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Gservo
23rd August 2002, 01:53 AM
His entire life, Eugene W. Roddenberry has had to live in the shadow of his family's name. The son of the late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and popular Trek icon Majel Barrett Roddenberry, the 28-year-old found himself in situations where more was expected of him than need be.

While he has worked to make a name for himself and be credited on his own merits, it's still been a difficult journey. But one thing that the younger Roddenberry wants to ensure is that his father's philosophy is maintained as new generations discover the universe as created by Roddenberry.

One of the ways Rod, as many people refer to him, would like to keep that philosophy alive is through the production of a new documentary about Star Trek and its impact on the world. A production he describes as being the opposite of the 1997 documentary, "Trekkies."

"I did an insert for TNN (for its broadcast of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' episodes), and there I met the producer, Scott Colthorp, and he told me about an idea that he had that I had thought of many times but never did it," Roddenberry recently told SyFy Portal's Michael Hinman. "He wanted to do a bio on Gene Roddenberry, and after we talked, it became something where we wanted a view of the Star Trek phenomenonwith the fans, the positive influuence that it had on them."

The documentary, which is in the works by Atmosphere Pictures -- which did the TNN inserts -- is tentatively being called "Trek Nation." While Roddenberry said that he wanted to create something different from "Trekkies," he knows that it will be harder to sell his idea to potential investors because it lacks some of the eye-catching negativity that was in place in the 1997 documentary.

"When I saw 'Trekkies,' I was proud of the fans, but I knew how the general public took it," Roddenberry said. "I think the problem for us is going to be selling the idea. We want a theatrical release, something to make enough money to pay for itself, and not everyone is going to want to see a warm, fuzzy story about how Star Trek changed people's lives for the better."

Of course, Roddenberry said that the way to grab the general audience attention is by using the classic Hollywood formula of big names and "big-breasted blondes."

"Finding a big-breasted blonde with a good Star Trek story is not impossible, but rare," Roddenberry joked. "Seriously, we have a call into (Microsoft chairman) Bill Gates, and we're trying to get people who have some sort of positive story that are famous. Something to where we could say that we have William Shatner (Capt. Kirk, 'Star Trek'), Leonard Nimoy (Spock, TOS), and Bill Gates doing this, you'll want to give us the money to fund it. But the big names are hard to get involved.

"We've approached many of (the Star Trek stars), a lot of them, but some of them have been burned by 'Trekkies.' I was hoping that the Roddenberry name being involved would make that different, but just because I'm Gene's son doesn't mean I'm not going to make a mockery out of them."

Roddenberry said it would take a minimum of two months to try and secure funding, but it could take even longer. And now that he's involved heavily with Roddenberry.com (formerly Lincoln Enterprises), the project itself might not be in finished form for another year or two.

"We don't need to get audience support yet," Roddenberry said. "I don't mean that in an arrogant sense, but first we need to get the money to make the project. I think every Star Trek fan will go to see it just to see it, but that's only a piece of the pie."

Roddenberry -- who had made production stints on the now-cancelled "Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict," said that despite his feelings about the way his father's name is being handled, he still has a keen interest in Hollywood, and is continuing to be involved. He said he would ultimately like to produce an hour-long action series.

However, bearing the Roddenberry name has both its advantages and disadvantages in the rough and crazy world of entertainment.

"What the name does, is it opens many, many, many doors," Roddenberry said. "What it does after that is it puts an immense level of expectation on me. There are people who just want the name to piggy back on the projects they are working on, and they don't give a **** what I do on it. People who want to make it know that the minute the Roddenberry name becomes involved in sci-fi, it becomes the top of the pyramid. If a ton of people suddenly tune into watch it, I would get all the credit where I did nothing for it.

"Obviously, I feel it more of an advantage than a disadvantage. The name commands so much respect. There are a lot of people who respect Gene, or respect Star Trek that want to be involved in something like that. So, definitely, it's more beneficial."

It also can be abused, as Roddenberry said he discovered while working on Tribune Entertainment's "Earth: Final Conflict," whom he said is misrepresenting his father's name.

"They began to give me a raw deal, and I disagreed with the way they would treat Majel," Roddenberry said of his mother. "I have no interest in being involved with them. I think they do good television for what they do. The actors are excellent, but they don't have much to work with. (For EFC), we had one of the most talented cast and crews in Toronto and Hollywood, but it was truly squandered."

Roddenberry said he doesn't necessarily agree with the people his mother gets involved with to continue his father's vision, and going through what he has, has given him some insight on what his father must have had to go through when trying to keep Star Trek on the air before he was born.

"Hollywood is difficulty, and you will be hurt," he said. "People will cheat, people will lie to you, and they can do that to me all they want, I can handle it. But when it has my father's name on it, it takes it to a whole new level. When it's destroying his name, and fans and audience members expect something from that name and it's disregarded entirely, I want nothing to do with them."

While the Roddenberry name and philosophy is very important to Rod, he doesn't want those feelings to spin too far out of control, reminding fans that while his father was a visionary, he was not a deity.

"My father was a human being, and if he's the executive producer and you're the writer and you come in with your story and think it's fantastic, when you watch him put red lines through it, you'd probably be pretty pissed," Roddenberry said about why some people involved in Trek might be extra negative to his father's memory. "It was his job to write it to fit the budget, and write it to fit his vision. If you're not right for the show, and if (they) pissed him off, he would tell them to get the **** out of his office."

Roddenberry said that both executive producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga were doing a good job dealing with the pressure of keeping Star Trek alive, and that the products they are producing still try to stay true to Gene's original vision.

But as he works to find a good foothold in Hollywood, and try and put together a documentary at the same time, Roddenberry said he's busy with the family merchandising business, taking over the 35-year-old Lincoln Enterprises.

The store, located at Roddenberry.com, helps the family utilize a contract it has had with Paramount since the 1960s and 1970s basically giving them the right to market anything with the Star Trek name. Roddenberry said that besides pins, T-shirts, and other Star Trek memorabilia, Roddenberry.com also is the only licensed dealer who can sell actual scripts from the shows.

Some of the future ideas include a 5-foot model of the original Enterprise -- something that might irk Paramount's licensing department a bit.

"We've got to be careful," Roddenberry said. "If they want to fight, we can fight them, no problem, and have a very good chance of winning. But at the same time, I'm not out there to screw Paramount, or Berman, or licensing, or Viacom. That's not my intention.

"The fans are No. 1 in my life. I know that sounds corny, but it's true."

Busy life for someone who tried to ignore the Star Trek universe until his late teen years. But it's something Roddenberry said he's moving full steam forward.

"Someone asked me once if I felt I had an obligation to fill my father's shoes," Rod said. "My intention, of course, is not to fill his shoes, but to take the next step."