The Star Trek franchise has been around in a variety of forms since 1966 and has permeated pop culture worldwide, spawning legions of fans and fanatics thanks to its hope filled take on the future of humanity.
But when creator Gene Roddenberry, known to fans as The Great Bird of the Galaxy, a reference to The Original Series, died in 1991, a hole was left in the lives of his followers. None felt that gap more than his son, Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, Jr., who was only 17 when his father passed away. Rod had spent a lifetime rebelling against both his father and Star Trek, admittedly oblivious to the impact of both.
Trek Nation is, simply put, about Rod’s exploration of the father he never got to know and the creation he never truly understood.
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Directed by Scott Colthrop, this documentary was produced and shot by Rod over a ten year period, and was released in 2011. The film focuses on Rod searching for details about the man he called father by examining what fans perceive as his greatest creation. Rod spends time with people who worked behind the scenes with Gene Roddenberry on both The Original Series and The Next Generation, the Star Trek iteration he was part of when he passed away.
Professionally, they talked about everything that went into birthing the concept that would become a phenomenon, the pain that followed the failure of the first series that Rod never knew about and the joy at its resurgence.
Personally, they spoke of his passion for a future better than what we had and some spoke of his philandering, an unfortunate side of Roddenberry his wife and son were all too aware of.
It’s a balanced and interesting approach to the life of someone like Roddenberry.
Rod also carried on some very insightful interviews with Hollywood’s best and brightest. In the midst of editing Episode III, George Lucas sat down to discuss Roddenberry, Star Trek and their influence on his own work. Post reboot but pre Into Darkness, J.J. Abrams talked about how hard it was to follow a man like Roddenberry and received some unexpected posthumous words of validation from the man himself. Rick Berman, who picked up the mantle after Roddenberry’s passing, has one of the most unique perspectives on the man and the franchise. Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame even chimed in. If you’ve watched any of his TV series, his love of science fiction, particularly Star Trek and Star Wars, and its influence on his own work is quite obvious. One of the most interesting interviews might be Scott Bakula’s on the second to last day of shooting for Enterprise.
But where this film’s most amazing moments come from is watching Rod interact with fans. He talks with them about the franchise, about his father, and it’s their passion tells Rod everything he needs to know. Star Trek has been resurrected more than once thanks to this devoted group, their stories connecting father to son.
Rod Roddenberry’s search for his father through the legacy of Star Trek puts the importance of the series into perspective. Trek Nation is an amazing, heartfelt examination of a man and the connection between his two greatest creations.