As Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry and I talked about Star Trek in the living room of his home, both a sense of excitement and a question were on my mind. I was excited as it was difficult to believe I was sitting in the house of the caretaker of the Star Trek legacy. Like space itself, a fictional universe, such as Star Trek, can seem unreachable. And yet, while speaking with Rod, I felt like I reached out to that universe and this time it reached back. With Star Trek having the impact on my life that it has, talking to Rod about the philosophies of Star Trek, and the legacy left by his father, Gene Roddenberry, was an opportunity to better understand myself and what Rod called the “family” of fans created by Trek and sci-fi kind. This brought me to my question: Why does space create a home for this family?
This question, one of family and home, I have come to understand as the driving force behind Chasing Atlantis. This film started as a trip to catch a space shuttle, but I’ve realized the film is truly a journey to find a place to belong; a home and a family in those who believe that our society really can overcome hatred, fear, inequality and venture out into the stars to explore, to grow, to learn and to unite. A few months ago, I saw Rod’s film, Trek Nation, a documentary of Rod’s journey to discover more about his father through the legacy of Star Trek. Nation reminded me of our own journey in Chasing Atlantis and I wanted to talk with Rod about his film, about Star Trek, and why space and science fiction creates a family of fans; the same family you’d find at a convention or crowded at the launch of a space shuttle. I believed, after seeing Trek Nation, that Rod and I were asking similar questions and trying to find answers in similar places.
What’s fascinating to me is that Rod actually feels his home is more in the ocean than in space. Rod is a diver. After it was clear I wouldn’t become an astronaut, I often thought of exploring the oceans; an environment as alien as space itself. It was here in our conversation we discovered something. The family we speak of is perhaps not united under the roof of space or the oceans or any one environment, but rather under the roof of exploration itself. The power I’ve always seen in space is not the vacuum between the stars, but the opportunity space provides for discovery; not just of planets and nebula, but also ourselves…which is what Chasing Atlantis is really about.
Whether in the stars, the oceans, or the pages of a great story, exploration itself unites us. When we explore, we learn, we grow, we meet new people, we meet ourselves. I would go as far as to say that we discover our humanity. Exploration – curiosity – is what defines our species on this planet. And so, as we explore, we find new worlds, filled with fellow explorers; family. Space just happens to make for a big home. Space is fertile ground for exploration both in science and in fiction. It’s endless for both the physical and the imagination. But ultimately if a message comes through from our own journey it is that if you have yet to find your own family, in the sense Rod describes, begin with your own curiosity. What worlds do you want to explore, and are you exploring them? When you do, you may find who you are looking for. And, as Rod eloquently concluded in our interview, “It’s the journey, not your destination that is important. So pursue your path with all the passion you can.” To which I responded. “Sounds like the Star Trek philosophy. Go Boldly.” Rod smiled and said “That’s right! Go Boldly!”
You can also hang out with Rod on one of his adventures of exploration at www.roddenberryadventures.com which we did on a hike around LA
Keep Chasing, everybody! (In other words. Go Boldly!)