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[GUEST POST] M.J. Moores Tells Us Why Star Trek Won’t Make It to the 23rd Century

Since the dawning of time (or at least since the time of her birth) stories have cradled, and enveloped MJ in a world of possibility. She relishes tales of adventure and journeys of self-realization. MJ runs an Emerging Writers website called Infinite Pathways where she offers editing services and platform building opportunities, has an essay in The Writing Spiral: Learning as a Writer, and is a freelance contributor to Authors Publish Magazine and Indyfest Magazine. The first two novels in her Chronicles of Xannia Quartet, Time’s Tempest and Cadence of Consequences, are currently available in print and e-book. Connect with her on her author website or on Facebook.

Why Star Trek Won’t Make it to the 23rd Century

by M.J. Moores

And another Red Shirt dies… this time it’s not just a random crew member but the entire Star Trek universe – and that’s a cryin’ shame. Not even the Abrams re-imagined conception of the Trek franchise can pull a Kirk-returned-from-the-dead move to resuscitate this iconic sci-fi love.

Do you know why that is?

Quite simply, as a society we’ve changed. The idealistic notion of star exploration and discovering “new life and new civilizations” crumbled when the world grew up. For so long the Americas cried for true peace as the Cold War remained an invisible weight on our lives. This naiveté yearning to grow beyond hatred spawned a generation and more yearning for hope. And with the dawning of the space race and regularly manned missions to outer space, we rejoiced at the idea of a new adventure and hope for the future. Even in the 1990s first-world countries were still looking at the endless potential of space, growth, and blissfully ignorant citizens.

We saw the first change in our Trek-verse with Deep Space 9 and dealing with a mostly stationary location – looking closer at individual lives and working alien relationships as opposed to wondering about out there. Then, with a return to the core fundamental of exploration, Voyager took on a love-hate relationship with the masses; some blamed the casting of Janeway, others thought the idea rather tired, but mainly the ‘real world’ was dealing with serious problems. Rather than blaming poor writing (which no one is immune to), the newer inceptions of the Trek-verse haven’t panned out for a very real reason. And then, there are the Trek fans themselves; like in the world of Heroes or X-Men we are evolving and changing.

So what do viewers want if not honest to goodness space exploration?

Survival, plain and simple. For a long time now the market has been saturated with Will Smith battling aliens over the White House; the remnants of Earth being overrun by aliens; aliens posing as humans in order to infiltrate and destroy mankind; even young kids with super-minds seeking to destroy an alien race before it destroys us. The big fantasy-books-turned-movies share this focus with the likes of The Hunger Games and Divergent series’.

Consider the hot sci-fi TV shows right now: Killjoys, Extant, Dark Matter, Defiance, Falling Skies. These programs are not about finding peace or new discovery. These shows take an extremely close, dark look at the ‘what if everything went wrong?’ and the ‘how do we deal with life now?’ questions. Our collective fear of the unknown and drive to believe that we can survive against these odds leaves the sci-fi of the current era little room for innocent wonder. We’ve transitioned from an open, outreaching ideal into a people obsessed with self-preservation – and who can blame us? Look at what we’re dealing with today: global warming, terrorism, nation-wide hatred that spawns one blood bath after another.

And if you think the fan-developed TV Series Star Trek Constellations will help revitalize and refresh what poor Enterprise could not… you might want to think again. The overriding construct of the program deals with alien technology that destroys planets (a dash of Death Star anyone?) and a crippled star-class ship that doesn’t quite destroy this threat. Again, we’re dealing with survival and fear, not the traditional concepts of exploration and hope that made this franchise great.

How does that affect you, the average sci-fi fan?

If this is indeed an age of the loss of innocence, where we see monsters around every corner and fear our own extinction, then perhaps there’s a lot more going on in the world of non-fiction that needs tending before we can return to being idealists enamoured with what lies beyond our own galaxy. Trekies and Treckers hanker after a resurgence of the guiding principles that made Star Trek and Next Generation popular. Societies always have fears, and back during the comparative innocence of the Cold War, when it was nation against nation, and we thought we’d have warning before bombs dropped, and that diplomacy would help–the peace and understanding of Star Trek was a good fit. Today we’re into the type of fear marked by the selfish, the individual in the name of X: unexpected attacks not sponsored by members of the UN, fear of the random and the senseless. This is the terror that must be addressed if Star Trek will stand a chance to make it to the next century.

What do you think?

8 Comments on [GUEST POST] M.J. Moores Tells Us Why Star Trek Won’t Make It to the 23rd Century

  1. Tomas Diaz // December 7, 2015 at 1:24 pm //

    While there is much overlap, I think reflecting on this topic in light of the Star Wars vs. Star Trek rivalry may be interesting. I’ve been one who’s always preferred Star Wars to Star Trek, and I think these ideas have something to do with it.

    At heart, Star Ways is about self-exploration – revelations of personal relations and dealing with the fall out (“Luke, I am your Father”), understanding how to perfect oneself without becoming lost in that self (The Light Side or the Dark), and, the need to fight for ideals over simple practicality (the theme animates the original trilogy, the Empire being practical while the rebels acting on ideals, and is discussed in a ham-fisted way in the prequels). It’s a person-oriented model all the way through, and one which takes for granted that persons are faulty and need to be perfected (the question being how).

    Star Trek, it seems to me, has always been more about the wonder of the outside world, of societal relations. It assumes, like you’ve pointed out, a kind of at-heart optimism, so its struggles are more about showing how reasonable actions will always lead to the best sorts of outcomes.

    This is a simplistic distinction, but I think an interesting one.

    Star Wars has continued to grasp our collective interest (weathering the horror of the prequels and waiting for the sequels with bated breath) because it still directly talks to our concerns – trying to life a perfected life in a world that is oppressively seeking out destruction. It’s pessimism (people are screwed up and capable of falling at any time) is present, and is something that seems beyond (though perhaps not contrary) to reason. The force’s actions acting as a supra-rational aspect, and the Dark Side is oppressive. However, this is mitigated by an optimism – this supra-rational has a light side, a potential of true human perfection in compassion and peace, independent of the darkness of the world.

    Perhaps it is this optimism we most need. One need only look at the bevy of GrimDark tales, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, and books touting “gritty, realism” to know we have the pessimism down pat (perhaps a bit too much…). But we need the optimism. So long as that optimism remains foreign or even suspect, Star Trek in its essence, I would guess, will remain foreign to us as well.

  2. Tomas Diaz // December 7, 2015 at 1:32 pm //

    Just for followups, forgot to check notification.

    • That’s a fascinating interpretation, Tomas. I do believe you’re on to something. While Star Trek tends to look ‘beyond’ self, they do give us a level of that dynamic as the characters relate to each other and their situation(s). Star Wars gives us that glimmer of hope and the knowledge that even though we are all connected, allowing our emotions to rule our actions (Dark vs. Light) plays more to the modern individual than the altruism inherent in the better Star Trek series’. There was a time and a place when Star Trek was great in its own right, but the human race has evolved (or devolved) and tends to look in to protecting one’s self rather than reaching out and exploring like the adventurers of old.

  3. I’m not quite sure what the author is getting at here. Is it that a cynical approach to SF is preferable to one that presents a more hopeful future for humanity? I just feel that not only does Moores miss the point about why Star Trek is still relevant, I wonder if she feels that anything other than “survival” as a theme is relevant at all.

    • I don’t think she’s saying that negativity is better or worse than optimism. She is simply pointing out that–for better or for worse–cynicism is what’s out there now.

  4. Much of what you say is cogent. But I would like to point out that the emotional mood of a culture changes over time, or rather cycles over time. The 60’s through the 80’s were, as you say, a time of optimism–maybe even overly naive optimism. Certainly, I agree we’ve moved on to a time of dark fears and xenophobia. But the 60’s were not the first era of optimism in American history, or even the second. The wheel has turned several times, and I don’t think we can assume that optimism will never roll around again.

    • Excellent point, Michaele. Life is cyclical and it would be irresponsible for me to say that our culture won’t ever find a new optimism. I think, we are no longer susceptible to that kind of naive optimism because of how we’ve developed as a nation, a world. Optimism on a grand scale may yet be in our future, but I fear that Star Trek will have run its course well before that happens. Perhaps a new entertainment series will rise to take its place but with the backlash from the failed & shortened series’ after TNG & DS9 (I quite liked Voyager but I was one of the few) the writers haven’t been able to pull the masses back in – and the ratings show that. It was merely an observation I had 🙂

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