Sunday, February 23, 2020

OK, Boomer

Then and Now.

Keep in mind that I've only seen the first episode of the new Star Trek "Picard" series and don't plan to pay to see the rest. But I read the synopses and reviews, and see the reactions of my friends who seem pretty evenly split about it. Also, I've been a fan of "Star Trek" as long as there's been "Star Trek."

And I'm sad to say that it's lost me.

At its core, "Star Trek" was aspirational. It said that people could get smarter and better, and build a tomorrow that's better than today. Oh, we had to go through a Third World War to get there, but when we finally set aside prejudice and hate we could make Earth a paradise. "Star Trek" argued that humanity was perfectible.

For at least the last 10 or 20 years, "Star Trek" hasn't believed that. From what I read and hear, "Picard" certainly doesn't.

That optimism made "Star Trek" unique in mainstream science fiction. Take it away, and it's just another gray and gritty "Blade Runner" "Planet of the Apes" "Firefly" "Battlestar Galactica" "Expanse" "Dark Matter" Et Cetera Et Cetera dystopia in which humanity is awful and the future is terrible. Some of those are excellent stories. But they're not "Star Trek."

As a writer, I understand why dystopia makes an attractive storytelling sandbox. I get why actors would be interested in playing in it. It's probably even more honest; I don't actually think we can make Earth a paradise within 200 or 300 years.

But wouldn't it be lovely to try? To imagine it might be possible?

Strip away "Star Trek's" optimism and it becomes ordinary--indistinguishable from all the other TV shows and movies about people in clanky spaceships eking out miserable lives and little Pyrrhic victories against the overwhelming forces of oppressive darkness. And much, much less interesting to me.

I'm tired of cynicism. It's laziness disguised as sophistication. These days, I think the bold, daring, groundbreaking choice is sincerity and hope. That'll set you apart! It used to set "Star Trek" apart.

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