When one thinks of fandoms, one of the most iconic is Star Trek. Star Trek is the series that endured, even after being canceled, and was sustained due to the passion of fans that kept it going at conventions. That is why it makes sense that Star Trek had such a big presence at San Diego Comic-Con 2023. Two men closely associated with the franchise are Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth.
Roddenberry and Roth are the CEO and COO, respectively, of Roddenberry Entertainment. The company was founded by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Rod’s father. The duo serve as executive producers on various Star Trek series, including Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and Star Trek: Picard.
Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry released the 2011 documentary Trek Nation, which explored his father’s life and his own relationship to the legacy of Star Trek. He started The Roddenberry Foundation in 2010, which funds paradigm-changing solutions to global issues in science and technology in the hopes of making the brighter future Star Trek envisioned.
Trevor Roth was a producer on Trek Nation and has since become Head of Development at Roddenberry Entertainment. In addition to the television series, he oversees graphic novels and has reshaped the company with an emphasis on the merchandising aspect and the franchise’s significant online presence.
At San Diego Comic-Con 2023, Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth sat down with MovieWeb to talk all things Star Trek, ranging from the legacy of the franchise, where a new viewer should start, and what they hope to see from it in the future.
Relation to the Franchise
Being the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, there certainly are a lot of expectations put upon Rod Roddenberry. He tackled his own complex relationship with Star Trek in the 2011 documentary Trek Nation, which both explored the positive impact Star Trek had on people but also his relationship with his father and the legacy he left behind with Star Trek. A dozen years later, a lot has changed for Roddenberry. When asked what his relationship to the franchise is now as to when the documentary came out, Roddenberry had this to say.
“It’s incredible to be part of it. It’s been an incredible learning experience, it’s sometimes been a struggle personally because of how personal it is to me. I don’t mean to single myself out because everyone has a personal connection on some level, but because it was my father, I feel somewhat a responsibility. I only say somewhat because that has evolved as well. I have to evolve my thinking as well.
“Like a fan, I grew up with The Next Generation, and it’s always been my go-to for what Star Trek is,” continued Roddenberry. “That came out in ’87, and it has been a while, so things change. Star Trek has always evolved. You have the original series and The Next Generation, which people were upset about initially because it was a departure from the format or at least the original concept, and it turned out to be one of, if not the most successful Star Trek.”
“This new Star Trek is different from the old Star Trek, and that has been something for me to reconcile. I love it, but there are things sometimes that I’m like, ‘Huh is that supposed to be in Star Trek? Is that what Star Trek would do?’ And it’s great to have a conversation with the people who work on the show, who are fans, and get their take on it. I wasn’t a Deep Space-Nine fan sometimes, and so I talk to fans who are, and they share with me what they love about Deep Space-Nine, and it makes me go ‘That’s a great point, I haven’t thought of that.”
Star Trek Fans Are Willing to Embrace Change
While fans love their franchises, they are also very protective of them and certainly are not always comfortable with change. While it is hard to imagine now, just given how many spin-off series there are, there once was a time when the idea of making a Star Trek show without Captain Kirk and Spock seemed foolish. Those characters were Star Trek for people.
Yet The Next Generation proved that Star Trek was a franchise that could support many characters and ideas. Even now, franchises struggle, as the Harry Potter fandom did not translate to Fantastic Beasts, and it seems impossible to imagine Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford. While other franchises tend to stay in a place of arrested development, Star Trek is constantly evolving.
So why has Star Trek been able to get audiences on board with new series focusing on new characters where other franchises typically cling to the same old? “I will give a lot of credit to Gene for meticulously creating a universe that can handle that. I do think that not everything can just turn on a dime like that and go to a new place. I think that Gene was very masterful in creating a universe that stands regardless of what character you are speaking of in it.” said Trevor Roth. He continued:
“Also, the DNA of how Star Trek is created allows people to engage with different characters, different crews, different ships, and different time periods and still attach to and emotionally connect with. In that connection lies its ability to find new times, new audiences, and new issues for new generations. At the end of the day, it’s always an emotional connection, and I think Star Trek allows for that connection to occur.”
Star Trek’s Different Genres
It has never been a better time to be a Star Trek fan. Tune into Paramount+, and it would be difficult not to find new episodes of at least one Star Trek series on. Currently, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is about to wrap up its second season, with a new season of Star Trek: Lower Decks showcasing a trailer at San Diego Comic-Con. There has been talk about how the over-saturation of the Marvel series on Disney+ may have tired audiences out and damaged the brand. Yet Star Trek seems to be going strong. How has Star Trek endured for so long?
Roddenberry was quick to point to the creative team and said, “I want to give credit to Alex Kurtzman and the entire production team and the individuals on the show. I think they have done an excellent job, in my opinion, of making each show different and unique that can appeal to different mindsets and audiences.” Roddenberry continued with what makes each series unique.
“I’m not just talking about live-action vs. animation, but you’ve got shows like Prodigy, which originally was intended for kids, but it is not and is a great show for all ages. Of course, Lower Decks has the humor in it and also the heart of Star Trek. Discovery was the first foray into a different Star Trek with different concepts. Strange New Worlds brings it a little bit back home, but also keeping it modern, and bringing back Picard and the crew is satisfying the craving for what Star Trek once was.”
“There is enough diversity in the show’s concepts themselves that appeal to enough people,” continued Rodd I think any Star Trek fan you talk to right now will say ‘I only like these two or I only like these four or I only like this one’ which is great. That shows it is firing on many different cylinders.”
Best Ways to Get Into Star Trek
Star Trek is such a big franchise with multiple entry points, but also, with so many series and films, it can be somewhat daunting to jump into the franchise. MovieWeb even published an article about where fans should start. What did Roddenberry and Roth think the best place to begin was? Well, they have an answer, and it is not an obvious one like The Original Series or The Next Generation, but in fact, a show that a lot of viewers can’t even watch anymore.
“I think we both feel very good about Star Trek: Prodigy being a fantastic entry point because Prodigy came from the standpoint of people who don’t know the Star Trek world. The characters themselves are learning as they go what it all means to be Starfleet and be Star Trek. I think from that standpoint, for people who are feeling intimidated by 57 years by the number of shows or episodes, it is a great way to understand what Star Trek is about through the characters learning the same things themselves. I think that was one of the amazing creative decisions the Hagermans [Brothers] came up with.
Roddenberry shared the sentiment. “I love Prodigy. It’s not just an entry point for me. It’s great Star Trek.” Star Trek: Prodigy was recently pulled from Paramount+, and the already renewed second season was canceled. There is currently a fan campaign to save Star Trek Prodigy, and it is safe to assume both Roth and Roddenberry would support that and for Paramount to at least make it available so the target audience can watch it.
Star Trek’s Future
Star Trek is currently celebrating its 57th anniversary. It will soon be approaching 60 years, and the series seems to show no signs of slowing down. Star Trek will continue to attract new viewers every year and will be passed down for generations. With that in mind, what do the two people who are so close to the franchise hope to see in the next decade of Trek? Roth had a simple answer.
It’s hope, open-mindedness, and the welcoming of diversity and difference. At the end of the day, those are the things that Star Trek has always had in one form or another, and we hope it continues to every generation of Star Trek truthfully.
Roddenberry elaborated: “Star Trek always inspires and pushes the envelope. Star Trek currently does a great job in many areas of pushing the envelope in terms of social situations and our society. We were just saying this, but we live in a time right now where there is a lot of criticism, and people are quick to judge. There is not enough listening and understanding or trying to understand or be empathetic and forgive.” He continued:
I think we need a lot more of that. It’s hard for anyone to do. I can say it, but I certainly don’t always do it, but I think that is critical to our future right now, and I hope Star Trek can point people in that direction and take a step back and realize we have to work together. As cheesy as it may be love one another and not antagonize each other.
While some fans might take issues with some recent additions to Star Trek, the franchise has always been about embracing the future and accepting others. It is a progressive series and one that will always find a way to speak to the new counterculture every time. Live long, and prosper.