Like This? Please link to /politics/2020/08/22/star-trek-wars.html.
When the “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” hit the big screen, we immediately knew who the good guys and the bad guys were. The good guys did not need to wear white hats and the bad guys black hats. Instead, all the (new) good guys were women and minorities—the ship was staffed and commanded by EDI. All the bad guys were men—in fairness, not necessarily white. Some had evil-bright-red skin, too, or were unidentifiable. The good guys were beautiful, the bad guys were ugly. At the movie climax, the physically-trained beautiful women took on physically-trained men in Kung-Fu combat—and were winning! It is not clear why physical combat still plays a role in the future, why physical combat is still to be admired, or why gender combat between trained parties would not always end one way. But get used to it: Star Wars So Non-White, and women have to be powerful. If only the story lines were more intelligent… My advice: give up on Star Wars if you value your IQ.
Star Trek TNG was always more philosophical and less mythological than Star Wars. The best of the best here is the “The Inner Light” episode. I love many others: “The Measure of a Man,” or “Drumhead,” or “Relics,” too. Star Trek TNG also has a fair share of story telling and space combat (The Borg Quadrology: “Q Who”, “The Best of Both Worlds,” and “I, Borg,” or “Conspiracy”). There was space combat, but many of the best shows used this merely as a background. Jean-Luc Picard, the captain, was a middle-aged and balding, who no one would hire as a runway model. Of course, like all long-running shows, TNG also had its shares of bad episodes and failures. None of the TNG movies were any good. And then there was Wesley Crusher, the biggest character mistake. Apparently, the network tried an appeal to attract younger viewers, but it plainly makes no sense to put a 15-year-old at the helm of a starship. Which 15-year-old has ever maneuvered an aircraft carrier in the US Navy?
There was of course an even better sci-fi series than STTNG: The first few seasons of Battlestar Galactica (2004) are the best of the best in TV Space Opera. Many great episodes are philosophical, meaningful, and thought-provoking. (Of course, not every story line and episode is great. Some are stupid, too.) Was the BSG crew staffed by EDI? It could have been. The two main characters are protected classes under Federal Law: the captain is a pock-marked Hispanic, the president is a middle-aged woman. Neither would be a first choice for a runway model. Many of the show’s lead characters are from all sorts of backgrounds. But they seem as natural as Janeway in Voyager or Sisko in DS9. They are strong characters and they fit. And they do not (usually) engage in Kung-Fu combat.
After it ended, I had to watch movies to satisfy my appetite for sci-fi. There have never been many good ones, but there have always been some. If you have not yet, please watch “[Arrival” (2016)]((https://www.facebook.com/ArrivalMovie/), written by the best sci-fi author of our times, Ted Chiang, an Asian dude. (Incidentally, the main character in Arrival is appropriately a mid-aged female, the terrific Amy Adams.) Careful, there are many movies by the same title. You want this one.
Which brings us to Star Trek on CBS Now as of 2019/20. I finally convinced myself to give it a try.
I started with Star Trek Discovery. The special effects are of course much better than they used to be. However, the story lines are not. My immediate turn off was the casting of a 33-year-old drop-dead-gorgeous Black female model as a senior main character. Sonequa Martin-Green suffers the Wesley Crusher problem. Supposedly a first officer for 7 years, she must have been second-in-command of a star ship since age 26. Please, EDI, it is not all about gender and skin color. Please, EDI, next time, cast an unattractive 45-50-year-old Black woman into such a role. (Learn something from British TV, where the actors are not all drop-dead gorgeous, but qualify by acting ability.) Now, Martin-Green is a fine actress, and with some practice, the viewer can suspend disbelief and overcome EDI’s ageism and modelism. It is, after all, a work of fiction (though not science fiction). There is no Warp drive, either. However, for me, the Discovery series really ended when the science was about a giant tardigrade with a heart and a brain (and good grunts) commandeering the universe’s mushroom mycelium links. (No, I wish I were kidding.)
So I switched over to Star Trek Picard. Reputed to be slow, it is clearly better. It does have some interesting stories to tell. Yes, the non-original STTNG characters surrounding Picard were all chosen by EDI again (women, minorities, etc.—and mostly but not all are good-looking young models), but they felt more natural. OK, the non-STTNG characters are all at least 10 years if not 20 years too young. (Michelle Hurd would have made a great Star Trek Discovery protagonist.) No, the world’s best scientist on any subject is unlikely to be 35 years old, even if it is Alison Pill. More likely, she would just finish her post-doc. (Exception: There are some pure mathematicians, mostly autistic or near autistic, that are top performers at age 30.)
Still, STP contains a modestly interesting and more intelligent story line—and no giant tardigrades and mushroom networks. It is often but at least not always clear to the viewer what will happen next. The characters suffer some moral regrets and dilemmas. Characters might die (though, they usually reappear; this is not The Wire, the best show ever made). Well, it is watchable until the 10th and final episode, the trite Happy End, which sucks lemon. No, STP is not nearly as good as BSG S1-S3, but most of it is watchable. (Hint to the creators: The background music is at times sentimentally annoying, too.)
Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek has always been a trailblazer. First motley crew. First black-white kiss on TV. First female strong captain. First Black captain. They felt right. They felt natural. They were not chosen by EDI as stereotypes for members of their tribes.
Please EDI, take a step back and lose a few battles. You are destroying the better future. The fight for the good in the Galaxy is not one by protected classes against old white males. Focus on what seems right, not on what is PC. Give us good and plausible characters of all kinds that fit the stories. Do not give us 25-year-old models that command star ships and Kung-Fu-kill the bad guys. And, most of us, give us intelligent and good storylines, which are not all predictable. If they feature an old white dude, the battle may be lost, but the war won’t be.
PS: Who is taking care of the kids on the star ships in the future? Let’s show the women as insensitive parents for a change.