Total Pageviews

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Star Trek 50

Everyone is talking about Star Trek today. 50 years ago it aired on CBS and struggled for 3 years to find a foothold on Network television. The show was the embodiment of hope for a future in which we could, as the Vulcans say, Live Long and Prosper.

The show represented a vision of the future in which we set out to accomplish the fulfillment of of human aspiration: a truly democratic society, the healing of common and not so common ailments with the wave of a device, wireless communication, intergalactic communication, economics that benefit all in a society and not just industrialists and, most importantly, the Silver Age of mankind.

I say Silver because we've had our Golden Age, the Renaissance after the Dark Ages. The technological and sociological advances promised for the 23rd century will outshine anything that man accomplished during the Renaissance. Star Trek showed us the best of what would be available in technology, democracy but most importantly within ourselves. The future that we would hope for had a blueprint in Star Trek. And for three years, Network television  fed us the promise.

Everything comes at a price, and while the Original Series hints at the cost of Roddenberry's Utopia with episodes like Space Seed, the vast majority of conflict reflected in the episodes lies in the Us versus Them conflicts of the Neutral Zones. Earth v. Romulus, the Klingon Homeworld, Thalosians, and rogue Superbeings. While the writers were careful to use the episodes to teach us about our own conflicts between ethnic groups on Earth the reflections have been loopholes. Those loopholes let us forget that all of our conflict is Us versus Us. We are our own enemy.

It isn't until you reach the later novels of the Original Series, and the feature length films that we learn how it is we got to the 23rd Century. It is a dark path. The Eugenics program of the early 1900s in America is revived with the surgical precision the Human Genome Project allows, resulting in a new disparity among people. In addition to economics, ethnicity and spiritual beliefs the Eugenics Programs created disparity in degrees of humanity. This leads to the Eugenics War that left Khan in stasis until Kirk meets him, that Q references in the trial at the Encounter at Farpoint and again revisited with Nemesis in the Next Generation Movies and the rebooted Into Darkness. Eugenics Wars are the least of the worries of a future to come.

The Trial at Farpoint forces the Captain Picard to prove to Q that humanity deserves to be among the stars. In Q's lengthy indictment of Humans not only does he cite the Eugenics Wars, but also a period of drug fueled state endorsed slavery and, the near destruction of our entire species in World War Three. We look at the tech and the marvelous adventures, we drool over the freedom from oppressive industrialization and think "Wouldn't it be a wonderful place to live." We forget, until met with the Dreadnaught of Into Darkness, there is always going to be a dark side of human nature that we have to get to in order to reach the light.

We have the PADDs of the Next Generation, 3-d printing which is only a few degrees removed from the replicator on the Enterprise, the wireless technology that could be our first comm badges in the development of bluetooth technology, quadrotriticalli,  a newly released device that could be the prototype of the Universal Translator, and a race to develop the first functioning Medical Tricorder. We will have the technology ahead of Roddenberry's schedule. Will that be enough to circumvent the inevitable threat we pose to ourselves?

When you look at the political climate in America, the state of unrest throughout the religious world, and the rapid decline of species and ecosystem versatility, the industrialization of resources and the abuse of class systems for redistribution of natural resources it is a hard thing to trust in Roddenberry's prophecy. The Prophecy depends on our collective ability to see our danger to ourselves and act selflessly to overcome the darkest of our base behaviors to ensure the greatest numbers of survivors in the coming conflicts, rather than the tendency to sacrifice others for the benefit of a few. We've seen it in our history, The French Revolution, the Genocide of Indigenous North Americans, the Holocost, any colonization of a small government or economy by a larger. No one has ever accused humans of living Vulcan philosophy. We don't understand Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination so I'm not certain how we'd ever fully accept the good of the many outweighing the good of the few, or one.

I just finished watching First Contact, what I intended to be the first of a marathon for the Anniversary. First Contact is a stark reminder of things getting worse before they get better. World War III is the reason anyone felt like developing warp drive. It is true that we overcome in the end. The Borg do not succeed in their plans. We overcome the Borg but we never managed to overcome ourselves. We do not manage to overcome our own selfishness and destructive tendencies. When I look at the commentary on Twitter, or Facebook, regarding the state of affairs here and abroad, I wonder if we are even going to get to the point where anyone is able to survive a third world war.

No comments:

Post a Comment