Cool Dads

Star Trek’s Terry Matalas Is Keeping Your Childhood Dreams Alive

One of the hottest TV showrunners of the moment knows how to have fun in both parenting and work.

Ariela Basson/Fatherly; Getty Images, Paramount Global Content Distribution

Terry Matalas is the kind of dad who owns a DeLorean time machine (two, actually). The 1981 brushed-stainless-steel classic sits in his California garage with — we can only hope — the gullwing doors open to show any visitor that this is a man living a certain Hollywood fantasy life. As the showrunner, producer, and screenwriter on TV series like 12 Monkeys, the MacGyver reboot, the forthcoming Witch Mountain, and, most recently, the critically acclaimed third season of Star Trek: Picard, Matalas has certainly earned all the trappings.

But he’s not just a collector of high-end ephemera or the kind of dad who geeks out privately on the greats of the ’80s and ’90s. He’s passionate about making the classic stories he grew up with — Indiana Jones, Transformers, and yes, Back to the Future — meaningful to a new generation of fans, including his 9-year-old son. It’s a job Matalas takes seriously, and it shows in the authenticity and attention to detail he brings to everything he does.

Case in point: Matalas isn’t just a collector of DeLoreans — he restores the legendary cars too. He worked tirelessly with Joe Walser to restore the first “hero car” from Back to the Future — now on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum, in L.A.; his other replica, built from components of the movie’s second “hero car,” can be spotted everywhere from the Academy Awards to Super Bowl commercials.

For Matalas, it’s not just about loving the stuff of nostalgia — it’s the continuity that stories can offer us, from childhood into adulthood, and from one generation to the next. That's one reason that parenting themes are so often at the center of his writing. “I feel like stories of fatherhood have always been part of Star Trek, at least in the Star Trek that I love,” Matalas told Fatherly, in reference to the storyline in Star Trek: Picard Season 3. This idea of infusing storylines with his own experiences as a father while also using his writing to step back and reflect on fatherhood is part of why Matalas believes having kids can “make you a better person.”

When 12 Monkeys ended its run on the SyFy Channel, in 2018, Matalas wrote an essay for The Hollywood Reporter diving into how the death of his father and the birth of his son changed the way he thought about storytelling — and parenting: “A story isn’t a story with meaning unless it has an ending. Forget the past. Don’t worry about the future. Enjoy now.” For Matalas, parents could all stand to slow down a little.

As rooted as Matalas’ work is in nostalgia for the stories of his own childhood, he clearly thinks being a kid now would be straight-up awesome. He knows that, in many ways, kids today have it so much better — they have the greatest toys and video games and are living in a world of entertainment that validates all the cool stuff we loved in the ’80s and ’90s.

In the middle of Picard Season 3, airing on Paramount+, Fatherly caught up with the great Terry Matalas.

What’s your favorite thing to do together with your kid?

I try — not very hard — to be a kid with my kid. That's video games, movies, Legos, and anything in the geek world. We both loved Andor more than words can describe. I try to educate him on the classics like the Back to the Future trilogy and in turn, he shows me things like Gravity Falls. He’s got great taste for a 9-year-old!

If you have an hour to yourself, what are you doing?

An hour for myself?! What is this magical hour you speak of? Lately, it's been back to the gym to work off the Dad-bod that Covid and back-to-back seasons of Picard didn’t exactly help with. Part of my endless war against carbs. Wonderful delicious carbs.

What’s your favorite piece of clothing or accessory that you own? (Or toy!)

Well, this is a bit self-serving, but I had two large-scale light-up models made from Season 3 of Picard: The Shrike [the enemy ship] and the USS Titan. A bit of a bucket list to have a hand in any kind of starship design sitting on my own shelf.

Name the most important skill you’re passing down to your son.

Don’t roll your eyes, but kindness, I guess. And I'm lucky this kid has it in spades. To take a moment and look at others with empathy. Might not sound like a skill, but in today's world it can be challenging.

Give us a book, record, movie, or TV recommendation.

All of the above! Okay, let's see: Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin; …And Then There Were Three… by Genesis; The Menu; Hellbound, on Netflix.

If you could give one piece of advice to that kid-free self, what would it be?

Vegas. Go. Now.