14 Oct 2013

To boldly go

One of my all time favourite independent authors, who writes predominantly scientifically factual fiction, wrote a blog post asking if Star Trek's days are done? With the mixed reactions to the two reboot films by J.J. Abrams, along with good sales (and a healthy nostolgia for the franchise), there are calls for another television series set in Star Trek universe.

Steve says that . . .

The stories featured adventures in strange lands, or places where strange phenomena required the best and brightest to solve and overcome.  The aliens they encountered were very clearly designed to be caricatures of existing foreign peoples, and conflicts with them closely resembled conflicts with certain countries with which Americans were very familiar.  And a great deal of the world-building involved a cold-war-esque threat of armageddon with those various other races.

All of which was fine, for the late-twentieth century United States seeking to reconcile their position as world superpower with their own domestic problems, confident in its ability to solve any problem with a judicious use of technology, and hoping to be the country that would lead the world into a future with a decidedly American skew.
Let's face it, he has a point. Star Trek is very Americanisque in its point of view, right on down to the fact that not only do the aliens encountered by the crews of the three Enterprises and the starship Voyager speak English, but do so with an American accent. To a certain extent the franchise was Roddenberry's take on what America ought to strive for, an aspiration hindered by the likes of Russia (who are represented by the Klingons) and every other country opposed to American global dominance.

Steve points out that . . .

Our view of the world’s people has changed, too.  The American “melting pot” has pretty much finished simmering, and the domestic issues involved with different races living together is all but gone.  On the other hand, lifestyles and preferences have become more of an issue than ever before, and we’ve discovered that many Americans tend to be more isolationist than ever before.  Other countries seem much more like America than before, but strangely, America finds itself being simultaneously held up as an ideal place to live and a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the world.
First of, let me just comment on "America finds itself being simultaneously held up as an ideal place to live and a symbol of everything that's wrong with the world". That goes without saying. Like its predecessors, the United States of America had evolved out of an idea that had all the noblest of intentions; to be free from oppression and be equal, along with freedom of speech and to have a separation between government and religion. To a certain extent that is the ideal of every western democracy on this planet and, as history has shown us time and time again, not everyone shares these idealisms.

In the post 9/11 world, such idealisms have become a flight of fancy; overused slogans.

In a world where we are tightening our borders and increasing survaillance on the population at large, along with many of us accepting that sacrificing certain things for the greater good of a safer country, the Star Trek premise is no longer representative of today's society. Henceforth we don't need an outdated idea being recycled over and over again.

But let's hold on a second.

Let's have a listen to the opening sequence to every Star Trek episode:

"To boldly go"

"To seek out new life"

To me these two things are very noble endeavours, especially since the early shows, and those in later reincarnations of the franchise, strive to show that we could solve a problem by working together.

So what that the envisaged future is a utopia? Is it not what we all strive to achieve, even a portion of what Roddenberry saw for us. Star Trek had been the reason why children wanted to go into science or engineering and even medicine, because the likes of Scotty, Spock and McCoy showed what good they do. Heck, the entire franchise did its best to show that there is always a beacon of hope if we came together and worked as a team, or that it is okay to turn to your best friend for help, et cetera. Steve mentioned that Firefly is more akin to today, which I agree. I can easily suggest the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica and Caprica as more representative of today. But they are not Star Trek. They do not seek out new stuff and meet new people, they just survive in a cruel world.

I do not see the franchise as outdated, not when there is such a huge following of devoted fans. Gene Roddenberry had given us a guideline, a set of themes to follow. Surely, if he was to be alive, he would ensure that Star Trek evolve with the times without losing its charm that first captivated audiences.

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