Story: Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry Jr. didn’t have the closest relationship with his dad, Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek). Rod was a rebel when he was a kid and young man. He never understood Star Trek nor grasped just how far its appeal reached. When Gene died in 1991, Rod was only 17. Starting in 2001, Rod set out to discover his father through the creation of a documentary. It would take 10 years to complete. Through the next decade, Rod would talk to many involved with Gene from the production side of the various iterations of Star Trek (head writer D.C. Fontana, actors Patrick Stewart and Nichelle Nichols, head writers Michael Piller and Rick Berman, and etc.), to fans of all shapes and sizes (some of the most notable being comic book creator Stan Lee and Star Wars creator George Lucas), to family and friends (such as Rod’s mother and Gene’s wife Majel Barrett, who also served as a cast member on a few Star Trek shows). The documentary covers Gene’s early life to his final days. This means that the main focus is on Star Trek: The Original Series, the original cast films, and Star Trek: The Next Generation (which are the Star Trek properties in which Gene had direct involvement), though some attention is given to the J.J. Abrams reboot films. More than a biography of The Great Bird of the Galaxy, we have the story of a father and a son as the son tries to find and understand the father and the creation that the son never knew well enough.
Thoughts: This documentary is fairly short at 82 minutes but it packs in a fair amount of information, insights, and opinions from Rod and the interviewees. It does gloss over, if not completely omit, certain details that I would think important. When describing Gene Roddenberry’s post original series and pre-Star Trek movie days where he struggled to find work, no mention is given to the fact the he did produce a short lived Star Trek animated series with the original cast. Would think that effort to keep Star Trek going during rough times would’ve garnered at least a small reference.
Ignoring the omissions for a second (because, let’s face it, they’re always going to be present in biographies of even the longest length), the documentary does a good job at giving you an idea of the man behind Star Trek. It speaks highly of his accomplishments but also doesn’t shy away from his failings as a writer, show-runner, and person. Some of the negative truths about him may be hard to hear for some, but they are needed if you want a full view of the man.
Walking away from this documentary is mostly a positive experience. It’s not the best out there nor do I feel the need to ever watch it again, but as a profile on one of the greats of modern day sci-fi, it’s pretty good.