Star Trek Is Terrifying

The Hollywood juggernaut is building up steam – Star Trek: Into Darkness is going to be released at the end of May, and there are only a few Kalahari bushmen yet to be informed on the subject. There are posters on walls and already geeks everywhere are limbering up to take place in the bitch-fest that accompanies the biggest science fiction movie of the year (I’d advise you to stay offline June-September; the fallout from last June’s Prometheus was powerful enough to cause an Aurora Borealis). A post-apocalyptic fallout is pretty much guaranteed: the film is being directed by JJ “Lens Flare & Lost” Abrams and Damon “Destroy everything you touch, today/ please destroy me this way” Lindelof, so it’s guaranteed to be awesome and suck terribly, depending on how impressed you are with a big flying Apple store full of bad actors and Simon Pegg.
I’m joshing, of course; Star Trek is terrific fun and I’ll admit to being a fan of The Next Generation, which was particular for having thespian actors boldly go (I’m talking about you, Patrick Stewart), and I guess I enjoyed the most recent Star Trek film. Star Trek is famous in my mind for having the best line in any pulpy TV series I’ve ever heard: Bones and Kirk are looking out of the window at the end of an episode, and Kirk goes, “Somewhere out there, somebody is saying the three most beautiful words in any language….[ big pause, while the audience expects something nauseating like “I love you”]…Please. Help me.” FADE TO BLACK.
So I’m something of a fan, although if there’s ever an uprising and Star Trek fans try to kill off the Star Wars fans, I’ll be busy forming a new rebellion composed of the half-a-dozen Farscape fans there are (does anybody remember Farscape? It had the best opening credits of any sci-fi series EVER). The reason I can’t get fully behind Star Trek is because it’s a terrifying universe they live in. Here are a few points I’d like to pick up on. Cue the nerdy backlash.
Star Trek Is Almost Absurdly Dangerous: Part I
It goes without saying that exploring the galaxy is risky business: Lewis & Clarking through the infinite expanses of space entails a lot of danger. And given that nearly every alien encountered on Star Trek is either militantly isolationist or outright hostile, acting as a peace envoy for the human race is itself absurdly dangerous. The collection of planets part of an uneasy alliance with human beings (the Federation) is bordered by the Romulans, who are what would happen if Spock took meth and started talking smack about your mother, and the Klingons (permanently frowny who consider it a point of pride to fight with incredibly ungainly swords). And they are almost always at war, either with each other or with human civilization. Add to that the presence of the Borg (robots with lumpy bits and a negative attitude), the Ferengi (double-dealing, treacherous assholes), the Cardassians (lizard people), the Gorn (other lizard people) etcetera etcetera…. it’s like living next to the neighbors from hell, except these neighbors have all kinds of nuclear weapons and stuff, and they keep going into your garden to retrieve their ball or steal your barbecue. And sometimes they get bored and like to blow up your lawn. Star Trek is more or less wild-west diplomacy, except this particular wild west is inhabited by people who think nothing of committing mass acts of genocide.
Even the cutest aliens to appear on Star Trek, the Tribbles (and they weren’t cute, as you can see from the above picture: they were featureless balls of fluff and I personally cannot think of anything more terrifying) who were initially presented as harmless went on to devastate the ecosystems of hundreds of planets in the Klingon Empire by acting as intergalactic locusts. Billions of people died because of these little furry bastards.
Star Trek Is Almost Absurdly Dangerous: Part II
if they aliens don’t kill you, your own technology will. It’s been pointed out that even standing next to a computer console in Star Trek can kill you, which is weird because humans have had fuses for, like, ever. When was the last time that your computer exploded during a thunderstorm and killed you? More importantly, why is somebody leaving the safeties off? The warp engine, a piece of technology necessary to cross the vast gulf of space, is liable to explode at the drop of a hat, at the very least destroying a spaceship and killing thousands of people, at the most destroying a solar system or consuming a black hole. Let me put that in context: in our time, if an aircraft is even suspected of having a fault it is taken offline. If an entire production run of aircraft were shown to have a fault that endangered even one life, they would be scrapped. Yet spacecraft leave Earth with the power equivalent of a highly-unstable nuclear bomb tied to the back. The future has too many people, apparently, and human life is basically worthless. If people aren’t being exploded or electrocuted, they’re being shot or stabbed, and more often than not by artificial intelligences. Star Trek is filled with rogue robots and holograms, many of whom have very limited understandings of morality or expedient behaviour. The Doctor, a holographic medical assistant, develops a self by assimilating personalities from history and becomes deranged. Data, the artificial person, flirts with the Borg queen in order to feel sensations, and nearly kills everybody. The 24th-century equivalent of appliances often develop dangerous interests.
One final thing: I was going to mention the fact that the transporter is a death trap, but that’s been done to death by every Philosophy of Mind 101 class ever. It’s still true though. Just ask Riker. OH WAIT THERE’S TWO OF THEM.
two many rikers
Every Planet We Reach Is Dead
Culturally dead, that is. Quite apart from the fact that most aliens in Star trek look like humans with bits of rubber taped to their foreheads (a trend that isn’t exclusive to Star Trek) most planets offer a homogenized population. by this I mean that they have one global culture, one global government, one global law system and one language. Obviously this trope exists to keep episodes short (a program merely detailing the many cultures of Earth would run to many series) but at the same time it’s pretty lame. Imagine: you travel to a new world. New possibilities. A new species to screw (and let’s be honest, Kirk’s dick was the only thing boldly going anywhere). But they look exactly like the last assholes you met. They all wear robes and speak english (ferchristssake). Their planet looks like a studio lot behind CBS covered in Plaster of Paris. Isn’t that pretty dispiriting? Out of a whole universe of endless possibility, we keep bumping into funhouse-mirror versions of ourselves with exactly the same problems as us?
This is what freaks me out about the search for life (and I’m referring to the real world here, not Star Trek). Can you conceive of how achingly disappointing it would be to meet another intelligent species and discover they’re basically the same as us? I mean, shit, why bother? We could just deal with the people at home.
Am I complaining though? really?

Am I complaining though? really?

Star Trek Is The White Man’s Burden All Over Again
Columbus sailing out of Spain,
Across old Neptune’s wide domain,
Came, joyous, to an unknown land
And lightly leaped upon the strand,Confronting there a painted cuss
In puris naturalibus
An aboriginal and rude
But stately occidental dude.
“My friend, you are discovered,” cried
“Not much,” the man replied;
“Tis you, my hearty, who are found,
For I’m upon my native ground,
While you, by wave and tempest tossed,
Until you landed here, were lost.”
– Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
And let’s be honest, even though they look like us, they’re still aliens. And aliens need to be introduced to Federation civilization. Star Trek is all about bringing people into the fold, and introducing them to a larger collection of peoples, with one central government… hang on. That’s an empire. And Star Trek is all about the White Man’s Burden. Looking at it objectively, the federation achieves by stealth what the Romulans and Klingons achieve by war. The comedian Dylan Moran once described American empire building as three dispossessed serfs in a bar in their native country,plotting terrorist revenge against America…and what happens is that America very slowly builds a Starbucks around them. That’s more or less how the Federation works: it starts with technology, in the same way the colonists traded corn for glass beads with the indians. Then it’s a matter of getting them into the uniform. And, sure enough, you have the Klingon Worf as a senior officer, proudly wearing the Starfleet uniform. Finally you reach a critical mass and there are more aliens employed in the Federation than there are back home, and the assimilation is complete. Hell, that’s how the British Empire did it.
To put it another way: in a couple of episodes Star Trek went a bit crazy and there was a parallel universe where Star Trek was like Nazism. And guess what? It was still recognizably Star Trek. The difference is everyone carried guns.
Everyone’s A Slave
I didn't have a picture for slavery, so here's Jolene Blalock again.

I didn’t have a picture for slavery, so here’s Jolene Blalock again.

“The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century. The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.”
– Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: First Contact
Here’s the kicker and the thing I find scariest of all about Star Trek. There’s no money involved. Nobody is being paid for their time. The given reason is that Star Trek is a post-scarcity society: with replicators that produce food and goods from a stream of atoms, there is no reason to have money. But think about the implications of that. People on those space ships work shifts. They have to wear a uniform. They don’t get to goof off until the job is done. What is their motivation, exactly?
And don’t give me that whole “people are better in the future” schtick. People don’t change. They are and always will be greedy, lazy and self-serving (as well as noble and selfless, too, but bad always rules out good). So why work so hard? Would you, if you didn’t get paid by the hour or by salary? Would you hell. You’d be taking every opportunity possible to chill out and mess around. Me, I’d be trying to reverse-engineer the replicator to produce drugs.
So there you have it. Case closed, I’d say. I’ll be away for a few days, so you’ll have to entertain yourselves until Thursday.

5 responses to “Star Trek Is Terrifying

  1. Well now…

    I like Star Trek. I like Star Wars although I think they waited wayyyyy too long to bring out more movies with it. But the original movies have the best space ship shots I’ve ever seen. But anyway, I don’t consider myself a Trekkie – I don’t attend conventions or collect memorabilia. I do think while Star Trek may be viewed as you posted, it can also be viewed just for the pure entertainment value of it. And that’s what I like about it.

    Until Thursday – beam me up Scottie…

    • Oh but hey, taking pop culture too seriously is my entire blog schtick. Don’t go down that road, or my entire premise for jokes will fall apart!

      • Fortunately Scottie had a snafu so I was still here to see your response.

        Okay, I won’t go down that road.


  2. Not having watched any of the Trek series in a while, I hadn’t really thought much about all those exploding consoles. I was always skeptical about that whole “we’ve transcended the need for money” thing myself though and really want to read John Scalzi’s Redshirts sometime.

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