ATOMIC : OUR MISSION STATEMENT
By Sky Conway
I want to tell you the secret behind the Atomic mission statement. When I was originally inspired to create a game-changing, streaming, media subscription service, I knew I wanted our science fiction and science-technology content to inspire a certain kind of people. The kind of people that have always inspired me.
I grew up reading amazing stories steeped in fantasy and science fiction. The great authors who wrote those stories, people like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Ursula K. LeGuin, were undeniably special. They were the dreamers, the futurists of their time; the men and women who believed our future would be filled with technological wonder. They used their awesome imaginations to show me the real-life possibilities of where science and technology might one day take us. It’s as if they knew our imaginations would inspire the real-world achievements that propelled us to the moon and soon to Mars and beyond.
Their writing, their ideas, their imagination and vision inspired me as a boy. Today, I’m looking forward to the innovations of the next generation of dreamers, visionaries, and ambitious entrepreneurs — the next Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen, Elon Musk and Ray Kurzweil. I want to inspire their minds, give them thought-provoking content — television that will stimulate and fill their brains with an inspirational message. To quote my friend, the late, Gene Roddenberry: “The Human Adventure Is Just Beginning.” Anything is possible. The future can be luminous.
I want Atomic to become a premiere destination, not just for visionaries, dreamers, filmmakers, writers and renegades, but for anyone with a mind open to the possibilities of creating a brighter future together.
The truth is, I created Atomic to change the world. Not just talk about it — do it. Because I want to lead the evolution of television entertainment and take it to the next level of human interaction. This quest has become our Atomic mission statement. It’s what I’ve always believed. Atomic will be a home for radical thinkers, special, real-world problem solvers as well as people with open-minds and big dreams.
Smart TV for Techies, Trekkies, Geeks, and Gamers
One of the most controversial yet clearly talented visionaries of our time was Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs said something great: “…The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” I couldn’t agree more. Here’s to “the crazy ones,” wherever, whoever, you are.
Welcome to Atomic.
PART ONE: MANIFESTING GENE RODDENBERRY
By Sky Conway
Eugene Wesley Roddenberry was born in El Paso Texas on August 19, 1921. He lived a long and adventurous life before his death in 1991 at age seventy in Santa Monica California. During his life he had several careers: he was a police officer, a World War II bomber pilot, a commercial airline pilot, and finally a television writer-producer in Hollywood.
Gene was destined to become a respected icon in the world of science fiction for creating the signature television series, STAR TREK. It premiered in September of 1966. The series was, at first, only a nominal ratings success. It lasted three seasons before being canceled.
Then, just when the story of Star Trek should have ended, something wonderful happened. It got a second life in syndication where its original run of 79 episodes were repeated in the early evenings and afternoons, embraced by a generation of young people, ultimately transforming many into life-long fans. Star Trek eventually became a global phenomenon capturing the imaginations of millions of people and making Gene Roddenberry a household name.
I, of course, was one of those young people. I started watching Star Trek as a high school senior. I’d already become interested in science fiction on TV. I loved watching Lost In Space and The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and others, but when I discovered Star Trek, my imagination soared. I saw Gene’s name in the final credit at the end of each episode. I asked myself, “who is this guy?” What kind of mind creates something this ambitious and thought-provoking?
Star Trek was a quantum leap forward in quality at every level in every department of its production. This was smart TV, telling high-quality science fiction stories that were often thinly masked social commentary on American society in the sixties. The writing didn’t just entertain, it genuinely had something to say. I became a fan for life.
When I was a Pre-Law Student at the University Of Connecticut, every week our local TV station aired episodes of the original series at midnight. I was part of a group of hardcore fans who made a ritual of watching each episode together. Then, it happened: Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered in 1979. I waited in line three and a half hours just to see the world’s first Star Trek feature film. The line experience became a big event — one big party — the line wrapped all the way around the theater. People were smoking pot, passing around a joint. To kill time we played Trivial Pursuit. (To our delight, the game even had an occasional Star Trek question) Finally, the line started to move and we eagerly marched in to the theater to experience this historic, cinematic event.
It was an ambitious, smart film, with incredible, state-of-the-art, special effects and a provocative story that did not disappoint. Of all the Star Trek movies to date, this is the one film that truly belongs to Gene. You could tell it was his creation — it’s an actual Hollywood film about ideas!
Star Trek: The Motion Picture profoundly expressed Gene’s belief that man will continue to evolve, eventually becoming more than human — ultimately merging with machines. Despite its measured pace and minimal character interaction, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a hit and put the franchise back in the public consciousness in a huge way. It paved the way for a line of successful sequels and a new Star Trek television series.
In the late Eighties, I remember watching episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and recognizing Gene’s name once again at the end of the credits. I became intrigued by the scope of what he had accomplished. What kind of mind comes up with these amazing ideas for television shows and feature films?
I don’t believe in someone pulling the strings of our lives, but I just knew someday I was going to meet the Star Trek actors — and I knew I was going to meet Gene too. I didn’t know how I’d ever be able to meet Gene Roddenberry, but instinctively I knew I would. Eventually, I made it happen — I found a way to manifest meeting Gene. When I finally met Gene Roddenberry, I had no idea how becoming his friend would change my life forever.
PART TWO: LEARNING FROM GENE RODDENBERRY
By Sky Conway
As a young man, I knew one day I would meet Gene Roddenberry. I didn’t know how. Or when. I just knew I would. Then one day, in 1990, I got an idea on how I could finally make it happen. At the time I was a Paramount Pictures Licensee and I’d created a Star Trek 25th Anniversary Poster which I was actively trying to promote.
As part of the promotion, I reached out to the National Space Society to pitch them a 25th anniversary article about Star Trek and its impact on society and the Space Program. I told them the article would include an interview with Gene Roddenberry — an interview conducted by me. To my delight, they bought my pitch and a meeting with Gene was arranged. Yes! After all these years I’d manifested a meeting with Gene Roddenberry!
With great anticipation, I drove out to interview Gene at his office on the Paramount Studios Lot. I waited patiently in the outer office until I heard Gene buzz his assistant, Susan, and tell her he was ready to see me. I got up from my seat and followed Susan into Gene’s inner office. At long last, there he was, Gene Roddenberry, seated at his desk. We were finally face to face.
Upon seeing Gene for the first time, I still remember being struck by how tall he was. He leaned back in his chair and held his palms close together, fingertips touching. His hands were huge. His fingers, long and slender. I thought to myself: “He doesn’t look quite human.“
Now of course I didn’t mean that in the pejorative. It’s just that everything about Gene seemed otherworldly. He had a sense of calm about him. Very serene. It was like meeting a man from the future. Gene was a kind and gracious host but he was also battling health issues and we only had thirty minutes to talk. When my time was up and I had to leave, I left hoping I’d get a chance someday, somehow, to return and continue my conversation with Gene.
Later, I had the good fortune to meet Nichelle Nichols at a space technology event and we hit it off. (Nichelle played Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek TV series.) I asked if she was willing to participate in a licensing project I’d been developing; a Star Trek-Space themed park balancing fact and fiction. Nichelle said ‘yes’ and became the project’s icon for science fiction while Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, became the icon for Fact.
One night, Nichelle brought me with her as her “date” to a party at Gene’s house. A party where Marina Sirtis, her husband, as well as the cast of the original Star trek series were also in attendance. At the party, I had the opportunity to talk to Gene again and get to know him better. I know I must have made a good impression because in the weeks to come I would be invited back several times to talk to Gene. I would get the call from Majel Barrett, Gene’s wife: “He wants you to come over.”
He always gave me great advice. He told me to learn to “think like a writer.” He believed in the importance of a well-written morality play. He was always eager to share what he knew — what he believed.” As his health continued to deteriorate, I never knew how much time I’d have with Gene. Generally we spoke for one or two hours per visit, but sometimes he could only speak for a few minutes. I was always happy to have whatever time he could give me.
I told Gene how much his work inspired me and that someday I wanted to make a science fiction TV series as real as his own. It was 1991. During one of our conversations I told him about a revolutionary new development in technology called “the world-wide-web.” The world-wide-web had just been introduced in July of 1990.
As a side note, I’d wanted to put the Star Trek 25th anniversary posters on the web to sell, but there were two factors working against me: One: download speeds at the time were incredibly slow and it took people forever to see the poster. Two: even if they were patient enough to view the poster there were only about eight thousand people online. Not nearly enough potential customers to make web sales worth the effort. I had tried to start an internet company too soon.
Despite that, I remember telling Gene I believed in the future potential of the internet. I told him how I believed one day people would use the world-wide-web to send audio and video signals and how Star Trek would be viewed online all around the world. No one ever believed me when I told them that. But Gene did. He was tickled by the idea and clasped his hands together in delight. “How soon?” he asked me. “Sooner than you think,” I replied.
Gene expressed to me how he hoped the shows I create might one day be shown on the world-wide-web too. That meant the world to me. I told myself I would make every effort to have Gene’s prognostication come true. It’s not like I had a choice, right? I promised Hollywood Legend Gene Roddenberry that I would. It’s a promise I absolutely knew I had to keep.
So I did.
PART THREE: “GOODBYE GENE”
By Sky Conway
My friendship with Gene Roddenberry ended on October 24, 1991. That was the awful day The Great Bird Of The Galaxy died. I was fortunate to have met him. I was profoundly grateful to have been his friend. We’d enjoyed many hours of conversation; I confided to him my own ideas for science fiction TV shows. To this day his optimistic vision of the future continues to have an influence on my thinking. And I know I’m not alone.
Three days before he passed away, I got a call from Majel Barret Roddenberry. She said, “Can you and Nichelle come over? Gene’s asking for you.” Nichelle and I agreed and we came by as soon as we could. When we arrived, Majel rolled Gene out in a wheelchair. It was horrible to see him this way. He’d recently suffered a series of strokes and I was disheartened to realize how much he’d declined in health since the last time I saw him.
Gene asked if he could be alone with Nichelle for a few minutes and I gave them their privacy. When I returned, I realized they’d both been crying. Gene had told her he could have never imagined his life without Nichelle. And then he took me aside and spoke to me in private.
Gene remembered my ambition to create a quality science fiction television series and distribute it on the world-wide web. He asked if I could do “one thing for him.” “Of course,” I replied, “anything.” And he said to me: “Keep the dream alive.”
The dream he referred to was the continued effort to create quality science fiction — stories based on our shared hope for the future — that the world would eventually become a better place to live. I told him that I would, that it would be my honor.
When Nichelle and I left Gene’s home, I asked Nichelle if she could tell me what Gene has said to her in private. Nichelle replied, “He told me how much he loved me. How much I’d meant to him in his life and how much I had influenced him for the better.” Then she asked me, “Did Gene just say goodbye?”
Whether we were ready to accept it or not, that’s exactly what Gene had done: This was the last time I’d ever see him. The last time I would ever experience the wisdom and sage advice from a man many regard as a genius. To create something as extraordinary as Star Trek is a testament to his great strength as a producer, his bravery as a story-teller, and his wisdom as a futurist.
The 23rd century technology envisioned in Star Trek continues to become the reality of our 21st century lives. Are there aliens in our universe? We’ve already detected the existence of thousands of exo-planets. Finding life elsewhere is simply a matter of time. Here on earth, we’ve had a vast improvement in racial equality and equality between the sexes. Though admittedly there is still a long way to go.
In terms of technology, Star Trek’s medical tricorders are more than feasible — they’re almost here. While the famous communicator from the show has become the smart phone we keep in our pockets. By envisioning a bright and optimistic future, Gene Roddenberry helped design our modern world. And his vision of a better tomorrow comes at a time when we need his guidance — as I did and still do — more than ever. Goodbye, Gene. The world misses you and will never forget you.