Joseph Dickerson’s “Star Trek is Broken” editorial has caused quite a stir among the Trek community. One person who had a response to this was TrekBBS member “The Stig”, his clear, concise, and level-headed post got a lot of kudos. He contacted us at TrekMovie and said he’d be happy to flesh it out a little bit more and have us run it as a counter-point. So we present it here as an ongoing dialog about the future of the franchise we all love so much. — The TrekMovie Staff
What, exactly, are we expecting from Star Trek?
There has been some talk recently that Star Trek is broken. It’s lost its way and needs to be shepherded back to the true path. Where is the social commentary? Where are the big ideas?
What about Gene’s vision?
I’d argue that if we’re expecting cutting social commentary or big ideas, Star Trek isn’t (and never has been) particularly effective on that front. It’s always played it safe, with pat answers and trite conclusions to all the “issues” presented. The “first interracial kiss” was anything but, depicted as a forced and unpleasant affair thanks to alien mind control. Commentary on race relations was boiled down to aliens bisected by white and black makeup.
Even the much-vaunted Deep Space Nine failed to actually create the moral grey area that fans give it credit for. Our heroes always did the “right” thing and even in their darkest hour, it was alien third-parties that did the dirty work (I’m looking at you, “In the Pale Moonlight.”).
On the other hand, if you’re looking for rousing adventure, exciting spectacle and human characters, you’d also be disappointed by The Next Generation-era Star Trek. Thanks to Roddenberry’s self-aggrandizing view of “evolved humanity,” we got stale and stiff characters with a “higher sensibility.” Picard and his crew would hit their marks and declaim, loudly, that humanity had evolved past such petty squabbles. Here was a show with a large extended cast, the most interesting, human, and believable of which was the android.
At least First Contact had the balls to call Picard on his bullshit, if even for a moment.
If you look at the original, with no bloody A,B,C or D, you get relatable people who have interpersonal conflicts, petty fights and make all-too-human mistakes. Kirk and Spock have a shouting match over what to do about Anton Karidian in “The Conscience of the King.” Kirk’s obsession with the gas creature that attacked the Farragut puts the Enterprise in grave jeopardy in “Obsession.”
Sure, it’s just as sexist as you’d expect a television show from the 60’s to be, but there’s a core there that has endured all these years. It’s a winning formula: The cocksure captain, emotionless first officer and a collection of colorful crewmembers (mostly) working together. This is a story about a team, a family, with all the ups and downs that encompasses.
The rub is that, when Abrams looked at reviving Star Trek, he didn’t look to TNG-era Trek. He looked back, way back, to the 60’s and an action-adventure series that captured the imagination and attention of a generation.
The question is, why?
It’s because TNG Trek and beyond never actually continued the original series. In reality, it went sideways from the heart and soul of Trek and never really honored what it was about in the first place. We haven’t had a true, spiritual successor to the original series until Abrams came along. Nothing that came after managed to capture the verve and sheer enthusiasm of that series: the life-and-death stakes mixed with just the right measure of irreverence. If I were to sit down fresh and watch Star Trek with new eyes, then the succeeding films and television shows, there would be no question:
Abrams got it right.