Star Trek did not die with its visionary creator, Gene Roddenberry, in 1991. It has—wait for it—lived long and prospered, boldly going where the franchise has never gone before. Gene’s son, Rod, is the CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment. His considers it his mission to make sure that Star Trek in its various incarnations carries forth the messaging and ideals his father instilled in the series when it launched on Sept. 8, 1966.
This is Star Trek’s 55th anniversary, and Paramount Home Entertainment is marking the occasion with the Sept. 7 release of, for the first time, the first four Star Trek feature films on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. All 13 Star Trek feature films are available from Redbox to rent or buy on demand. We beamed up Rod Roddenberry to talk about his father’s legacy, the treasured fans who believe in Gene’s hopeful and inclusive image of the future, and what he feels is the most underrated of the Star Trek feature films.
Redbox: Star Trek not only survives, but it thrives, with exciting new spin-offs such as Star Trek: Picard and the satirical animated series, Lower Decks. What do you think is the secret of its longevity?
Rod Roddenberry: Infinite Diversity form Infinite Combinations (IDIC). It is the backbone of the Star Trek philosophy. The original series wasn’t about a crew aboard the Enterprise searching the galaxy for strange-looking aliens. They were looking for intelligent life forms that looked at the universe in a different way. Star Trek says it is our differences and unique perspectives that allow us to grow as a species, that there is a value in unique points of view.
RB: You were five when Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released. When did you become aware of Star Trek and that your father was THE Gene Roddenberry?
RR: I was a late bloomer. It wasn’t really until my father passed away. I heard stories from fans how Star Trek inspired them. Whether they came from an abusive relationship or had a severe disability, they felt maligned in some way, and set back in life, but Star Trek gave them hope. Today, they tell me, they are a doctor or a teacher and contributing to society because Star Trek inspired them to believe in a better future.
RB: I’m sure you’ve seen the classic SNL “Get a Life” sketch with William Shatner. What did you think? Do you know if your father saw it?
RR: I don’t know if my father saw the sketch, but I truly wish he had seen Galaxy Quest. That was a beautiful love letter to Star Trek. I have a very special place in my heart for the fans. They kept Star Trek on the air. The show was originally a ratings failure, but the fans’ groundswell has kept it in syndication and made Star Trek the cultural phenomenon that it is. I truly love the fans and give them all the credit. People credit my father with being the visionary and great thinker that he is, but a lot of the fans are, too.
RB: What is your favorite of the first four feature films?
RR: That’s a tough one. Most people say Wrath of Khan, but I’m going to say (the fourth film) The Voyage Home. It checks all the boxes for what a good Star Trek needs to be.
RB: Which do you think is the most underrated?
RR: It’s not one of the first four; it’s The Undiscovered Country. There is something about it I have grown to appreciate. The Klingons, who killed Kirk’s son, now want peace. Kirk is resolved that they cannot be trusted, but he comes to realize that two enemies can come together (to achieve a greater goal). That idea is true Star Trek. I’m glad you asked that question; that is one movie that as I get older, I see differently.
RB: I’ve read you’re more of a Next Generation guy, but do you have a favorite episode of the original series?
RR: 100 percent; the first episode that made me understand what Star Trek could do was “The Devil in the Dark.” The rock monster is on a planet killing humans who are mining crystals. The Enterprise comes in to save the day, but then Spock says to try and communicate with it, and we learn that the rock monster is a mother protecting its young, the crystals. That was the first time a story twist allowed me to see something from a different perspective. Star Trek is best when it does that.
RB: Who is the Star Trek character you most identify with?
RR: Identify with? That’s different. I used to say Picard was my favorite; he is so diplomatic. I can say my newest favorite character is Anson Mount’s portrayal of Captain Christopher Pike on the second season of Star Trek: Discovery. I would want to be him as a leader and as a human. His attitude is, ‘We need to work as a team.’ He leads by earning the respect of those around him.