Average User Score: 7.8May 17, 2013This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Into Darkness and the 2009 film which preceded it represent much more than simply the abandonment of almost 50 years of meticulously-maintained canon. Instead, something far less tangible and far more devastating has been lost.
What is it about this show that compels people (like me!) to obsess over it? And why is it so difficult to explain to others why it means so much to us? Or why we think that there is something unique and special in Star Trek.
It’s not easy to articulate an answer for that question. I’ve seen many interviews where even the actors who play the characters in the shows have trouble explaining it in a way which really outlines the totality of the premise.
I think the biggest problem is that we currently lack the shorthand language needed to express certain ideas represented by Star Trek at its best to other people in a way which is clear and simple to understand.
Star Trek showed us the world through a very wide angle lens, so we saw much more. I’m not speaking of the physicality of the place, but of the ideas. Star Trek brought us out of the pettiness of our own small daily lives to consider ideas different than those we might normally encounter. After watching at length, one might begin to realize that it’s actually a way of thinking; a different approach to the world.
There is a certain amount of optimism about our ability to solve our own problems together as a species. Because many of our contemporary problems have been solved, there are new problems to face. While they live in a utopia from our present day vantage point, I think the crew of the Enterprise would argue that they face problems all the time theirs is not a perfect world. They do have problems, but theirs are different.
Although Star Trek has fallen short in many ways over the years in presenting this idea. It had seemed that the core thought had managed to survive for a while. It was very clear from very early on what the basic idea was. A good summation about the mission of the show was given in a very early episode by a character named Keeler:
“One day soon, man is going to be able to harness incredible energy maybe even the atom. Energy that could ultimately hurl men to other worlds in some sort of spaceship. And the men that reach out into space will find ways to feed the hungry millions of the world, and to cure their diseases. They’ll be able to find a way to give each man hope and a common future. And those are the days worth living for.”
While very interesting, taken on its own, Keeler’s charter probably didn’t resonate as easily with people as “…to seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before.”
In the 1960s, Keeler’s was a message that you just did not see on television. You had your all-American families, your spy shows, and your mysteries. Science fiction itself was confined to the domain of strange aliens who always seemed hellbent on killing the Earthlings.
Even today, we still haven’t appeared to move much beyond this place in our media. When people think of science fiction, it is seen as either being an action adventure in space or some esoteric about a madman who wants to change the nature of being human or otherwise offend our present day sensibilities.
J.J. Abrams’ understanding of Star Trek appears to fall within these bounds. Gone are the stories about unmasking self-proclaimed gods, or the stories wherein the abandonment of the future’s ideals is seen as a wrong rather than a somehow heroic and necessary evil but not totally evil because our hero is infallible.
His vision of Star Trek is more about some nebulous battle and seemingly unending war between good and evil a theme which seems to resonate well in our culture. It’s a very simplistic message: Our guy (Kirk) is good, the other guy (this time, Khan) is bad.
But Star Trek is about bigger things than this round-robin. Said Gene Roddenberry: “Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”
We cannot go out into the universe and try to impose our will upon it with the gut certainty of being absolutely right. This will only lead to more conflict and probably our destruction by some far more powerful species.
Star Trek was an appeal to us to look at things as they could be and to ask… why not?… Expand