Finally Understanding Star Trek

I like dire fiction.

Battlestar Galactica

Humans driven to near-extinction by their own robotic creations struggling to survive.

The Wire

The War on Drugs in Baltimore, shown equally from the perspectives of the police and the dealers, never depicting either side as overwhelmingly good or evil. It’s just a mess.

Firefly

Humanity expands to the far reaches of the galaxy, but installs a tyrannical, monolithic government that causes horrible problems for its people.

Dollhouse

A pharma-tech company creates a way to program human brains. Terrible, terrible things ensue.

picard

Learning to Love Star Trek

This list could keep going, but the point is that I am typically drawn to dark, gritty, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad-type fiction.

Throughout my decades of love for science fiction and science fantasy, I never enjoyed Star Trek. At different points in my life I thought it was “too cliché,” “too geeky,” “too boring,” or more recently, “I can’t picture actual humans living on the USS Enterprise.”

Too Cliché

Wrong. Most of the stuff I thought was cliché in Star Trek was created by the show.

Too Geeky

No one is perfect. One of my flaws was believing that lines could be drawn, “I may be a geek, but I’m not that big a geek.”

It was dumb, and it took a ton of people recommending the show for me to realize that I should swallow my pride and enjoy it.

Too Boring

It’s true that Star Trek and Star Wars are dramatically different types of stories.

The Enterprise is a research vessel, and most of their conflicts are derived from local planetary politics and scientific discovery. Whereas Star Wars is an epic war story.

But I love politics… So it was enthralling.

“I can’t picture actual humans living on the USS Enterprise”

My crass way of explaining why I couldn’t get into Star Trek was, “I can’t picture anyone taking a dump on the Enterprise. It just doesn’t feel real to me.” I still can’t.

After watching 176 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I finally get it (I got it earlier in the process, I’m just getting around to writing it down).

Star Trek isn’t about the future. It’s about the future that you want. It’s a beautiful future where the sick are easily healed. Where anything you desire exists in abundance. Where people get along with one another regardless of externalities. Where the primary struggle in life is making yourself better as an individual.

It’s a beautiful future, and one that I am happy I experienced.

The Measure of a Man

Season 2, Episode 9 is entitled The Measure of a Man. It features a trial to determine whether the android Commander Data is a sentient being deserving of the same rights as any other citizen.

This is one of the most beautiful hours of television I have ever seen. It’s a masterpiece so fine it made me weep.

Try it. See Star Trek at its best. it’s a hell of a journey.

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