Date of publishing: 23rd
Eugene Roddenberry was born in the television mecca
of Los Angeles, California to Gene Roddenberry
and Majel Barrett Roddenberry. Eugene's
parents made a conscious effort to keep their son
out of the limelight and he was able to have a relatively
normal yet priveledged childhood without the glare
of Hollywood. He attended John Thomas Dye Elementary
School in Los Angeles and then went to Harvard-Westlake
High School in Studio City, California. During his
formative years, Eugene's interests were more social
than academic. However, he soon understood the importance
of education and was able to increase his marks as
he progressed in his schooling. He eventually enrolled
at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. His
college career was interrupted towards his final semester
because Eugene couldn't resist the pull of the family
business and was offered the opportunity to work on
a new series, "Gene Roddenberry's Earth:
Final Conflict", to be shot in Toronto,
Canada. He jumped at the chance to learn about the
entertainment industry and to develop his creative
juices with some of the most successful producers
in the industry. "Earth: Final Conflict"
is essentially his first serious foray into the entertainment
industry and qualifies as his both worst and most
exciting job. In 1987, Eugene was given his first
official job as a production assistant on "Star
Trek: The Next Generation" by no other
than his father. He continued to work as a production
assistant over the course of five summers and a school
semester on the set of "Star Trek: Deep
Nuytens: Being the
son of Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett I guess
your childhood and youth must have been very interesting.
Can you share some of your memories of your dad with
us? What inspired you to follow in his footsteps?
Eugene Roddenberry: Some memories
of my dad, well, first of all having Majel Barrett-Roddenberry
and Gene Roddenberry as my mom and dad as a child
is not different than anyone else so to speak. My
father was daddy and my mom was mommy, you know? It
was fairly average. Now perhaps I was spoiled and
very fortunate in that area but you know mommy cooked
dinner and daddy went to work and it was pretty typical.
Now as they got older and I became a teenager you
know around 11, 12, 13 that’s when my father
became busy with The Next Generation. At that time
we actually kind of grew apart. The father-son relationship
grew apart. I became a rebellious teenager and he
became consumed with work. We did not communicate
as well as we did in the past and fought. He became
more of an authority figure. So let me jump back to
a memory that I have of my father when I was very
young. My father and I used to do something called
bumming. This was when I was from 5 – 8 years
of age. We would get into his Cadillac and he would
drive to the Santa Monica Pier but on the freeway
he would put the car into second gear and I could
barely see over the dashboard. The RPMs would shoot
up and the car would vibrate. He said we will go in
speedster and I would go oh daddy we’re going
so fast. This was speedster. That was our word that
we used. He probably wouldn’t go faster than
55 or 65 but it felt like we were jetting down the
freeway. Then we would get to the Pier and we would
play some arcade games or knock over the milk jugs
with the ball. He would win me a doll. We would play
the games that were on the pier and it was a lot of
fun. Then we would have a late lunch and he would
drive me home. We would pull into the garage of the
house and he would close the garage behind the car
and leave the headlights on and he would turn off
the car and he would look over me and say, I am Gene
Pupu Roddenberry. I would look back at him and say
I am Rod Pupu Roddenberry. This was the sort of ceremonious
way of ending our afternoon of bumming. We would both
walk into the garage with grins on our faces and hiding
it from my mom who of course knew what was going on.
But this was our father-son bonding time. Jumping
ahead to a teenager he was the authority figure and
I was the rebellious teenager. He said yes, I said
no. We didn’t hate each other. Of course we
loved each other but that innocence; that father-son
relationship was definitely kind of lost in that time
period. It really wasn’t until after he passed
away when I was 17 years old that I started to wonder
who my dad was. I was never an adult I never had adult
conversations with my father as a teenager. I never
spoke to him about philosophy, history, science or
politics in Hollywood and all the nonsense that goes
on. Those are things that I would love to have discussed
with him. Just pick his brain and bounce my ideas
off him. What an amazing opportunity that would have
been. I have had the opportunity to learn about him
through not only his work, but also through the fans
that know him and his work. That’s been an amazing
opportunity. It has allowed me to really get to know
who my father was. I became inspired to follow in
his footsteps but it was really after he passed away.
It was at his memorial service. A gentleman got on
stage and spoke of a letter that had been sent to
my father in the early 80s. It was about a quadriplegic
gentleman who couldn’t move. In the letter the
gentleman said that he was born a quadriplegic and
his parents did the best they could to take care of
him. They had fought and struggled just to pay the
bills and give him a better life. After a while they
had to put him in a nursing home where he lived his
life as a prisoner in his own body and eventually
gave up. He lost all hope and tried to kill himself.
He actually tried to kill himself numerous times.
Due to his condition he couldn’t do it. Then
he said in 1966 a show called Star Trek came on the
air. It presented a future in which even if he were
never able to walk again he would still be an accepted
member of society and not a bedridden outcast. You
know the way that we tend to treat handicap people
today shows we don’t know how to behave. I can
only speak for myself and sometimes I don’t
know how to behave. Does one just act normal or work
extra hard to do things. Sometimes they get offended
or upset by the way people behave towards them. Anyway
I couldn’t believe that my father had touched
a life in this way. Excuse me I jumped ahead. Let
me go back. The show Star Trek came on the air and
spoke of the future. The letter continues to credit
my father for giving him hope he said I am now 49
years old, I’m married and have 3 kids and that
is what affected me so much. I couldn’t believe
that a TV show that my father created had touched
a life in this way. You know he really gave someone
the opportunity to live through his message of a hopeful
future and united humanity. That is what inspired
me to follow in my father’s footsteps.
Gilles Nuytens: As
a kid, did you watch Star Trek? Did you like it? Was
science fiction present in your daily life?
Eugene Roddenberry: I did not watch
Star Trek as a kid. It wasn’t my kind of show.
I liked Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky and Hutch, and Knight
Rider. I did like sci-fi. I loved Star Wars but I
wasn’t into intellectual thought provoking science
fiction. I was into entertainment, plain entertainment.
I did like science fiction, there was more Star Wars
in my life as a young child than there was Star Trek.
Nuytens: Majel Barrett
is nicknamed the First Lady of Star Trek and is for
sure one of the main ladies of science fiction. So
what is she really like?
Eugene Roddenberry: That’s
a very good question. I will tell you what she is
really like. If you have ever watched Next Generation
and seen the character Lwaxana Troi that character
was not developed and then they hired my mother to
play it. They hired my mother and basically let her
come up with her own character of flamboyant you know
mother to Deanna Troi. And yes, Lwaxana is over the
top and my mother is to a lesser degree just as over
the top. Of course she is a wonderful lady with a
huge heart. She speaks her mind no matter what the
situation and you know she won’t let you get
away with shit. Pardon my language but she is very
direct and she is not going to play games with you.
That is what I love about her besides from being my
mother of course. She is a truly wonderful lady. We
don’t always see eye-to-eye and we do have our
communication issues but we love each other very much
and we work around them to the best of our ability.
Gilles Nuytens: In
times like ours, in times of senseless wars and violence
do you feel Gene Roddenberry’s ideal equation
of the future of humanity, of human kind is still
valid? Would such a future be possible?
Eugene Roddenberry: I’m of
the belief that and you’ve heard this from my
father, that we are a very young species. I don’t
know if we’re in our adolescence or in our infancy
but either way we have a lot to learn and we’re
going to make mistakes, some of them grave, grave,
grave mistakes. I wish we wouldn’t, I wish we
didn’t and I wish we could all just agree. Can’t
we just all get along? But that’s not how it
is right now. I do think things are getting better,
not getting worse like many other people think. I
see the good in so many people around me. I see the
ability. I see the desire to not just tolerate but
to accept differences. You know so many people say
tolerate. Tolerate the people around you. Tolerate
different religions. Tolerate different ideas. What
tolerate means is to just let it sit next to you even
though it annoys you. Ignore it. Just let it sit there.
What you need to do is accept new ideas and different
ideas. By accepting it doesn’t mean that you
believe in them. It just means that you accept them
for who they are. If someone believes in the opposite
thing as me that is something that I am willing to
accept, that there may be an opposite idea to mine.
I can grow as a person, as an individual from hearing
what that opposite idea is. Anyway we do have a long
way to go and I don’t condone it, but sad and
terrible things are going to happen. What I am going
to do to make a difference is not do those bad things,
is to accept people and talk to people about my feelings
and my thoughts and be willing to listen to theirs.
That is the most important thing, not to just listen
but to hear what others say and incorporate it into
my own belief system, my own daily belief system.
I think we will have a Star Trek future. I don’t
know if it will be the 23rd century, the 22nd, or
the 24th but I think we will have a Star Trek future
because you know eventually we will all realize that
the killing and wars are senseless. It is much easier
to put our differences aside and work together for
the greater good. Not get rid of our differences.
We can embrace those but not to wear them on our shoulder
on a daily basis. We need to look at our commonalities
above and beyond our differences and that’s
what needs to be celebrated everyday.
Nuytens: In September
we will celebrate our 40th anniversary of the beginning
of Star Trek. The series was created long before I
was born and no one could have foreseen the impact
it would have on modern culture and TV. From your
point of view what’s the main achievement of
Eugene Roddenberry: The main achievement
of Star Trek as I said in a previous question but
its kind of created a central theme, a central idea
of unity that people from all walks of life, from
all cultures, all religions have agreed with. I mean
the fact that, we as a species can get along and will
have a future together, is actually amazing. That
is one of the main things that inspired me to do what
I do everyday. Star Trek is not just entertainment.
It is a philosophy about the future. It’s a
philosophy about humanity and it presents a future
that looks good. So many things present a future that
looks bad. Star Trek presents a future that I want
now and I know a lot of other Star Trek fans want
it now too. We are willing to work for it. We are
open minded enough to work in that direction and so
every little bit counts. Every person that you talk
to without preaching to them but just every person
that you talk to with kindness and acceptance will
carry that on to the next person. Even if it’s
just a little bit, we can spread it. We can spread
goodness like a disease, what a good disease. We can
create it all over this world and it will spread like
Gilles Nuytens: Of
all the series and its universe created by Gene Roddenberry
what’s your favorite and why?
Eugene Roddenberry: Well I have to
tell you I am a Next Generation fan. It was of my
generation. That doesn’t mean I don’t
like the original series. I was just brought up with
The Next Generation. However I see the reason why
Star Trek appealed to so many people when I watch
the original series, appeal to so many intelligent
people I should say as well. Yeah, Next Generation
is just my series. I loved it. I don’t know
why. The writing is better as well as the stories
and when I say better I am referring to Deep Space
Nine, Voyager and Enterprise and of course that is
only my opinion. There are many differences and different
ideas out there and different people think different
shows are better. But I like The Next Generation.
When I was a kid I used to come home from school and
my father would have the VHS tapes, the raw tapes
of each episode and every Thursday I would watch The
Next Generation at home. I was actually a legitimate
fan of The Next Generation you know before I started
this quest to find out who my father was. It’s
almost independent of who my father was. Even at that
time I didn’t make the connection as to him
creating this show. It was just a show my father worked
on that was pretty good.
Nuytens: You are
a producer and writer. In which of these two activities
do you find yourself more comfortable, any preference?
Eugene Roddenberry: You know I am
not very good at either right now. I am not much of
a producer. I haven’t done too much. I am not
that experienced. And you know I spend some time writing
and I haven’t been writing for a while. When
I find a story that I am into then I really enjoy
the writing process and that happens rarely for me.
Of course I don’t sit down and try that often
but when I do try and when I do have a story that
I love, my imagination is going like a million miles
now and I love it. I guess if I had to answer that
question I would say writing but just for the record
I write very little and I produce very little. I am
a scuba diver and an explorer. I think I like the
hands-on approach a little bit more but we will see
what the future holds.
Gilles Nuytens: You
have inherited from your parents the love for science
fiction and in fact you have devoted yourself almost
exclusively to science fiction if I am not wrong.
Eugene Roddenberry: You are not wrong.
Gilles Nuytens: Have
you ever thought about trying other genres?
Eugene Roddenberry: Well I have thought
about it in the sense of I have wondered and you know
I am not into cop shows and I don’t know anything
about being a cop and I don’t know where to
begin. I see the lawyer shows. I see the doctor shows.
I don’t think I could do any of those. I don’t
know what I would write about. Now here is the contradiction
in what I just said. Star Trek isn’t about science
fiction. It was never intended to be about science
fiction. Star Trek is about people and that’s
when you have good drama, when you have people and
social issues that the audience can relate to. So
the contradiction there says that I could write for
any genre and if by genre, maybe I took genre wrong.
I could write any sort of science fiction or any sort
of non-science fiction show. And as long as I write
about people it would be good. Then maybe I should
say I don’t have an interest in writing about
cops, lawyers or doctors. And if you think genres,
movies I just haven’t explored but the science
fiction sounds good right now and the documentary
I am working on Trek Nation. I don’t think I
am going to make too many documentaries. We will see.
Gilles Nuytens: You
interceded with Paramount in New Voyages’ behalf.
What was your personal opinion about the work that
the guys did for New Voyages?
Eugene Roddenberry: Well I will tell
you what I never interceded with Paramount. These
guys were doing great without me. When I found out,
I actually got a script. This was a second one In
Harm’s Way I got the script and I normally don’t
read scripts that are written by fans. There is a
policy in Hollywood. It’s sort of a liability
thing. It’s kind of nonsense. A close friend
of mine told me to read it and I did and I thought
it was fantastic. I thought it was the closest thing
to the original series since the original series.
I contacted them and told them I want to be a part
of it. They thought I was in close with Paramount
and you know little did they know my family’s
had this love-hate relationship with Paramount for
almost 40 years. I do not hate Paramount. I love Paramount
and I look forward to working with them. But there
has just been a lot of politics if you can imagine.
I did not help them with Paramount at all. They did
that on their own and their work stood on it’s
own. I think they did an amazing job. Just to bottom
line it the episode, New Voyages, the episode In Harm’s
Way I believe is the closest thing to true Star Trek
since the original series and I mean it’s the
closest thing to the original series since the original
Nuytens: If I asked
you to choose one of the following characters, which
one would you choose and why: Kirk, Picard, Dylan
Hunt and the main character of Earth: Final Conflict?
Eugene Roddenberry: I am not sure
if I understand the question if I asked you to choose
one of the following characters like which would be
my favorite. You know that's a real tough one. You
know I am a Next Generation fan. I mean believe it
or not I am a Picard fan even though there is a bit
of an age gap between us. It’s just someone
with integrity that I trust, someone who is in control
of the ship, someone who trusts the people around
him to do their job, someone who I think would trust
me to do the job that I would take on. I hope to be
as mature, trusting and have that kind of integrity
when I am his age. In fact when I am, I hope to have
that right now let alone his age. And we are referring
to Picard’s age not Patrick Stewart’s.
Gilles Nuytens: Star
Trek: Enterprise was cancelled after its Fourth season.
In the end it’s been only an attempt to narrate
the events that occurred before the original series
and it’s been very much criticized by fans.
What's your opinion of Star Trek: Enterprise?
Eugene Roddenberry: I’ve always
felt that Star Trek should just lay low for a while.
They’ve done enough with Deep Space Nine and
Voyager. When they came up with Enterprise I thought
you know what, I will give it a shot, I love Scott
Bakula. That was probably the reason why I was willing
to give it a chance because of Scott Bakula. I watched
all of the first season and I thought it was pretty
good. I watched 2 episodes of the second season and
I lost interest, you know I really just lost interest.
I felt like it really wasn’t an ensemble cast.
These other characters were just kind of there. The
other characters on the bridge didn’t really
seem to have parts and you didn’t get to know
about them and you didn’t care about them. At
least that's what happened up to the beginning of
the second season. I am sure it developed beyond that.
I heard when Manny Coto came aboard, he really turned
the show around and brought it back to the original
theory. He made sure the episodes were about something
not just references to the original series but they
were actually about something. That is truly Star
Trek when you are talking about social issues. I have
not watched anything beyond the first two episodes
of the second season. I didn’t even watch the
last episode of the series because I didn’t
want to ruin it. So one of these days I will sit down
and I will push myself to watch the Second Season
and I am sure by that time I will enjoy the 3rd and
has recently announced its intention to release Star
Trek 11, a new incarnation of the original series
with new actors. What's your opinion of that? Do you
have any news you can share with us?
Eugene Roddenberry: Well this goes
back to one of my earlier answers. I still feel that
Star Trek should rest for 5 or 10 years. However,
the fact that they are doing it with JJ Abrams a real
Star Trek fan and someone who’s proven to Hollywood
that he can do good stuff, I am less concerned. I
think he is extremely talented and I think he will
do the right thing for Star Trek. Now I don't know
him personally and I believe he will take it seriously.
He doesn’t want to screw up Star Trek. He doesn’t
want to piss off the fans. He is a fan. I just want
to make sure that he has full control to choose his
team and the people he listens to and is not pressured
by the corporate suits who say it needs to have big
chits in action. So I look forward to meeting him
and finding out what kind of guy he is more than what
kind of producer, writer or director he is. I have
no control or say over what he does or anything Paramount
does for that matter and at this point I kind of don't
want to. This Star Trek is their baby. My father sold
it to them in the ‘80s. I would love to be involved.
I would love to participate. I would love to contribute.
I would love to share constructive criticism and my
opinion. If they are willing to let me do that I am
more than willing to involve myself in the project.
But for right now its JJ Abrams’s baby. I don't
know any details although I have spoken to his agent
and there is a lot of talk in Hollywood but they said
we will get together and we will all talk one day.
So we will see if what happens.
Gilles Nuytens: Is
what about your current projects?
Eugene Roddenberry: Well I think
I told you little bit about my current project did
I not? My current project and it’s been my project
for about 5 years has been a documentary called Trek
Nation which sort of began as the antithesis, the
opposite of the documentary Trekkies where it was
the exploration of the positive effects of Star Trek
on the world and the people that it’s affected
in a positive way. You know it’s inspired people
to see beyond their limitations whether it’s
a physical handicap or simply someone who doesn’t
believe that they can achieve something greater, it’s
inspired them to say hey I can do it, I am an amazing
person, we are an amazing species we can do great
things. Anyway that's where it began and evolved into
a son searching for his father and who his father
is, who his father was. Obviously I am the son searching
for my father because my father passed away when I
was 17 and you know I would say from the ages of 1
to 10 I knew him as daddy. You know we had a good
father-son relationship but the minute I became a
teenager and the minute he began working on Next Generation
we were at odds. I became a rebellious teenager and
he became the authority figure and then at 17 he passed
away. I never got to know my father as an adult. I
never got to know the Great Bird of the Galaxy. I
never even got to know Gene Roddenberry I mean I got
to know daddy and the authority figure. I want to
sit down with him you now and ask him about philosophy
and religion and politics and sex and all these amazing
topics that I have heard people speak about in reference
to him or I have read his works or I have seen his
shows and I am fascinated and have lot of questions.
Trek Nation has involved into that documentary and
it’s really been an uphill process. I am partnered
with a gentleman by the name of Scott Colthorp a really
good friend of mine. He has been based on the East
Coast I am on the West so the filming process was
every 3 to 6 months. One of us would fly out to the
other and shoot for about 5 to 10 days and then disappear.
The editing process started about a year ago and that's
been difficult because we have over 200 hours of footage.
That is including B-role and family, home movies and
all sorts of stuff and it’s just been an immense
undertaking. I have to say that Scott Colthorp has
been the one who has really jumped in and driven this
home as far as editing goes. He has been the one that's
been editing. I’ve
sat on the sidelines so to speak with occasional commentary
and hopefully pushing in a certain direction but the
vision is Scott’s and it’s really turning
out to be something fantastic. I would say we are
still 3 months away from a solid cut and 6 months
away from anything sort of public any sort of announcements
or deals being signed. As far as the other projects,
there is a million little things that I want to do.
I want to do the Star Trek dive club basically just
a scuba diving club, people who get together maybe
once a year to travel to a destination to go scuba
diving. One of my ideas was to contact the Kennedy
Space Center in Florida and dive off the coast there
because over the past 40 years, almost 40 years there
must be 50 years wreckage, you know rocket wreckage
in the waters there. I think it would be kind of cool
to dive down and come across a rocket engine or a
rocket body or something like that. I think it would
be really neat. That is something that I haven’t
really pushed too much. But if you know of anyone
who is interested please let me know. I need someone
just to sort of run the website and run the club.
Well there is a lot of little projects. You know just
go to www.roddenberry.com
and sign up for the newsletter and we are announcing
all sorts of little projects here and there. These
are all I say they are small but these are all stepping
stones to larger and larger things.
Gilles Nuytens: Are
there any plans for the 40th Star Trek anniversary
you can talk about?
Eugene Roddenberry: No unfortunately
there is nothing secret, nothing big that I know about
as far as the 40th anniversary goes nothing that you
don't already know. Creation Entertainment is doing
a number of conventions I believe one in Chicago and
one in Sacramento on what is it September 12th or
September 6th the day of Star Trek’s release,
the original series was released. They are also doing
their annual Las Vegas Science Fiction Convention,
this year it should be amazing. It should be huge
and I recommend everyone attend it will be fantastic.
As far as Paramount stepping up and doing some sort
of 40th tribute, 40th event I can imagine they would
do something but I imagine its going to be maybe a
gala or a dinner or something like that at Paramount
just for the people that have been involved in this
show. But that's just a guess. I am hoping they will
do that just to pay tribute to the people who have
worked on the show. Otherwise we were going to have
Trek Nation out and kind of call it as 40th anniversary
tribute to fandom you know it’s just sort of
a thank you from the Roddenberrys to the fans. We
are not going to have the project done in time. It
will still be a tribute to the fans. That is why I
am doing Trek Nation because I’ve been inspired
by fandom and fandom has been inspired by Star Trek.
It was really the fans that taught me what Star Trek
My best to you, and everyone in the club, come to
and say hi. I wish you the best. I wish you a great
future and I hope to see you soon.
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