New “Star Trek” shows flaws of today’s sci-fi

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"Star Trek Into Darkness," the new Star Trek vehicle, benefits from 3-D and the latest movie gadgets, but suffers from not having Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry alive to make it original and creative. [SPOILER ALERT:] The story is twice-warmed-over from the original television version, and presented on the big screen before as "The Wrath of Khan."

The cast is cool, with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto back as Jim and Spock. Zoe Saldana as Uhuru is quite adequate, but I'm still waiting for her to match her performance in Avatar. Benedict Cumberbatch is as good as any Khan so far. Old time Trekkie fans like me and my movie buddy nod our approval.

But the best part of the experience came even before the movie started. The theater we were in ran three trailers from upcoming science fiction movies - blockbusters all. Unfortunately, like nearly all American sci-fi, they present the grimmest of all possible futures. We are either starving to death or being eaten by zombies in almost every predicted future!

The reason is capitalism, and the particular part of capitalism that we're living through today. Sci-fi generally extends current trends in a linear, non-dialectical way. If an author sees that the population is increasing, he/she projects the idea that people will eventually have to become cannibals to survive. If he/she sees curtailment of civil liberties, then the future must be a rigid dictatorship. If there are more shootings in America's schools, then sci-fi authors have to say that future first graders will necessarily be armed.

Almost every sci-fi movie review nowadays uses the word "dystopia." It means "an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives;" "anti-utopia," according to Wikipedia. Outside of sci-fi movie reviews, the word seems to have no other use in our language.

Gene Roddenberry's future wasn't like that, and that's why there are still Trekkie festivals, reruns of four TV versions of "Star Trek," regurgitated Roddenberry plots in movies, and generations of people worldwide who spread their fingers and say, "Live long and prosper." Roddenberry's future shows humanity that has already conquered its internal problems and only finds desperate situations when confronting new worlds. We overcome those situations, too.

When you stop and think about it, Roddenberry's is really the only possible future. It's a future worth thinking of and working toward. Until we bring that world about, we can enjoy the Star Trek movies.

Movie information:
"Star Trek Into Darkness"
Directed by J. J. Abrams
2013, PG-13, 123 min.

Photo: "Star Trek Into Darkness" official site

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  • thanks to jim for this piece, and to the comments touting some of the Soviet and other science fiction pieces. they certainly did have other, far more interesting and innovative, approaches toward the possible future.

    I do remember one of those pieces about a planet w small humanoid folks living on it, and attempted colonialization, including religious missionaries. The natives were very concrete in their day to day living. They nailed the missionary to a cross & were all sitting and watching when the ship returned, waiting to see if the missionary would actually "return."

    Posted by bruce bostick, 05/30/2013 10:46am (1 year ago)

  • Good comments. Asimov published a book of Soviet short stories and made the point, in the forward, that communists foresee a wonderful future while Amerian writers, immersed in capitalism, don't.
    My movie buddy says Roddenberry took a lot of his ideas from Asimov

    Posted by jim lane, 05/24/2013 5:15am (1 year ago)

  • Live long and prosper, under Socialism!

    Posted by Yusuf Gursey, 05/24/2013 2:12am (1 year ago)

  • I enjoyed this review, tho I probably won't go to the movie. Excellent point that most SF reflects a future where the worst of capitalism contrasts. But I recall one Star Trek TV episode where the Enterprise crew lands on a more "primitive" planet, and cannot understand what money is or why people need it. That episode, at least, clearly anticipates a Communist future for humanity.

    Early Soviet SF took this one step further. First-generation Soviet SF author Yefremov projected that any civilization that achieved space travel would necessarily have overcome the ills of pre-communist societies, and that meetings between such civilizations would necessarily be friendly.

    Later, the Strugatsky brothers, arguably the most popular and best Soviet SF authors, had a more complex view of the future. Their early works assumed a Communist future, sometimes in (peaceful) struggle against the remnants of capitalism. Later works are portrayals of post-apocalyptic capitalist dystopia, but include complex struggle for human values against dystopia.

    Posted by Art Perlo, 05/23/2013 8:54pm (1 year ago)

  • A lot of excellent points made here. This is precisely the problem I see with modern science fiction. Everything is either dystopian, post-apocalyptic, or otherwise involving zombies or viruses. The original Star Trek was very forward-thinking, and offered a very different view of the future, much like Asimov's "Foundation" or Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End."

    Posted by Blake, 05/23/2013 7:35pm (1 year ago)

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