On September 8th, 1966, the world was introduced to the greatest science fiction franchise in history. Star Trek: The Original Series hit the TV screens 56 years ago and has since amassed 13 movies, 8 television series, 3 animated shows, 2 magazines, a plethora of books and video games, plus innumerable fan fiction. Even fictitious languages such as Klingon have been offered as courses in several universities. Star Trek’s impact on the culture is beyond compare as it has pushed its audience to “boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Throughout its tenure, the franchise has always been largely progressive in its viewpoint. It never avoided taboo topics but instead encouraged the viewer to consider such issues through the looking glass of fiction, creating an intellectually open space for internal debate and discourse. However, the “wokeification” of its current series “Discovery” has altered Trek’s trajectory of thoughtful cultural commentary into a non-stop homily of political jockeying and woke promotion.
A sampling of Trek’s finest moments helps to shed light. These issues include race, gender roles, sexuality, xenophobia, transhumanism, globalism, war, and countless others.
Often credited as the first on-screen interracial kiss between a white man and a black woman, Star Trek’s William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols helped shatter a taboo when they locked lips in the 1968 episode “Plato’s Stepchildren”. As Smithsonian notes, “The episode aired just one year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision struck down state laws against interracial marriage. At the time, Gallup polls showed that fewer than 20 percent of Americans approved of such relationships.” Back then, Star Trek pushed political boundaries without preaching. There was no diatribe or moralizing, just a nuanced normalizing of things now rightly considered trivial.
Later in the Star Trek universe, a subtle but bold change came to the introductory speech. Captain Kirk opened the 60’s episodes with “Space: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. It’s five-year mission – to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new lifeforms and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has before.” In the subsequent 1987 series “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean Luc Picard changed the phrase to “where no one has gone before” introducing gender neutrality in its framing and progressing the Trek franchise even further.
Throughout the series, not only were there more prominent female characters (four regulars in TNG as opposed to one in the original), but women were rarely portrayed as sexually as they were in the original series. Instead of the scantily dressed alien babes Captain Kirk often encountered, the women in TNG always dressed the same as men, rarely revealing their bodies and were given rich character development. This was done naturally, not as an editorial from the writers’ rooms.
Later still, in 1993, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” introduced the first Black captain, Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko, and the show often dealt with issues of race relations, prejudice and slavery. In the episode “Far Beyond the Stars,” Captain Sisko travels in a dream back to 1950’s America where he is the science fiction writer Benny Russell experiencing racism and segregation, even being beaten by two police officers in a racially incited scene. The episode often finds itself in Top 10 lists of Star Trek episodes and the Movie Blog’s summation is apt – “Far Beyond the Stars is a love letter to the transformative potential of science-fiction, an ode to the capacity to imagine a world that is better than this one.”
Star Trek Voyager introduced the first female captain with Kate Mulgrew’s phenomenal portrayal of Captain Kathryn Janeway. Notably, the Trek timeline awarded her the ranking of Admiral before any other on-screen Captain who came before her.
Star Trek: TNG addressed issues of sexual orientation, transgenderism and reparative therapy in the 1992 episode “The Outcast.” At the time, the media still depicted gay lifestyles largely through the lens of the AIDS epidemic, but Star Trek took a much more nuanced approach. It dealt with an androgynous alien race that prohibited gender identification. It then portrayed how these aliens underwent reparative therapy in the event they deviated into identifying with a specific gender.
So Star Trek has always been progressive as it imagines and reimagines humanity moving toward a more perfect union. Unfortunately, the brilliance of a nuanced past has given way to a vapid and often insufferable present.
Star Trek Discovery, the newest series following a different crew seeks to increase its woke credentials in every episode, ad nauseum. Instead of creative episodic stories that challenge the mind and elevate the soul, every single episode turns into a lecture on all things race and LGBTQIA+.
Star Trek Discovery offers its first Black female Captain, Sonequa Martin-Green as Captain Michael Burnham. While Star Trek had already dealt with the gender and race of its captains in past series of DS9 and Voyager, the outright slobbering from media pundits about how “brave” the show is for introducing a Black female captain is ridiculous. There is nothing profound about this from a Trekkie perspective. It is in fact a normal progression of all things Trek. What is most unfortunate is that phenomenal acting capabilities of Martin-Green are traded for pedantic character development and shallow, predictable storylines. It’s as if she serves more as a checkbox to “Diversity and Equity” than simply as a talented actress (which she more than proved in her Walking Dead days). Her trials and tribulations are subverted by always coming out on top and never having to endure true loss. The accolade “Live long and prosper” need not ever be said to Captain Burnham because the viewer already knows she will.
Now having recently wrapped its fourth season, the main crew is predominantly occupied by globalist gays, liberal lesbians, tyrannical transgenders, needless non-binaries and twisted transhumans. Instead of writing one or two poignant episodes regarding their identities and orientations, each episode serves to instruct viewers how they must think about these things, not simply challenge them to think more critically.
This season follows the character of Adira, a transhuman becoming a transgender human with the pronouns he/him. It’s exhausting. Instead of watching a delightful sci-fi, the viewer is subjected to the woke tropes of a show seeking to “break down barriers” when all it accomplishes is the viewer needing to read a gay dictionary to understand its warped terminology. If that weren’t enough, this character develops a romantic relationship with “his” non-binary crewmate Gray, (the pronouns they/them serves as a heavy-handed lesson in every other episode). They also then become the surrogate children of the gay couple on board, which checks every box the people at the Human Rights Campaign demand.
Discovery deserves praise for only one of its LGBT characters, the lesbian engineer (obviously) Jett Reno portrayed by Tig Notaro. Her orientation just is what it is and no one really needs to think about it. She also provides humorous breaks from the endless sacrifices this show offers up to the rainbow gods. Slow clap.
To end the season, politics bluntly interrupts the storyline. Failed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams enters stage-center as the President of United Earth. Never has Star Trek dared be so brazen with its political orientation. The heavy handed move robs the viewer of the experience, causing one to wonder if Stacey even won that election far off in the 29th century.
In the past Star Trek has served as a brilliant cultural commentary that encouraged the viewer to imagine mankind’s progress, it now demands culture think a particular way in order to obtain progress. It no longer presents the audience with a debate to consider but rather insists on a politically correct way to think. It is as partisan as it is obvious.
In a time of American cultural upheaval, Star Trek should serve the functions it always has: a release valve for cultural disagreements and a platform that seeks to build ideological bridges. While The Next Generation signed off its series with the episode “All Good Things Must Come to an End,” Discovery is fast becoming the show that makes the Trekkie look forward to “All Woke Things Must Come to an End.”