The Cultural Value of Star Trek
I’ve never identified myself as a “Trekkie” or a “Trekker.” I don’t go to conventions or speak Klingon. But I do have a deep appreciate of the Star Trek franchise. Seeing the recently released feature film “Star Trek: Into the Darkness” got me thinking about why I value Star Trek so much. Other than the shear entertainment value of it, of course.
I should disclose this fact, too. Over the past few years I have been systematically watching all the Star Trek series on Netflix. I’ve now seen all of Voyager and Deep Space Nine. I’m currently working my way through Next Generation. And, yes, I have seen every Star Trek movie ever made.
Although I loved “Into the Darkness” I was a bit peeved with J.J. Abrams for messing with the original time line. No tribble should have been present on the Enterprise at this point in the time line, and Chris Pike needs to be available to be found in “The Menagerie” episode of the original series.
So, if not a Trekker I am at least a bona fide geek. But I believe Gene Roddenberry’s vision captured us for some very important and optimistic reasons.
Debuting in 1966, the original Star Trek was campy and low-tech. I remember being able to see the wires that held the Enterprise aloft. But in 1966 space was the only possible frontier where race and gender didn’t matter and exploration was more important than exploitation.
While watching the different Star Trek series I am often struck by the political truths portrayed in these fanciful fictions. What happens on fictitious worlds light years away often very clearly reflects our own struggles on planet Earth.
When klingons, ferengi, humans and bajorans are trying to understand each other on a space station at the edge of the known universe we learn a great deal about our own issues of cross-cultural communication.
Set in a distance future, Star Trek offers the hopeful vision of a time that we move beyond poverty, war, racism and sexism. Star Trek proposes that an appreciation of science, culture and nature might be all the currency we need.
And, no matter how they appear, every character, whether vulcan, android or hologram, is striving to find within themselves that defining characteristic we call humanity.