Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Way to Eden: Rod Roddenberry's quest for a better world

The release date for Star Trek: Discovery has been pushed back to next May, but anticipation for the new series hasn't diminished in the slightest. One reason why is due to the air of legitimacy and continuity lent by the presence of Rod Roddenberry, co-executive producer, president of Roddenberry Entertainment, and the only son of Majel Barrett and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

Rod grew up largely indifferent to Trek until Gene's death in 1991, which forced him to reexamine the franchise and his relationship to it. Looking at the testimonials to his father and to Trek inspired Rod to work towards keeping the ideals that spawned Trek alive. As Rod put it in an interview from last month:
...It's as if his death shocked me into awareness. I saw that his millions and millions of fans had connected with Star Trek in a way I never did, and I needed to know more about that. I listened to the most incredible stories of people who were able to move beyond their physical disabilities or heal from a rough childhood because of how Star Trek inspired them and encouraged them to believe in themselves. I was moved by that!
In-between work on other genre shows, some created by Gene post-TOS, Rod has slowly put thought to action in the subsequent years. The following are notable examples:

The Roddenberry Foundation searches for people with big ideas on how to improve society and gives them a pile of money to help them along. For example, Rod gave his alma mater, Hampshire College in Massachusetts, a $200,000, two-year grant "to find interdisciplinary solutions to climate change, sustainability, and social justice." Among the projects the grant will fund is a "solve-a-thon," in which participants actively work to solve a specific problem.

Rod with George Takei & Brad Altman
on their zero-gravity ride
Roddenberry Adventures is an exploration team that engages in hikes, camp outings, scuba diving and more in an effort to study the environment on a deep level. Earlier this year, they sent George Takei, his husband Brad, and twenty fans on a zero-gravity ride within a modified Boeing 727 aircraft that can create the sensation of weightlessness without actually going into space.

Roddenberry Entertainment produces multimedia sci-fi/fantasy products in the spirit of Star Trek. The graphic novel series Days Missing involves an immortal super being who steps into critical juncture points throughout history to keep humanity on the straight and narrow. Kinda like Voyagers! In 2012, a film and TV deal had been announced.

In addition, RE produced the 2010 documentary Trek Nation, in which Rod examines his father's life and legacy, not unlike Adam Nimoy's film about his father Leonard, For the Love of Spock. In an interview with Wired, Rod stated about the doc, "I want [audiences] to see the film and realize [my father] was fallible, he was flawed, of course he was human. And anyone who has passion and drive can be a Gene Roddenberry.... anyone can do what they put their mind, their heart into."

Rod with his son Zale
This fall, RF offered $1 million cash to anyone who can come up with an idea or who already has an idea on how to change the world for the better. In an interview with Trek Movie, Rod used the Trek concept of the replicator, a device that converts energy into matter, as an example of such a forward-thinking concept:
...what we'll do is start to realize what is truly unique and what can't be replicated is the individual, the philosophy, the idea, the thought. When there is no more need, no more want and we truly find value in learning about each other and the differences in each other. That's the IDIC philosophy.
Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, or IDIC, is a Vulcan concept introduced during TOS. It has come to symbolize the greater Trek ideal as well, and it is something to which Rod Roddenberry strives to live his life.

Axanar and fan fiction
William Shatner's 'Leonard'
Two Nimoy docs
Lin brokers Axanar settlement
action Trek vs. mental Trek
the new fan film rules
Discovery to break the Trek mold
Star Trek at 50


  1. I'm impressed. This is a man with a plan who puts his money where his mouth is.

  2. One can't help but wonder how he finds time in the day, given all the things in which he's involved.


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