Roddenberry Jr. Set Out To Discover His Roots in 'Trek Nation'By Michelle
April 21, 2005 - 8:27 PM
Eugene Roddenberry Jr., aka "Rod" Roddenberry, admitted that he did not grow up a Trek fan but said that over the years he has come to realize that the show impacted his life as much as the thousands of fans with whom he has communicated, which was part of the impetus for him to create the documentary Trek Nation.
Speaking to Chase Masterson (Leeta) at TheFandom.com, Roddenberry said that as a teenager growing up, ""I was interested in cars and girls and my own stuff" and didn't care what his parents were involved with. "I was selfish," he laughed, calling himself rebellious. "Dad worked on this TV show that I didn't really watch, which at that time was The Next Generation. I saw it a couple of times, and I liked it, but I didn't know that it touched lives." After Gene Roddenberry passed away, however, "I began to learn that it went far beyond entertainment."
The younger Roddenberry had worked on Next Gen as a teenage production assistant, complaining all the while that his father was making him take a job while his friends were out playing in the summers. The cast and crew were friendly to him, as the producer's son, but he felt no genuine connection to Star Trek until his father's memorial service when he was 17. There someone read aloud a letter from a quadriplegic person who said that Star Trek had given him a reason to live, and he was stunned at the level of import that Star Trek had had for some fans.
Now 31 and a father himself, Roddenberry said that learning about his father's TV show has "knocked me on my ass." He started asking questions of friends, family and fans, finally realizing the real impact of Star Trek. "I am a late bloomer," he admitted, saying that Trek Nation, which he has been working on for three years, is not so much a documentary about fans as his own search for his father's legacy. "I'm not just telling it for fans...I always felt like I was the non-fan who was looking at it from outside, always the Data or the Spock."
Roddenberry said that while he has interviewed Star Trek cast members, other filmmakers and entertainment reporters have already exhaustively discussed the impact of Star Trek with many of them. He wanted instead to talk to unexpected people, from Hollywood celebrities who are closet fans "to your average trucker or your playboy model or your business consultant or your lawyer." He said he had concentrated on stereotypes, wanting to prove that "hot chicks like Star Trek too. NFL football players, jocks like Star Trek too."
When Masterson noted that she was amused by the number of fans who approach her to tell her that they love Star Trek but that they are not Trekkies and would never go to a convention, Roddenberry said that he wanted to fight negative stereotypes with his film as well. He enjoyed Trekkies, he said, though "it wans't made for fans, it was made for everyone else", and he did believe it showed "how potentially crazy Star Trek fans were." On the other hand, he was delighted by the story of Barbara Adams, who chose to wear her Star Trek uniform to jury duty because she was so proud of what she believed in: "That's cool, dammit."
The producer talked about apocryphal stories that he is trying to confirm for his documentary, like the existence of Star Trek tapes snuck over the Berlin Wall into East Germany and the fan following for the series that developed in Iraq in the 1970s. He praised the efforts of TrekUnited to save Enterprise (which Roddenberry said he had always called Star Trek: Enterprise, even when the studio was trying to distance the series from the franchise name), saying he found it extraordinary that instead of just accepting a studio decision or protesting with letters, these fans had tried to raise the money for Star Trek themselves.
Asked by Masterson about Earth: Final Conflict, another Gene Roddenberry series for which he received a story credit, Rod Roddenberry admitted that he had distanced himself from the show when he felt that after the first season, the storyline took a direction that wasn't true to his father's name. He described receiving an e-mail that said, "clearly you don't have what your father had."
"That was kind of it for me," he added, though his mother had been an executive producer of the series, which he felt after the beginning had a great deal of gratuitous action without presenting a believable future. "I have no problems with gratuitous action and big breasts and hunky men," he joked, "but the story hsa to come first. If you concentrate on the writing...then you can throw in some big breasts."
An audio file of the interview may be found at TheFandom.com.