Rod Roddenberry, the son of Gene Roddenberry, the legendary writer-producer of the TV series "Star Trek" (1966-1969) and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987-1994), has lent his name to "Star Trek": The Ultimate Voyage 50th Anniversary Concert.
The concert, which melds an orchestral performance with film and TV footage, is coming to Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric on March 3. The 42-year-old Rod Roddenberry, who doesn't have a role in the concert but is helping to promote it, along with many other projects in the "Star Trek" universe, spoke recently about "Star Treks" past, present and future.
What is your role in the "Star Trek" franchise?
CBS owns "Star Trek." My dad made a deal with Desilu Productions for "Star Trek" and retained some creative control. That all died with him [in 1991]. I have control over the Roddenberry name and its use.
Your father created "Star Trek" a half-century ago. How do you account for its continued relevance and ability to find new audiences?
["Star Trek"] always speaks to the outsider, the ones that think differently. Many humans live their lives that way. They no longer fear difference in ideas. It speaks to that common thread in us all.
What would your father say or think about the evolution of "Star Trek" in the years since his passing?
I think after the success of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," he knew "Star Trek" would continue and that others would guide it. I think he would credit those who kept it alive.
You were very supportive of the first "Star Trek" movie by director J.J. Abrams. Why?
I kept saying it was very good "Star Trek." The movies have always been more action-oriented because you're appealing to a broader audience. The idea-driven "Star Trek" was made for television. You can explore those ideas in depth.
As a teen, you didn't even watch "Star Trek." Now you promote and safeguard your father's creation. How did that evolution come about?
The television shows I grew up with — "Dukes of Hazzard" and "Knight Rider" — were so one-dimensional: good guys and bad guys. I didn't believe in life-changing moments. I was privileged in many ways. But after my father died, someone read a letter he got from a quadriplegic, and the letter talked about how "Star Trek" changed his life. It was so open and raw that "Trek" touched people in that way. Then I realized that "Star Trek" was more than just entertainment.
You have been quoted as saying you couldn't connect with the idealized mythical figure of your father. But stories about his "flaws and follies" helped you form a connection. How?
People would talk about my dad, the great Gene Roddenberry, like the great Steve Jobs or the great Gandhi. It's difficult to connect to someone like that. When I made the documentary "Trek Nation," I spoke to people on camera and off camera: "What did you like about Gene Roddenberry?" [and] "What didn't you like?" I kind of knocked him off the pedestal people put him on. I could love him more. "Star Trek" fans got to see a normal man with flaws and follies, but with a beautiful vision of the future.
Through "Star Trek," your father foretold both technological innovations and social changes that have come to pass. Do you believe that he saw the future coming? And how much of an impact did "Star Trek" make in the real world?
There was nothing mystical or magical about my father. He talked to people at [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] and Cal Tech. He asked smart questions and hired smart people. One question he asked was, "We need a weapon to be nonlethal. How do we do that?" Cal Tech answered that they were working on a phasing laser. And that's where [the] phaser came from.
Gene Roddenberry imagined a world in which a lot of the social problems that existed when he created "Star Trek" had been resolved. It's 50 years after he invented "Star Trek." What would he have to say about Earth's progress in that half-century?
Thank you for asking that question. Try to think about the next 50 years. What side of history do you want to be on? I think he would be very proud of where we've come in ethics, humanity. We still have a long way to go — to think beyond ourselves and all of humanity as one.
Do you have any insider info on the new "Star Trek" series in January 2017?
I don't know more than anyone else. I think it's going to be a different "Star Trek," along the lines of the movies. I've only met Bryan Fuller, the showrunner, once or twice, but he gets it. While he's not Gene Roddenberry, he will do it justice. I think they will be looking for new formulas and ways of telling stories. I don't think they're going to create a new Starship Enterprise with a new Captain Kirk. It will probably upset some classic fans but gain new ones.
What is your take on "Star Trek"-themed fan films on the Internet?
I'm definitely supportive of [the series] "Phase II." CBS asked that no one make any money off it. [The creators have] spent $100,000 of their own money on it. No one profits from it. They do it the right way. And the stories are as good or better than the original series. **