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5/8/2009
THE ENDURING POPULARITY OF STAR TREK
CATEGORY: Culture, Star Trek

1-12

Today is the big day for Trekies of all ages as the newest installment in the film series opens in more than 3,800 theaters.

Entitled simply Star Trek, the film will fill in some blanks about the young adulthood of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the cast. There will also apparently be a satisfying continuity with the original series as Kirk’s mentor will be Captain Christopher Pike, a character in the original pilot as well as a two part episode in the first season based on the pilot.

Taking a look at the cast, except for Eric Bana who plays a character with the decidedly Trekie name of “Nero,” (Roddenberry loved classical allusions in his creation), the original Spock Leonard Nimoy, and Ben Cross, I am unfamiliar with the players.

This is just as well. It allows me to watch the film and not be distracted by wondering why what’s-his-name was cast in an important role.

It was 1966 when the original Star Trek series debuted. That’s 43 years of watching and internalizing an absorbing universe that has captured the imagination of people around the world. It is an astonishing record of longevity - a franchise, rivaled only by the James Bond series of films.

There have been 10 films based on the characters created in 5 television series that had varying degrees of success. (See John Nolte’s ranking of the films that he started today along with my own attempt at analyzing the best of them here.)

Why has the mythos of Star Trek endured? The original series with Captain Kirk and Spock was an uneven attempt to bring sci-fi to series television. I say uneven because few of the plots actually dealt with standard sci-fi themes. James Doohan, who played Scotty in that series once famously remarked that the original series resembled a western set in outer space.

But there were certainly several memorable shows written by legitimate sci fi authors like Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, and David Gerrold (”Trouble with Tribbles”).

Subsequent incarnations of the show did much better with time-space irregularities and other staples of science fiction. But aliens were almost always humans with weird ears or noses - a handicap made even worse by the fact the English seemed to be the universal language of the galaxy.

No matter. Those of us who are fans suspended belief for the hour long episodes that portrayed a society that was something of a radical utopia: The elimination of most violence, no money, everyone does what they want, one assumes free food and medical care - all the stuff dreamed of by Utopians in America for more than 2 centuries.

This is where I believe Star Trek captures each succeeding generation and is the key to its hold on our culture.

Many say the universe developed by series creator Gene Roddenberry reflected his belief in radical leftist politics which, at the time, manifested itself in groups of young people setting up “communes” across southern California where experiments in communal living (including “free love”) thrived for a time in the late 1960’s.

This may be so. There are certainly all the elements of pure socialism in Roddenberry’s human society of the 24th century as this excellent essay on Federation society points out:

Determinism: On the whole, biology dictates behavior. Humans are the race most capable of free thought and action, and have the most cultural diversity. Other races are stereotypical. All members of a given alien race share the same culture, beliefs, and personality traits. For example, all Ferengi are shifty and greedy, and believe in the Rules of Acquisition. Aliens who spend a lot of time with humans (example: Nog) sometimes acquire the human capacity to break stereotype. (Editor’s note: cultural contamination in in Star Trek is a one way street. Vulcans can learn to emote after enough exposure to humans (eg. Spock, Tuvok), but humans don’t become more logical after exposure to Vulcans. Klingons can become more ethical after exposure to humans (eg. Worf), but humans don’t become more aggressive after exposure to Klingons. Ferengi can become less materialistic after exposure to humans (eg. Nog), but humans don’t become more materialistic after exposure to Ferengi. After all, we’ve figured out the one true and righteous path, right? Sounds like the cultural self-satisfaction of Columbus and other murderous European conquerors).

F. Socialism. All people should work according to their abilities and receive resources according to their needs. Individual achievement is recognized socially but not rewarded materially. Individual freedom is not important. Economy should be centrally planned by the government, since they know best who needs what. Commerce and competition are necessary evils. The profit motive is evil. Social problems are caused by scarcity and/or unjust distribution of material goods, but modern technology renders competition for resources obsolete. Federation citizens have access to all the material things they need thanks to the Federation government, so they are free to be truly happy and to maximize their human potential.

But before we condemn Roddenberry for promoting Communism, let us examine another possibility - one based on history and all-American thinking - that would explain his vision in terms that are friendlier (although no less preposterous) than some addle-brained attempt to bring to life a Marxist paradise.

The “perfectibility of man” is a fairly recent concept in civilization, advanced by early Christian thinkers like St. Augustine who believed that the path to perfection was through God, an individualistic view of perfection. The Enlightenment philosophers didn’t reject that notion entirely but included the possibility that science and technology would eventually make the perfect society (Engel’s “scientific socialism” was related but a different animal).

Ideas on what defined “perfect” evolved also. But I think Roddenberry’s vision is informed more by Enlightenment thinking than Marxism. The society governed by the Federation echoes transcendentalist efforts at creating a Utopia at Brook Farm rather than Marx.

An atheist, Roddenberry was a near fanatic about keeping God out of his creations. But the philosophy Picard talks about in First Contact has a spirituality that cannot be ignored. He speaks of a world where there is no hunger, no poverty, no money, and that the desire for material goods has been replaced by a drive to improve oneself. This sounds almost monkish in its implications for a society.

Star Trek society is unreal because if given the opportunity offered in Federation governed earth, man would simply waste away in pursuit of the sensual. Indeed, it seems remarkable that we would have overcome the tendency to allow our baser instincts to prevail in a scant 400 years of evolution. First Contact tries to tie this fundamental alteration of the human condition to our making first contact with the Vulcans and realizing “we are not alone.” One would think that if the recently concluded nuclear war in that movie that killed hundreds of millions didn’t do the trick then why would meeting an alien have much effect?

But such inconsistencies and outrageous postulations about future humans don’t seem to stop Trekies from embracing the society created by Roddenberry and his successors. I believe this is because at bottom, Star Trek speaks to the adolescent in all of us who pine for a society where money is not necessary to enjoy luxuries, chores are optional, and everyone seems to have a teenager’s fantasy outlook on sex; everyone does it whenever they want with whomever they choose and with no messy consequences.

The serial alien girlfriends of Kirk in the original series, the love interests of many of the crew on Voyager, the Lotharian antics of Ryker on NextGen - the writers even going so far as to create a pleasure planet called Risa and a society of mental adolescents that engage in sex like rabbits — the attitude toward sex in Federation society is decidedly free and easy. This is not to say it is necessarily immoral, just that it bespeaks a society that any hormone addled adolescent would love to live in.

The attraction of Federation society does not bear up well if one were to apply critical thinking skills to the consequences of what such a community would mean if it were real. What about criminal behavior> Or a desire not to be educated, or even what would happen if one simply wants to strum a Vulcan lyre all day instead of contributing anything useful to the Federation?

Lacking these critical thinking skills, adolescents simply accept the premises of Federation society that are presented to them. And when we grow up, our fascination with the Star Trek world is partly due, I think, to taking a nostalgic trip back to our teenage years when we had no responsibilities and we weren’t stuck in jobs we hate because we had to make a living. Responsibilities on the Enterprise are not a burden, they are a joy. Who wouldn’t want to fly around in space, killing aliens, discovering fascinating new worlds instead of facing the day to day drudgery that defines most of our lives?

Transporting ourselves into the Star Trek universe then, becomes an exercise in adult fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to have a drink with Scotty or play a game of chess with Spock, or sit down for a discussion of archeology with Picard? And who wouldn’t want a date with Troi or Seven of Nine?

Yes, Federation society is based on simple minded principles. But that doesn’t make imagining living in that time and with those characters any less fun, does it? That will always be the basis for the eternal popularity of the series and the movies; visualizing an impossible future but living it with fun, interesting, and attractive people.

Judging by the slam bang opening predicted for the newest movie this weekend, the franchise appears to have rekindled enthusiasm for the whole Star Trek universe. And the adolescent in all of us is pleased.

By: Rick Moran at 10:53 am
38 Responses to “THE ENDURING POPULARITY OF STAR TREK”
  1. 1
    Dwight Said:
    11:22 am 

    Keep in mind that in the shows and movies:
    1) we see the universe largely through the lens of a certain slice of humanity that has been highly selected. They are the ones that have shown the drive and desire to get off their ass and make it through the academy. 2) the setting in which we see them is usually at arms length from the teeming masses at home.
    3) there were episodes (TNG I think?) that did touch on the psychological draw of pursuing the sensual, the one instance that comes to mind is the holodeck
    4) Holodeck time is a limited resource, even outside of Voyager

    Science fiction, at it’s heart, is the exploration of “what if we had technology that could do this, what would society look like?” In that way Star Trek, while certainly not the most stringent and uneven effort spent in continuity in details, has over time attempted to follow out logical conclusions. Both technical and social.

    Of course, ST as an entertainment business has ultimately given . As with a variety of fiction, trying to argue philosophy, strength of whatever governing approach, and such based on what is or is not in the fantastical world is quite perilous. Ultimately ST has, from the beginning, been a mirror held up to the writer’s own beliefs at that point in time. I don’t expect anything different from this edition of ST (though it could be a little weird given that chronological order of our world and the ST world are different).

  2. 2
    Dwight Said:
    11:24 am 

    Ack, missed finishing a thought.

    Of course, ST as an entertainment business has ultimately given a good deal of priority to playing to the audience. It wouldn’t have endured if it didn’t.

  3. 3
    Kurt Said:
    12:12 pm 

    Augustine did not see man’s perfection attainable within the “City of Man” here on earth. Instead, our life was directed towards the “City of God”, or the afterlife in heaven. Our goal was to live in accordance with this aim in mind.

  4. 4
    Foobarista Said:
    1:33 pm 

    The thing I liked about the Star Trek universe was the idea of “The Final Frontier” - which was a clear allusion to the original series as basically a space Western, where “Society” and its institutions are far away and the best diplomat is a fully activated phaser bank, so you trust in your people and your wits to get things done.

    This is what appeals to more libertarian-minded types about the show, even if the Federation itself sounds like a socialist utopia. And while there’s supposedly “no money”, they do often talk about “credits”, and there are numerous traders and such in the universe.

    Deep Space 9, in particular, was very much a Western, basically a fortress on the edge of Indian country.

  5. 5
    Mike Giles Said:
    1:43 pm 

    Couple of points. In the essay on the Federation, and how so many alien races are “one note”. Isn’t it obvious that the “alien” races, simply represent on aspect of human nature taken to the nth degree? The Ferengi as uber capitalists, the Klingon as the warlike nature of man, and of course the Vulcans as those too few moments of rational thought. And the reason that these aliens don’t “rub off” on humanity is that humanity already contains aspects of each and every one of them.

    Second point. Why are so many Star Trek fans so hostile to Deep Space 9? Might it have anything to do with that series being - in my opinion - the most realistic of them all? That it posits a far darker future, then the sunny one advanced by all the other Star Treks? I’ve always felt that the idea behind the series was “big” enough to fill two TV programs (which it did - Deep Space 9 and Babylon 5). And I think possibly the best episode of any of the Star Trek series was in Deep Space 9, where the Romulans are tricked into joining the war against the Dominion. I simply don’t understand why the series generates so much animosity.

  6. 6
    Foobarista Said:
    2:18 pm 

    For my part, I really liked DS9. I wouldn’t have the full collection on DVD if I didn’t :) And it had by far some of the coolest battles and complex balance (or un-balance) of power politics of any TV show.

  7. 7
    Dwight Said:
    2:35 pm 

    Deepspace 9 purposely didn’t move on. It was very much a show about consequences. Unlike the other S

    Also it was the closest to the teeming masses that constituted the non-Federation. That got it into the icky details down the social ladder from the military elite, which is what most of ST focused on, to the everyday reality of people.

    As such it undercut some of that escapism that I think Rick is talking about. The cowboyish, “screw the green alien, shoot the blue one, and get out of town at Warp 6″ that ST, especially the original series, had going on.

  8. 8
    Dwight Said:
    2:39 pm 

    Oh, and the Marquee was in the mix, too. The criminal element that Rick talked about largely missing. These former Fed troops that, with what I’d call a somewhat libertarian bent, decided (or had decided for them in some cases) that they’d rather eat cold gruel on some forsaken rock than live within the Federation structure.

  9. 9
    bsjones Said:
    3:16 pm 

    I always thought the Federation had the smell of Scandinavian Socialism.

  10. 10
    John Said:
    3:22 pm 

    Transporting ourselves into the Star Trek universe then, becomes an exercise in adult fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to have a drink with Scotty or play a game of chess with Spock, or sit down for a discussion of archeology with Picard? And who wouldn’t want a date with Troi or Seven of Nine?

    Well, unless you’re transported there and show up wearing a red Federation shirt…

    (Really, the only capitalists shown in the original series were either miners with really rough edges, like in “Mudd’s Women” or “The Devil in the Dark”, or shysters like Harry Mudd or Cyrano Jones. Though it’s safe to assume someone was paying for those cargo ships that — like the guys in the red uniforms — would meet a terrible fate either just before or after encountering the Enterprise.)

  11. 11
    michael reynolds Said:
    3:45 pm 

    Never underestimate the central importance of story telling when doing analysis. Sometimes things are the way they are not for philosophical reasons, but because it works for the story telling.

    Writing is subtraction as much as addition. If you try to depict every aspect of the story you end up with a mess. So you make choices to set aside one thing and emphasize another.

    My guess is that Rodenberry was less interested in socialism and more interested in keeping his stories focused on the action and the usually simplistic moral point: racism bad, body stealing bad.

    Later, like most of us, he no doubt tried to rationalize what were initially craft-related decisions as grand, visionary statements. I think it tends to be, 1) Story telling first and 2) Bullshit later.

    You may have something there. The original series gave an inconsistent portrait of Federation Society. But there were references to the elimination of hunger and poverty as well as an episode where we learned there were only a very small number of criminals left. And, of course, no more war.

    Obviously, as several commenters have made mention, those dilithium miners were selling the stuff to someone and getting well paid for it. But remember, NextGen takes place 70 years beyond the original series. And more of an effort was made in that series and Voyager to portray Federation society as something close to a Utopia.

    Lots of people say they like the “hope” that Star Trek offers for a better world. Well, I know you are a well read man so I know that you realize full well that anyone who thinks Utopia is possible should be immediately locked up as a threat to human liberty.

    ed.

  12. 12
    “Star Trek” As Socialist Utopia | KyleSmithOnline.com Pinged With:
    4:51 pm 

    [...] interesting, somewhat academic essay on the Utopian aspects of Star Trek (h/t to John Nolte at Big Hollywood): Such inconsistencies and [...]

  13. 13
    OBQuiet Said:
    5:06 pm 

    I have to wonder about this Utopia you see in the ST universe. Certainly the original did not have this vision. Start fleet was prohibited from interfering with internal planetary affairs and the gritty, prospector life of the Dilithuium miners portrayed in the show spoke more for free enterprise and limited government.

    It all depended on which episode and writer was at the helm.

  14. 14
    Russell Miller Said:
    6:48 pm 

    I watched this movie this morning. It was very, very good, and you will find that it certainly does *not* play up the “utopia” aspect. In fact, there is even a scene where a young Kirk gets stopped by a 22nd century policeman who calls him “citizen” (hope that’s not too much of a spoiler).

    They rebooted the franchise with this movie, and it is much more gritty than any previous movie, but while still keeping the character of the franchise. Please, watch it and then post back.

    I really hope you’re right and they have created a much more realistic Federation society than the ones portrayed in previous series and movies.

    Of course, I was writing about what had been portrayed previously.

    ed.

  15. 15
    bsjones Said:
    7:15 pm 

    I always thought Roddenberry accepted one of the fundamental tenets of Marxism: Man is basically good and it is ill conceived social organization that warps man’s innate goodness, thus, creating the problems we see in the real world. Organize society properly by removing the “warping” influence and a Utopia is the natural outcome for both Marx and Roddenberry.

    Another similarity is the child-like teleology involved in Marx and implied in Star Trek with regard to Utopia. For Marx scientific socialism is gonna happen. The question is when. And can we help it along? In Trek some civilizations are not ready for the Federation. At least not yet, but when they are (and they will be) we will come back.

    Reagan conservatism is also overly optimistic about the nature of man. Remove the warping hand of government from the market and from peoples lives and “maximized”, “efficient” outcomes for markets and people are assured. Government just has to get out of the way. Utopia will follow.

    Simple minded narratives about human nature follow us through history whether advanced by Rousseau, Marx, Reagan, or Roddenberry. More accurate descriptions of man’s true nature and its full range of possibilities can be found in Shakespeare, the Christian Bible, and the political philosophy of many of our own “Founding Fathers”.

    James Madison was both teleological and an optimist about America’s ability to rule the world. About the innate goodness of man, not so much. Man is power hungry. Man will abuse man for profit and pleasure. The place where men can abuse power the most and create the most injustice towards other men is in the sphere of politics. Therefore politicians had to be thwarted by other equally powerful men. Each avaricious man attacking and trying to limit the power of other power hungry avaricious men. In other words, checks and balances.

    That was Madison. That was 1787.

    Who are the most powerful men today?
    Who has the power to place “checks and balances” on the most powerful and avaricious men of today?
    What would happen if politicians decided to work on behalf of these “most powerful and avaricious” men?
    What would motivate politicians to work on behalf of these men instead of “We the People”?
    Are these powerful men “King Makers”?
    Do they have the ability to destroy a presidency?

    I wonder what Madison would think of the “checks and balances” we have in place to thwart the wills of the most powerful among us today.

    The idea that man is basically good and is perfectable is actually an enlightenment tenet. And it was Engels who coined the term “scientific socialism” to describe human progress based on the application of scientific principles to problems in society.

    ed.

  16. 16
    michael reynolds Said:
    7:28 pm 

    And, of course, no more war.

    And yet the Enterprise was suspiciously well-armed.

    Maybe this was evidence that in the future governments will still talk bullshit.

    “We’ve outgrown the need for war. But we have not outgrown the need for peaceful photon torpedo technology.”

    Yeah, but they only blasted teh aliens. The ones that acted like commies. Also, all the later series had captains that prided themselves on their diplomatic skills rather than warlord qualities.

    ed.

  17. 17
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    8:47 pm 

    A welcome break from politics, Rick! It’s always fascinating how each star trek series reflects the generation that produced it, and how members of each generation responds to “their” version of star trek. One can make out the moral qualms and interests of each decade that produced the respective adventures of each series. Because it was televised during my high school years, TNG will always be the particular series that excites me the most and the one that I can most likely share memories of, but knowing all the series helps to understand what my like-minded elders and juniors went through growing up.

  18. 18
    FLIPPYDIPPITY Said:
    9:47 pm 

    An atheist, Roddenberry was a near fanatic about keeping God out of his creations. But the philosophy Picard talks about in First Contact has a spirituality that cannot be ignored. He speaks of a world where there is no hunger, no poverty, no money, and that the desire for material goods has been replaced by a drive to improve oneself. This sounds almost monkish in its implications for a society.

    You religious types act as if you alone can define life and its purpose. But life can have purpose without spirituality.

    What religious type? Anyone who reads this site can tell you I’m an atheist.

    How ridiculous do you feel now?

    ed.

  19. 19
    Number 6 Said:
    9:55 pm 

    Gene Roddenberry deliberatly didn’t want to show Earth in the 23rd Century.

    Moreover, while they had the “Prime Directive” Kirk always managed to find a reason to interfere with an alien society (”Return of the Archons”; “Apple”). This was Kennedy era “New Frontierism” at work.

  20. 20
    michael reynolds Said:
    10:50 pm 

    #17

    Dude: Rick is not religious.

    I suspect he’s found a purpose without bringing God into it. I believe that purpose may be exasperating people on both the Right and the Left.

    No - just the dumb ones.

    ed.

  21. 21
    John Galt Said:
    10:54 pm 

    I don’t think Roddenberry purposefully wanted to portray a socialist utopia. The Federation may indeed be one, but Roddenberry put in the “tools” that allowed the utopia to exist. Matter/Anti-matter power generation gives almost limitless energy using small amounts of resources and Replicator technology that can take that energy and produce almost any item required. Thus, a near limitless amount of resources exist for the Federation’s citizens. So, with basic supply and demand, if you have limitless resources, the cost for those resources is essentially zero, eliminating the need for money.

    So, if a society could have limitless energy and infinite resources, a true utopia might just be achievable and acceptable to John Galt.

    That’s a fascinating concept. Never thought of that although you might want to think about what would people do with those replicators. Free booze? Drugs? Live on chocolate cake? Or replicate the latest in sex toys?

    My point was that you could not reform human nature and the appetites that man - with many exceptions of course - gives in to regularly.

    And what do you think humans would do with Holodeck technology?

    ed.

  22. 22
    bsjones Said:
    5:55 am 

    Rick,
    It is possible for Marx to share the belief that Man is basically good with the Enlightenment and not be part of the Enlightenment. Another example of someone not part of the Enlightenment that shares this belief in man’s basic goodness is Rousseau. Rousseau is widely considered part of the Romanticism movement. Romanticism is usually seen as a reaction against the Enlightenment, yet Rousseau sees man as basically good and corrupted by society and private property in particular.
    “The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naive or stupid enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” Rousseau 1754

    In other words, not every political philosopher who believes that man is basically good is an Enlightenment thinker.

    My point about the belief in the innate goodness of man had nothing to do with where the idea should be credited. The point was that believing that man is basically good leads to political philosophies that tend toward libertinism and injustice. A political philosophy that acknowledges that the seeds of good AND evil lie in the heart of man (like Madison’s does)leads to some checks on power. Those checks on power have the ability to mitigate against injustice.

    You are right about the words “scientific socialism” being used by Engels and not Marx. However, Marx did very much believe that his socialist utopia was inevitable. A more careful writer than myself would have said, ” For Marx a socialist utopia is gonna happen. It is just a matter of when. And how can we help it arrive sooner.”

  23. 23
    Cynic Realist Said:
    8:40 am 

    The Star Trek franchise is a marketing cash-cow geared for the “mental adolescents” in us, nothing more. Don’t expect our future human society would be like the Star Trek Earth but maybe more like envisioned in the movie, “Idiocracy”, a world where everyone’s IQ is less than 40 and doing dumber things.

  24. 24
    michael reynolds Said:
    9:02 am 

    Cynic:

    Yeah, it’s going to be all downhill from the pinnacle that you of course embody.

    ST isn’t trying to predict the future. Like most science fiction it’s playing with ideas. That’s not usually a bad thing. In fact, our willingness to examine ideas in fiction of all types is evidence that we are not yet an idiocracy.

  25. 25
    Mike Farmer Said:
    10:00 am 

    This might be a turning point in geekdom which takes what is quaintly known as “reality” to a higher level.

  26. 26
    SJ Reidhead Said:
    10:38 am 

    I had the honor of doing a two hour interviewing the Great Bird of the Galaxy several years before his death.

    Roddenberry was an extremely patriotic man, very proud of his military service and the years he spent as a cop. He was also very much “law and order”. Star Trek was envisioned as a “wagon train to the stars”, with the premise that any good science fiction should be tried as a western. If it worked as a western, then it would work as science fiction. Roddenberry specialized in writing scripts for the classic television westerns but was a closet science fiction writer who finally managed to get a break.

    He was not Marxist, communist, or even a socialist, and was very much an admirer or Ronald Reagan. (I think he even wrote a couple of Death Valley Days episodes). I came away from the interview thinking he was probably a Republican.

    The “idealism” of future came after Roddenberry realized that he was attracting a rather unusual fan base. I think the former cop in him “kicked in” as he literally profiled the people who were becoming involved as “Trekkies”. Roddenberry told me he realized he had a responsibility to those people, who were, he felt, literally rudderless and were “followers”. Very critical of cults and those who manipulated people, Roddenberry told me that he realized there was a possibility that he could give these people some ethics, morals and some values. Then - he began instilling these things into Star Trek.

    His original vision was a product of the Cold War. He envisioned a time where humanity had finally recovered from a world that had gone to war and literally nearly bombed itself into the dark ages. He loved this nation so much, that one episode in particular, “The Omega Glory” reflected his view that freedom, though crushed, will eventually win over oppression.

    The socialism came later, not as much as a statement of Roddenberry’s politics but how he saw the evolution of society as it became more and more technical.

    One of the over-riding themes in much of what he wrote was the idea of honor, especially within the military, which he very much admired.

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

  27. 27
    Neo Said:
    1:18 pm 

    a world where there is no hunger, no poverty, no money, and that the desire for material goods has been replaced by a drive to improve oneself.

    With this as a back drop, I always wondered just why anybody wanted to be anything less than a admiral in Star Fleet.

  28. 28
    Fausta Said:
    1:36 pm 

    Great essay, Rick.
    And don’t forget that ST’s been a lot of fun.

    Go see the new movie - the fun continues.

  29. 29
    John Galt Said:
    5:59 pm 

    John Galt said:

    I don’t think Roddenberry purposefully wanted to portray a socialist utopia. The Federation may indeed be one, but Roddenberry put in the “tools” that allowed the utopia to exist. Matter/Anti-matter power generation gives almost limitless energy using small amounts of resources and Replicator technology that can take that energy and produce almost any item required. Thus, a near limitless amount of resources exist for the Federation’s citizens. So, with basic supply and demand, if you have limitless resources, the cost for those resources is essentially zero, eliminating the need for money.

    So, if a society could have limitless energy and infinite resources, a true utopia might just be achievable and acceptable to John Galt.

    ed. said:
    That’s a fascinating concept. Never thought of that although you might want to think about what would people do with those replicators. Free booze? Drugs? Live on chocolate cake? Or replicate the latest in sex toys?

    My point was that you could not reform human nature and the appetites that man - with many exceptions of course - gives in to regularly.

    And what do you think humans would do with Holodeck technology?

    ed.”"”

    Yes, many in society would opt for free booze, drugs, cake, sex toys and sit at home in their own personal holodeck. All the power to them. Natural selection would then take place. Chances are that they would never go out and therefore never procreate. Their genes should die out eventually, leaving those who want to truly better themselves to carry on the gene pool.

  30. 30
    John Galt Said:
    6:05 pm 

    One other thing I just thought of…

    Even tho the Star Trek universe is a utopia of sorts with its limitless energy/resources. The Federation is still a merit based. One must prove themselves in order to rise up in the ranks of StarFleet afterall. I’m sure there is some nepotism/favoritism, but overall, it is complete meritocracy. Therefore, the Federation is not a socialist utopia.

    Capitalism for monetary advancement has been exchanged with Capitalism for individual advancement.

  31. 31
    michael reynolds Said:
    9:09 pm 

    I just saw the movie. I think it’s been oversold a bit. It was a “B” grade movie, but an A+ franchise rescue mission.

    Reading this post, this comment thread and seeing the movie, I think one of the keys to ST’s success is that almost no one has challenged it. No one has made much of an effort to create a character-driven utopian series. We’re all doing dystopias of one type or another — me included.

    Interesting. There’s a hole in the market that no one has filled.

  32. 32
    bobwire Said:
    3:20 am 

    The Federation must never trump state’s rights. If the Romulans have a medicinal plant, must an alien quorum trump native biota?
    And if so, why?

  33. 33
    John Galt Said:
    9:15 am 

    I have no idea as to what the Federation’s Constitution is to make any comments on if they can trump state’s rights or not. The Federation might not have a 10th Amendment.

  34. 34
    NaSa Said:
    3:02 pm 

    I saw the movie yesterday - it was thoroughly entertaining. Great flick.

  35. 35
    mdgiles Said:
    3:11 pm 

    John Galt Said:
    9:15 am

    “I have no idea as to what the Federation’s Constitution is to make any comments on if they can trump state’s rights or not. The Federation might not have a 10th Amendment.”

    The federation would have to have a 10th Amendment, 0r something close to it. After all we’re talking about an organization of true aliens, whose cultures may, in big and small ways, be diametrically opposed to each other. There would have to be a rule strictly limiting Federation interference into local matters (like say - Vulcans fighting to the death over marriage).

  36. 36
    John Galt Said:
    3:34 pm 

    mdgiles Said:
    3:11 pm
    “The federation would have to have a 10th Amendment, 0r something close to it. After all we’re talking about an organization of true aliens, whose cultures may, in big and small ways, be diametrically opposed to each other. There would have to be a rule strictly limiting Federation interference into local matters (like say - Vulcans fighting to the death over marriage).”

    Good Point.

    I think I would’ve fought to the death over T’Pring as well. She was a babe.

  37. 37
    John Galt Said:
    3:41 pm 

    The new movie was pretty good. I actually think it was the best ST movie made. Not really that difficult since the vast majority of the other sucked. I do kinda hate the time travel crap, but it wasn’t to annoying.

    McCoy was fantastic. The actor had the character down pat and in my view should be given huge roles in future ST movies. Spock the Young was good. I didn’t really think the other “main” characters really had the personalities and nuances that we all have come to know of the originals, but that is fine. Change is sometimes good. Although, I did detect some really good overacting at a couple of spots by the new Kirk.

  38. 38
    Alarm1201 Said:
    12:24 pm 

    Great article and discussion. I have recently introduced my children (13 boy and 11 girl) to Next Generation and Voyager via DVDs.

    Watching a few episodes also made me wonder about the political views of Roddenberry.

    I think he was expressing his ideas of utopia but they were not Marxist or Communist meaning that the perfection of society was not brought about by economic/social engineering. Instead his leftist dreams are brought about through advances in science.

    Two examples - In one episode of NG they found a planet were young beautiful people ran around in white diapers having all kinds of sensual pleasures. However, much to Picard’s surprise one of the foundations of their society was capital punishment. When Picard explains why the federation does not have to exercise this punishment he says that their society had found a way to scientifically isolate those human traits that cause crime and remove them so that criminal behavior is removed.

    A second quick example, the Enterprise is transporting a delegation of a primitive race that required live animals for their diet. When the representative of the primitive people asks Ryker why the do not eat animals he responds with something like this, “We no longer need to enslave animals because we have this thingy that replicates our food for us.”

    Here are two examples of leftist dreams brought about by scientific discovery and advancement not social or economic tweaking.

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