The enterprise of 'Star Trek' is explored on Science's 'Trek Nation'
The original mission of the crew of the starship Enterprise of "Star Trek" was "to boldly go where no man has gone before." The Science network will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the "Star Trek" franchise Wednesday night with the premiere of a new documentary, "Trek Nation," which will explore the continuing legacy of "Star Trek" while featuring exclusive footage that few men have seen before.
The special, which airs at 8 p.m., also salutes late "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry and his vision for the future, spotlighting interviews with fans such as George Lucas, J.J. Abrams, Seth MacFarlane and several alums from the TV series and "Star Trek" films.
Included in the special are snippets from hours of exclusive footage, including never-before-seen home movies from the Roddenberry family and the first-ever "Star Trek" convention. Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry, the 37-year-old son of Gene Roddenberry, is the host and executive producer of the special, which also chronicles his personal journey to gain insight into his father's groundbreaking vision.
Roddenberry discussed the special in a phone interview from London, where he is attending a wedding.
Why does "Star Trek" continue to be such a phenomena and have such an effect all over the world?
It really has to do with the messages and the metaphors that were in the series and the following incarnations. I've learned that from so many fans, from all around the world and from all walks of life. Athletes, doctors, students, whoever, all relate to this commonality of believing in a future for the common good. Who wouldn't want to live in a future life like that?
What was going on with you as the "Star Trek" craze was developing?
I was very rebellious. I knew my father more as an authority, more as "Dad" rather than the man behind 'Star Trek.' I have to say I didn't get it at the time -- the metaphors and the context really didn't come across to me. My father passed away when I was 17, and sadly it took my father's passing to understand why what he did meant so much to so many people. It was then when I realized 'My dad did this.' I loved the philosophy.
In your opinion, who is the most important character in "Star Trek?"
There's a character in all my father's creation that is known as the "Roddenberry" character. It's also always the 'alien' character that shows us our humanity, that brings all the rest of the characters together and shows them their significance. Spock certainly fit in there. Data was a classic Pinocchio, always questioning what it's like to be human. I love Data, who was always showing what it is like to have emotion.
There's a stereotyped image of the "Star Trek" fan as being some weirdo who dresses up in starship uniforms and can act very strange and geeky.
I have complete respect and admiration for the fans. After my father's passing, they were the ones I turned to. They were inspired by my father and they spoke of how he inspired them to reach beyond their preconceived limitations of what they could accomplish. Plus, you go to any football games and see people wearing costumes. That's no big deal.
What is the biggest lesson you learned about your father?
Working on this was a very collaborative effort. The main thing that happened was learning things about my father that were not easy to hear. I learned early on that I needed to humanize him. He was put on a pedestal so early in life, and I needed to find out who the man was. Working on this brought him to a level where I could connect and identify with him, and love him even more. I do have one hope that audiences will continue to love and admire him, but also that they will realize that anyone can achieve greatness if they have the passion and will to see it through.
-- Greg Braxton
Photo: Director Robert Wise, left, Gene Roddenberry, DeForest Kelley and Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner (seated) on the set of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," which came out in 1979 and was the first big-screen adaptation of the TV series. Credit: Roddenberry estate