I have been a fan of Star Trek longer than I have been able to speak. Given that I started speaking at 10 months, that is a LONG FREAKING TIME. I’m speaking of The Next Generation, specifically, as it’s what I watched with my mom in the wee early years of my life.
In the modern era of science fiction, dystopias, and video games that frequently combine those tropes with KILL THE XENOS (Warhammer 40k reference for my tabletop nerds out there), I find that most people have forgotten, or never knew in the first place, what made Trek special.
It was not the fights, though TNG and Deep Space Nine had some terrific battle scenes. Voyager, too on occasion. It was not the unique (though 99% humanoid) aliens. It was not the technology or the technobabble or the plots (though many of these were wonderful).
Bonus points to anyone who can tell me in the comments which episode this is (easy one, I know)
Beyond everything else, what made Star Trek special in science fiction was its optimism.
I decided to write this post when I was considering how hard it’s become to remain positive and optimistic in the modern age. We are inextricably linked to a constantly packed newsfeed, 90+% of which is bad, sad, or difficult. Regardless of where you stand politically, culturally, racially, etc., there is enough on whatever method you utilize to stay current to depress you. Please note: it is important that we know these things. I am not advocating hiding from the world to protect a perfect bubble of ignorance. That would be bad. The issue is that the worldly malaise had soaked into everything. Even our fun.
Certainly, there are sources of optimism out there, but, in my experience, those sources are more commonly ridiculed by the majority that have come to believe the world was in some way meant to be grimdark and depressing. Our TV, movies, books, songs, and more have heavily favored the dark over the light in the last two decades.
And, frankly, I get it. We want our media to reflect our general perception of the world. That said, I think we go too far from time to time. As an idealist and optimist, myself, I’ve faced more antagonism than I ever expected, simply because I believe in the good, better, and best. I want to encourage you, to bolster you, to let you know that you’re important and that there still remains such tremendous hope for our future.
Not everyone wants to hear it. And I get that.
But sometimes we NEED to hear it. In times of crisis, when fear rises to sustain itself upon the weeping masses that have been stranded in their difficulties, the last thing we need is more reason to be depressed. We and they need hope. Perseverance. Optimism.
That’s what Star Trek is to me. Not always, no. Sometimes it’s terrible, depressing, or stupid. But at its best, Star Trek is a series that believes wholeheartedly in what we, as human beings, can achieve. It questions our choices and mistakes, but it never questions the inherent value of our humanity. Instead, it elevates that binding fiber between us as the most vital piece of our success as a people, a civilization, and a species.
There are times when prices must be paid, and the cost is often steep (DS9 did this SO well), but there is always hope. Perseverance always overcomes.
And we need that. Now, and frankly, always.
Just don’t get me started on the more recent Treks and movies. (Or do in the comments below.)
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See you next time!