From last year –
50 years ago today (and the same day of the week no less), a franchise that would go on to be one of the primer benchmarks of modern science fiction was first broadcast. Showcasing a future in which humans become part of a diverse and collaborative United Federation of Planets, Star Trek stood unique as a sci-fi series that didn’t show our outcome as dystopian…but in fact as one of great promise. Though the series suffered through 3 hard-fought years where it’s parent network, NBC, was constantly looking to snuff it out…with the series ultimately being cancelled…Star Trek would live on through the devotion of it’s fans and the implementation of becoming a cult classic. Through such devotion, the series experienced a profound resurrection that would spawn several TV spinoff series, films, and various fan projects. Star Trek has truly become a global phenomenon.
As much as Star Trek has held a powerful place in my being, there are no doubt some aspects of the franchise that are debatable. The concept of the Federation as existing as a realm in which money and wealth are non-existent has always seemed illogical, if for the simple note that history has shown changes in monetary structure as doing little to eliminate ambition and greed (this is not consistently dealt with across the franchise though, as at certain points in a few films and episodes, a type of credit or currency in the Federation is either mentioned or implied). In fact, it is those qualities that have been a big part of all the technological and material success and advancement that our modern civilization has been blessed to attain. Indeed the existence of products like the replicator would fundamentally transform society in ways we can’t even completely fathom, but there will always be those who want something more…and no doubt society will craft a system upon which that ambition will be rewarded.
There is also the whole notion concerning the policy of the Prime Directive. This policy holds that the Federation must hold a premise of non-interference with other cultures, specifically those that haven’t obtained warp drive. The idea behind this surmises that cultures must be allowed to follow their “natural course/evolution” without outside contact (whatever that means…who defines what a “natural course of development” even is?)…which includes anything from conflict to sharing of technology and goods. What this is basically is a futuristic version of the “noble savage” fallacy. Indeed not projecting one’s views or morals onto another person or group of people is a product of tolerance, but the notion that another society must endure hardship, such as easily curable plagues and illnesses for example, because it is a product of their “status” qualifies as something truly more barbaric than what one would consider an “evolved” society as capable of allowing to take place. It also predisposes a belief of so-called primitive societies as being incapable of change. Cultures aren’t static, but in fact are quite dynamic and susceptible to change. Ethnographies done concerning societies in the Pacific that came into contact with American soldiers during World War II found that contrary to the assumption of such cultures dying out as a result of contact, such societies in fact continued to exist. What occurred was that such groups took ideas/objects that they found useful and applicable, while retaining the beliefs and views they still held to. The notion that people can’t understand the value of foreign ideas and technology because it isn’t at their “power level”, like something out of a video game, is a myth…and it is an idea that the Star Trek universe unfortunately perpetuates. Perhaps this is why the directive is violated many times throughout the franchise.
Still, despite such flaws, there is something of worth to take away from the Star Trek franchise. At it’s best, at least to me, Star Trek is a representation of the human spirit…the belief that despite all the hardships and challenges we might face in the future (which no doubt seem just as problematic as the ones we face today), we will ultimately have it within ourselves to overcome them. May it continue to have us boldly go where we haven’t gone before.
Charles Sonnenburg (aka SFDebris) has done many reviews of episodes across the various spinoff series and films of Star Trek. Here are vids he has done concerning the Prime Directive, as well as the structure of the future according to Gene Roddenberry (the late creator of Star Trek) and whether it is a viable one. Good food for thought (Note: Of the link to his site, look at the video entitled “Follow-up”): https://youtu.be/U6hraxER8PQ; https://sfdebris.com/videos/startrek/d543.php
As with many science fiction stories, Star Trek has been an inspiration for scientific and technological innovation. Here is a list of some of that. Of course, the notion of accurate prediction might be a little heavy handed since what has come about is obviously less or more than what Star Trek writers imagined, but still a good view: http://qz.com/766831/star-trek-real-life-technology/
Warp drive? Perhaps some day: http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2016/09/08/star-treks-warp-drive-might-become-a-reality/#4d5f418044c5
Maybe holodecks aren’t that far off either: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/disruptions-the-holodeck-begins-to-take-shape/