This is not a post about Star Trek: Into Darkness – not in the normal sense. I haven’t seen Into Darkness yet, but with all the discussion around Star Trek, I had a different point.
I’ve talked a lot about the role of Star Wars in my life. But for a big chunk of my formative years, Star Trek had a bigger effect on my development as a citizen and as a thinker.
I enjoyed the rebooted Star Trek film, but it didn’t do, for me, what I want Trek to do, and I think we need that thing.
What thing? you ask. For me, Star Trek is about sociology, about psychology, about ethics and philosophy. Trek is about exploring not only new worlds, but new ideas, about re-examining your own worldview.
I grew up with Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was a big chunk of my Science Fiction 101 education. From there, I watched Voyager and Deep Space Nine, which for all their flaws, taught me that the universe was bigger than I imagined, that many different kinds of people could and should wield power and determine their own future. And above all, I think it taught me two things:
1) To challenge the idea that there’s only one right way of thinking about the world.
2) The joy of exploration.
Looking at 21st-century America, I see an ongoing need for both of these.
Austerity and short-sightedness has crippled NASA’s ability to follow our once-inspiring path into space, and every year that we let our space program moulder, the more we lose a foothold in space as well as losing the dream that comes with it, the call to adventure. And contemporary political discourse in the USA is so polarized that it’s become obstructionist and truly vitriolic. Members of the other party are painted as THE ENEMY, as Un-American, as Tyrants/Fascists/Socialists, and all the while, income inequality grows, education atrophies, and our infrastructure crumbles.
We need a new Star Trek. Not the films, because the films seem to be far more about the action than the Utopian dream of Gene Roddenberry. I think cinema is the wrong place for Star Trek at its best.
What we need is a new Star Trek TV show. A 21st century vision of space exploration, filled with optimism, acceptance, and heterodoxy.
Star Trek has usually been on the leading edge in diversity, but it’s been long enough since we had a new Trek show that the shows are now several steps behind the curve in terms of reflecting the fight for visibility and acceptance being fought by marginalized groups.
We need a Trek show with a <50% white cast. We need a new Trek show with a female chief engineer and/or a female doctor and/or a female captain. We need a new Trek show with Muslim command staff, with Wiccan officers, with atheists and agnostics alongside devoted theists of many stripes. We need a new Trek show with differently-able crew in command roles. We need a new Trek with trans characters, visibly GLBTQ/QUILTBAG characters, who are far more than their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Star Trek is a universe where humanity has supposedly figured its shit out, and I think that’s a dream that’s very worth dreaming, and is powerfully important to see.
The re-booted Battlestar Galactica was a powerful vision of a possible future, one deeply reflective of a post-9/11 USA mentality of being under siege, of getting our hands dirty for survival. I though that show was powerful, and eventually got to some good thematic ground about accepting the person-hood in others. But it was dark, nihilistic, and for me, not inspirational.
That’s not the dream we need right now. We need a brighter dream, the dream we want to dream for our children and those who come after us. Now I admit that part of heterodoxy is accepting views other than your own, and on this I admit my own bias. I imagine there may be Trek fans for whom the Rodenberry Ideal is different – where the right religion has saved all of humanity, where homosexuality has been cured.
This is a point I struggle with. Because as much as I firmly believe that we *must* accept the validity of GLBT/QUILTBAG identities, that we must accept religious diversity, I know that there are people for whom that world is dystopian. I believe that I am right while accepting that requiring others to live by the way I see the world is still control, and can be met with the same rancor as I direct toward current legal/social structures.
The only thing I can do is talk about my dream, is call for people to imagine a more accepting, more compassionate galaxy. I can write about it here and in my own fiction, and hope that others are inspired to find empathy and compassion through narrative that influences their own lives.
But most of all, I want a new Star Trek. I want to see the dream reborn.
To boldly go where no one has gone before, into a future of compassionate heterodoxy, acceptance, and where all people are equal parts of the future.