Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My Hopes for the New Star Trek

Star Trek is coming back, you say? Well, since everyone else in the known universe has shared his or her opinion on this particular development, I guess I should note what I, personally, would like to see.

In brief: DS9, Part Deux.

Okay, I'm kidding. Sort of. Obviously, I don't want this new series to be a straight retread. But DS9 had several general features that, if replicated in a new Star Trek series, would result in something fantastic regardless of the chosen setting.

First of all, it had continuity and consequences. Because DS9 was a permanent and basically immobile installation, its crew could not simply zip off to the next new adventure once the story of the week was complete. Consequently, the writers were forced to sustain arcs over multiple episodes -- and even multiple seasons. Can a new Trek do this even if it's set on a ship? I'm not sure, but I would like to see the writers try it. Give me long-running existential crises. Give me sweeping political vistas.

Which brings me to DS9's second major strength: It was political - intensely so - but when it was at its best, it avoided simplistic moralizing and cheap solutions. What I manifestly don't want is for our present-day disagreements to be given the Let That Be Your Last Battlefield allegorical treatment. What I do want is In the Hands of the Prophets, which manages to reject Vedek Winn's assault on intellectual freedom without making other religious Bajoran characters look like unreasonable, superstitious freaks.

Then there are the characters. DS9 took several enormous risks with characterization in The Emissary that, in my opinion, are seldom appreciated. For one, the writers allowed their new CO to be an utter jerk to one of Trek's most beloved and respected captains. Said commander then proceeds to Ops, where he's greeted with a real bitch of an XO, who takes out her frustrations with her own government on the Federation and its principal representative. And let's be frank: Didn't we all want to slap Dr. Bashir silly for being an arrogant little twat-waffle?  These characters started at minus zero, but they were dynamic. They grew. They changed. Sisko came to terms with the circumstances of his wife's death. Kira, though still very much a soldier at heart and a committed Bajoran patriot, softened, becoming less militant and more accepting of other perspectives. And Bashir matured -- thank goodness. If we are to have a new Trek, give us characters like these. And for the love of all that is good and holy, please do not throw token LGBT* characters into the mix just to appease the SJW crowd. If you include a gay character, please make him as three-dimensional and real as everyone else; don't focus exclusively on the novelty of his sexuality.

And lastly, let us have cautious optimism. DS9 never completely let go of Trek's starry-eyed view of humanity's future, but it did pull it closer to Earth. This, I think, is something we desperately need in a field that too often emphasizes the unpleasant: a show that sets before us positive, affirming goals while also remaining mindful of our flaws. Trek is about as Human Wave as it gets. Let it stay that way.


  1. I'm hoping for a DS9 kind of thing too, but I'm skeptical. The press release makes it sound more like some TNG PC issue of the week thing. Maybe that's the pitch they made to talk the no nothings at the network pull the trigger and they'll realize they actually have to entertain people to make it work. We'll see.

    As to your point about token characters, Trek has a pretty good track record in treating its characters as more than tokens. Sisco's skin color was never an issue, he was the commander, period end of sentence. Same with Kira, she was a bad ass warrior you'd better not cross. No one (except maybe Quark) spent time contemplating her lady parts. On the LGBT front, Dax had a fling with a former lover (who was in the body of a woman too) and the only problem was the past lives thing. I think Trek can avoid the token thing just fine.

    1. You are correct: Trek does have a decent track record when it comes to avoiding tokenism. Still, I worry. DS9 ended more than fifteen years ago. Since then, the prevailing zeitgeist has changed pretty drastically. Will today's crop of writers be equally as able -- or equally as fair minded?