Roddenberry Legacy to the Future
By PJ Hultstrand
The date is November, 12th, 1982, and I'm given the opportunity to interview Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek during his visit to Mesa Community College on his tour of the colleges for his upcoming movie, "In Search of Spock". Now understand, at that time, I could not be considered a Trekkie and my interests were in the movies and in particular in "Wrath of Khan". However, this was an opportunity to meet a mover and shaker in science-fiction and I would never pass up such an opportunities. So, I had assigned my fiancee at the time to shoot the pictures for me while I did the actual interview, then we wrote the article in the paper that went out on November 22, 1982.
As it turned out, I had an exclusive because no other newspapers showed up to take the opportunity and I was able to sit with him before the event. This became an even more interesting interview because a couple came to the event who had been a neighbor of Roddenberry's back when he was filming the series. So, I ran with it and got not only an exclusive interview but a few terrific stories from his neighbors that few would ever have the chance to report.
The couple spoke of how the neighbor kids would all congregate around the side of Roddenberry's house, where they could see and hear him through the large picture window in his den, acting out the scenes from his television series, Star Trek. The kids all called him, 'that crazy old man, Roddenberry' because they didn't know about the series, they just knew he was quite animated in his den.
Not being a trekkie, I really did not understand the impact Star Trek, nor this one man upon the future of science-fiction, so while it was a once-in-a-lifetime interview, I hadn't truly understood the real gift I had been given here. It was not until I followed him into the auditorium where some 2,000 true trekkies were waiting for him, that I realized the impact of his Star Trek legacy.
The rest of this story is not known to many people and I did not include it in my reporting because I was not allowed to in the college newspaper. After all, I wasn't writing for "Rolling Stones" where such events are pretty common place among rock bands and I was just a shocked freshman in college.
As we were following Roddenberry into the auditorium, a young lady had a T-shirt on toting something about beaming her up, where she lifted her shirt and asked him to sign her breasts. Roddenberry handled it well, he just laughed and looked back at me and stated, "Now, that's not something you see every day." Even after thirty-one years, I remember that moment and probably always will because it just shows the devotion of the fans of the Star Trek legacy.
FAST FORWARD INTO 2013
April 19 through the 21, 2013, Prescott, Arizona hosted a Sci-Fi Mini Film Festival where they had invited Rod Roddenberry, son of Mr. Gene Roddenberry, to show his own documentary called, "Trek Nation: A Father, A life, A Legacy". Rod has taken over the Roddenberry family business through film and philanthropy. Since Rod was still young when his father died, he had not understood his father's contribution to mankind through the ideal of a future of equality for all races and his desire to push out into space.
The documentary is very touching and others who have seen it have also expressed the same feelings about the film. Rod Roddenberry had pulled together some terrific interviews with other top creators in pop culture, such as Stan Lee and George Lucas, who gave their own perceptions on the creation of Star Trek and Gene's vision of humanity.
Back in 1982, during that interview with Roddenberry senior, I too had a disconnect from the bigger than life vision of Star Trek, so I understood why his son would need to seek answers to who his father was and what motivated him to use this science-fiction vehicle for speaking out about political statements and social issues of those times. Roddenberry himself said in our interview, "Star Trek's audience started out mostly with young people because the show was making a statement against the Vietnam War. We were the only show that could do it. We could hide our statement by putting it way up there."
Gene Roddenberry's message of equality for all races were protrayed over several of the episodes of Star Trek and his philosophy of social issues and our reach into space was drilled into the minds of the young generation of those times. These same kids of Star Trek are now NASA engineers and astronauts, or creators of the gadgets we use and love the most now in this century.
The Roddenberry legacy has so many far reaching ideals that the weight must have been quite heavy for his son. I think it is admirable that he is now helping in the quest to reach out to those who can help broaden the ideals that his father started in the 60's with a little known show that made a HUGE impact on the generations that have followed.
So, while you are enjoying the grand special effects spectacle that has become the new "Star Trek Into Darkness" movie, directed by J.J. Abrams, remember there are very deep roots here with the original vision and values of its creator, Gene Roddenberry. It is this remembrance that his one and only son wishes to embrace and continue to hold dear; that message coming from Gene's words, "We humans are going to make it into tomorrow. We are going to have brotherhood and one world without all our angers and intolerances". This is the LEGECY that needs to continue on into this century and into the next until the message finally sinks in and we embrace it as a species of our planet, Earth. Thank you Rod, for reminding us of our real mission for humanity and best of luck on your quest to seek out what inspired your father to share his grand vision with all generations that follow.