May 26, 2013


The brainchild of Gene Roddenberry, a WWII pilot, LAPD officer and eventual screenwriter; STAR TREK’s influence on the world will here have to go without comment.

The focus here would be the grief I have felt ever since the release of JJ Abrams new movie.

Roddenberry had the original idea for STAR TREK and envisioned it as “a combination of the two science-fiction series Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. He sold the project as a 'Wagon Train to the Stars' and as Horatio Hornblower in Space.”

He had very specific ideas that had to be contained in the series:

“religion and mystical thinking were not to be included, and that in Roddenberry's vision of Earth's future, everyone was an atheist and better for it”

Over the past five DECADES, Star Trek [has been] one of the most culturally-influential television shows, and is often regarded as the most influential science fiction TV series—in history.”

“The Star Trek franchise inspired some designers of technologies, such as the Palm PDA and the handheld mobile phone. Michael Jones, Chief technologist of Google Earth, has cited the tricorder's mapping capability as one inspiration in the development of Keyhole/Google Earth. It also brought teleportation to popular attention with its depiction of "matter-energy transport", with phrases such as famous misquoted ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ entering the vernacular. In 1976, following a letter-writing campaign, NASA t0 name its prototype space shuttle Enterprise, after the fictional starship. Later, the introductory sequence to Star Trek: Enterprise included footage of this shuttle which, along with images of a naval sailing vessel called the Enterprise, depicted the advancement of human transportation technology. Beyond Star Trek's fictional innovations, its contributions to TV history included a multicultural and multiracial cast. While more common in subsequent years, in the 1960s it was controversial to feature an Enterprise crew that included a Japanese helmsman, a Russian navigator, a black female communications officer, and a Vulcan-Terran first officer…”

It appears to me that another idea of Roddenberry’s made it into the series as well: the superiority of American capitalist white males. This is apparent in the arrangement of the Bridge of the USS ENTERPRISE – the elevated center is Captain Kirk (from Iowa); at his feet Sulu, the Japanese Empire (perhaps representing the Yellow Horde) and Chekov, Communist Russia. To one side, Montgomery Scott, the European Common Market; far behind him, Uhura stands for all of Africa and blacks in general; and inferior half-breeds the world over are represented by Spock.

All of this came from Roddenberry's vision of the future. Whether I agree with his views on religion or American “moral superiority” or not, I cannot deny the influence of his ideas on the real civilization of this planet.

JJ Abrams “rebooted” the world of STAR TREK in 2009 to wild acclaim. His movie ranks as the second biggest money-maker of the entire 12 movie franchise, with only STAR TREK THE MOVIE out-selling him.

There were so many changes – aside from the obvious shift in the time line and the existence of two Spocks – the ship grew, Kirk’s dad was dead and the Klingon Empire was a serious threat to the much weaker Federation…now that there were only 10,000 Vulcans left and their super-science influence has been lost. At this point, the Federation Founding members consists of the nearly extinct Vulcans (effectively eliminated), Humans, Tellarites and Andorians. While there are ten others listed as Federation Council Members, Star Fleet appears to be mostly run by Humans.

Abrams' Star Trek is supposed to be a whole different world. Abrams had the chance to right everything that was wrong about STAR TREK.

He might have done it if he’d had a vision as Roddenberrry did. If he had set out to change the world as Roddenberry had, he might have recreated STAR TREK, bringing it into the 21st Century; dealing with 21st Century issues. Roddenberry’s show dealt with 20th Century issues (clumsily at times, but nevertheless…) in episodes like, “Let This Be Your Final Battlefield”; “Devil In The Dark”; “The City On The Edge Of Forever”; “The Enemy Within”; “This Side of Paradise”; and “Balance of Terror”. Abrams might have done the same.

But that ship left Space Dock four years ago and is long gone from the Solar System. For example, instead of circling back to the Prime Directive conundrum that started the movie, Abrams et al left the obvious question dangling unanwered: as a still-effective super power, do we have the right to intervene in the internal politics of smaller countries?

Instead of renewing the ideals of STAR TREK, Abrams renewed the movies of STAR TREK, going so far as to lift scenes from at least two of them, invert them and make them UNDENIABLY more exciting, better filmed, more realistic, funnier, and better acted.

But it’s clear – at least in my opinion – that he’s not the least bit interested in “going where no one has gone before”, and instead appears to be taking “the road to El Dorado”.

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