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Convention Preview: Roddenberry: the next generation

Son of 'Star Trek' creator beams in for sci-fi convention

Friday, November 05, 1999

By John Hayes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Gene Roddenberry's career had already accelerated into warp speed when his son Eugene was born. Now, four years after the "Star Trek" creator's death, a second generation of Roddenberrys is taking tentative steps in the science fiction genre.

Praxis '99 Science Fiction Convention

Where: Holiday Inn Green Tree, 401 Holiday Drive, Green Tree.

When: Today through Sunday.

Tickets: Weekend pass $60, daily $18, children half-price. 412-650-8163.


Roddenberry, 25, is one of the key speakers at this weekend's Science Fiction Convention, a Praxis Foundation event staged to raise money for youth programs of the American Diabetes Association. A technical adviser on the series "Earth: Final Conflict," he's part of a production team headed by his mother, "Star Trek's" Majel Barrett, that hopes to launch a new series, "Andromeda," in 2000.

"I was pretty much a rebellious kid and I didn't pay much attention to what my father was doing," said Roddenberry. "He was pretty much a workaholic. It was a typical Hollywood family. I was very privileged and didn't really know it. I didn't know what I wanted to do, just that I didn't want to be in the [entertainment] industry."

Nevertheless, Roddenberry summered on the sets of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Deep Space Nine." He was majoring in astronomy and physics at Hampshire College in Massachusetts when his father died. After graduation his mother invited him "to be a fly on the wall" at pitch meetings. Soon he began offering suggestions on improving the continuity of "Earth: Final Conflict," and was eventually made a technical adviser.

"It wasn't until after [my father] passed away that I started appreciating what he gave me," he said. "His philosophies, I found, were mine. Talking to [his] fans gave me more respect for him. The minute I saw the potential of what could be done, it seemed like a large opportunity."

Hollywood outsiders tend to think that industry doors are held open for children of celebrities, but Roddenberry says there's no easy way in. Although important contacts might be family friends, the standards are often higher for entry positions.

"It's a world of advantage and a world of disadvantage," he said. "A lot of people might be intimidated by the name, or might make me pay my dues like my father did. A lot of people want to make sure I don't move up too fast."

"Andromeda" is to be distributed by Tribune Entertainment, says Roddenberry, and star Kevin Sorbo. Barrett is executive producer and Roddenberry says his position has not yet been determined. Lead writer Robert Hewitt Wolse describes the premise as "the last remaining starship captain of a fallen intergalactic civilization, [fighting] to return peace and harmony to the stars."

Since the original "Star Trek" proved that science fiction could make money in syndication, lots of space shows have been aired. But influenced by Gene Roddenberry's social agenda and optimistic outlook, "Star Trek" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" raised the bar for substantive programming. The younger Roddenberry says he hopes to someday have the opportunity to continue fighting for the values his father cherished.

"Perhaps deep down, that's the issue," he said. "I want to carry on what he did. At the end of each episode there was a theme or moral to the story. Maybe it's a little bit cliché for a Roddenberry to have an issue, but I'd like the name to still stand for that."

Roddenberry says he hopes to learn more about his father from talking to fans at the Praxis sci-fi convention. Other speakers include Richard Chevolleau (Auger, "Earth: Final Conflict"), Jason Carter (Marcus Cole, "Babylon 5"), Bill Blair (alien actor, "Babylon 5," "Deep Space 9," "Alien Nation"), and makeup artist Carl Talliaferro. The convention features a charity auction, a fashion show, costume contest, workshops and a dealer's exhibit area.

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