Delayed Responsibility

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Star Trek, Again

Posted by deckard47 on May 7, 2009

So I lied. Like James Kirk! The NYT also has a review up of the new Trek movie, and although it’s not a great review, it does one thing right. It doesn’t spend a lot of time bemoaning the loss of Star Trek‘s vaunted “liberalism” and penchant for “discussing deep stuff.” Most places that have reviewed it so far have been talking about the lack of this quality. Really?

Were we watching the same series, guys? Because I remember a series full of sexism, racism, and general stupidity, a series that was the blandest, most inoffensive kind of TV/LA liberalism. TNG and DS9 (let’s not talk about Voyager, ok?) both kicked the “sensitive” part of Star Trek up a notch (and hey, I love listening to Patrick Stewart rave about the Prime Directive as much as anybody, but that show was “liberal” only because it couldn’t be bothered to be too conservative), and DS9 actually had some cool ideas about government, war, revenge and other things (thank you, late-series Ron Moore episodes).

BUT. Star Trek has never been a place where I go to for my social commentary or liberal escapism. I might go there for those things, if I was Senator Joseph McCarthy or something. It’s a joke, and a bad one, to pretend that however “deep” or “liberal” the new film is or isn’t, it’s a fall from previous heights. Go back and watch the original series: it’s awful, awful stuff, and people who say it was good either haven’t seen it (often a lot of media types, who realize that they have to pretend that Star Trek was good, because it is now a part of ancient, respected pop culture), or are involved, forgiving nerds, like me. And trust me, it sucks a lot. Except when it’s used as a long, hilarious Bill and Ted reference. Go back and watch TNG, there is an episode where they actually happen upon a planet full of primitive black people, I think. Look at all of Star Trek: 7 of 9, andbody? This was a show liberal in that compared to horrible racist stuff, it was only middlingly offensive.

And I am so excited to see the movie! I want to see Karl Urban not play a murderous angry angry man, for once. It will be strange. Also, John Cho swordfighting? Yes!

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3 Responses to “Star Trek, Again”

  1. nhex said

    You’re pretty off-base on this one. The more morally complex DS9 is my favorite Star Trek series, but Trek has always ran with social commentary and liberal ideas, especially while Gene Roddenberry was alive. This has always been a key and welcome element of the shows and their optimism, even with the goofy and clumsier attempts. Hell, just look at this runthrough the The Onion A.V. Club for just a brief glance.

    http://www.avclub.com/articles/spaceracism-is-bad-and-17-other-notsosubtle-lesson,27462/

    It is a valid criticism that the new movie doesn’t even bother to address any of these ideas, but I enjoyed it anyway, as a fun summer adventure. The characters and casting were pretty solid and I didn’t feel it disrespected the franchise.

  2. deckard47 said

    I’ll allow that all of the series have had a very goofy (which is definitely the right word) sense of liberal optimism near to their hearts, but in their execution, they always failed to live up to their vague gestures are peace, acceptance and tolerance in the future. This best they often did was skirt around these issues. I’d argue that DS9 was the only one that ever tried to say anything interesting about the various issues and power structures that it touched upon. TNG was always pretty “touchy-feely” without ever acting on it, TOS was incapable of making a point that I could take seriously, and Voyager just failed every step of the way (let’s not try to make Enterprise look good, above-average 4th season or no).

    Sure, they were trying, but they never made me believe it was _that_ important goal for them. Not like newer shows try to do (BSG…. um, not much else? Even BSG fails in places, and not a lot of people care about that).

  3. deckard47 said

    My point (which I didn’t make!) being that it’s odd to critique the new movie using these guidelines. I mean, think about Star Trek 5. It was so introspective and deep, with it’s meditations on mortality, human nature, and faith, and _dancing Uhura_. Um wait.

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