Sunday, May 12, 2013

Star Trek: Hope in Tomorrow

Science Fiction often paints a rather bleak portrait of our future. Whether it is human creativity or consumer appetite that is prone to pessimism regarding technology, the majority of future fiction in print and film is dedicated to horrifying dystopias where everything that can go wrong with technology and social progression has. The Hunger Games, 1984, Minority Report, and The Terminator are just a few examples in an endless list of dour future prophecy in fiction.

Star Trek is somewhat unique in science fiction in that overall it shows a positive utopian future as compared to the dystopian “technology has betrayed us” approach so common in the genre. In Star Trek (The Original Series) technology has catapulted humanity into a bright, exciting future where “no man has gone before.” Technology has reignited the flame of freedom in humans, serves and conveniences their every need, and rarely goes awry or backfires. Civilization has not just unified on Earth but largely across the entire universe under the banner of Starfleet, The United Federation of Planets. The show first aired in the sixties so this optimistic faith in peace came at the height of social unrest in the United States and in the middle of the Cold War. The Original Series featured one of television’s first multiracial casts, which was inclusive to almost absurd lengths but at the purpose of demonstrating how irrelevant race would be in the future.

Star Trek has always been a series full of unbridled hope. This is symbolized even in the visual tone of the original show and new movies, which are characterized by full colors, bright lights, and crisp clean textures. The show’s original run coincided with the peak of the Apollo Program in the United States and whilethe countries’ imagination for space, technology, and the future was at an all time high. Star Trek encapsulated these hopes, fears, and desires and represented them in a fun pulpy science fiction adventure show.

In a bit of beautiful creative irony it has since been well documented just how influential the show has actually been on the development of real world technology. Cell phones, tablets, lasers, robotics, space travel, and even the internet all have roots in Star Trek. As much as I love films such as The Terminator or Alien, their bleak, doomsday prophecies of the future and the effect of technology have been largely unrealized while some of the wonders and marvels of Star Trek have already come to fruition. Based on the show’s track record, I believe it is more likely that in the future we will be boldly blasting off into space at warp speed than fighting a war against turncoat murderous cyborgs.

Star Trek Into Darkness releases in theaters nationwide this Friday, May 17th.

Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Page/Clerk