featured Interview

Interview: Rod Roddenberry Talks the Legacy of His Father, Gene Roddenberry, and What ‘Star Trek’ Means to Him

October 25, 2021Ben MK

For the crew of the original starship Enterprise, exploring the outer reaches of our galaxy has always been about boldly going where no one has gone before. But for Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, the final frontier was about much more than just telling an entertaining sci-fi story — it was about breaking barriers, challenging stereotypes, and spreading a message of peace, unity and acceptance. It's a mantra that current shows like Star Trek: Discovery and Picard continue to hold true to to this day. And for Roddenberry's son Rod, it's a torch that he's proud to carry forward into the future, especially as Star Trek celebrates its 55th anniversary with the release of the complete original series in a limited edition Blu-ray steelbook collection.

I caught up with Rod Roddenberry to chat about his father's legacy and his most memorable Star Trek moment, as well as to find out what the franchise's dedicated fan base means to him.

This year would have been Gene Roddenberry's 100th birthday, and it also marks the 55th anniversary of Star Trek's debut. Looking back on his legacy, what are you the most proud of?

Roddenberry: The enduring philosophy of Star Trek — The IDIC philosophy, which stands for infinite diversity from infinite combinations. It's something that we needed, of course, in the '60s, and we needed long before that, and something that we certainly need today. Not just tolerance, but the appreciation for things, the thirst for things. My father really didn't believe in tolerance, because that just means you tolerate the person who has a different idea. He believed in accepting them for who they are and the fact that they've got a unique idea. And not only accepting them, but being interested in that unique idea, because that's how we grow as a species, to get new ideas. You don't always have to agree, but from hearing that unique perspective, you can infuse that into your own views and evolve as a human being. That's what we all should be doing as humans — easy for me to say, very hard to do.

The current lineup of Star Trek shows (Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks) are all part of the latest era in the franchise. As an executive producer, what has been your guiding light, in terms of both honoring the spirit of the original series and moving the franchise forward?

Roddenberry: Alex Kurtzman has really been the guiding light on a lot of these, and of course the writing team at Secret Hideout. My involvement has been to do exactly what I just said. When I send up notes on a concept or a story or a script, they usually come from that perspective. These new shows are for a new audience. We've evolved as an audience, and we need some new content that sometimes might be a little bit grittier. Sometimes it deals with some of the darker things of today, but we always make sure to have a guiding principle, a guiding light, a guiding character or message that says, "We are Starfleet and we are better than this."

Sure, we can make mistakes, but we need to rise above them and infuse the principles of IDIC into whatever the scene or the story is. So, for our characters to purely be afraid of things that are different, that wouldn't be Star Trek. You've got [Star Trek: Discovery's] Michael Burnham, who's always the one looking at a scenario or a new species or a new idea, and saying, "Hold on, maybe we should consider it from a different point of view." And while there are many creatives that know Star Trek and infuse that into it, that is the approach that I take.

Of course, the fans are a major part of what has made Star Trek such a worldwide phenomenon. Can you talk about what the fandom means to you?

Roddenberry: On some level, the fans introduced me and taught me what Star Trek was. My father passed away when I was 17, and I was watching Knight Rider and Starsky and Hutch and Adam-12 back then. After my father passed away, fans would come up to me and tell me how Star Trek inspired them. Whether they had an abusive relationship, a severe handicap, or in some way they felt outcast in society, Star Trek gave them a view of the future where they would be accepted for who they are. That blew me away, and I became very proud of that. The fans have done that for the last 30 years for me and, of course, for all 55 years of Star Trek. So I owe everything to them. And that is truly what I try to bring to Star Trek — that philosophy and their points of view.

There have been so many memorable Star Trek episodes over the years. Do you have a favorite one?

Roddenberry: My first experience with Star Trek was "The Devil in the Dark," an original series episode with the Horta. It was the first time I saw a story where the Enterprise comes in to try to save the day, because there's this evil monster killing humans. First of all, they try to shoot it and it doesn't do anything, but then Spock says, "Let's try to communicate." And they find out it's a sentient, intelligent being. And we find out even more — that it's a mother protecting its young, and its young are the crystals we are mining. We are killing its children.

So, who is the devil in the dark? Well, it turns out that it's us. That was the first time I saw the power of Star Trek. And for me, that is the ultimate Star Trek — where we start to see something from a different point of view that we never considered. And once we are able to shift that perspective and that thinking, we can have empathy, we can have love. And I think most people would agree, we need a lot more of that in the world right now.

Star Trek: The Original Series is available on Limited Edition Blu-ray Steelbook October 26th.

You May Also Like