On December 6th the next season of Star Trek: Discovery will premiere. The new Star Trek seems to evoke really strong opinions of love or hate. Since it was created by Bryan Fuller (Star Trek: Voyager, Pushing Daisies, and Dead Like Me), I’m apt to love it. His writing is replete with dark, quirky spins on universal themes. I identify with most of his awkward, introverted main characters from Chuck to Jay.
I am aware that just like The Last Jedi stirred up some toxic masculinity in the fandom; Star Trek: Discovery has some haters too. I care not one whit for them, though. They (just as is the case with Star Wars) have missed the whole point of this body of work.
There are some gems to glean, especially for storytellers, from this new series despite some fans’ negativity. Here are the three things I learned from the newest addition to the Star Trek multiverse*.
1 – Stay True to Your Roots
Keeping with the feel of Deep Space Nine and Voyager, the newest addition to the franchise pays homage to its predecessors, but is a fresh take. In the spirit of “Successful Television Writing” by Goldberg & Rabkin, this succeeds in being “the same but different” – the goal for continuity within a single series much less seven (yes, I’m including The Animated Series).
In Rabkin and Goldberg’s words:
A show’s franchise is the set of rules that allow for creativity. Without those rules, there’s only chaos.
We all have to wear various hats throughout our lives, whether we’re writers or not. Sometimes it’s hard to not get caught in an eddy of doubt and placating others, at least for me. Sometimes it’s hard for us to be true to ourselves while honoring the various roles we must fill.
2 – There’s A Light Beyond the Tunnel of Fundamentalism
In our age of globalization one would think that the world would be a more expansive place – where we can meet each other with understanding.
Just like the Klingons in this universe fear being assimilated into the Federation and losing their identity, so many people around the world are afraid of their identity being stripped away.
How am I concluding this?
Because the US & UK don’t have a monopoly on nationalism with MAGA and Brexit: nationalism is resurging all across Europe and Asia.
Prasenjit Duara surmises in “Development and the crisis of global nationalism”:
On the one hand, nationalism today works to protect against real or perceived predation, as well as to integrate the nation for competitive advantage. On the other, while economic globalization has made the world more interdependent, nationalism has made it difficult to translate this interdependence into cooperation, especially for problems such as the planetary environmental crisis.
Reza Aslan’s book, Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the age of Globalization, helped me see that we as a species have to find a way to move beyond the Us vs. Them conflict. It’s not a great way to define an identity, and justifies atrocities. The immigrant children being imprisoned in our country, and the chemical attacks we perpetrated against refugee seekers is approved of by its followers saying it’s not so bad – the kids are getting 3 square meals a day.
The most comically sad example I can think of is Jimmy Kimmel’s sketch where Sacha Baron Cohen reprises his role as Borat to “tamper” with the November 2018 election:
Crafting an identity for ourselves beyond Us vs. Them seems like this futuristic thing, but in the 1700s, Thomas Paine (patriot, author of Common Sense and The Age of Reason) said:
If he figured it out so long ago, surely we can too. I’m not sure what the answer is.
Being a third generation American (my grandmother immigrated from Honduras), I don’t think I’ve bought into the cultural mythos as strongly as others who trace their lineage back further.
Like and equal are not the same. I think that’s what this comes down to: we can learn about our differences, celebrate them, and realize that just because we are equal doesn’t mean we have to be homogeneous.
3 – Just Because the Future Isn’t Perfect, That Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Bright
“‘Though really, you’re Homo sapiens sapiens. There’s a whole sub-species thing. And you’ve got this-‘ [The Doctor] noticed the way she was looking at him, arms folded, one eyebrow raised….
[Martha] supposed people were always going to be better looking in the future, just as she’d found Shakespeare a bit unwashed and smelly. Oh, she thought, perhaps this handsome bloke looked at her, a girl from the distant past, with the same kind of horror.” – Doctor Who: The Pirate Loop, by Simon Guerrier
This passage from a Doctor Who book struck me. Martha meets these future humans and as she interacts with them she feels so primitive. Whatever our future holds, we can be sure that people will make advances. There have been so many crazy inventions and discoveries in my lifetime that I look forward to the advances yet to be made.
These are just a few of the things that inspire me:
- Clear aluminum
- Airplane propulsion with no moving part
- New teeth grown from stem cells
- New bones from fat stem cells
- The Ozone is Repairing Thanks to Conservation Efforts
Sometimes futurists are cast in this light that defies realism and falls into overly optimistic. That’s not always the case. It’s hard because worldviews can be so diverse that we can’t always reduce someone’s human experience down to a few labels. We can look forward to the future while recognizing there will be new challenges, different hardships for the progress we make.
On the other hand, there are people I know that I would say are “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good” – so focused on their beliefs regarding the afterlife that suffering in this world is overlooked as temporary.
There are also people I know who are far better than me and challenge suffering with every fiber of their being. I’m working towards understanding injustices more and doing what I can to make changes.
As the popular UU quote goes:
A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples in all directions. So it is with our thoughts, our words, our deeds, our joys and concerns.
There was a quote from Doctor Who I wanted to end with, but I couldn’t find it, so the next best thing is this quote from Westworld:
Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world, the disarray. I choose to see the beauty...
Though I won’t include the rest of that quote because… I agree to disagree about it.
I hope you’ll consider this show – CBS All Access has a free week trial right now. What are you waiting for? Go watch it!
What’s your favorite “Star Trek” series?
And what inventions or discoveries inspire you?
* With Star Trek having the alternate universe created by the events of the Star Trek movie reboot, and the alternate evil version of that, and the original universe with its opposite, it’s no longer accurate to call it a universe.