About 10 days ago I got an email asking me if I was interested in joining Rod Roddenberry at a private viewing of his documentary Trek Nation being held for his friends and a few fans.
Uh…does the Enterprise have warp nacelles??
It was not a difficult decision 😉
Rod and his peeps were kind enough to let me bring two guests so I grabbed my Mom and my friend Darcy. The screening was at a sports bar, the irony and hilarity of which did not escape us. But seeing as I’m one of those weirdo chicks that like sci-fi AND sports, it was kind of perfect for me (Go Chargers!)
Rod, his wife and his friends were all incredibly nice. I had so much fun chatting with them before and after the screening. I have a copy of The Continuing Mission that I’ve been collecting signatures in for years. I asked Rod if he would sign it and he said he would be happy to. He then proceeded to sign it up in the corner explaining that he wanted to leave the main area open for the big signatures of the big stars. He’s very humble and almost in awe of the role fate has given him. Instead of exploiting it like so many other children of Hollywood, he has funneled this opportunity into his environment and science-based Roddenberry Foundation. He’s big on scuba diving and has become passionate about protecting Earth’s oceans. Just this past October the Roddenberry Center for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at Gladstone was inaugurated, helping to pave the way for all of those advancements in medicine that make Star Trek such an idealic version of the future. Y’all know I love it when people help each other.
I’m sure that many of you have seen Trekkies and/or its follow up Trekkies 2. If not, you should. I am ridiculously good at poking fun at myself and I think that most of the world is far too PC so I can appreciate the comedic portrayal of the more “out there” fanatics of Star Trek. While that is all well and good and has its place in pop culture, Trekkies is severely lacking representation of the rest of us (i.e. the people who DON’T dress up and sing folk songs as the wife of the dead astronaut in “The Royale.”)
Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry set out to change that, to show us Trekkies and Trekkers as the beautiful and highly intelligent individuals that we are. A group of fans joined together by arguably the greatest science fiction franchise of all time and a man most of us have never met. Somewhere along the line the focus changed and, while the aspect of “normal” Trekkers was still vital, it also became a documentary about Rod’s journey to discover his father, a man he hardly knew himself.
My Dad was away on Westpacs a lot while I was growing up so I can empathize with what it’s like to feel like you don’t know your Dad but I can’t even begin to fathom what it must be like to lose your father at age 17. Close or not, losing a parent cannot be easy at such a vulnerable age.
Rod was very brave in wanting to know everything about his Dad, the good, the bad and the ugly. I mentioned some of these triumphs and tribulations in my tribute back on October 24th but Trek Nation goes infinitely deeper. Over the course of 10 years Rod interviewed dozens of people about Gene Roddenberry, from fans who idolize him to former co-workers who felt very bitter towards him. The one common thread between them all was that they got it. They understood Gene Roddenberry’s vision and, in many cases, fought for it. Watching Rod go through this whole process is touching and his humility when faced with his father’s greatness is endearing. It’s obvious that this was a true labor of therapeutic love, not just for his parents, but for Star Trek and the fans so that we too can understand the imperfect human behind the Great Bird of the Galaxy.
At the screening Rod mentioned that they only used about 5% of the footage they shot (10 years worth, remember?) and I’m hoping that the DVD has much of what ended up on the cutting room floor. I could easily watch 12 more hours of this. The decades worth of footage and the natural shifts in focus result in a documentray that feels totally organic and never forced. At one point in the editing process the test audiences felt that there was too much emphasis on Rod and so they shifted it back to Gene. The sheer volume of material allowed them to tweak it to perfection. The subject matter isn’t always pretty but it’s always pure. One of my favorite parts of the documentary is the montages of the costumed Trekkies. The manner in which they are filmed is simple yet stunning. Trek Nation is ultimately a love letter to them.
Something tells me that Gene Roddenberry would be proud.
If you haven’t seen Trek Nation yet, it’s airing on the Science Channel Dec 28th and 29th.