It took Gene Roddenberry years to get “Star Trek” on the screen. It was his first major project he took from beginning to end, and he wasn’t going to stop until some network found it a home.
That became a similar journey for his only son nearly a half-century later, but not to create a franchise that would entertain and enlighten generations — but to present a documentary that would show one son’s exploration of what Star Trek really meant for his father.
“Trek Nation” is set to premiere in November on Discovery’s Science Channel, and both Roddenberry Productions chief operating officer Trevor Roth and Rod Roddenberry himself sat down with Airlock Alpha to talk about the eight-year mission that got “Trek Nation” to the finish line.
“If it wasn’t such a personal story to us, and if we didn’t want to get it so right, it probably would’ve been to audiences a long time ago,” Roth said during an exclusive interview at last weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con. “We believe at the end of the day it will be well worth it, that all the pieces have fallen into place.”
Audiences, Roth said, will hopefully feel that the wait was worth it, and that they will understand why this took so long to come together.
“It is a venture into the world of Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek,” Roth said. “It has a very personal point of view for us.”
The project began production in 2003, and has since had a number of restarts, trying to find the right thread to pull things together. At least one early version of the documentary, which was screened by Airlock Alpha in 2006, included elements with Roddenberry’s mother, now the late Majel Barrett Roddenberry. However, those elements will not be a part of the final “Trek Nation.”
“It is a big story, and we have an hour-and-a-half to get it out there,” Roddenberry said. “One of the most difficult things — and I hope people understand — is my mother. I believe we are cutting her out of it. Not out of disrespect for her. But she deserves her own documentary.”
Roddenberry said that earlier versions of the documentary touched on the relationship between he and his mother, but then never had time to fully explore it later, leaving it an element that just wasn’t coming together in the end.
“This is a hard one,” Roddenberry said. “There are going to be people who say, ‘Rod is a schmuck for not putting his mother in this.’ I’m putting myself out there, like you say. There are going to be plenty of strengths and plenty of weaknesses.”
Roddenberry had to come to terms on his relationship with his father, although that discovery took place well after the older Roddenberry’s 1991 passing. The idea of doing this documentary was to explore just that, and discover his father through new sets of eyes, ranging from people involved in Star Trek over the years, and those who were inspired by it — like George Lucas and even Stan Lee.
“I learned that my father had two different families,” Roddenberry said. “He had this Star Trek family — his cast and crew that was like his family. And then he would come home to this family.
“Many occasions, it was said that Wil Wheaton was like a son to my father. I don’t know if I ever got 100 percent of my father, and I sort of had to deal with this. And we did that in the documentary.”
“Trek Nation” premieres this fall on Science. To see exclusive video from this interview with Roth and Roddenberry, click here.