Star Dreck: The Next Degradation

This story is primarily about Star Wars, but there are statements in it about Star Trek that have gotten up the dander in this middle-aged Trekkie.

We’ll start with this one:

“I often think about the areas of the Star Trek universe that haven’t been taken advantage of,” Paramount’s (Marc) Evans says. “Like, I’ll be ridiculous with you, but what would ‘Star Trek: Zero Dark Thirty’ look like? Where is the SEAL Team Six of the Star Trek universe? That fascinates me.”

If Gene Roddenberry hadn’t been cremated, he’d be rolling over in his motherfucking grave right now.

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Starfleet’s Seal Team 6. They’d be recasting every week.

Starfleet, the quasi-military organization depicted in the multiple television and film incarnations of Star Trek, was never intended to be a shoot-‘em-up instrument of gunboat diplomacy. Yes, every incarnation of Trek on television and on the big screen has capitalized on a rougher, tougher rendition of Starfleet, but that was never part of Roddenberry’s vision. Indeed, he is said to have hated the uniforms introduced in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, (the so-called “monster maroons,” the coolest uniforms in sci-fi, in my opinion) because they were too militaristic compared to the simpler uniforms of the 1966 television series and the one-piece pajama uniforms of the 1979 feature film (which were god-awful).

I’ll make a confession now. I actually did enjoy the Dominion War story arc of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) at the time it aired. Some years later, though, I started watching reruns of the original series, and realized how far Trek had strayed from its original intent, which was to tell the story of a “wagon train to the stars.” The opening monologue, spoken by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) spelled it out clearly. “Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” In the late 1980s, Star Trek: The Next Generation amended the monologue, replacing the word “man” with “one,” art imitating life. That show continued the tradition set forth by the original series, but subsequent series drifted away from that premise. DS9 started out with promise, with its complex and diverse characters and distinctively non-Starfleet alien environment, but took a darker turn with the introduction of a new adversary threatening the United Federation of Planets, spiraling into full-scale war, a first for any incarnation of Star Trek.

Before any of you fanboys and girls get apoplectic, let me qualify that last statement. Yes, the Dominion War was the first war that ever played out in the Star Trek universe. The conflict with the Klingons, which was portrayed in a handful of episodes during the three-year run of the original series and depicted in three of the six movies featuring the original series cast exclusively (not including Star Trek: Generations), was, at best, a cold war. Think about it. Did we ever hear details about massive armed conflicts between the Klingon Empire and United Federation of Planets during the years 2266-2269 (the 23rd century calendar years in which the original series were set)? The Klingons merely showed up every so often, there was tension, conflict and resolution. The closest it ever got to escalation was in the episode “Errand of Mercy,” when the Klingons inflicted martial law on the peaceful neutral zone world of Organia. One could argue that this was the 23rd century political equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which, at the time that episode aired, was probably still fresh in the minds of American television viewers. There was documentation of the Romulan War, but until the episode “Balance of Terror,” occurring in 2266 on the Star Trek calendar, the Romulans had been reclusive for more than a century, following a brutal war that brought both sides to its knees and resulted in a treaty establishing a neutral zone between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire.

Indeed, war and other armed conflict is in the backstory of Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets, but, until DS9 it had not taken a front row seat. Roddenberry would not have wanted it, preferring a more optimistic depiction of human development in the 23rd century, a story of humans who would attempt all other avenues to solve problems before resorting to armed conflict. For all the talk of Kirk vs. Picard, and the popular notion that Kirk was tougher (if he was, it was a reflection of the historical period in which the respective series were created), Kirk was reliant on and tempered by the other half of his brain, first officer and science officer Mr. Spock. NATO could use a Mr. Spock.

In recent years, J.J. Abrams’ reboots of Star Trek have further drifted from Roddenberry’s original intent, with a pair of movies that put the Federation under siege from a Romulan from the past with a most decidely non-Romulan-looking ship (do some homework J.J.) and again, rebooting a popular character from the original series and the movies, Khan Noonien Singh, and injecting him into his spinoff Trek universe. The two movies were action-packed, to be sure, but they were not Trek, and that may have been by design.

Again from the above-mentioned article.

“Abrams’ Star Trek movies were fine. But he acknowledges, now, that the rational, scientific, boldly-going Trek paracosm didn’t resonate with him when he was a kid.”

Here’s an idea, J.J.: if Trek didn’t resonate with you, then why don’t you just leave it the hell alone?

Abrams’ two Trek movies were, in my opinion, well-funded fan fiction, and they have had the unfortunate effect of bringing into the Trekkie fold new fans who like Star Trek for all the wrong reasons. I have no use for those movies or the new “fans.”

Because of this slippery slope, though, we now have a Paramount executive speculating on the possibility of a Starfleet equivalent of Seal Team 6. I know it’s just a TV show, and that I should just go out and get a girlfriend, but assassinating heads of state or other leading threat force operatives is not in the character of the United Federation of Planets. Starfleet was never meant to be an equivalent of the American military, but rather a multicultural exploration and peacekeeping organization.

If Paramount’s intent is to take Star Trek down this treacherous and morally questionable road, it may as well just let the Trek franchise die.

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