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William Shatner speaking at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con International. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Woke: The Final Frontier

Star Trek Discovery trades nuanced progress for preachy ham-handedness

By Joel Brizzee, March 18, 2022 11:31 am

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.

Avery Brooks. (Photo: Luigi Rosa)

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.

Sonequa Martin-Green speaking at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con International. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

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.

Tig Notaro speaking at the 2018 San Diego Comic Con International, for ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ at the San Diego Convention Center. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

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.”

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15 thoughts on “Woke: The Final Frontier

  1. Haven’t watched it since the Shatner era…
    All the others are a sad comparison to the original, and I can just imagine what a tedious experience the current dreck must be to suffer through….
    Total waste of time…..

    1. How do you know they are sad comparisons? You just said you never watch anything except the original.

  2. There are very creative students in the film dept at the state colleges here in Calif. that are deliberately being ignored because their story ideas don’t follow what is being pushed. Many of these kids are not giving up, they are raising money to fund their own work and submit it to festivals.

  3. The Next Generation got extremely preachy after a while. I enjoyed the show the first time around (except for the Wesley character) but they did not age well and the liberal preachy stuff is revolting.

    The original was full of hope and faith in mankind but it was all down hill from there.

    1. So true. The Original Series is by far the best. Never cared much for Picard, too anal, Troi got on my nerves.. Sisko is good, DS9 is a pretty good series. Voyager is so so. Don’t care to watch the newer series, I had a feeling they went too woke.

  4. Just like so many creative ideas or cool things once they become too popular, the trolls take over and ruin them.

  5. I was in the military 69-74, every barracks stateside or overseas that had a TV in the open bay, was always filled with guys watching either the original Star Tek series or reruns later. It was fun escapism. In my memory, it seems no one felt social norms were being challenged, writers were being provocative but entertaining, it wasn’t in your face radical views, however, I was more into getting started in adult life and work, etc. The later series versions I never followed.
    It’s ok to stretch concepts in a fantasy sci-fi universe, but back on earth, you can’t ignore the ABC truth of nature, science, and fact. How we have ended up with all this, is a crock. The Sac Bee touts on the front page:

    ■Sac City schools must support trans and non-binary students. Bathrooms are a first step …
    ■Trans health care up for debate in Calif. Woman forced to crowdfund surgery …

    Ukraine is being systematically destroyed, and the Sacbee has trans as online front-page news?
    Hasn’t Reality TV taken over, does anyone even watch Hollywood extremist TV series anymore?
    The Sacbee wonders why its subscriptions are so low, both the news and politicians have become irrelevant communicating in dystopic language ignoring the world around them. Which makes them both dangerous.

  6. Gene Roddenberry would probably spit in your face. What a f*cked up take. What franchise are you watching?

  7. First two seasons of Discovery I enjoyed, glad I never got to 3 & 4. The first season of Picard was excellent. I just started watching episode 4 and the woke BS is so overwhelming. ICE randomly taking people away, and then intimidating them into signing paperwork and then tazing someone for no reason? Really? I have lived in Arizona and California, and the ICE officers I know and have interacted with have all been highly professional and compassionate people. I’m sure there are some bad apples, but the show portrays all ICE officers as evil. They could have done something so much more subtle, but it was just so blatant I literally couldn’t continue watching. I stopped mid-episode and cancelled paramount plus. Pretty sad that I can’t watch my favorite franchise anymore.

  8. Thank you, Joel, for so perfectly articulating what has been bothering me about Discovery. The show’s production value is exceptional and the main storylines/premises I think are interesting enough. The obvious and over the top wokeness points are so distracting that they take me out of the moment of suspended disbelief and my mind starts wandering to real world topics like – what cultural lessons are they trying to push on me now and why are they sacrificing storylines to make obviously and redundant political points? I appreciate that Star Trek has been ahead of the times culturally by touching on “taboo” topics. Discovery is trading too heavily on Star Trecks “cultural cred” and abusing its well-earned goodwill in this department to push every current hot button topic to the extreme, proving the point that too much of a good thing is ultimately unhealthy. Making matters worse – Discovery is replead what is either really bad dialog, really bad acting, or both – much of this show is so cringeworthy that this is the first Trek series that I’ve simply stopped watching. The morally superior people who look down on folks like me for criticizing the show like this probably are not Star Trek fans anyway. So, who exactly is Discovery’s audience anyway?

  9. I’m sure the various transgender/LGBTQ++/GLADD factions will accuse you of inciting violence against them and demand you to be cancelled and fired for expressing your thoughts.

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