by Roddenberry himself for a scene where Picard tries to explain death to Data.

At this point in the episode, Gene Roddenberry’s scene had characters pondering their own funerals because Picard had activated the ship’s auto-destruct as a way of foiling a cruel cosmic being known as Nagilum.

The child-like Data asks what death is, prompting Picard to respond that “Some see it as a changing into an indestructible form, forever unchanging” and that “there are those who hold to the idea of our blinking into nothingness, with all our experiences, hopes, and dreams merely a delusion.”

What Picard Believes

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When the android asks his captain what he believes, a thoughtful Picard says, “Considering the marvelous complexity of our universe… I believe that our existence must be more than either of these philosophies. That what we are goes…beyond what we understand now as reality.”

In the episode itself, this conversation leads to Picard discovering that both Data and Troi are simulations created by Nagilum.

But Stewart, speaking after Gene Roddenberry’s funeral, was quite moved by the thoughtfulness of the scene and commented on it to the memorial crowd. “Imagine the guts it took to write such a passage for prime time,” he said.

Roddenberry’s Legacy

gene roddenberry funeral

To Stewart’s credit, the words are as inspirational as they are provocative–a fitting tribute to Roddenberry, a man whose life, like death itself, goes beyond our complete understanding. He left behind a powerful legacy that is still resonating with fans around the world. After Gene Roddenberry’s funeral, some of his cremated ashes were sent into space, which only seems fitting.

Where else would you expect to find the Great Bird of the Galaxy except for the stars?