Space; the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission; to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilization, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
Whilst being the epitome of a geek, Star Trek was something I vowed I’d never get into. Becoming a trekkie was a step too far on a road that I didn’t particularly want to progress down. I had Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and that was enough for me.
Here I am though, writing about Star Trek.
Having become everything I said I wouldn’t, I can now see its value, not only as a Sci-fi show, but as a culturally rich, lesson heavy entity that holds a mirror up to society in a way that nothing else in the genre does.
For a show that’s been around for 50 years, it’s always been a rewarding watch but it evolved into something that had real meaning during The Next Generation (TNG), Deep Space Nine (DS9) and Voyager (VOY) years.
Don’t get me wrong, The Original Series (TOS) set the standard and while it gave audiences something that had never been seen before, it now feels like it was very much of its time. It was swashbuckling, highly sexualised and raw around the edges. That’s what audiences wanted though. To be entertained without having to really think about what they were watching. Besides, every great thing needs to start somewhere doesn’t it?
I mean, without things like the first interracial on-screen kiss and the way cultural differences were explored between Kirk, Spock and McCoy, we wouldn’t have had the experiences we’ve had with the later series’ and for that, you have to say that TOS was a trailblazer.
In comparison, TNG still feels really current. The way it explores different cultures is still a real representation of today’s multi-cultural world and that’s both depressing and wonderful at the same time.
It’s depressing in the way that we still have countless issue between cultures but wonderful in the sense that TNG understood what the world was turning into and tried to show us the way to cope with it. To add to that experience, the crew of the Enterprise felt like different parts of our own personalities.
Dr Crusher is our conscience, Riker is our impulsiveness, Data our logical thinking, Troi our emotional side, Worf covers stubbornness and Wesley Crusher our youthful naivety. Not only does that show how other cultures can work together, but by having Picard as someone that envelopes all of those qualities, it signifies the importance of being a well-rounded adult.
Picard is someone that you look up to and want to emulate. He shows kindness when he needs to, stubbornness when the situation calls for it and mercy when the time is right. Watching Picard is a form of socialisation and I’m half tempted to petition to have TNG put on the school curriculum.
Take me for example; I’ve now started drinking Earl Grey tea! I don’t think the canteen staff are impressed when I approach them and say “tea, Earl Grey, hot”, but I’m getting there.
The golden era of Star Trek also gave us DS9. I’ve just started to work through it but already I can see that it tackles culture in an even more direct way. The fact that we have large amounts of different races visiting and living on the station is a direct parallel to people moving to other countries. Star Trek works in an ideal world though and its lessons of exploring and learning about new cultures still needs some work in the world we’re living in today.
It’s an easy point to make but with DS9 not being set on a starship, we’re dealing with a very different animal. While the cultural references are ever present, DS9 looks at other parts of society such as vice and growing up away from home. Themes not really touched upon in TNG but just another facet of society that Star Trek absolutely nails.
With the last series of Star Trek ending over 10 years ago, we’ve had a long wait to for any fresh material and the movie reboot has pretty take us full circle. It’s natural because what people liked about Kirk et al was that he was off the cuff and provided plenty of humour and action. It kind of feels like that’s what people want from a blockbuster these days. They want to be thrilled rather than feeling like they’re being preached to and while the beauty of Star Trek is in all the things I’ve mentioned from DS9 and TNG, it’s hard to not see merit in that. After all, people watch TV and movies as a form of escapism.
With the reboot and a new series on the horizon, Star Trek looks stronger than ever. Whilst we’ve not seen too much on the series so far, I really hope that it follows the same path as TNG and DS9. If it does, I have a feeling we’re going to have a whole host of new trekkies joining the ranks.
Live long and prosper, bitches.