Friday, May 17, 2013

One Cool Moment Does Not A Worthwhile Documentary Make: Trek Nation Disappoints.

The Good: Moments of exceptionally rare footage
The Bad: Mislabeled actor/role notations, Poor interviews, No real purpose.
The Basics: Trek Nation is a surprisingly lame documentary that has Eugene Roddenberry Jr. listlessly learning very little about his father about Star Trek.

Lately, I’ve seen quite a few documentaries and many of them have been about Star Trek. I’ve actually enjoyed some of them quite a bit, most notably The Captains (reviewed here!). So, when my wife wanted to sit down to watch Trek Nation, I was actually excited about it. Unfortunately, the execution of this particular documentary was particularly lackluster.

Trek Nation has a loose point; it is Eugene Roddenberry Jr.’s attempt to learn about his father, Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek and the whole Star Trek phenomenon. Eugene Roddenberry Jr. was a teenager when Star Trek: The Next Generation was on the air and he was off doing his own thing. So, decades after Gene Roddenberry’s death, Roddenberry Jr. has gotten around to learning about the phenomenon his father created. Trek Nation is the result of that search.

And it is surprisingly bad.

The set-up is, unfortunately, almost the entire movie. Eugene Roddenberry Jr. reiterates many times that he had no prior knowledge of what the Star Trek phenomenon was all about and that he was off doing his own thing around the time Gene Roddenberry died. So, the movie has Eugene Roddenberry Junior wandering around asking writers, producers, obscure Star Trek guest stars (remarkably few major castmembers from the Star Trek franchise participate in Trek Nation) about their Star Trek memories before concluding that maybe Star Trek is all right.

Trek Nation has a wealth of footage that is more confusing and pointless than it is enlightening. So, for example, the film includes reaction shots where Roddenberry Jr. clearly upsets Majel Barrett-Roddenberry with is questions . . . but the movie includes only the reaction shots, not the questions he was asking and the answers she gave. Interestingly, there are outtakes of Gene Roddenberry getting frazzled during his famous 1991 interview for the 25th Anniversary documentary.

Eugene Roddenberry Jr., director Scott Colthrope, and writer Jessica Brunetto repeat a great deal of information that those who are likely to watch this documentary – namely, Trekkers – already know. In fact, outside Trekkers and those who already “get” Star Trek, it is hard to guess who Trek Nation was actually made for. The fans are likely to be bored with it because there is so little that is actually new – in fact, outside Roddenberry Jr. visiting J.J. Abrams to present him with a video that seems to endorse the concept of the 2009 Star Trek, there is little fans will not have already seen or know -, those who are not part of the culture are not likely to be intrigued given that no one makes a fully compelling argument as to why Star Trek was so incredible and remains relevant today (though Nichelle Nichols comes close with her story about her and Martin Luther King Jr.) and those who like great documentaries are likely to be irked by the lack of real resolution to this piece.

While Eugene Roddenberry Jr. gets interviews with D.C. Fontana, Michael Dorn, and Jonathan Frakes, most of the major Star Trek players are notably absent from the documentary, leaving guest stars like Victor Brandt and Patrick Kilpatrick to make statements on the franchise. Ultimately, Trek Nation is not a particularly thorough exploration of the life of Gene Roddenberry, the genesis of Star Trek or the phenomenon of Trek fandom.

For other documentaries, please check out my reviews of:
Great White Odyssey
After Porn Ends
Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable


For other movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing.

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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