Chief Justice Michael Stailey needs to boldly go more places.
A Father. A Life. A Legacy.
Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry Jr didn't really know his father, at least not in the way millions of Star Trek fans did. This man was simply "Dad," and Rod was the rebellious teen who couldn't give a rats ass about Trek…until he got older, and lost his father. When a multitude of people from all walks of life showed up at Gene's funeral, and an outpouring of love and respect the world over descended upon his family home, Rod realized there might be more to Dad than he previously thought.
So he embarked on a multi-year mission of his own: To understand this "Great Bird of the Galaxy" from the people who worked with him and knew him best. The most logical place to start was with his mother, Majel Barrett (Westworld), but that was pretty much a dead end. While she spends countless hours attending fan conventions and talking passionately with fans, she had very little to say about her late husband. Much of that reticence may be due to the fact that their relationship was anything but idyllic. Gene was a well-known womanizer who prided himself on the conquests he achieved. In fact, Majel and Gene met when he was still married to his first wife, so I supposed it's not too surprising the situation would be any different the second time around. Rod digs deeper, trying to explore this aspect of his father with others, but no one was comfortable discussing it.
Shifting gears, the investigation moves into Gene's early life, pre-Star Trek: The Original Series, driven by a memoir-esque recording the elder Roddenberry made in the late 1970s for fans. This includes Gene's time in the US Air Force during WWII, his commercial piloting days for Pan Am, and his years as an LAPD sergeant, all of which help to flesh out the portrait of a man whose first spec script for Have Gun—Will Travel blew long-suffering industry people away. Thus begins the life of the man Star Trek fans would come to know, love, and admire.
But this is not a documentary about Gene Roddenberry. This is Rod's story, and it's a surprisingly effective one. A kid who didn't give a shit about anything grows into a man fascinated with understanding and continuing his father's legacy. Through this lens, we gain a unique perspective on the Trek franchise. Sure, it's been explored and exploited for decades, but never have we heard these sorts of deep insider discussions about the all-too human frailties of science fiction legend. And though the truth often hurts, it's never exploitive or incendiary. We are simply along for the ride as a son desperately tries to know a father who has long since left this world…and it works.
Presented in standard def 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 2.0 Stereo, MPI has partnered with Roddenberry to bolster what was already a compelling film by providing an entire second disc full of slickly produced bonus material…
• Video Commentary—Rod and co-producer Trevor Roth provide running commentary on the film and how the project evolved from what they originally set out to create. While I'm not sure the video capture provides any significant value, the commentary sheds an entirely new light on the material presented in the film itself.
• Extended interviews with George Lucas (13 min), JJ Abrams (14 min), Seth MacFarlane (13 min), Stan Lee (12 min), Star Trek: The Next Generation executive producer Rick Berman (15 min), Wil Wheaton (13 min), son of Carl Sagan and Star Trek: Voyager story editor Nick Sagan (14 min), and Gene's executive assistant Ernie Over (12 min).
• "Infinite Diversity: The Fans of Star Trek" (19 min)—Exploring the passionate fan response to the Star Trek franchise.
• "A Star Trek is Born" (2 min)—Writer and Roddenberry family friend Christopher Knopf tells Rod how the Gene came up with the concept for Star Trek: The Original Series.
• "Rare Home Movies" (9 min)—A collection of Gene's home movies with commentary by Rod, film which he'd never seen before starting work on this project.
• "Star Walking" (16 min)—Gene's Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony from 4 September 1986.
• Trailer—The original trailer for the film.
Don't be fooled by the title. This is not another Trekkies. Instead, Trek Nation is a valuable addition to the list of films that pull back the curtain on the entertainment industry to help understand what makes creative people tick…warts and all. In case this, those lessons are learned post-mortem through the eyes of a son who discovered a very different father than he knew him to be, and a very different Sci-Fi legend than fans have long admired.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Video Commentary
Review content copyright © 2013 Michael Stailey; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.