Star Trek Utopia

May 7, 2009 at 10:46 pm (By Miles Lascaux)

Most of the reviews and features surrounding the release of the new “Star Trek” movie use the word “utopian” at some point.

The “New York Times” review by Manohla Dargis, for instance, goes like this:

“Initially appearing in 1966, the original “Star Trek” is a utopian fantasy of the first order, a vision of the enlightened future in which whites, blacks, Asians and one poker-faced Vulcan are united by their exploratory mission (“to boldly go”), a prime directive (no intervention) and the occasional dust-up.”

For the record, I’m not much of a utopian, but I always liked Star Trek, both because and in spite of Gene Roddenberry’s hippie-dippyness.

Here’s a piece that boldly goes to the utopia at the core of the series. Among other gems, you meet this one, from “psychologist Joseph de Rivera, director of the Peace Studies Program at Clark University in Massachusetts,” addressing whether we as a global community can find a way to resolve conflicts without war:

“I’m hopeful for two reasons,” de Rivera said. “1.) Most people don’t like to be dominated by the powerful. 2.) Although we don’t have aliens to fight against we do have nasty viruses and global warming that we have to unify to deal with.”

I wonder what sort of global unity is going to cure swine flu. I’d think keeping apart from one another and waiting for the research labs (all of them centered in the citadels of “the powerful,” I might note, and with reason) would do better than drum circles.

The movie looks like good fun, however. I might actually go see it. Which would make it the first film I’ve seen in a theater since 2004.

-Miles Lascaux



  1. Rod said,

    Given our natural tendency to justify our own selfish behaviors, and the ease with which we dehumanize our adversaries, war will probably be around for awhile. It seems the only way most folks can imagine a world without war is to assume a world government, which may well be a cure worse than the disease.

  2. amba12 said,

    I think people also love war, at the same time as they hate it. It makes the blood move faster and gets the sludge out. Probably people sheltered on the home front (as Americans, uniquely, have been since the Civil War ended) particularly love it: they get to have all the rousing emotion without the degradation, fear and pain.

    We need conflict; life without conflict would be tepid and unreal. But we need to find forms of conflict that are real enough and rousing enough but less unspeakably deadly. (Cue the Red Sox …) It’s a peculiar thing about war that it begins in ennobling, thrilling emotions and ends with contorted corpses in the mud and silently scarred-souled warriors who never speak of what they know.

    One thing I noticed watching original Star Trek episodes (which I at first found wooden when Jacques introduced me to them, but quickly came to adore) is that no matter how high-tech the future was supposed to be (absurdly, given the cardboard sets and toy phasers), every episode ended in a naked fistfight between Captain Kirk and some madman or lizard. If you watch today’s far more sophisticated science-fiction movies, you’ll see the same phenomenon: no matter how advanced the weaponry, it always strips down to the smack of knuckles on jaw muscle and the grappling of flesh. There’s something very telling about that. There’s a message there.

    A favorite episode of ours is the one where the Federation and the Klingons are about to go to war and the very advanced race (whose name I forget, that only takes on apparent bodily form to communicate with the priimtives), adamant against either committing or tolerating violence, makes all their weapons too hot to hold. At the end, one of the advanced race asks them to leave: “The mere presence of beings such as yourselves is intensely painful to us.” (Spock says they’re as far beyond us as we are beyond the amoeba.) And then the Klingon captain says regretfully about the war that wasn’t, “It would have been glorious.”

  3. mileslascaux said,

    The Organians, or something, I think they were called.

    It always was amusing to see a Star Trek barroom brawl with the aliens. As though an uppercut to the solar plexus would have the same effect on an entirely different species.

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