The Professor (Gilligan's Island)
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|Professor Roy Hinkley|
|Gilligan's Island character|
|First appearance||Gilligan's Island (pilot)|
|Last appearance||Gilligan's Planet|
|Created by||Sherwood Schwartz|
|Portrayed by||1963 – John Gabriel
1964-1983 – Russell Johnson
|Occupation||High School Science teacher
The Professor's backstory identifies him as a high school science teacher who was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His principal expertise was as a botanist, whose purpose in joining the ill-fated voyage that stranded the castaways was to write a book to be titled Fun With Ferns. His main function on the show was to devise many ways for the castaways to live more comfortably on the island. Many of his inventions (including a method for recharging the batteries in the ubiquitous radio) utilized coconuts and bamboo, both of which were in plentiful supply. Aside from his proficiency in science, he was also adept and well-versed in law, literature, social sciences, and the arts. Besides a list of degrees from various schools (including USC, UCLA, SMU, and TCU) he provides in one episode, little was ever learned about his past and nothing was ever learned about his family. In several episodes there are brief remarks on his past: in the pilot he is described as a research scientist and "well-known scoutmaster"; in another when a big game hunter comes to the Island and asks the Professor what sports he took, the answer is "chess club"; after kissing Ginger for a prolonged period (during filming of a silent movie) he claims to be a "scuba diver"; in another when the castaways try to recreate who killed "Randolph Blake", the Professor threatens to "...cancel his subscription to the Science Quarterly".
The Professor was portrayed as the most neutral and level-headed character. He usually displayed more patience with Gilligan than the other castaways, and was often called upon to settle disputes. As a result, he often served as the leader of the castaways whom the others respected because of his great store of knowledge, although the castaways rarely mentioned this. For unexplained reasons—possibly for research purposes in writing his book (although titled Fun with Ferns, ferns may not have been its sole topic)—the Professor brought a large number of books on diverse subjects such as chemistry and anthropology of the South Sea Islanders on a three hour pleasure-cruise in Hawaii. On many occasions, he magically pulls out a book which has exactly the facts needed to fix or explain a particular problem they are having. In several episodes electric power for phonographs or washing machines is generated by employing someone (usually Gilligan) to manually pedal, or turn, a pulley, which the Professor has engineered.
A running joke about the Professor was his ability to build anything from coconuts and bamboo, yet he was somehow unable to create a raft or other means to leave the island. This was parodied in the sitcom Roseanne, when one of the characters playing The Professor stated after they crashed, "This hole on the boat defies all of my advanced knowledge. To fix it would be impossible...now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go create explosive fillings out of sand." In the parody movie Back to the Beach, a character played by Bob Denver and obviously based on Gilligan mentions knowing "a guy who could build a nuclear reactor out of coconuts but couldn't fix a two-foot hole in a boat."
Producer Sherwood Schwartz answered this paradox in an interview, when he said that the Professor's behavior was logical, and quite typical; people often ignore the obvious solution because of their own biases and preferences. “That’s true of mankind," said Schwartz, in an interview with WABC radio's Mark Simone. "They can do except what they cannot do.” However, the professor did try many times to repair the boat using available island-resources; but they ultimately proved inadequate.
Likewise, in an interview with Larry King, Bob Denver explained that the Professor simply "had no talent for boat-building." This is the more logical answer, since the island was stated to be 1000 miles from civilization, and an inexpert repair would be risky on such a long journey. Furthermore, in an early episode, "Goodbye Island", he attempts to do so with a native tree syrup, which proves a disastrous failure that results in the boat being completely destroyed. (Also, earlier in the series, Gilligan and Skipper built a raft in order to sail for help, however it was revealed that the island was near a shark-filled area that made such a journey too dangerous for anything other than an actual boat or rubber raft.)
The 1996 parody movie A Very Brady Sequel hints that The Professor is the first husband of Carol Brady and the biological father of Marcia, Jan and Cindy. This fact, however, is contained solely within the storyline of this movie and is not considered to be Gilligan's Island or The Brady Bunch canon, being rather a "Crossover-parody" of both.