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Star Trek doc is a family enterprise

Heir to Gene Roddenberry's legacy takes heart in going where many have gone before.

September 15, 2012|By L. Thompson
  • "Star Trek" director J.J. Abrams (left) with Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry.
"Star Trek" director J.J. Abrams (left) with… (Courtesy of Roddenberry…)

Burbank-based Trekkers mostly missed out on a great afternoon event this past Sunday, as Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, son of “Star Trek” creator Gene, screened his documentary “Trek Nation” at the Burbank Film Festival to a sparsely populated Fletcher Auditorium in Woodbury University's Business School.

Still, the crowd of approximately 20 clapped loudly enough to make Roddenberry — along his with special-guests, “Star Trek: Voyager” costars Tim Russ and Robert Picardo — feel welcome.

Also in attendance: Tory Ireland Mell, writer-producer of the innovative, Roddenberry-produced short “White Room: 02B3,” which screened prior to “Trek Nation.” In it, six strangers (most recognizably Breckin Meyer and Rachel True) awaken in the eponymous location, with no memories and a loaded gun ready for use. It's the format that has people talking, though: shot with a 360-degree camera in the center of the room, it will be made available online in a format that gives the viewer the option of moving the viewer's POV anywhere in the room, effectively making you the film's real-time editor.

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As for “Trek Nation” (directed by Scott Colthorp; executive-produced by and starring Roddenberry), it began production over a decade ago and spans many years. Perhaps fans didn't turn out because there are already so many “Star Trek” docs out there, from both “Trekkies” movies — which Roddenberry characterizes as “Look at all these nut jobs” — to the somewhat self-indulgent convention travelogues William Shatner constantly cranks out.

Indeed, some of what's here is stuff that fans have heard before, like Nichelle Nichols' oft-retold account of how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told her why she couldn't quit the show. Yet there were also things never shown publicly until now, among them home movies of young Rod from innocent infancy to rebellious teenhood, and an exclusive interview with George Lucas on the similarities and differences with that other space franchise, and particularly its father-son issues.

Gene died when Rod was 17 and hadn't yet learned to appreciate dad's work; the documentary is his public attempt to gain that knowledge through interacting with the fans.

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