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Editorial
08 Sep 2016

50 Years of Political Messages in Star Trek

50 years ago today, on September 8, 1966, the very first episode of Star Trek, "The Man Trap", aired on NBC. Although this TV production was ambitious and accordingly expensive for its time, no one would have anticipated the long success story of the franchise. Star Trek is the yardstick for intelligent science fiction on television still today. Leading scientists and engineers tell us Star Trek has been an inspiration in their career. And looking beyond the merely scientific or technical aspects of the show, to this day Gene Roddenberry's creation is unrivaled within the genre as a vision of a bright and desirable future. We could say that Star Trek's positive prospect is so powerful that no television producer would dare to enter a competition with the clear market leader in the field of utopian science fiction.

These days, columnists like to muse about what Star Trek would be if Gene Roddenberry were still alive, which they interpret in a way to either praise or criticize recent developments. Would Roddenberry like the Abrams movies? A gay Sulu? Bryan Fuller's still unaired "inclusive" series Star Trek Discovery? I don't like to engage in such speculation, so I rather look back at the political messages I see in Star Trek, and ahead at what I expect from it in the future.

Read the full essay.

Bernd Schneider

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  • 13 Jan 2017

    I know it's way too easy but how about "blaming" one of temporal anomalies for this Trill species change? The Enterprise crew would think they restored perfectly original timeline but that didn't happened; Trill species evolution took different path and thus, no bumper-forehead but spots.

  • 09 Jan 2017

    Re: Unimatrix zero... I suspect that tom's dalliance with Alice wasn't really counted against him, because it seemed like her neurogenic interface was controlling him; that his obsession wasn't his own volition.

    While I don't have a problem with Paris' promotion, per se (as it seems to be correcting the overly-harsh/hypocritical ending of Thirty Days), I agree that it (along with Harry's lack of promotion) are entirely arbitrary.

    Also, as far as Seven's dreams, I assume the Doctor was separating natural REM-state dreams from hallucinations.

    You make excellent points, and the 'virtual mulitkinetic mine' made me laugh. Very true!

    And I very much agree about the 'border of fluidic space' (which is in the Beta Quadrant, they claim); it makes ABSOLUTELY no sense. Maybe it is a crude term for a permanent portal to the species' realm? But yeah, total garbage.

    I agree too with your high points- and one add one more. As little sense as it makes, seeing pirate Korok and his commandeered marauder-sphere is a great deal of fun. By that point in the episodes, the brain has already been turned off, so at least there is something to enjoy amidst the illogic. :-)

  • 08 Jan 2017

    Aaaaaand Chris S remains the worst. I love how he is so outraged at the show's sexism and misogyny because Seven is in a catsuit but then proceeds to say things like, "and because as we all know most girls are not into the nice guys. Unless they are rich" and referring to Seven as a "cybernetic bitch." Gross.

  • 08 Jan 2017

    So Chris S is a kind of a buzzkill lol. Why does he even watch/review if he hates Seven so much? I'm a woman and even I'm less indignant about the catsuit and the show's use of her sex appeal. She's beautiful, so what? The show may play that aspect up in obvious/cliche ways, but the show also portrays her as a capable and interesting character. And, FYI, that is Jeri Ryan's voice singing "You are My Sunshine."

  • 04 Jan 2017

    A couple comments about the warp speeds listed.

    TOS Enterprise had a maximum speed of warp 8, I'm almost sure this was established in dialogue in TAS "Time Trap" and I think at least one of the TOS episodes. That would be old-scale, of course.

    Refit Enterprise never had a maximum speed established on-screen, but she made warp 7 in TMP. Most sources I've ever read put the top speed of the refit ship at warp 12, but that's obviously apocryphal.

  • 02 Jan 2017

    Have not seen this page in months, what a gorgeous trove of ship love!

  • 02 Jan 2017

    I agree with all of your points. But you're very invested in the reality of something that is not real. And you're using your own writing about fictional starships as evidence that the nuPrise is not as big as it clearly is from the brewery and shuttlebay.

    You are looking for in canon explanations where there are none.

    It's clear to me that the design differences are principally due to the filmmakers working in different eras.

    It's like the Klingon foreheads and language in TMP. It's jarringly wrong to those of us who grew up with the iconic 1966 versions, but it's what the filmmakers thought would read as plausible to the new eyeballs they were trying to attract.

    Think of warships in the 1960s vs the littoral combat ship of today. That's a real world example of a massive evolution in ship design. The Bad Robot aesthetic had to reflect what contemporary people would understand as being futuristic. It's to their credit that they nod to 60s cues at all, albeit in a slightly camp way.

    We old fogies are very attached to the Matt Jeffries original, of course. I have the Franz Joseph blueprints and it seems very real to me. But at what point does the desire for consistency lead us into unhappiness? Is it worth it?

  • 30 Dec 2016

    For Memorial, two points that affect their critocisms; firstly, they seem to verify thatvthese experiences are drawn from memories, rather than a recreation. Significantly more important, Janeway said they'd be putting a warning buoy in orbit that could warn ships entering the sector; they can avoid it. No one will experience this unless they choose to come closer and do so, having been warned.

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