Monday, 16 March 2015

The Lessons of Star Trek

Today's rant was written by science-fiction author David Gerrold, who (among other things) penned the script for the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" as well as story outlines for a number of other episodes of the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I've re-posted it with permission.

If you're a Star Trek fan, that's great.
Of all the televisions hows ever made, Star Trek - especially the original series - was ambitious and ground-breaking and thought-provoking in all the right ways. But more than that, it was one of the few shows that was unabashedly optimistic about humanity.
No, not just that we could go to the stars in glorious ships and and have marvelous computers and replicators and sliding doors and personal flip-open communicators - although all that stuff is cool - no, the real message of Trek is that we can get along with each other.
The failure of all those who have made Trek since then has been to make Trek about finding villains and kicking the crap out of them.
In the original series, we discovered new civilizations - AND MADE FRIENDS WITH THEM. Sometimes it wasn't easy, but that was the excitement of the challenge. "To seek out new life and new civilizations ... "
And even though it was delivered as a heavy-handed bit of merchandising, the concept of IDIC was a brilliant expression. Infinite Diversity, Infinite Combinations. It was the idea that in diversity we find strength, we discover the myriad possibilities before us.
In recent years, some people have decided that Trek represents conservative values. No. What are you trying to do with that assertion? Cause Gene Roddenberry to come screaming out of the grave to pound you into the sand? Roddenberry was an unabashed, unashamed, unconditional liberal. He had his flaws as a man, but his politics were profoundly progressive.
The multi-racial casting of Trek was a breakthrough for American television. It was not only the most important aspect of Star Trek, it continues today to represent the idea that judging a human being by skin color or ethnicity or even religion is so illogical as to make a Vulcan raise his eyebrow in disbelief.
Okay, that almost goes without saying.
But here's the thing - I've seen Trek fans declare war on other Trek fans. I've seen Trek fans attack episodes, films, producers, directors, actors, writers, effects men, musicians, etc. for not being pure enough, for not making Star Trek the way they think it should have been made.
Okay, look - if you're disappointed in an episode or a film or a book, okay, fine - that's because you brought expectations to it. Not just expectations, you wanted it to be the very best possible.
Guess what? So did the producers, directors, actors, writers, costumers, makeup people, prop men, sound men, lighting men, grips, FX men, editors, post-production people, etc. Everyone. Nobody sets out to make a bad movie or TV show. Everyone always aspires to do their very best, even in the worst of circumstances.
But I've seen so-called "fans" (quotation marks deliberate) engage in jihad-like behavior because for one reason or another, they've decided that a person on Star Trek's production team, in whatever capacity, is "the enemy."
F*** off. No, I mean it. F*** off.
There's something unique about Star Trek. Almost everyone who gets the privilege of working on Star Trek is a Star Trek fan, eager to work on the show, recognizing that it is a privilege. The fact that we've gotten paid for the privilege is icing on the cake - we're Star Trek fans too. We don't have to do Star Trek, nobody is forcing us, we're there because we want to do Star Trek, because we love Star Trek, because we love what it represents.
Of all the TV shows and movies in the science fiction genre, Star Trek is the only one that promises us a future where we will have lives we love living, where we will all have opportunities and possibilities and dreams within reach.
If you're a fan - if you consider yourself a fan - yes, thank you. Fans made Star Trek possible. Fans kept the show alive. Fans have continued to make Star Trek a phenomenon unparalleled in television history.
But being a fan is not a license to be an asshole. It is not permission to appoint yourself a judge of other people. It is not. It is only - ONLY - the opportunity to be a fan, to watch the show, to collect the toys and memorabilia, to read the books, to be an enthusiastic part of the audience. That's it.
Personal attacks of any kind, on anyone who was part of the team, on anyone who contributed - on anyone who still wants to contribute - are not part of the Star Trek philosophy.
Okay, yeah, we're all just human beings. We make mistakes. We stumble and bumble and fumble our way through life - but when we have the opportunity to choose, we can choose to celebrate what's possible or we can choose to wallow in regret, bitterness, frustration, anger, pettiness, hatred, rage, or any of those other delicious emotions that keep us from being our best.
We always have that choice. Sometimes we make the wrong choice. Sometimes, if we see that, we can learn from the mistakes, the wrong paths taken. Great - that's part of Star Trek too.
But nowhere in Star Trek, nowhere in the fandom that surrounds Star Trek, is there a justification for behaving like an asshole. Star Trek at its best was about NOT behaving like an asshole. And its best fans are the ones who seek to emulate that.
In my not-so-humble opinion.

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