If you’re like me, you love Star Trek. It’s probably one of the best shows ever made. People like Brent Spiner, who played Lieutenant Data in Next Generation, might even say it’s the, “Great American Epic.”
When Star Trek first premiered, Gene Roddenberry’s vision was to show a society where science helped unify people from all over the universe. Where science led the way to ideals like equality for all. How science eliminated poverty, starvation, and most suffering. People were automated out of work, which meant they did work they were passionate about rather than work they had to do to survive.
At the helm of this utopian universe was the United Federation of Planets. This organisation was the epitome of all that was right, and working for them was an honour.
The Star Trek franchise started off this way.
But we’re not quite there anymore. Now we have Section 31. The Xindi war pushed Archer over the line a couple times. The Federation was taken over by an artificial intelligence that was going to wipe out Earth in Discovery. And now, in Picard, the entire Federation is suspected of foul play.
Little by little, there are many examples of the Federation getting darker and more morally ambiguous. Picard, of course, being the most poignant example to date. Other series, despite the moral ambiguity, often returned to the Federation. To have peace was to embrace the values of the Federation.
Picard has the opposite thesis: vigilanteism is the solution, and the only way to solve an escalating conflict is to act against the Federation. Picard is definitely a newer, edgier, grittier Star Trek.
Is Star Trek trying to be “edgy” with Picard for the sake of pushing the envelope? Or is there something deeper here?
Gene Roddenberry was optimistic. He made The Original Series in the 60s, when space exploration was new. Oral contraceptives were created. Audio cassettes were invented. The list goes on. The 60s were a time when science was embraced, and Roddenberry imagined a future where science would make the world a better place.
But the question is . . . are we that optimistic today? I mean, the premise of Star Trek is that technology and science can save humans from poverty, create equality, save the world and worlds beyond.
Yet here we are in 2020. Our technology is better. Our science has advanced. Aaaannnnndddddd . . . Politicians, despite concrete scientific evidence, are denying climate change which will eventually result in the very destruction of Earth. Reproductive health is being attacked, sometimes to the point of it being downright scientifically nonsensical. Come on—an ectopic pregnancy CANNOT be re-implanted into the uterus, despite what bills politicians will try to pass. Pipelines are getting built despite the pure FACT it’s environmentally unfriendly. Oh, and did anyone mention there’s no logical reason WHATSOEVER for why a pipeline seeming has to go through Indigenous land?
Continually, science (and, for that matter, pure fact) is being trumped by our politicians, to the detriment of citizens everywhere. Maybe I'm seeing the past with rose coloured glasses, but things today seem more like the mirror universe—and the 60s seems like classic Trek. We may have taken a lot of steps forward since the 60s (especially in regards to diversity and human rights), but it seems like science itself has taken a few steps back.
I mean, we literally have marches for science.
Is Picard trying to be a newer, edgier, and grittier than any other Star Trek for the sake of it, or is Picard reacting to our current state of affairs? Today’s generation is fighting for science to win, while our politicians and people in power are continually ignoring science to make decisions for personal gain.
If there’s one thing we’re learning, it’s that science alone isn’t going to save us. It has to be people willing to do the right thing, and embody the values of the Federation—even if the governing organisation itself doesn’t.
Today, we don't need the optimism Gene Roddenberry imagined for Star Trek. We need a road map on how to get to that optimistic point in the future—starting with how to call our own governments out.
What’s more, we need to learn that there’s a difference between governing bodies doing the right thing, and individual people doing the right thing. We can love and value the Federation and the ideals it stands for, while realising we need to condemn the actions of the Federation itself.
That’s what Jean Luc Picard does in Picard. He loves the Federation. And, for that reason, he can’t be a part of the Federation when it acts in a way so contrary to what he believes in.
Picard might not be original, classic Star Trek. But it just might be the call to action we need right now. Is it a newer, edgier, grittier Star Trek? Yes. Is it doing so for the sake of pushing the envelope? I don’t think so. I think it might just be what we need in 2020.
In 2020, where we can love our countries and what they stand for—but where we need to condemn the actions of our governments.
And, most importantly, fight for SCIENCE.