Hope For The Future: The Shuttle Pod Crew Explores The Aspirational Nature Of Star Trek

Shuttle Pod 80 – Hope For The Future: The Aspirational Nature of Star Trek

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This week, the entire complement of the Shuttle Pod crew looks back on how Star Trek looks forward. Many fans are drawn to Trek due to its positive outlook on the future of humanity and the way in which the shows handle the exploration of the human condition. In these tumultuous times, we could all use a bit of positive escapism, and so Brian, Matt, Kayla, and Jared offer up some of their favorite examples of aspiration in Trek (plus some just plain feel-good eps you’re sure to enjoy). Come on a new kind of journey with us this week, as we dive into the philosophical and the inspirational, after some stirring words from John Kennedy, some of our on-screen heroes, and the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself.

Looking for some Star Trek to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside? Try these episodes and movies:

The Original Series

  • TOS S1 E02 “The Corbomite Maneuver”
  • TOS S1 E19 “Arena”
  • TOS S1 E23 “A Taste of Armageddon”
  • TOS S1 E26 “Devil in the Dark”
  • TOS S1 E27 “Errand of Mercy”
  • TOS S2 E21 “By Any Other Name”
  • TOS S1 E28 “City on the Edge of Forever”

The Next Generation

  • TNG S2 E12 “The Royale”
  • TNG S4 E13 “Devil’s Due”
  • TNG S5 E02 “Darmok”
  • TNG S5 E26 & E27 “Time’s Arrow” Parts 1 and 2
  • TNG S7 E25 & E26 “All Good Things…” Parts 1 & 2

Deep Space Nine

  • DS9 S1 E01 “Emissary”
  • DS9 S4 E08 “Little Green Men”


  • VOY S6 E12 “Blink of an Eye”


  • ENT S2 E02 “Carbon Creek”
  • ENT S4 E21 “Terra Prime”


  • “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”
  • “Star Trek: First Contact”

…and so many more! Tell us your favorites in the comments!

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Er, that downward trend in number of episodes per series is telling, isn’t it? Hmm.

Ha, yes, quite telling about our bias on this show… we do try to not only talk about TOS and TNG, but what can we say… it’s in our souls.

Well, perhaps it is a bias. But I was thinking that maybe the focus of a hopeful future has gradually declined somewhat across Star Trek, or at least been pushed aside. I mean, I can’t say I’ve been wowed by the aspirational tone of Trek in the past 10 to 20 years or so.

Love the podcast, by the way!

I catch your drift, haha. But honestly probably more our bias… well with some exceptions….. ahem…. and thanks!

Times’s Arrow? The Royale? Really?

You’ve gotta listen to the pod before judging! We explain :)

Ok sorry Kayla. You got me…

The aspirational nature of Star Trek… Modern Trek is missing the mark.

It needs to be aspirated, trek should be on ventilators around the clock, something to get oxygen to that thought-starved brain as well as the inconstant heart.

kmart sounds like you have the COVID-19 virus. Star Trek is not hopeful anymore is what I meant to say lol. The future is getting dark pretty quick.

Well said, sir.

Jerry Finnerman lit that JUST right. That image of them from CITY is a great way to illustrate this piece.

Contrary to how I usually think of trek, you don’t ALWAYS need Kirk’s ripped shirt and a ship to ship phaser battle.

There exists the perfect ripped:not-ripped ratio… amount of time on screen w/ripped shirt vs amount of time on screen without… the universe in balance.

It’s like the golden ratio, the balance between matter & antimatter, between yin / yang and Kirk Fu …

Just like the Keenser ratio, eh?


I think The Voyage Home doesn’t really get the kudos it deserves. Many people dismiss is as that “silly whale movie” but there is very good social message behind that and I believe more people focus on that rather than anything else. It is definitely a movie that can’t really be made anymore in the current “grimdark” atmosphere of the entertainment industry. It is just a pure old-fashioned good hearted movie.

I remember going to see The Voyage Home the weekend it opened. My buddies and I went for drinks after the show. Every one of us pointed out the huge flaw to the story. Being a time travel story, if Kirk and crew couldn’t grab George and Gracie, no big deal. They could simply hang around in that time period and eventually pick up any other two whales AT LEISURE. The dramatic tension to a story goes out the window when the heroes have all the time in the world to accomplish a VERY simple goal. What a stupid premise to hang a movie on. Yawn.

The longer they hang around the time period the more they interfere with the timeline. Also, they had some issues with the “Klingon crystals,” so presumably they couldn’t fly around the ocean a lot looking for whales. By the time they had that fixed they had already committed to the whales and the tank, which were conveniently located in the same city.

It amazes me really how much that movie (seems to) get ignored. In my time of slowly becoming introduced to Star “Track” it was thought of as the most popular of the (then four) movies. And to this day I think it deserves that popularity as much as The Wrath of Khan does. They certainly haven’t topped in any of the nine films since.

Agree. I still really love that movie. It’s not my favorite but my fourth favorite. The fact that is so light hearted and funny, but still with a strong message works!

Who dismisses it as “the silly whale movie”? In the broader cultural sense, it’s often seen as the second best, and probably one of only two that casual movie-goers (ie: non Trek fans) even remember.

I think casual moviegoers have long aged out of remembering it. Paramount released a special edition laserdisc of it back in the ’90s (the film itself was unchanged), suggesting that it was still the most popular ST movie at that time. But non-fans don’t hold onto things, no matter how much they loved the diversion, unless you give them reason to. General popularity of the 2009 movie seemed to fade not long after its sequel.

Fans meanwhile, tend to list the usual suspects as their favorite ST films. The Wrath of Khan. First Contact. And occasionally, The Undiscovered Country. Ie, the ones that are considered “dark” (even though they’re not really. Now The Search for Spock, there’s a dark movie). I don’t often see TVH dismissed, so much as just not mentioned. One DVD reviewer regarded fans as considering it “beneath their contempt,” whatever the hell that means. I don’t see a lot of dislike for it, and outright hatred of it seems extremely rare (Another DVD reviewer dubbed it the ST for people who hate ST, and then continued “Problem is, I happen to like ST, thank you very much”).

Overall, I think ST has far too many acknowledged weak entries in the movie series for many people to credibly find excessive fault with this one.

I’ve never understood the hate either. It’s a sweet, light-hearted movie, one that was badly needed after TSFS.

And… you’ve just reminded me I still got a podcast to listen to.

Thanks for a very enjoyable Shuttle Pod. It was great hearing you all discuss aspirational moments from across Star Trek and the audio clip bookends were nicely chosen. I listened to the postcast this afternoon here in the UK and I must say I had a tear in my eye hearing Gene talk about the potential of humanity.

In the midst of the current crisis, the aspirational nature of Star Trek has never been more potent and I personally derive a great sense of hope from its positive outlook. While as you demonstrated during the podcast, there are numerous examples of aspiration throughout all Trek incarnations, for me some good examples are to be found in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”.

Like the best of Trek, it was years ahead of its time with its ecological message, but the scenes in Mercy hospital, San Francisco, always make me smile with the way in which the scenes allude to the future advancement of medical science. This is a future in which the invasive procedures and therapies we use today seem like “medievalism” and McCoy’s “saving” of a woman awaiting kidney dialysis by giving her a pill, added to the great sense of hope I felt when I walked out of that movie.

Perfect timing!!! Posted only a few hours before the news about “Strange New Worlds”, which I really hope will bring Star Trek back to its inspirational and optimistic roots.
Greetings from Austria. I love your podcast!

Too bad this comment section will get buried by the current Trek news. Btw I LOVED the audio clips in the beginning and beginning with JFK and ending with GR. Perfect. I just hope the modern Trek creators listen to it everyday!

But to add to the list:one of my favorite aspirational Treks is usually when Picard gives a speech, and an overlooked Picard speech is when he is dressing down Wesley in First Duty: “ The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based!”

Every time I watch that I feel like Captain Picard is talking to me. It really inspires me to be a better man, to stand up against myths and misconceptions and falsehoods. Not to get too political, but in this day of “anti-science” I feel more than ever to follow the “guiding principle of Starfleet.” I thought of that scene just last night when I was trying to explain to a friend about the need for face masks

Great episode, y’all. I think that optimism is the heart, blood, bone, and brains of Star Trek … and that the people making it currently need to get back to that very badly. Not every episode has to be a full-on meditation upon that optimism, but if it’s not strongly featured pretty regularly, the ball is being dropped.

In a way, though, the current lack of it goes to show how much of a treasure the Trek that has it really is. It just makes the older shows seem all the more special to me.

One Voyager episode I’d like to nominate as being worthy of inclusion: “Distant Origin.” Probably the best Chakotay episode of the series, and a crazy-good concept as well.

To tell you the truth, I never understood the “TREK promoting a positive future” influence and position that many Trekkers take. To me it was just good storytelling and character development. Not boohooing what many get out of it. If TREK moves you that way, I am impressed and awed. For role models and positive reinforcement in the past, I still remember, and am still moved by my uncle Frank giving me silver dollars when he visited us; my grandma taking me to the swimming pool on Sunday afternoons; my mom taking out a loan so I could go to college my freshman year. Fred Astaire dancing up a storm; John Wayne shooting Indians; and Captain Kirk shooting Klingons–in the mist of giving speeches–are in my memories, but were hardly important to me then, or even now to say they truly contributed to who and what i am. I guess Art just doesn’t affect me that way. It’s just a diversion… an entertainment, and doesn’t… or wasn’t, or isn’t, an immediate, living influence in my life.

hi — great discussion. thanks. i agreee with most of the example eps you all mentioned. here a few of my fav TNG eps that you did not mention, which relate to the theme of this podcast:
Inner Light
Neutral Zone
Who Watches the Watchers
Measure of a Man
The High Ground
–to me the whole appeal of TOS and TNG was this very thing you discuss. the themes of a positive, hopeful humanistic future for humanity/Earth. that underlays the 2 shows. the other later Trek shows has less of that, and were thus not as appealing to me. – and DS9 had almost none of it, which is why i always disliked that series. it dwelled way too much on very bad human future outcomes, like Section 31, lots of religiosity (klingons, bajor), constant wars with everyone, Sisko being pissed and yelling all the time, etc…