Gene Roddenberry passed away in 1991. Instead of allowing his impact on science fiction to fade from mass culture, Roddenberry Entertainment focused on preserving Roddenberry’s legacy by guiding the development of his established properties while also developing new ideas inspired by Roddenberry’s philosophy. A leading figure at Roddenberry Entertainment is its C.O.O., Trevor Roth, and his key responsibility is bringing Roddenberry’s legacy into the 21st century. One of the properties that Roth has overseen is Days Missing, a comic book series that has just released its third volume. Wanting to learn more about Roth’s background and Days Missing, Roth allowed me to interview him for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what was your first exposure to Gene Roddenberry’s work? Was there a specific episode or movie he produced that turned you into a fan?
Trevor Roth: My introduction to Gene Roddenberry’s work was actually though Star Trek: The Next Generation. That was the series airing during my formative years and was what really gave me a taste of Gene’s philosophies. It was around this time that I became friends with Rod and had occasion to meet Gene in person. Still, in some ways, I didn’t make the connection between Star Trek and Gene and Rod until later. I was just a kid with a friend named Rod whose father’s name was Gene.
Yanes: I noticed that you had a degree in sociology. How did you leverage that education into the successful career you currently have? (I’m totally just asking for a friend who may have foolishly gotten humanities degrees.)
Roth: As opposed to psychology which is very individualized, I consider sociology the study of human beings on a macro scale. It’s the examination of groups of people – the psychology of the masses, if you will. Throughout my career, recognizing this facet of society has helped me understand what might resonate, strike a chord or provoke discussion – and when you’re working for a company whose tradition is breaking the mold, that can be pretty useful. Simply put, understanding society as a whole helps us relate to our audiences.
Yanes: Outside of the Star Trek franchise, Roddenberry was also the inspiration behind the shows Andromeda and Earth: Final Conflict. When you think of Roddenberry, how do you think he uniquely approached and impacted science fiction?
Roth: I like to think of Gene as one of the fathers of modern-day sci-fi. His approach helped change the category because it wasn’t always about the science fiction. It differentiated itself by using science fiction a backdrop. It was the stage upon which human beings, conflict, and experience could be explored. The goal of any piece of Roddenberry science fiction, from Gene all the way to today, is to help us peel back a layer of humanity, to help us study and understand and think about the human condition. It’s a Gene Roddenberry lesson we heed daily.
Yanes: And now to the focus of this interview, Days Missing. What was the inspiration for Days Missing? Additionally, how do you think it fits into Roddenberry’s overall legacy?
Roth: Days Missing came from the idea of the unknown… and how unknown events could have shaped and affected human life; the “what if” of it all. Of course, the idea of the “unknown” and its exploration is very Roddenberry but I think Days Missing fits the Roddenberry mold in one or two other ways as well. It includes, what we like to call a ‘Roddenberry Character,’ an alien character – The Steward – that reflects back on us and our humanity. Additionally, human beings having autonomy, the power to choose their futures regardless of outside influence is an important aspect of Days Missing and as well the Roddenberry philosophy. Everything we do has original elements, but there are a lot of Roddenberry fingerprints on this one.
Yanes: Days Missing centers on a mysterious figure, The Steward, who travels through time and fixes mistakes to help humanity. What is a historical period you would have liked to see the Steward visit?
Roth: To quickly clarify, one of the most interesting aspects of Days Missing is that it deals heavily with the properties of time but technically is not inclusive of time travel. The Steward doesn’t travel through time, he has just been around throughout much of it.
As to your question, in my mind, The Steward has essentially been everywhere. It’s just that we have told so few of his stories. But I would love to see The Steward interact with the Vikings; I think they are a very interesting piece of history. I also like to think of him in the lands of Ancient Egypt, with Cleopatra and Marc Antony. Feudal Japan has always been of particular interest. These are places and peoples we’re familiar with but they’re still “unknown, far off lands” that we have so much more to learn about.
Yanes: I have been a fan of Phil Hester for years. What are some specific ways you think he helped bring Days Missing to life?
Roth: Phil was integral to the creation of Days Missing in its comic book form. He was part of Days Missing Volume One and wrote both Days Missing Volume Two and Three. He is particularly talented when it comes to capturing the mindset of characters. Phil was able to understand and convey The Steward’s mind and voice with tremendous capability. This hero has a lot of internal conflict and Phil’s ability to depict it via action, internal and external dialogue was masterful. And that’s not mentioning Phil’s talent of taking us on a thrill ride we’ll never forget.
Yanes: Days Missing: Enox is the third volume in the Days Missing series. When crafting this volume, what did you want this story to accomplish?
Roth: For Days Missing: Enox, we had a number of goals that pertain to story, reader experience and expanding the universe. First and foremost, Enox is the finale of a trilogy. And while there may be many more tales to be told, we wanted to make sure we were bringing resolution to this chapter of The Steward’s life.
Second, we wanted to delve deeper into the story of The Steward. With the first two volume’s we got glimpses of the life of The Steward’s existence but always through, or in conjunction with, certain historical human days in which he played a part. This book was our chance to dive head first into his challenges, his adventure. This shift caused a number of changes including not parsing things out into certain/specific days in history. Lastly, we wanted to make sure to continue our exploration of the ideas and themes introduced in Volumes 1 & 2.
Yanes: After the events of Days Missing: Enox, where would you like to see the series go?
Roth: There are many ways that Days Missing could go on after Enox. The third volume really does end with the potential for a new beginning. However, getting back to the roots of Days Missing is also an option. I continue to love the possibility of visiting other days in human history that haven’t been touched upon but are important to who we are and who we’ve become. As much as I love the story of The Steward himself and finding out who he is, exploring the various times when his fingers have adjusted our trajectory is the bedrock of the universe and not something I would want to stay away from too long.
Yanes: On this note, are there currently any plans to adapt Days Missing to television or the movies?
Roth: Yes, absolutely. We are Roddenberry Entertainment and because of that we are always looking for what else the series can be and where it can go. It’s important to remember that this can never be to the detriment of the series. We need to respect the original media vehicle, in this case the graphic novels. But I think being able to ask ourselves what this would look like as a television series or a film is definitely exciting. Moreover, such possibilities allow us to introduce people to Days Missing who may not yet know about it. So, yes, it’s something we’ve already started doing and we believe it would bring a new level to the universe.
Yanes: Finally, what are some projects that Roddenberry Entertainment is developing that fans can look forward to?
Roth: Of course there is Star Trek: Discovery and a few other unannounced projects within the Star Trek universe. But outside of that, there are a ton of really exciting projects we have going in science fiction and genre entertainment. We just announced, “Rod & Barry,” a new animated project based on a comic strip of the same name. We have a fantastic cast already set and are hoping to have something out in the next few months for people to enjoy! It’s especially awesome because the main characters are just like us. They’re sci-fi fans that wish they could do nothing more than watch, consume, play, debate about, argue over and enjoy TV, movies, video games, comics and toys.
Of course, they happen to be aliens from another planet who are sent here to scout Earth for annihilation. But other than that, they are just like us (and probably most of the people reading this interview). It’s a great property and we’re over the moon to be bringing it to the next level.