Thursday, January 22, 2004

Gene Roddenberry died shortly after Star Trek VI was completed, and, William Shatner says on this DVD, essentially "the Star Trek we knew died with him. Other people came and with some success carried his laurels, never to the degree of success and knowledge that Gene Roddenberry had."

Star Trek VI was the last story of the original cast, and the last Star Trek story that Gene Roddenberry saw. GR was executive producer of the first film, but the studio gave him little control over the next five, and even his influence was not always decisive. In her book, Nichelle Nichols writes that he was more involved in VI than he had been in awhile, but his strong objections to aspects of it were not heeded. Nick Meyer abruptly left one meeting with him, and while he listened to him in a second meeting, he reportedly didn’t take any of GR’s suggestions.

In a DVD interview, Star Trek VI producer Ralph Winter says he escorted GR to a private pre-release screening of the film. GR was in a wheelchair, with a blanket for warmth in the air-conditioned theatre. Winter said he left for awhile, and came back for GR at the end. He said that GR said he had enjoyed the film.

William Shatner’s Star Trek Movie Memories leaves a different impression. He claims that GR returned to his office, and called his lawyer to demand specific changes. GR died less than 48 hours later.

Everyone knew that GR wasn’t happy with elements of the script, the blatant prejudices of his 23rd century Starfleet officers, and the militaristic emphasis. But I imagine that even though parts of it made him angry, he did in fact enjoy watching it. He knew he was ill and weakening. He knew this was probably the last original cast movie. If he was left alone in that theatre, it was just him and the characters he first brought to life. He didn’t create everything about them, or every aspect of the Star Trek universe. Yet he provided the vision, incorporated the contributions of others, and when he could, kept out what didn’t fit.

He was there in the dark, as he had been so many times since his boyhood, looking up at heroes on the screen. Except these were heroes that to some significant degree came from within him, and were by now part of him. He saw them foil a plot against peace, and restore the faith of a visionary peacemaker. He saw them gather together on the bridge of the Enterprise, going off together into the corona of a star. When they looked out, they were looking at him, who brought them into the world, into the universe of story. I can’t help believing that at some moment in that dark screening room, GR and Star Trek said their goodbyes.

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