I recently signed up to join the Planetary Society, a group led by Bill Nye that advocates for planetary science and exploration.
When you become a member, they send you a T-shirt that says “I have a place in space.” In fact, I wore that shirt on the plane headed for the Creation Entertainment Star Trek convention in Las Vegas earlier this month. It felt appropriate wearing it given I was headed toward the largest gathering of Star Trek fans in the United States. Yet at the same time, the words don’t mean as much as they could. Part of me feels they ring hollow.
The idea that I, or any of us, have a place in space is a very forward-thinking view. It’s the optimism that drove society to dream about the future as Apollo 11 touched down on the lunar surface. It’s also the same optimism that we have lost in the decades since the last Apollo mission, and since we’ve spent our time in space boldly going around and around the planet as we had done for decades.
The world changed in that time period. The Iron Curtain fell. We had relative peace and economic stability for a few years before we found ourselves thrust into a new conflict and an age of fear and cynicism. We see it in our politics, in our media and in our discourse. The bright future we envisioned for ourselves seems like a distant memory and the foolish dreams of the overly-optimistic. We’ve grown complacent, content with our lot in life, whatever it may be.
There is no better time for Star Trek to make its much-needed return.
Of course, we have the J.J. Abrams movies but, while I do like them, they are not Star Trek as we know it. They’re Star Trek meets Star Wars, replacing the humanist elements with the fantastical and adventurous elements that define the galaxy far, far away.
It’s enjoyable and certainly profitable for the studio, but we need something more. We need a Star Trek with real meaning again. To do that, we need to step beyond a two-hour film every few years and go back to Star Trek’s roots on the small screen, where it all began.
Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future made an entire generation of scientists, engineers, doctors and more want to make that space epic a reality, through technology and simply bettering the world we live in. Optimism played a big part in it, but there was something else at play too; it was believable. Whether the specifics of the technology are right or wrong, we could envision ourselves in that future.
It wasn’t a world of Jedi Knights or Cylons, but a world of human beings who made their society better. Why? They just decided to make a better future, and now we yearn for that day to come again. Star Trek has always been a roadmap, and we can use it to help guide the way again.
Star Trek for a new generation should be a reflection of us. It should show a Federation and a Starfleet that have made mistakes and that have become complacent in the wake of the destructions of the Borg Collective and Romulus. Then, it should show how the Federation and Starfleet come back to reclaim that glory. When Romulus exploded, it was like the wall fell in space. After the fall of the Soviet Union, we grew complacent with peace and thought we were on top of the world. Then, 9/11 happened and it was a downward spiral from there.
Many things are better, but the infrastructure of our society has declined.
Let’s see a Star Trek that starts off that way but, in the end, is a roadmap for fixing our own issues. The issues that this can explore are numerous: nationalism and the fear of the other; petty governments and vision leaderless who don’t understand the problems their people face (I’m reminded of a great moment in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” when Cmdr. Sisko laments how the leaders of the Federation don’t understand the issues in deep space because when they look at the windows of their Earth offices, all they see is paradise); political partisanship between different factions of society; and so much more.
That’s only a taste of what we can see as such a show reclaims the legacy of its past.
Over a series of columns, I’m going to talk to you about how this can be accomplished by putting forward an idea for a series. This is not a pitch to a studio; nor do I have delusions of grandeur. I have a writing background, and I feel telling what a Star Trek story could be through this column will be the way I can best explain my point of view.
I call this idea “Star Trek Legacies,” and it’s my hope you’ll see how this series, set in the prime universe, can once again make Star Trek relevant to the zeitgeist of our world. Through it, I want to remind us, as James Kirk said, “(of) who we once were and who we must be again.”
About the Author
As a columnist for 1701 News, Brandon Rhea is writing about the future of Star Trek. Professionally, he serves as a Community Manager at Wikia. One of his roles for Wikia is working with the Trek Initiative, a partnership between Roddenberry Entertainment and Wikia. He currently lives in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter @brandonprhea.