Going where everyone has been before

2008_star_trek_XI_logo_trailerI saw the new Star Trek movie last night. Overall, I think it was a good movie — entertaining and well-acted. Unfortunately, it was much more “new” than “Star Trek.” That’s not to say the movie isn’t something people should see. For the trekkies out there, I think you’ll be impressed with the way the new band of actors pays homage to the original cast, finding ways to work in mannerisms, speech inflections and catchphrases in a way that is impressive and delightful.

The disappointment I felt last night was, instead, for the loss of the morality play that used to make Star Trek such a great TV and movie franchise. I can’t speak to Enterprise, because I never saw that ill-fated, short-running series. But Star Trek, ST: The Next Generation, ST: Deep Space 9 and ST: Voyager all fit this bill, as did the first 10 movies, if I remember them all correctly.

When Gene Roddenberry created the original Star Trek series, he pushed the bounds of acceptance at the networks and with society by using characters in outer space to deal with social and moral issues that were plaguing everyday life but that people were unable to address head-on. The original series, created in the late 1960s, dealt with racism, communism, slavery, counter-cultures, the Vietnam War — if you could find something controversial going on, there was probably a Star Trek episode about it. Did you know Star Trek was the first show on television to have an interracial kiss? The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager all carried on this tradition.

I have been thrilled that my kids picked up my love for Star Trek — they started out being entertained by the characters, the action and the overall concept. But, as they’ve gotten older, they’ve also started to notice there are some deeper, philosophical discussions to be had after many episodes. They are excited about going to see the new Star Trek movie. I’ll take them and I’ll let them decide whether they like it or not without influence from me beforehand.

On the drive home from the theater, we’ll probably find ourselves discussing the characters and the action and the slightly confusing storyline. But the only moral dilemma or societal issue we’ll find ourselves having discussions about will be the loss of science fiction storytelling in Hollywood. That genre seems to have lost its ability to weave a tale that can have a lasting impact on its audience. It’s an ability that was destroyed by an evil, screaming, computer-generated monster that seems to be growing in intensity and resilience with every passing frame.

Star Trek used to boldly go where no one has gone before. Now, I fear, it’s going where everyone else has already been.

(Image courtesy of allmoviephoto.com)

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