Gene Roddenberry, the man who created “Star Trek,” and his wife, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry had only one child together, their son Rod Roddenberry. Roddenberry stayed out of the family business for many years, even after his father died in 1991. However, he stepped into the role of “guardian” of his father’s legacy in 2001 when he became the CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment, the corporation that oversees all of the “Star Trek” properties.
2021 is a momentous year for the Trekverse. It’s the 55th anniversary of “Star Trek: The Original Series” and it’s the year that Gene Roddenberry would have turned 100 years old. To commemorate these milestones, Rod Roddenberry has been giving a lot of interviews, reflecting on the franchise and its impact on the world, and sharing memories of his father.
The ‘Get a Life’ Skit
The skit in question was from a 1986 episode of SNL hosted by Shatner. The episode included a sketch in which Shatner played himself attending a “Star Trek” convention. During a mock Q&A, Shatner was barraged with very specific, very intense questions about the “Star Trek” universe. The people asking the questions were caricatures of the diehard Trekkies who often appeared at such events.
After struggling to answer the fans’ questions, Shatner got visibly upset. He then yelled, “Get a life!” He continued on a tirade about how stupid it was for fans to get so invested in a fictional world, berated the fans, and begged them to find real-world interests.
The skit was well-received at the time and even made it onto E! Entertainment’s list of the top 100 SNL moments.
Roddenberry Was Not a Fan
Not everyone found the skit amusing though. Roddenberry was definitely not a fan, and he didn’t hold back about it during his interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“I never really appreciated that skit because I think it was demeaning to the fans. I think it was disrespectful, especially for a character who was an open-minded, intelligent leader.”
However, Roddenberry added that he doesn’t “condemn [the skit] in any way. It’s Saturday Night Live, and it’s all fun.”
He went on to say that he didn’t know how his father felt about the skit. Roddenberry explained that he was just an “immature kid” when his father passed away. So, they didn’t have many conversations about how his father felt about particular things, like the SNL sketch.
They did have conversations about his father’s love of the Trekverse and its fans though. Roddenberry told The Hollywood Reporter that his father “really appreciated the fans,” and that he loved seeing them at conventions.
Of course, Shatner immediately fired back on Twitter. At first, he simply retweeted the article with a comment about “presentism.” According to “The Merriam-Webster Dictionary,” presentism is defined as “an attitude toward the past dominated by present-day attitudes and experiences.”
Shatner often criticizes the use of presentism in the contemporary analysis of past media and historical events. He frequently asserts that presentism should not be used to reinterpret the Trekverse of the past as well.
The point he seemed to make with his tweet was that Roddenberry was employing presentism to call a skit that wasn’t considered offensive at the time offensive. When fans challenged this perspective, Shatner clarified his point with a follow-up tweet.
Some Trek fans fired back at Shatner, saying that he should be more respectful to his fans. Shatner responded forcefully.
Shatner frequently asserts that he doesn’t owe his career to “Star Trek” or its fans. He’s also very clear about the fact that he finds fans who expect him to behave a certain way or espouse certain opinions “entitled.”
So far, Roddenberry has not responded to Shatner’s tweets. However, he’s not an avid social media user, like Shatner.