The Top 5 Reasons Why Star Trek is More Than Just a Show
Since it’s debut in 1966, Star Trek has captured the minds and hearts of generations. Reinventing itself multiple times with the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise series, Star Trek has evolved to form a symbiotic relationship with our own cultural consciousness.
Coinciding with the birth of the space program in the United States, Star Trek encapsulated all of the hope and excitement that ambition fused with technology were bringing. It has, then come to represent a special sort of optimism – about technology, our place in the universe as a species, and our hope for a better future – both for ourselves, and the planet.
Now, i’m not about to sit here and tell you the benefits of learning klingon, or teach you how to pick Roddenberries – but there’s some undeniable truths which make Star Trek and the place it plays in our culture and future, more than just a show.
Because as much good as there is in the message of Star Trek and what it represents, there is also so very much weirdness. And we’ve brought it on ourselves, really. There is a reason why Star Trek fans are amongst the most mocked of all fan sub-species, and Arthur Windermere has pointed this out already.
Most of my affections for the series stem from childhood memories of the program. In so many ways, Star Trek represents all that is good and right about humanity. When I watch it, I recapture that sense of childlike enthusiasm and fascination. Whatever is happening in my life, when I watch Star Trek, for fifty minutes or so everything feels like it’s going to be alright.
As I get older though, i’ve found so very much more in Star Trek than purely escapist enjoyment. There’s hope for the future – that if we can imagine a utopian-like existence of the Star Trek universe, that maybe there’s a chance we can make that same utopian vision a reality.
In that spirit then, I present the following five reasons as to why Star Trek is much more than just another television program...
5. It helps make the world a better place.
That’s a huge call, but I think it is warranted.
In Star Trek, there’s no discrimination – everyone is a nerd. And they love it.
One of my principal praises for the show – and the reason I think it makes excellent viewing for children – if you think children should watch TV – is that discrimination based on race is so roundly discouraged. Even with all of the myriad types of species running around in each episode, the theme of racism has never been addressed – and I think that’s a wonderful attitude to take. The diversity of the species within the Star Trek universe is taken for granted by all of the human characters in Star Trek, and underscores the fact that in the real world diversity is the norm, not the exception.
At times it can be laboured, and its not a particularly sophisticated theatrical device, but most people realise that all of the races in Star Trek are just extensions of human traits. Each plot then, is so much about the way we handle our own problems – the way we resolve the conflicts within ourselves.
Star Trek, then, helps make the world a better place, by increasing both our awareness of our inner self, as well as our acceptance of others who seem superficially different.
4. It helps us think differently about technology
How many new/emerging and taken-for-granted technologies are out there now that owe their origins to the mind of a Star Trek writer? Star Trek fans as they are, someone will surely have compiled a list. But it’s safe to assume that some of the ideas about technology presented in Star Trek have been responsible for the inspiration behind some incredible scientific advances.
Think teleportation. Think folding space to achieve faster-than-light travel times.
There must be a high correlation between early adopters – tech heads – and inventors in general really, and Star Trek fanship. Without Star Trek, we may very well be poorer technologically – lacking the breeding ground for the inspiration behind so many completely out-there ideas.
3. It’s a vision of a future we can all enjoy.
Star Trek – although based heavily in certain types of ideology, does through its humanist focus, take us into a universe that is largely free of prejudice. A universe that is beyond ideology. A universe that works.
Star Trek encourages us to not only explore the stars, but to reach out ourselves towards them – for something better, greater than what we’ve built here. To imagine beyond the limits of our present circumstances.
You must have noticed: sometimes we as a species need encouraging towards better things. Star Trek helps (note: it does not help you get a date.).
2. It helps keep money flowing into the national space programs
Not just in the United States, but probably all across the English speaking world.
They probably never intended it, but Star Trek has become the largest public relations arm of pretty well every national space program on the planet.
You can bet that nearly every single person who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories is steeped in arcane Star Trek knowledge to an almost insane degree. How many of those people would have pushed themselves to the incredible levels of expertise they have in these incredibly obscure fields of science? Without Star Trek, it would almost certainly be much less.
Star Trek is responsible not only for raising the public awareness of space travel and exploration, but also for raising the public perception of space exploration too: through Star Trek we get a glimpse into the many benefits that space exploration can bring: the search for new life, an increased understanding of the universe and our place in it, the potential for new medicines and other discoveries, etc.
The best part is of course, that it hasn’t cost anyone a cent. Star Trek as a successful production has paid for itself many times over. Without the political currency that Star Trek generates through inadvertently encouraging public support for national space programs, its certain that many of these organisations would have experienced a significant cut in funding.
1. It teaches us about morality
Is it right that the most profound contribution to popular discourse around morality since the ancient Greeks has been a television program? Probably not! But it’s unavoidable.
In an age that has seen intelligent television viewing – or more precisely, a decline in the demand for intelligent viewing - Star Trek has come to represent the only access that a non-book reading public has to any serious sort of moral approach to problem solving.
While politicians and the media basically espouse the “he started it” approach to conflict resolution, the moral conflicts that power nearly every single episode of Star Trek are in stark contrast.
By making morality – and a non-religious humanist morality at that – the centre of so much of the decision making process in the Star Trek universe, we get a glimpse into ourselves, and find a reality that although just as beset with problems as our own, has the capacity to be wholly good, and workable for everybody.
What do you think? Is Star Trek really that big of a deal? Let us know below...
And oh yes – Jean Luc Picard is the best captain of all – I don’t care what anyone else says!
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