Trek Nation (2010)
Trek Nation is a relatively straight forward documentary with a clear premise. It follows Eugene Roddenberry’s search to find out more about his father Gene and to understand the cultural phenomenon of Star Trek. Directed by Scott Colthorp the film endeavours to explore the enduring appeal of the franchise as Eugene discovers more about the father he didn't know and the show that passed him by. Through interviews with cast and crew members from all five Star Trek shows, as well as fans and celebrities who were influenced by the show while growing up, Trek Nation methodically follows a linear path. Yet this uncomplicated approach proves to very effective and surprising candid.
As with the great Bruce Lee, there is a wealth of material available about Star Trek in the public domain. Much is apocryphal, some is actually bogus and the remainder is regularly recycled. So it’s important to maintain a healthy sense of scepticism when watching any alleged revelatory documentary. Too often have I watched spurious material that seeks to canonise Gene Roddenberry. The ridiculing of fans is another common occurrence because it is so easy to do. Fortunately Trek Nation did not go down that route and strives to be fair and objective.
Eugene is honest about his own failings in his relationship with his father and very matter of fact about his own father’s weaknesses. Some tried and tested ground is re-explored with some established Star Trek facts once again being reiterated. This includes Nichelle Nichols Dr. King anecdote as well as the Will Wheaton’s Mary Sue assertions about his own role in Star Trek: TNG for example. However the interactions with grass-roots and celebrity fans alike are quite genuine. The interview with George Lucas was quite illuminating and really does lay to rest the perennial fanboy Star Wars versus Star Trek argument.
Although far from a clinical dissection of fandom and the nature of fame, Trek Nation isn't a bad stab at unravelling the mysteries of a father and son relationship that was skewed by fame and the media spotlight. It also offers a good starting place for non-Star Trek fans to determine what the exact appeal of the franchise is. Ultimately it reaches the same conclusion as all those other shows, documentaries and books. Star Trek has at its heart a fundamental philosophy. One that has a universal appeal because it shows potentially shows humans at their best and what we could achieve given the right circumstances.