Aug. 19 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gene Roddenberry, the television producer who launched one of the biggest pop culture franchises in history with “Star Trek.” It not only sparked a galaxy of books, series, movies and merchandise but the ‘60s series was a champion for social issues.
Rod Roddenberry asks for only one thing to mark the Centennial Year of Gene Roddenberry for his father.
“If I could ask everybody to do one thing, it would be simple,” Roddenberry says. “It would be to do some kind. Do something great for someone on that day.
“If we all did something great on that day, it would be a remarkable day. How cool would that be to have one day where everyone did something nice for someone else?”
That wish is not something Roddenberry picked at random. It is in complete line with many of the principles his father tried to illustrate with the TV series. Episodes dealt with racial issues, the lust for power, the importance of empathy and a need for mutual understanding when other TV programs were avoiding anything that might be considered a hot button issue at the time.
Roddenberry’s simple wish is not the only way the 100th birthday of his father is being marked. The centennial celebration of Gene Roddenberry encompasses a number of activations and initiatives called #thinkTrek and can be found at https://www.roddenberry.com/thinktrek/. There were plans for in-person events but the pandemic forced a change. Now, the activities will all be done online and include #talkTrek, #seeTrek, #beTrek, and #makeTrek.
The #talkTrek features 100 filmmakers, actors, notable fans and more sharing 100 of Gene Roddenberry’s most impactful quotes. Those participating include Rosario Dawson, Rep. Barbara Lee, James Cromwell and Michelle Yeoh.
Roddenberry Entertainment has launched a merchandise campaign to raise money for 350 and The Trevor Project. The limited edition merchandise – which includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, socks, bags and other items – is all emblazoned with one word: “UNITY,” each letter built by the form of a different emblem from the “Star Trek universe.”
“One of the most beautiful elements of the Star Trek universe is the incredible community of fans it includes, and how they have changed the world in their own ways. We hope that they will join us in raising money for organizations working to protect the people on our planet, and the planet itself,” says Roddenberry.
One of the biggest motivations for the celebration has been the feedback Roddenberry has been given by those who had their lives touched by “Star Trek.” There is an army of teachers, scientists, explorers and numerous other people who were inspired by the missions of the original Enterprise to boldly go into their fields.
“There have been people who have had to overcome some adversity, those dealing with abusive relationships, had a handicapped or just growing up by themselves and not having anyone there who believed in them who were inspired by him,” Roddenberry says. “What better time in history to get out there once again and remind everyone of the value of these ideas.
“This ability to look ahead and think about who we could be 100 or 200 years from now if we could learn to accept the uniqueness and differences between us. It is a key to our intellectual revolution.”
Even Roddenberry himself realized as he got older that it wasn’t just a love of a father for a son but his appreciation for his dad’s work that made him believe we are all capable of a better tomorrow. He stresses that the “Star Trek” message of what the human race could be one day is something he would try to celebrate no matter his last name.
He does have that famous name and has accepted all the responsibilities that come with it. Roddenberry has devoted his life to carrying on his father’s legacy and currently serves as the CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment. Through the company, he has continued to push his father’s radical vision of a diverse and inclusive world that was first depicted in the original “Star Trek” series.
Additionally, Roddenberry narrated and executive produced the documentary “TrekNation,” where he explored the positive impact his father’s iconic franchise has had on people’s lives. He now serves as an executive producer on the recent additions to the “Star Trek” universe with “Star Trek: Lower Levels,” “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Star Trek: Piccard.”
Roddenberry was only 17 when his father died. Making the documentary “TrekNation” and all of the work for this centennial celebration has helped Roddenberry feel connected to his father despite losing him at such a young age.
“When I did ‘TrekNation,’ that was a privilege that no one really gets,” Roddenberry says. “My father has such a history and a legacy that I got to go around meet all of these people who knew him and get this perspective on ‘Star Trek.’
“I wasn’t trying to make a documentary about how great Gene Roddenberry was. I was trying to find the man behind the myth. Every fan had told me about Gene Roddenberry, the genius, the legend, the visionary. I needed to humanize him. I was able to find the man in the middle and that is something a son can connect with.”
Roddenberry adds that while it was awful to lose his father when he did, what he’s been able to do in his father’s name has been a tremendous series of opportunities. The latest being the centennial celebration.