Here’s fun: try saying “space” without any follow-up words after it. It’s not easy, is it? You’re desperate to say “the final frontier” afterwards, aren’t you? It’s a little thing but reveals just the tip of the iceberg in how much the Star Trek franchise has become ingrained into our psyche. The show that gave the internet the best picture to represent that difficult emotion of facepalm and launched the pioneering music careers of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Brent Spiner, also gave us so much more. The phenomenon of Star Trek has made waves in socio-political, technological and philosophical circles, which shook the planet like some kind of inconceivable time-quake. It was always the intention of Star Trek creator Gene “Rodders” Roddenberry to shake things up with the original TV series, and that ambition has been shared down throughout the years, with the subsequent TV shows and films. With this in mind, let’s now look at the 5 ways in which Star Trek boldly tried to change us all for the better.
Imagine the 60s in America. Some folk would probably have you believe it was a wonderful era, where no-one hurt anyone and everyone lived in a glorious rose-tinted paradise. Well it was if you happened to be a straight white male, that is. Because at the time the original Star Trek TV series first aired, America was a racial hot-bed of bigotry and violence (look at how far we’ve come since then). But Gene Roddenberry did something downright crazy with his new TV show. He only went and put other ethnicities, other than the default Caucasians, into the main cast. From African-American (Uhura) to Asian (Sulu) to Russian (Chekov) to Scottish/Canadian/Undefined (Scotty), all the colours of the rainbow were present on the bridge. Kirk and Uhura even got it on together in television’s first ever interracial kiss, which shocked a stupendously easy-to-shock America when it was first broadcast.
Since then, Star Trek has continued to break down racial boundaries by allowing the overly irritating Ferengi and the whatever-the-hell race Neelix was, to become main cast members in the shows. Even though they were a bit rubbish.
Nobody cared about the advancement of technology until Star Trek came along. That’s pretty much a known fact. There’s no point in trying to check historical records to argue otherwise, because it’s a known fact and you shouldn’t waste your time. However, when people saw spaceships flying at warp-speed, teleportation and automatic doors that went “swoosh” every-time they opened, they all became rabid technological advocates. They beat down the automatic swooshy doors of the future, demanding to be let in and play with all the cool toys that were inside. From iPads to Skype, all the technological tools we take for granted today appeared originally in various forms in the Star Trek TV shows. Now, all we ask for today is one decent replicator that can make a great cup of Earl Grey. Hot.
If the United Federation of Planets isn’t supposed to be a representation of the United Nations, then we’ll eat our Tribbles. Roddenberry was seemingly a big fan of the U.N, as the Federation was shown to be a united front of strength and benevolence in the early years of the show. Inevitably though, and especially after Roddenberry’s death, the idea of the Federation being such a force of good in the universe began to falter. Star Trek has always managed to hold up a mirror to what was really happening in the world and as society itself became more disillusioned with politics, so did the show. Throughout some of the more recent series, questions were often raised about the actions of the Federation (as well as other non-Federation governments) and their true intentions. There was civil unrest and insurrections (especially in Insurrection), as cynicism and doubt gradually took up more of a role in the politics of Star Trek. And don’t get us started on the thinly veiled Nazi/Jewish political relationship between the Cardassians and Bajorans.
Speaking of the Cardassians and Bajorans brings us nicely onto the subject of war. Actually, nothing will bring us “nicely” onto the subject of war. It’s a pretty horrible subject. Let’s try that again:
Speaking of the Cardassians and Bajorans brings us screaming in abject and unknowing terror onto the subject of war. Conflicts have always played a part in Star Trek, because quite frankly, it just wouldn’t be that interesting to be up there in the stars without a few wars (ahem). Pretty much every race got into the act throughout the series and although the lesson that Star Trek was probably trying to teach us here was that war and violence was never the answer, it sure as Q happened a lot. Ultimately, it made us face the inescapable truth that no matter how great everything is in the world and no matter how many free cups of hot tea we get made for us, we will always likely end up destroying absolutely bloody everything in our paths. Resistance, they say, is futile.
Star Trek has always envisioned a world where money need play no part. In this Utopia, the greedy pursuit of the pound was detrimental to the development and evolution of the human race. People stopped working as slaves to the wage so that they could work towards the common good of society (thus eliminating the need for traffic wardens) and the progression of scientific endeavours to explore the universe. It’s a lovely idea and now with Brexit upon us, we’re one step closer to making this world a reality as all currency has now become effectively worthless. That was the point of Brexit, right? It wasn’t? Oh, damn. Beam us up, Scotland!