Human TrekBy Fred Shedian
Posted at October 12, 1999 - 5:00 AM GMT
Recently, people have been raising a question as to why "Star Trek is human centered?" It is an interesting question, possibly creating a situation dealing with a prejudice on the behalf of the writers and producers. However, would a series completely dedicated to another species, such as the Romulans, be successful in a television market? For a moment, let's review this hot issue.
When "Star Trek: The Cage" was presented to Paramount in 1964, a featured alien was a character we would all grow to love. Mr. Spock became our first weekly encounter with another life form. Even at a time when the Enterprise would deal with the M-5 computer, this Vulcan would still be present. Yet, his species were not the majority. In fact, far more humans were aboard the Enterprise than any other species. Why?
In my October 4th column, I discussed the anatomy of an alien. The answer to the above question of "Why?" and the reason a series is not dedicated to aliens can be found here. We, as an audience, must be able to relate with what we are seeing. With humans on the screen, we have a direction connection to what we hope to be our culture's coming attraction. In order for us to enjoy something, we must be able to make that desired link between reality and our imagination. This only happens when the viewers are able to relate to what they are seeing.
For example, during the TNG episode "Best Of Both Worlds," the Borg were on a course for Earth. They were coming to destroy our planet, it's history, and our species' way of life. We as viewers made an immediate connection. These folks were evil, the enemy of the 24th Century as Hitler was the enemy during World War II. Although I am sure there are one or two people who wanted the Borg to win, most people wanted the Enterprise to sweep in and via a miracle save the day. That happened, and the episode in question is now hailed as one of the best throughout the entire TNG franchise.
Now, let's review the same situation but aboard a non-human centered show. The Tholian Holdfast is currently allies with the Federation. Sensors detect a Borg cube heading for Tholia. The Borg are coming to destroy their planet, it's history, and their species' way of life. The characters of our show, aboard the T.H.S. Fre'a, set course to try and save the day. What happens now? In reality, do we care? Before you answer, think for a moment. If the Borg lose, great....another happy ending. Yet, if the Borg win and the T.H.S. Fre'a is not successful, great....we have an interesting plot development. We don't make the same type of connection as we do when Earth is involved. Why? We simply do not care what happens to these people because we have no modern day way to relate to them.
The situation would hold true if a group of nomads had been traveling in circles near the South Pole. They have had no contact what so ever with the outside world. However, our society has been watching them...seeing how they grow and develop. However, (yes I know it's far fetched) a developer arrives and assimilates these people into modern day society. What would the reaction be? "What a shame," "I wonder how they'll react," or "Oh well" would probably be said. The outrage would not exist, a relation was not made. The vast majority of people would not say "Oh my! We have to do something!"
The same holds true for aliens. We care for them, however find them expendable. It is a sad truth and an area our society needs to grow in. Although I would personally love to see an alien centered show, would it be successful? Would Trek fans watch it? Would non-Trek fans watch it? Regretfully, I think you would be hard pressed to find a non-Trek fan who would watch a show about a group of aliens...a show that holds no connection to Earth. As the expression goes, "As long as it doesn't effect me, I don't really care."
As I sit here on a plane at 12:55am (ET), I find the self-centered attitude of our society disgusting. Sadly, I believe it is what will prevent an alien centered show from ever becoming a reality. However, for those of us who would like to learn more about our favorite culture, I believe the novels provide us with enough insight to go around.
Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.