See here for all parts of the “Star Trek: Progressivism and corporatism don’t mix” series.
The television series Star Trek has appeared in several iterations with a few handfuls of movies thrown in that have fired the imaginations of viewers of all ages for nigh 55 years. In particular, Star Trek captured the viewership of many progressives because Star Trek was much more than science-fiction intrigues or the swashbuckling adventures of humans exploring outer space.
The flavor of the universe was now different. Star Trek: The Original Series (ST:TOS) was set in the 23rd century on a planet Earth where poverty and wars were atavistic remnants of an inglorious past.
The Star Trek series presented a future where humans had overcome so much of the negative baggage that had plagued humankind. The progressivist1 fancy is rooted in tales of morality where the galaxy provides a most interesting backdrop. Humanity’s strengths and foibles are explored. And there is the diversity of the cast of ST:TOS — a big deal for the 1960s. Included among the bridge complement is an African female communications officer, a Russian navigator, an Asian as senior helmsman, and an alien as the chief science officer. The crew regardless of origin, for the most part, were very collegial.
Not a Perfect Progressivism
There might be some druthers. For example, the Enterprise’s Dr McCoy occasionally engaged in irreverent banter with the Vulcan science officer, targeting his alien demeanor and green-bloodedness. And depending on how one defines sexism, the nubile women on TOS were invariably shown wearing tiny mini-skirts and skimpy attire, and frequently women found that captain James Kirk had glommed onto both their shoulders, ostensibly in an attempt to exude 1960’s machismo.
Exploiting sexuality would seem to apply to the skintight catsuit that Jeri Ryan had to wear as the character Seven of Nine. Ryan was fine with it: “I have no problem with the costume…. And it… got the desired effect.” A bevy of female characters appearing on Star Trek are considered beautiful. Is that objectification or is it a facet of the human condition? Ask yourself if you prefer seeing a physically attractive male actor versus a plain Jim with a beer belly or a physically attractive female actor versus a plain Jane with flaccid underarms. The ratings for ST:VOY spiked after the voluptuous Ryan joined the cast.
There is also a rigid hierarchy that can cause friction at times among crew. This is very apparent in the ST:VOY episode “The Omega Directive.” Starship Voyager captain Kathryn Janeway sees fit to keep the entire crew uninformed about the presence of Omega molecules because protocol forbids it. Of course, the entire crew is curious and speculating; an in-the-dark commander Chakotay tells Janeway that she is not always a reasonable woman; Seven of Nine is in conflict with Janeway’s order to destroy the Omega molecules; ensign Harry Kim is upset at Seven’s deployment of crew to set up a chamber to safely contain the Omega molecules; Seven and the doctor argue about access to a patient suffering from Omega particle exposure in sick bay; Seven upsets the patient.”
And although all may appear dandy on screen, what goes on behind cameras may be a stark departure from the Hollywood-created fiction.
The Demise and Rise of Star Trek
ST:TOS never properly found its ratings footing in the 1960s. Season 3 had a new man at the reins, producer Fred Freiberger. TOS was made on a sharply reduced budget, scheduled in a terrible time slot (Fridays at 10 PM, a “death slot” in those days), and it had experienced a dramatic turnover in the quality of the writers room. Thus, season 3 ratings were dismal (… or not). NBC would cancel TOS at the end of season 3, a move generally considered one of the biggest blunders in entertainment history.
Star Trek, however, went on to become a sensation in syndication. Reruns would spread domestically and internationally. An animated series ran for two seasons. The resurgent popularity eventually spawned movies with the TOS cast.
Next up: flash forward to the 24th century and ST: The Next Generation. The cast is still diverse; miniskirts are less common;2 sentience is accepted in whatever form; the Trekverse doesn’t use money; and replicators have eliminated scarcity.3 Three more series followed TNG in a similar progressivist vein: ST: Deep Space 9, ST: Voyager, and ST: Enterprise.
Then, after a four-year run, just as the series ST:ENT was seemingly finding its footing with engaging story lines, the plug was pulled. Star Trek producer Rick Berman pointed to “franchise fatigue” as the reason for a drop in viewership. Actor Connor Trinneer, who played the chief engineer Trip on the show, cited poor scheduling by the UPN network and the departure of a corporate supporter in 2001 as leading to the show’s eventual demise with the final episode airing in May 2005.
An attempt was made to resurrect the ST:TOS brand in 2009 — same characters but played by different actors. The movie Star Trek was highly successful at the box office. This can be attributed to pent-up demand from long-time Trekkies, interest from sci-fi aficionados, as well as good promotion that attracted younger, curious fans. However, the writers, director, and producers had not captured the essence of Star Trek, especially the progressivism.
Writer David Gerrold who worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation gave his thoughts about the first two JJ Abrams Star Trek films:
… a lot of the movies being produced by the studios have fallen into the blockbuster trap of we have to have big moments, big blockbuster, CGI, exciting moments. And so what gets sacrificed is the emotional growth of the characters. There is no emotional through line. For me that is the problem in the JJ pictures is that they [are] very exciting but they don’t get us back to the heart and soul of the original Star Trek which is that Kirk has an interesting problem to solve that forces him to deal with a moral dilemma of the prime directive, being a Starfleet captain, and following the rules. And if you look back there was a severe limit on what Kirk could do because he was a Starfleet captain.
Moreover, because of corporate intricacies, there was a stipulation that the movies had to differ at least 25 percent from the original source material. Based on the initial box office success, two more movies would follow. But the numbers of movie-goers would diminish, and a fourth movie could not muster sufficient corporate backing. Given that we now live in the age of COVID-19, cinemas regaining popularity might be a fraught proposition.
Franchise fatigue? Yet when considering the comics, paperbacks, magazines, memes, action figures, model ships, cosplay, the number of people attending ST conventions, cameos and mentions in other TV series (e.g., Stargate, Family Guy, Big Bang, etc), and the plethora of ST fan films produced over the years, one would surmise that ST has always been in vogue.
An article in the culture section of GQ, “This Is How Star Trek Invented Fandom,” posed two questions that point to a disconnect in Roddenberry’s progressivist Trekverse and the corporate world within which Star Trek finds itself immersed:
Star Trek Las Vegas is perhaps the largest meeting of pop culture’s most famous fandom and certainly its priciest. The questions hover above the convention like a cloud of Tachyon particles: to whom does Star Trek really belong? How much, exactly, is that worth?
Despite the unwavering popularity of ST conventions and the ongoing making of fan films, currently produced ST television series had mirrored the vacuity of outer space. The fans were out there and clamoring for ST, but the corporate number crunchers were wary about what the eventual bottom line would be.
The long on-air gap between production of new Star Trek episodes or series spurred some among its fan base to create new fan episodes. Among these fan films were ST: New Voyages and then the 11 episodes of ST: Continues, both of which told stories of the further adventures of Kirk and crew.
A novel fan film is Star Trek: Aurora, a two-episode CGI animation about the experiences of a Vulcan and a human who crew a cargo ship in the Trekverse.4 It was exceedingly well done, with appealing characters and fascinating storylines.
Then along came a documentary-style ST fan film, Prelude to Axanar, which drew a large audience on Youtube — over 5 million viewers. Subsequently, a Kickstarter to produce a Star Trek: Axanar movie raised over a million dollars. That was too much popularity for CBS. That corporation, apparently, feared dollars flowing into pockets not its own. CBS launched a lawsuit for copyright violations and issued “onerous” guidelines for fan-film productions based on the Star Trek brand. Is that any way to treat your fans? The strict guidelines raised quite a kerfuffle among fandom, and CBS felt compelled to trot out an official to offer explanation.
No film and the failure to reimburse all donors to ST: Axanar has placed creator Alec Peters at the center of controversy since.
The world of television continues, but it faces new challenges from streaming services, such as Netflix. This has caused a ripple through the marketplace. CBS introduced its own streaming service, CBS All Access,5 and sought to revive and profit from its dormant Star Trek brand. Thus, in September 2017, Star Trek would reappear with a new TV series, titled Star Trek: Discovery.
Following the disappointing 2009 Star Trek movie, I wrote of a hope that:
… any future TV series will preserve the dynamism but also engage its audience with episodes exploring, for example, the depths of humanity, moral dilemmas surrounding the Prime Directive and cherished principles of the Federation, and progress toward egalitarianism in the future. In this way, Star Trek might recapture the progressivist attraction of the earlier series and appeal to the sanguinity of many viewers.
Yet, the ST:Disco series has stirred up extreme consternation among many Star Trek fans, often called Trekkies.
Marina Sirtis, who played Counselor Deanna Troi on ST:TNG, opined about subsequent Star Trek series:
I actually think that Star Trek got it right in our show and in the original show because the shows were about something. They weren’t just entertainment… They were little morality plays and that is what Star Trek lost after we were done. And it ought to go back to that.
I will agree with Sirtis insofar as the new iterations of Star Trek — created by Alex Kurtzman — have spectacularly missed the mark on what drew so many devoted fans to Star Trek in the first place. Many Trekkies reject these newer iterations as being Star Trek and refer to it instead as NuTrek. Or sometimes the difference between pre-2009 and subsequent Trek as “Old Trek” versus “New Trek.”
To be fair, the musical scores in NuTrek are excellent, the special effects are first rate, exotic shooting locales are used, and the acting is professional. But the core progressivist tenets of the Trekverse established under Roddenberry have been obliterated under Kurtzman.
The half century of Star Trek canon, built up by six previous Star Trek TV series and 10 movies, was swept aside through intentionality and ignorance. Continuity between the ST iterations has been irrevocably ruptured.6 Right away, longtime fans would notice that a popular alien species, the Klingons, had completely morphed into what appeared to be an unrecognizable species. This is despite the physical differences between the TOS Klingons and later Klingons, who had developed prominent forehead ridges, having been satisfactorily and cleverly explained in ST:ENT — seemingly all for naught now.
At the time ST:Disco was about to be launched, fans of Star Trek were informed by executive producer Akiva Goldsman that ST:Disco would take place in the prime timeline, preserving the canon therein. Yet during season 3, ST:Disco had officially declared the Kelvin-timeline movies canon.
Wokism on Steroids
Another criticism of NuTrek is that wokism and identity politics were now being rammed down the throats of viewers, although Roddenberry’s Trekverse saw humanity as having evolved beyond this.
Wokism even claimed the “acclaimed” author Walter Mosley, a Black man, who was onboard as a writer for Star Trek: Discovery until he quit after he was “chastised” by human resources for using the N-word on the job.
The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Mosley:
Mosley went on to explain that the individual in HR said that while he was free to use that word in a script, he “could not say it.” Mosley then clarified, “I hadn’t called anyone it. I just told a story about a cop who explained to me, on the streets of Los Angeles, that he stopped all n—ers in paddy neighborhoods and all paddies in n—er neighborhoods, because they were usually up to no good. I was telling a true story as I remembered it.”
Mosley wrote that he is unaware who complained about his use of the word. “There I was, a black man in America who shares with millions of others the history of racism. And more often than not, treated as subhuman,” he continued. “If addressed at all that history had to be rendered in words my employers regarded as acceptable.”
Contrast this approach with that in the ST:TOS episode “The Savage Curtain.” When the attractive lieutenant Uhura approaches, Abraham Lincoln is moved to exclaim, “What a charming Negress.”
Fearing that his wording may have been inappropriate, the former president apologizes: “Oh. Forgive me, my dear. I know that in my time, some used that term as a description of property.”
Uhura replies, “But why should I object to that term, sir? You see, in our century, we’ve learned not to fear words.”
To this, Lincoln states, “The foolishness of my century had me apologizing when no offense was given.”
Too often missing from woke consideration is intentionality. It is necessary to discern what were the intentions of a person using a word that some people consider inappropriate. Thus, Walter Mosley found himself attacked despite not having sinister intentions. Uhura recognized the innocuous terminology of Lincoln and was not offended. It was just a word anyway. Lincoln was engaged by Uhura instead of attacked for what some might have deemed been inappropriate wording. A willingness to engage in respectful discussion along with the attempt to understand are required to change minds and improve the human vocabulary. To attack a person without attempting dialogue risks a backlash from a person who might otherwise have been found to be well-intentioned or, at least, not ill-intentioned.
Any Vulcan will inform you of the simple logic that, in human parlance, honey is far likelier to attract bees than vinegar.
Robert Meyer Burnett, who is best known for directing, co-writing, and editing the feature film Free Enterprise, has also been extremely critical of the writing and storytelling in NuTrek. In his Robservations he asks, “What is Star Trek: Picard about and Who Really Created It?” and “What exactly is Star Trek Storytelling?” Yes, Burnett is extremely disappointed in the writing and storytelling of NuTrek. But he doesn’t just point out the flaws with writing, he also proposes how it could have been better written to appeal to viewers.
This is not to say everything was artful and hunky-dory in the pre-Bad Robot (read JJ Abrams) and pre-Secret Hideout (read Alex Kurtzman) ST. There are some clunker episodes such as “And the Children Shall Lead” in TOS, “Code of Honor” in TNG, and “These are the Voyages” in ENT. There are inconsistencies with canon, albeit usually not blatant and usually not intentional. And it is granted that in the TOS era, the special effects and technology to produce aliens and creatures was sorely lacking by today’s standards. For instance, in TOS’s “Arena,” captain Kirk fights the Gorn which is obviously a man in a lizard suit.
Nonetheless, NuTrek does have its fans. I appreciate that there are people who derive enjoyment from viewing NuTrek. One Youtube channel that is somewhat predisposed toward NuTrek but makes a reasoned case for its leaning is Ketwolski. Ketwolski acknowledged problems early on with ST:Disco. However, he contends that by the conclusion of season 3 that Disco has grown its beard; that “thematically, it was all very, very connected…”
In his review and breakdown of ST:Picard season 1, a NuTrek series based on the ST:TNG captain Jean Luc Picard a few decades hence, Ketwolski described parts of the finale as “frustrating,” “very weird,” and noted how the plot lines were disjointed. But he concludes, “Overall, I can say that Star Trek: Picard is the best first season of any Star Trek show to date, and that is quite the feat.”
Burnett disagrees: “I’ve been a Star Trek fan pretty much all my life. It’s pretty much my favorite thing.” But he feels baffled and perplexed looking at ST:Picard.
Burnett posed a question to himself about ST:Picard: “What is the element that I cannot stand about this show?” To which he replied, “The callousness with which it approaches life, humanoid life specifically.” He pointed to an example in episode 4 that left him “gobsmacked,” that of Picard walking into a Romulan bar “to stir up shit” that resulted in a Romulan migrant being beheaded. The message being that it is okay to murder your enemy — which, he said, is “straight up antithetical to Star Trek.” To adduce that this iteration of ST is “painfully stupid on every level,” Burnett noted that the sign at the Romulan bar was written in English.
NuTrek’s Absence of Likeable Characters
Probably the biggest gripe about NuTrek is the inferior writing and storytelling. The creator, writers, and showrunners do not seem to have a handle on what ST has been about and why it attracted such a fervent fanbase. This is despite clinging to the species and characters that comprised previous Star Trek. Thus Klingons and Romulans are recycled. We are presented with a bastardized captain Picard and the iconic Spock, as first played by Leonard Nimoy, has been reduced to a caricature. Thus the contradiction that what is labeled NuTrek is relying on previous Star Trek without grasping the ethos of Star trek.
I do not complain about the actors or the acting in NuTrek. But I am thoroughly unimpressed with the writing and storytelling. It must be quite difficult for actors to perform in an appealing manner to viewers when the script they base their acting upon is one of inferior writing with poorly developed characters or on previously developed characters that have been pretzeled into incoherent aberrations. While the crew of the spaceship Discovery is still diverse, the characters are all so unlikeable.
This is particularly so with the lead character of Michael Burnham who is played by actor Sonequa Martin-Green. Much of the fandom concurs about disenchantment with this character. Michael Burnham is often referred to as a Mary Sue; which has come to mean something along the lines of a young woman too extraordinarily capable at everything. (The male equivalent has come to be called Marty Stu.)
A Youtube channel, Trekpertise, asked the question: “Is Michael Burnham a Mary Sue?” Trekpertise concluded she wasn’t, and this conclusion was much pilloried in the comments section (albeit some especially devastating critiques seem to have been removed).
Many NuTrekkers dismissed complaints about the Michael Burnham protagonist as racism. This is an ad hominem argument, and it does not hold water. Racists are highly unlikely to be attracted to Star Trek because of its embrace of diversity. Then there are the facts that Uhura was a Black bridge officer in ST:TOS, Geordi La Forge was the Black chief engineer in ST:TNG, and Avery Brooks played the Black captain in ST:DS9. One excellent DS9 episode, in particular, “Far Beyond the Stars,” stirred abhorrence for the mental weakness and anti-humanism of racism.7
A comment by W PlasmaHam reads:
It seems as if the ultimate goal of this [Trekpertise] video was to defend Burnham by asserting that all criticism was motivated by race, gender, or dislike of a serialized format. I feel that such an argument is quite dismissive of legitimate criticism towards her. It appears that the majority of people in the comments agree that Burnham is a flat or unlikable character, even those who say that Mary Sue accusations are unfounded. Will you address those? Because it feels as if you took a quite easy approach to analyzing her character.
To which Trekpertise replied:
That wasn’t the purpose of this video. The purpose of this video is to illustrate that the Mary Sue criticism isn’t applicable to Michael Burnham, or indeed any other character in film and TV. It belongs to the fanzines of the 1970s. There is plenty else to discuss with Michael Burnham.
Even Ketwolski answered the question of whether Michael Burnham is a Mary Sue with a tempered: “Yes! kinda.”
Early on there was the intriguing and mildly charismatic Saru, a Kelpian who represents a new species introduced by ST:Disco. However, the writers would later have Saru neutered (figuratively) by Michael Burnham. The writers also saw fit to promote ensign Tilly in one fell swoop to number one. A fan favorite character, Spock, was also diminished beside the perfection of his sister-through-adoption, Burnham.9
Is NuTrek a Copycat?
The writing is so egregious that several seeming instances of plagiarism are apparent in ST:Disco. For example, some scenes appear to have been lifted from the films Die Hard, Total Recall, and The Day After Tomorrow.
Is it Disco paying homage? But there is no acknowledgement of the idea emanating from elsewhere.
A comment by OneBagTravel opined that “… these similarities is that they’re not just ideas being borrowed, they’re visuals nearly shot for shot stolen. It’s far too blatant to just say it’s coincidental.”
The criticism of plagiarism by Disco, however, started right off the bat when a lawsuit was launched against CBS and ST:Disco over the alleged stealing of the idea of a mycelial network traversed by a giant tardigrade across space-time and other similarities from the game “Tardigrades” created by Anas Abdin. The lawsuit was dismissed because Abdin had to “prove” the idea theft by CBS.
This points to NuTrek sadly lacking creativity and imagination.
How Popular is NuTrek?
In 2009, J.J. Abrams directed the science fiction action film Star Trek, written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Rotten Tomatoes had critics rate it 94% and fans 91%; it had a gross in the US of $257.7M.
The next film was titled Star Trek into Darkness. Again the ratings were favorable at Rotten Tomatoes: critics rated it 84% and fans 89%; it grossed $228.8M in the US.
The third film was Star Trek Beyond. Rotten Tomatoes had critics rate it 86% and fans 80%; the gross in USA had dropped to $158.8M — still a significant number.
The NuTrek TV series present a different picture. For ST:Disco there is a notable distinction between the ratings of critics and fans:
• ST:Disco Season 1; Rotten Tomatoes had critics rate it 82% and fans 50%
• ST:Disco Season 2; Rotten Tomatoes had critics rate it 81% and fans 36%
• ST:Disco Season 3; Rotten Tomatoes had critics rate it 90% and fans 46%
• Short Treks: fans only at 37%
This notable distinction between the ratings of critics and fans also applies to ST:Picard:
• ST:Picard Season 1; Rotten Tomatoes had critics rate it 87% and fans 56%
A NuTrek animation series also completed its first season:
• ST:Lower Decks Season 1; Rotten Tomatoes had critics rate it 65% and fans 44%
Of interest is a series called The Orville that is contemporaneous with NuTrek. It was created by the Star Trek fan Seth MacFarlane who was enamored with ST’s morality, writing, and characters. Although campier than ST, The Orville has captured the essence of ST’s progressivism and crew camaraderie. Work on season 3 of The Orville is, reportedly, underway, having been disrupted by the pandemic. For The Orville, the fan and critic ratings are the obverse of that for NuTrek in season 1. It was loved by both fans and critics in season 2:
• The Orville Season 1; Rotten Tomatoes had critics rate it 30% and fans 94%
• The Orville Season 2; Rotten Tomatoes had critics rate it 100% and fans 94%
The numbers indicate that The Orville, obviously an homage to Star Trek, is quite popular with viewers.
Intellectual Property and the Rights of Fans
Intellectual property rights accord priority to the owner of an idea over the benefits that could accrue to the wider society from access to the idea. Intellectual property rights have been used to hamstring the greater good for humanity, as well a ST fan films.
Yet Jeff Macharyas argued,
There has been no other TV show in history that could be considered as “open source” as Star Trek. In true open source fashion, fans have used the universe originally created by Gene Roddenberry in 1964 as “the source code” for fan-made films, cartoons, games, etc. If one considers the characters, settings and general plots of Star Trek, then it’s easy to understand how Star Trek has been a true open source universe.
Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, would seem to agree. He wrote in the foreword to Star Trek: The New Voyages (1976):
Television viewers by the millions began to take Star Trek to heart as their own personal optimistic view of the Human condition and future. They fought for the show, honored it, cherished it, wrote about it–and have continued to do their level best to make certain that it will live again.
…We were particularly amazed when thousands, then tens of thousands of people began creating their own personal Star Trek adventures. Stories, and paintings, and sculptures, and cookbooks. And songs, and poems, and fashions. And more. The list is still growing. It took some time for us to fully understand and appreciate what these people were saying. Eventually we realized that there is no more profound way in which people could express what Star Trek has meant to them than by creating their own very personal Star Trek things.
Ella von Holtum, affiliated with the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Iowa, examined “Freedom of Expression and Intellectual Property in Fan Fiction of the early 1980s.” She summarized some learning points:
1. Intellectual Property and Freedom of Expression exert very different forces upon cultural productions
2. Intellectual Property applies economic principles to the realm of creative expression
3. Freedom of Expression does not contribute to an oppressive power dynamic, and supports the work of all creators
4. Intellectual Property should not be invoked in discussions about creative products – it simply doesn’t apply, and demonstrates deeply harmful effects
Gene Roddenberry passed away in 1991. Unfortunately, Roddenberry had sold the rights to Star Trek to Paramount for one-third of future profits.10
In the meantime, as far as Star Trek is concerned, the corporatocracy determines what will be produced and when it can be viewed. The only power of the fans is to tune in or not to tune in; in the end, this is a mighty power. It is the fans who will determine whether a show is profitable or not. The corporations may control what is made available for viewing, but the public decides what they will view.
Hope for a Star Trek Future?
The world is far from achieving the morality of 23rd or 24th century Star Trek.
Nonetheless, Star Trek is important because it presents a vision of what the future could be, something people could aspire to. Becoming an astrophysicist, astronaut, scientist, film industry writer, social justice campaigner, etc. To work toward the abolishment of poverty, racism, the penal system11 and war. However, we don’t need to wait for the 23rd century. We can start right now in the 21st century. It is a matter of will and determination. China didn’t wait for the 23rd century. It took action and demonstrated that absolute poverty can be eliminated now.
In the Star Trek future, Earth is united under one government. Humans of all ethnicities and nationalities are as one. That doesn’t mean Star Trek is free from propaganda. For instance, prominent human characters in the Trekverse tend to be American, although countries are a thing of the past. In the film Star Trek: First Contact, Zefram Cochrane invents the first warp drive spaceship in Montana, leading to first contact with Vulcans. Captain Kirk is from Iowa. Captain Pike who preceded Kirk is from California.
The TOS episode “The Omega Glory,” features the Yangs (Yankees) and Kohms (Communists), the Pledge of Allegiance, and the flag of the United States. This patriotic reverence for Americana takes place in a distant solar system on the planet Omega IV. However, this is not surprising for a series produced by an American TV network for an American audience.
Moreover, it is well known that Hollywood and US propaganda go hand-in-hand. And it is also well documented that the CIA influences Hollywood and the media in general.
Twenty-first century Earth is a planet riven by militarism and violence, imperialism, hegemony, factionalism, classism, racism, prejudice, poverty, inequality and inequity. It is the moneyed classes that control the media. It is the moneyed classes that will determine what appears in mass media. Warring is normalized as patriotic, and that may well explain the militarism and warring among planetary factions that is so prevalent in NuTrek. The rich thus become richer by launching wars to be fought by the poor who are speciously told they fight for honor and country.
In NuTrek, the United Federation of Planets is no longer governing, and Earth, one of the founding members, is no longer a member. The principles of the Federation lie at the core of what Star Trek is about: “liberty, equality, peace, justice, and progress, with the purpose of furthering the universal rights of all sentient life. Federation members exchange knowledge and resources to facilitate peaceful cooperation, scientific development, space exploration, and mutual defense.” Yet NuTrek even goes as far as to depict the much more distant future as regressivist, factional, battle-scarred, wracked by poverty, and dealing with energy scarcity. This is what the crew of the USS Discovery encounter after exiting a time vortex to emerge in the 32nd century.
What is this message from NuTrek? Clearly, the 32nd century is not aspirational. This is why NuTrek is anathema to so many Trekkies.
Finally, midway through season 3 of Disco, I gave up on watching what I hoped would be Star Trek because I finally reached the inescapable conclusion that NuTrek up to now (i.e., Disco, Picard, and Lower Decks) was not Star Trek. I had watched (and rewatched) every episode of every ST production until this moment. Nonetheless, I will hope that future ST series will reconnect to serious grappling with moral dilemmas, the advancement of the human condition, the positivity of what is to come, and the writing of thoughtful scripts with developed characters (some of who are appealing) in line with previous ST series (i.e., before NuTrek).
Poor audience ratings and criticisms have plagued NuTrek from the start. Surely those criticisms have been heard by the corporate suits, but will they respond to what the fans want? Netflix didn’t pick up ST:Picard for international distribution. ST:LD went without an international distributor well into its season. Clearly streaming services weren’t fighting each other for NuTrek.
The financial markets became bearish for ViacomCBS in late March, as the stock began to precipitously plummet.
Yet, NuTrek is filming a fourth season of the much reviled ST:Disco and a second season of the already tired retread ST:Picard, which tries to slip in many cameos for Patrick Stewart’s former colleagues with mixed results; e.g., Data, the android who doesn’t age, has appreciably aged. NuTrek didn’t even bother in a few cases to hire actors who previously had played the ST characters, so viewers were expected to overlook the incongruencies.
Knowing that there is a hardcore Trekkie fanbase seems to have jaundiced some in the NuTrekverse to a possibly negative reaction. Did Jason Isaacs who played captain Lorca in season 1 of Disco take this fanbase for granted when he said:
I don’t mean to sound irreverent when I say I don’t care about the die-hard Trek fans. I only ‘don’t care’ about them in the sense that I know they’re all going to watch anyway. I look forward to having the fun of them being outraged, so they can sit up all night and talk about it with each other.
An antipathy has arisen among a section of NuTrekkers toward those who do not share their appreciation for NuTrek. They frequently call critics of NuTrek “haters.” While some of these people probably would admit to hating NuTrek, most people do not respond well to be called a hater.
What I hate is ad hominem, so I am unimpressed when people resort to the tactic of disparaging other people through name-calling. Calling others “haters” is illogical, regressivist, and antithetical to the Trekverse as conceived by Roddenberry.
A Glimmer of Hope?
Season 2 of Disco saw captain Pike of the USS Enterprise injected into that series for one season. Afterwards, fans clamored for more of Pike and the Enterprise, and such a series is, reportedly, in the works. It offers a ray of hope for the fans. But given the NuTrek track record, don’t hold your breath.
Next: in Part 2, B.J. Sabri will discuss Star Trek from an expanded political viewpoint.
Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be emailed at: kimohp [at] gmail. Twitter: @kimpetersen.
- ↩ To define: “What Is Progressivism?”
- ↩ This is definitely not to imply that wearing a miniskirt is negative; it would just seem to indicate that the gams of female characters were now being downplayed in favor of their other attributes.
- ↩ Manu Saadia, Star Trek fan and contributing writer for Fusion.net, has written a book that delves into the utopian economics of the Trek universe: Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek. Review.
- ↩ The second episode is titled “Mudd in Your I.”
- ↩ Subsequent to a corporate merger, it has now been renamed Paramount+.
- ↩ Why didn’t Secret Hideout (Kurtzmann’s production company) hire a super knowledgeable Trekkie or two to check the scripts for canon and continuity errors? If Secret Hideout did do this, then it has a bad HR department. But I suspect that Secret Hideout intended to rip up ST canon and continuity.
- ↩ Having added an adjective denoting preponderent skin pigmentation in this essay was very frustrating, and so some level offensive, to this writer because fans of ST do not see race; they just see humans. And it is hoped that all humans would recognize that we all are that: humans.
- ↩ For additional argumentation for Michael Burnham being a Mary Sue, view “Michael Burnham is The Best at Everything (Part 1),” “Michael Burnham is The Best at Everything (Part 2),” and “Michael Burnham is The Best at Everything (Part 3).”
- ↩ Spock’s sister having suddenly appeared out of the NuTrek ether — canon be damned again.
- ↩ James van Hise, The Man Who Created Star Trek: Gene Roddenberry (Pioneer Books: 1992): 58. Via https://archive.org/
- ↩ They still have the brig on starships, but the dignified treatment of internees is light years beyond the gulags of Abu Ghraib, Alcatraz, Attica, and Guantanamo.