2022 marks the year that star trek creator Gene Roddenberry would have turned 101, and while it’s been 30 years since his death, it’s fair to say that the legacy he created for himself is thriving. Not only have creators joined his work over the last 50 years, but his franchise has established itself as one of the pillars of science fiction storytelling. Although he is considered the father of the utopian future, he was not always happy with the way his vision changed over the years, taking issue with various elements of The next generation. The question then arises: how does modern star trek live up to Roddenberry’s vision?
What’s most interesting about this question is that it’s not asking if you would have liked the new shows, as the answer would probably have been no. Before his death in 1992, Roddenberry had already become disillusioned with what the producers and writers were doing with the film. TNG, culminating in the Season 4 episode “Family”. The episode focuses on the crew of the Enterprise trying to return to a sense of normalcy after their fight with the (then still terrifying) Borg and assimilation, and subsequent disassimilation . of Captain Picard. Roddenberry apparently hated the episode, allegedly for not being “24th century” enough.
When Roddenberry first created star trek, it was intended to show a utopian vision of the future, where all the so-called “evils” of modern society had been eradicated. He created the Federation and a world that was based on principles and personal development instead of money, but more importantly, one in which the problems related to ableism, discrimination and racism were almost irradiated. People from the future were supposed to be perfect, and that went double for Starfleet and Starfleet captains. This went so far as to be aesthetically perfect as well. The perfect captain for Roddenberry was Kirk, with his handsome looks and strong jaw lines. In this regard, he was apparently not a fan of casting Patrick Stewart for the lead role in TNG, (Neither was lifelong friend Ian McKellen, apparently.) calling him a “bald middle-aged Englishman”, far from the supposed “perfect” man of the future.
“Family”, then, was highlighting everything that Roddenberry did not want star trek being, showing what most people would describe as vulnerability and relatability, where he would call flaws. To make matters worse, the episode showed Picard’s turbulent relationship with his older brother, and that all was not well at Château Picard. In Roddenberry’s mind, domestic friction shouldn’t happen when everyone is perfect, going against everything he wanted the show to be. It’s worth noting that the older Roddenberry got, the more trouble he had with decisions like this. Perhaps a younger version of him would have been happy with this story, but the older version surely wasn’t.
Things changed a bit later TNG with the beginning of Traveler Y deep space 9, two programs that began after Roddenberry’s death. Many Trekkies believe this was a good thing, as they believe Roddenberry would have hated what was done to his creation. DS9 it would have especially irritated him, as the show highlighted the corruption and darkest underbelly of the Federation, showing them far from the perfect utopia Roddenberry had wanted. Both shows featured their respective leads getting their hands dirty to do whatever it takes for the right thing. This would have upset the man who legitimately made a rule during the first season of TNG stating that none of the main characters would conflict.
This continues in the very modern iterations of the franchise, with picardo, strange new worlds, and more important Star Trek: Discovery, a show filled with the gritty realism that the other shows fail to fully portray. It shows a small humanity, one of humans who have failed and who struggle to survive in a violent universe, who rely more on luck than on technological or social advances. While, according to fans, the show has improved, it is still marred by its first season, which at heart was a story of war and lackluster action sequences. Roddenberry wanted the Federation to be what everyone in the universe should strive to be. In his view, the conflicts and problems arose from those who were not “advanced” enough to embrace humanity’s new values, not the idea that the Federation was potentially as bad as any other, or that it really is human to err. .
While it is easy to point out the many reasons Roddenberry would not have liked modern life star trek, It’s not entirely fair to say that they still don’t hold to their original vision for the show. As Roddenberry became less and less involved with the shows, they changed to survive and appeal to mainstream audiences. In many cases, this meant that they strayed from substance and relied more on action. But in his heart, each star trek The series has focused on the philosophy of kindness. Each series contains valuable life lessons on how to do the right thing no matter what the cost. Roddenberry’s vision is present in all of them, every time a moment of empathy or kindness is shown, from choosing not to shoot a supposed enemy, to sacrificing himself to save others without sound. Perhaps it is not that the humans of the future are perfect as Roddenberry wanted, but that they keep trying to be, a lesson humanity can learn long before the 24th century.
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