This October will mark the 12th anniversary of the death of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
His legacy has captured the admiration of millions of fans (and put billions of dollars in the pockets of Viacom). It spawned four spinoffs -- five if you count the animated series. And it created a philosophy that to this day has yet to be duplicated.
But Gene's only son -- Eugene W. Roddenberry -- didn't allow himself the opportunity to experience any of what his father achieved until Gene passed away when Rod himself was just 16. Since then, Rod has engrossed himself in not only the true meaning of Star Trek, but the fandom as well. Attending science fiction conventions all over the country, and using not only his charming personality, but also his abrupt honesty, Rod has won legions of admirers on his own.
And now it's time to take the next step, and Roddenberry is hoping it's the right step with the filming of a new documentary, "Trek Nation." The film, which he is putting together in collaboration with Atmosphere Pictures and filmmaker Scott Colthorp, is not just an in-depth look at the ideas of Gene Roddenberry through Star Trek, but a celebration of its fandom as well.
"One of the ideas behind the documentary is to explore how far Star Trek has gone, how many cultures it's touched, how many boundaries it's pierced," Roddenberry recently told Airlock Alpha's Michael Hinman. "Finding out day after day about different countries, diferrent kinds of people who have found this idea, and that it's permeated in so many places, it says something."
Roddenberry and Atmosphere Pictures has already launched a Web site for their endeavor, located at www.treknationdoc.com where fans can not only read the latest news and share some of their Star Trek stories, but they also can see the new four-minute trailer.
Colthorp has brought his talents into the project, helping the documentary to find its direction, while at the same time providing stunning camera work that could put some movies to shame. While they have seen some success in getting the film through the production stage, Colthorp admits there is still some work that has to be done.
"We're probably one-fourth or one-third of the way through it," Colthorp said. "We still have some major interviews that we need to get."
Colthorp, who is a part of Atmosphere Pictures, said that Viacom-owned TNN would send the crew out to Star Trek conventions, and while they were there, they would spend a few extra days talking to the fans and getting footage they can include in the documentary.
"We have many people at the conventions, and we could draw them all into the offices, or to the studio, but we wanted to get out on location, and that's what we did."
It seemed that fans weren't the only people who were burned by the 1997 Roger Nygard mockumentary "Trekkies." Many of the actors from the different Star Trek series have as well. While most of them have already appeared, or agreed to appear in "Trek Nation," Roddenberry admits that they have to work a little harder to get other names, people like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. However, in the end, Roddenberry said he wants this film to not be a mockery of fans, but a celebration of them.
"You like Star Trek? That's nerdy, that's dumb," Roddenberry said of some of the reactions fans get. "When you look at the people who were inspired by Star Trek, look at where they are now, look at what it's done for them ... it's done a lot more than what any politician has, and more than what some parents have. It's not the best thing in the world, but I'm so amazed that a TV show has inspired so many people in a powerful way, that it's changed their life for the better."
While Roddenberry and Colthorp have gone out of their way to find fans of different walks of life, they both admit that they are trying to get big names as well. While already lining up people like Microsoft founder Bill Gates and even the Dalai Lama, Roddenberry said it would be fun finding some of the famous Star Trek fans who might still be a bit closeted.
"I think Eddie Murphy would be a great interview," Roddenberry said. "If we can get some names out there, some that people didn't know are Star Trek fans like (former Vice President) Al Gore, Bill Gates, Eddie Murply, an all-star cast that aren't known as Star Trek fans, I think we can really bring people in to see this. That's really saying something about Star Trek. I think it's going to open up some doors in their head and see what the show is."
The documentary will talk to fans and famous people about Star Trek, but some of it also will be dedicated to Roddenberry's exploration of his father's work as well. Despite how personal that exploration is, Roddenberry said he wants to share that with other people ... and it's a journey that could be as inspiring as Star Trek itself.
"A lot of people have asked us if this is a biography," Colthorp said. "The central thread of this documentary is a young man whose father died when he was 16 or 17 years old. Like many kids, you don't know what your dad is doing when you're 16 or 17.
"I think Rod tells a good story about his father's funeral. It sort of dawned on him, it was 'Oh my God!' He wanted to search for his father and the legacy he left behind. Probably if there was a central theme, it would be that as Rod discovers his father's legacy, he discovers how influential Star Trek was on people."
Star Trek is influential on people, but how influential would Roddenberry be on Star Trek? If Trek head honcho Rick Berman were to offer the younger Roddenberry a job, to put the Roddenberry name back on the series ... would that be something he'd consider?
"I thought about that," Roddenberry said. "I see it as a possibility as them making that offer as a business decision, I mean, what else would help more than to put the Roddenberry name back on the show. But at the same time, I think I would be a threat, not from some sort of talent or skill, but by the fact that anything good that happens on the show, I'm going to get credit for it, and anything bad is going back to Berman. All I have to do is walk on and be an instant hero. They'd give me a big office, a shitload of money, but I'd just be eye candy for the viewers.
"I couldn't run the show myself, and I'm not saying I can do it better than Rick. I think I have a lot to contribute, and I can help make it a better show. If I ever did do it, it would have to be an agreement where people have to listen, and it would definitely have to be a team thing.
"I love my dad, liked everything he did, and I think we have a similar vision. But if you put my name on the show, and if people didn't listen to me and the show got shitty and cancelled, that's going to fuck me. I don't want that. I'm very protective of my father's name, and my name. And I'm very protective of the fans."
In the trailer for "Trek Nation," Roddenberry teases the audience with some never-before-seen home movies of the elder Roddenberry at home with his family. Eugene said he wanted to show that his father was not some deity as some fans think, but a human being like everyone else.
"I think a good chunk of (the negative things about Gene) were true," Roddenberry said. "My father was a human being, he was the producer of Star Trek. When someone submitted a script, when it didn't fit my father's vision or the budget, my father rewrote it.
"I know he did drugs, I know that he had affairs, but the fact that he was flawed makes me love him more. My father proved that anyone can do this, anyone can accomplish what he did. There are so many talented fans out there. They need to be inspired to write, or become and actor, and realize that Hollywood is not as intimidating as people think."
In Part 2 of this interview -- which will be released later in the week -- Roddenberry talks about how fans exist from all walks of life -- even from people that Americans and the world have labeled as "enemies." He'll also discuss what hasn't been working in Star Trek, and some of his visions for the future.
To learn more about the "Trek Nation" documentary, visit the Web site at www.treknationdoc.com.
Michael Hinman is the news editor and founder of Airlock Alpha, based out of Tampa, Fla. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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