2. The Importance of Star Trek
One way of defining a philosophy is by looking at the influence it has, the audience, the followers -- or fandom, if you want. And Star Trek has no
doubt a large audience -- and a lasting influence. Iím not talking about living a life in a Starfleet or Klingon uniform or attaching Spock ears to oneís head, Iím talking of living the message of Star Trek. Speaking of me personally, I grew up with it. First, when you are a child, you begin to like the characters, Kirk, Spock, Bones -- and when you grow up, you begin to notice that there is some real depth in it. Every good TV show should have one, but then this is the point.
TV shows come and go, some donít even last a season, some survive until the third or fourth one, and only a small number of shows last longer. This is a
question of (near) immediate success -- like you have it with The X-Files, todayís Star Treks or MacGyver and Magnum, p.i. But then it can be also be a question of time -- some good shows were killed by ratings or executives but gained an audience later, like the original Star Trek or Space: Above and Beyond or The Outer Limits (This show is actually an example how much the general TV audience has changed -- the original show lasted one and a half seasons while its 1995 ontinuation continues to prosper).
But success isnít everything -- influence needs some truth, some effort to improve the human condition, to improve oneís life. Thatís like the second meaning of the title Home Improvement -- it is not the house but the family which is to be cared for. Same is true for science fiction -- it is the human factor which determines the quality of a show.
Star Trek has never really been about abstract ideas, about starships, about "powers, principalities thrones, and dominions"
Millennium ep. 1M19) -- it has always been about people, about some very concrete decisions. As much as Star Trek might have changed over the
decades (and it truly has) it is still about humanity (I know General Chang would protest, but I define the word humanity as representing all living species, not just Terran ones). Thatís why -- apart from some effects - Star Trek concentrates on persons and dialogs, not on space battles and fairy tales, thatís why it has kind of a antique or middle-ages view of the world in some respect: It is not states or structures Star Trek deals with, all the enemies have a face -- Dukat, Weyoun, Gowron, now even a Borg Queen. All "action" is performed by concrete actors (no pun intended -- well, perhaps a little bit). It is Sisko dealing with Gowron or Dukat. In some way Star Trek looks a lot like the way Roman or Middle-Ages history is presented -- persons are the actors, not a bureaucracy or kind of a MJ12 organization.
Star Trek is about people making a difference. It is about real people in an imaginary world having sort of todayís problems -- it is about allegoric
tales, about living beings whom we can identify with. But as the characters and sets and times change with each series or film or even season, the basics,
the fundamentals of Roddenberryís philosophy stay the same. Star Trek has become a bit "darker" as it can say some things more straight in
todayís world than it could in the sixties, it has become more experienced, it has grown into something quite big. Some time ago I thought about the amount
of Trek Iíve already consumed and I was sort of startled. Star Trek is something that is probably known to the majority of people in the
perimeter of Western culture. This is a legacy and responsibility Star Trek always recognizes.
March 29th, 1998