A Plea for the Return of Star Trek


I won’t lie: I like Star Trek more than Star Wars–mostly because I can relate to it better. It’s an extrapolation of Earth’s future, and that future is optimistic in nature. Trek is also (sorry, it has to be said) more mature than Star Wars, in that it takes on more mature themes and works in an integrated civilization with a complex moral code. Star Wars? Not so much. Still, I feel the essence of the Star Trek universe has been given short shrift, and I’m hoping that changes soon.

Star Trek: Discovery, a series CBS is releasing only online, will return to the adventures of a single starship exploring the galaxy, set a decade before the original series. This much I like. It also includes a younger Sarek, father of the legendary Mr. Spock.

Sci-fi geek that I am, I’ve been re-viewing my Trek DVD collection, and I’ve been enjoying BBC America’s reruns of Star Trek: Voyager. All of this re-Trekking of my entertainment time has caused me to reflect on what I like–okay, love–so much about the franchise. I admire the heroism. I like the efforts to keep the fantastic science consistent. I like the colorful mix of characters. I respect the notion of a positive future and while I’m not 100% on board with all the positions the show takes, the morality is recognizably Western, humanist, and pro-progress. And yes, I get a kick out of the semi-military action-adventure.

And I want to experience that collection of attributes again.

I have been ambivalent about the rebooted version of the Star Trek franchise. Minor spoiler alert after this many years, but the new Star Trek movies, starting in 2009, altered the timeline of the entire Trek universe, essentially rendering (if you follow temporal mechanics) the entire original series, Next Generation, and other shows except maybe Enterprise nonexistent.

Part of my ambivalence has to do with the casting and the portrayal of Captain Kirk in this new timeline. In some ways I like Chris Pine’s interpretation of the character William Shatner made so memorable, but in other ways, I dislike him. I also dislike the heavy reliance on explosions, pretty special effects, and action sequences without the heart, depth, or moral seriousness.

Star Trek offers a marvelous vision of space as a frontier for exploring what it means to be human. I love that and I miss it. And I hope it returns, soon.

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