Back To BasicsBy Fred Shedian
Posted at July 19, 1999 - 5:00 AM GMT
With recent talk regarding a new Star Trek incarnation, I started to ponder this issue. I was reading over some of the responses to the Flight Academy idea here and on Trek BBS. I then came upon one remark I believe speaks volumes.
Terry Neaville stated in a response regarding the recent Ron Moore situation, "This last season of Voyager, while it had some wonderful moments, reminded me too much of Melrose Place meets Lost in Space......Trek was a fantasy world where I could leave behind, for a few minutes at least, the stress of day-to-day living in corporate America. It also offered some hope that there will come a time when we humans learn to stop hating and killing each other long enough to do something good. It was pure escapism. Now reality has intruded and the innocence is gone."
The above words say a lot. Sadly, there are quite a few fans who share this opinion. In many regards, I am one. In several ways, the situation can also be said of Deep Space Nine. Many times you had to wonder if these were the characters we had seen develop during the first couple of seasons. Some issues were almost forced down our throats, others too politically correct for anyone to enjoy. Voyager has also been affected by this trend.
At the same time Ms. Neaville's remarks were made, suggestions continue to pour in for a new series or a new direction. In response to the many of them, all I have to say is this. Star Trek is not Star Wars or Starship Troopers, and hopefully it never will be.
Star Trek is about hope and about attempting to bring a message home to society. It's original intent was to spark our imaginations and draw us into a galaxy of wonder. Recently, however, this intent has been pushed to the back burner for the more important goal of battles, special effects, destruction, and death. We all see enough of this every day, all we have to do is watch the evening news. People were not drawn to the galaxy of Roddenberry's to see more of what our own society has to offer.
When talking about a new series, many say "Star Trek needs to maintain it's legacy. Keep with Gene Roddenberry's goal." It is important for everyone to understand these words. The legacy that Star Trek offers and Roddenberry's goal have not been completely upheld in recent incarnations. In the 1960s, a writer proposed a television show that he described as a "Wagon Train to the stars." Yes, there were the occasional battle and the routine shipment of replacement redshirts, but the central goal never changed. A message was present in every episode, a message that thirty years later many have yet to understand. Understanding, cooperation, peace, and friendship were the goals of Gene Roddenberry. It was the legacy that he intended. It is one that has not been followed.
Many viewers of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager have never seen the Original Series. Quite a few have no idea what spawned this race known as "Trekkies" or "Trekkers." If those same episodes premiered today, would these fans watch? You have to wonder. They do not contain the type of action that many younger fans expect in Star Trek due to the Dominion War and Borg attacks. The difference between Star Trek's mission and the Star Wars battles has almost disappeared.
In the late 1960s, violence on television was starting to appear. Since then, it has tripled in it's intensity. Has that intensity finally affected our beloved franchise? The answer lies with three words, the Dominion War. The result of these words? Ratings have been dropping and fans that had been loyal to the franchise since it's conception are leaving to find a new vision of the future...one that isn't so dark.
We are in a time when Paramount Picture's intimacy with the franchise deals solely with money. They understand Star Trek generates income, and as a result have kept it running. What will they do next? Are they concerned with maintaining Gene Roddenberry's legacy or turning a profit? This answer might come when a pilot for the next show is approved. Sadly, with shows completely based on teenagers or violence currently popular, I'm afraid of what the outcome will be.
So here we sit, debating about a legacy that Paramount, Berman, and Bragga should uphold. Perhaps it is time for us to get back to our roots. The "Outpost" idea was good for a while, but had to be modified to bring in the exploration aspect. "Lost in Space" is interesting, but boring. "Dawson's Creek" and "Melrose Place" are not what Star Trek is about, so why even open that can of worms? "Star Wars" and "Trek Wars" have been done over the past two years, and many people are sick of that. Finally, we come to "Wagon Train to the stars". Sounds like an interesting idea. It's been done twice before with unprecedented success. We know it's a hit that appeals to the people of the twentieth century. Maybe we should prepare to introduce it to the twenty-first?
We have pleanty of time, the twenty-fifth century and beyond await our exploration. We have been through the twenty-third and the twenty-fourth, seeing the good and the bad of both. As the real world enters the twenty-first century, perhaps it is time to move in a familiar direction? Maybe the determining factor in the future of Star Trek will once again be the Enterprise...NCC-1701-H?
Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.