From TV to cinema, books to video games, hell even just watching the news, space is something that most of us with our tiny ape minds just can’t get enough of. Since we could comprehend lights in the sky, we’ve always wanted to see what’s out there.
As such, this lust for wanting to know has led to us creating hundreds if not thousands of fantasy worlds in all manner of shapes and sizes. . Arguably one of the most famous, and one of the most beloved, is Star Trek.
Star Trek was an important show, whether the people who hate it want to admit it or not – it pushed a lot of boundaries that, when it was originally aired, were very taboo. Star Trek: The Original Series (obviously not what they called it then) had the first interracial kiss, had a Russian character during the Cold War, a black woman character who had status and respect, and a pan-Asian character. All of which during the late 1960s in the US.
Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry was a visionary who wanted something better for the world, and he tried to bring that across with Star Trek. The running theme through Trek was the idea that, in the future, encountering new people, older debates of racism, sexism, and equality in general are not gone, but in fact need to be discussed on an even grander scale. Star Trek, as a sci-fi show, took issues that were happening in real life and projected them onto something that wasn’t real, and since we know that the media is important, this created a platform for people to understand these issues and to also understand that these issues needed to be addressed.
Star Trek was great, and important, and this trend continued through to the other series’ (except Enterprise, we won’t talk about that one). What upsets me, however, is the fact that while there are a great many sci-fi shows that continued this trend (Battlestar Galactica, anyone?), there are a lot of attempts to pass off ‘sci-fi’ that fail to do this at all. The point of sci-fi, I feel, is to make things accessible for discussion, because they exist in this safe world that doesn’t have repercussions; reaching a great number of people without forcing an opinion on the viewers. Instead, it will hopefully just make them think. What a lot of recent sci-fi films seems to do it just present a stage that seems space-y and techno-babble-y, and instead…we have an action film in space. The two recent Star Trek films are both guilty of this. I love them, and I am hugely entertained when I watched them, but mostly it is just Captain James T Kirk gets hit in the face by various aliens and Spock…runs around, I guess? Even the hugely successful Guardians of the Galaxy, which has overtones of brainwashing and terrorism, is still in effect just a guy who thinks he’s way cooler than he is just bumbling across the universe whilst everyone else does all the work.
This is disappointing, to me. Sci-fi should be about making people think, whilst inspiring them to want to make something themselves or help people – much like staring up at the stars has inspired humans for hundreds of years. I don’t particularly feel very inspired by a bunch of handsome white guys punching each other in the face whilst holding an appropriately alien-looking weapon – even if Lee Pace was oddly handsome painted blue. It makes me want to turn my brain off, and I’m not blaming anybody for wanting to do that – but it’s not what I expect from the genre.