EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – OCTOBER 17, 2007
By Rich Trzupek
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the start of Star Trek, The Next Generation. Or, as many fans style it, “TNG.”
It would be impossible to improve on the original Star Trek and TNG didn’t, but it wasn’t all that bad. What made the original so precious is that it contained all of the life lessons one is likely to need: never trust all-powerful space aliens with giant heads, security guards are expendable and every problem in the universe can be solved if one has a big enough phaser. And there was so much more.
Star Trek confirmed what every homeowner has always known: never use the lowest bidder for an important project. At least twice a season some enemy would manage to take over the Enterprise. The ship played host to more intruders than Britney Speers’ undergarments.
Whenever that happened, Kirk and the guys would dutifully slink off to the auxiliary bridge to try to take back control of the ship. And, inevitably, the auxiliary bridge did not work. Never. Not once.
Why even have the damn thing? They could have made better use of the space if they had used it to store McCoy’s collection of excuses. (“You want a receipt for your physical? Damn it Jim, I’m a doctor, not an accountant!”)
The auxiliary bridge was surely built with the best of intentions, but it was built by some third-rate government contractor. Maybe even worse, since it wasn’t even the real bridge. It’s a wonder that the damn thing didn’t explode.
It being the ’60s, Star Trek also reinforced the idea that all sex is good sex. Kirk wasn’t terribly picky about who, or what, he slept with. We’d see him, week after week, pulling up his boots while perched on the edge of a futuristic bed (all futuristic beds seemed to be horribly uncomfortable, by the way) while a green-skinned alien babe lounged contentedly on the sparkly sheets.
Luckily for the Captain, social diseases seemed to have been eradicated by then. Good thing, for God knows what our randy Captain would have caught, or what kind of hell McCoy would have put him through to cure it. “Damn it Jim, I’m a doctor, not a sand-blaster!”
Now if Kirk and the gang were a reflection of the wild ’60s, perhaps TNG was a reflection of its day as well. Nobody flinched when Kirk ran around the galaxy, blasting annoying aliens out of existence. By the ’80s, we had gotten more touchy-feely. We were supposed to embrace and understand our enemies and the crew of TNG crew followed that new age lead. The ship even employed a “counselor” (yikes!) in a command position.
The gals on board now demanded respect, tossing away those marvelously short skirts and knee-high boots for mannish trousers and frumpy dresses that were designed in the Victorian era. The Enterprise was on the road to equality, as terribly boring as that is.
The ship’s engineer was disabled, because it was more and more important to be inclusive in the 80’s. The loser in this equation was the mad-Scotsman lobby, for Mr. Scott would never again scream that he “just didna have the power Captain!?” Somebody will probably work that into a Viagra commercial at some point, but it won’t be the same.
By the time Star Trek Voyager came along, it even had a woman captain. And that wouldn’t have been so bad, were it not for the fact that everyone on the ship was so bloody miserable.
The show was depressing, by design, even as society lapsed into a deep depression from which we’ve yet to emerge. The ship was lost, drifting. Stuff didn’t work. Everybody felt bad, about everything. It would be hard to imagine a more miserable cast of characters so utterly committed to wallowing in their own depression outside of the Democratic National Convention.
We will not even speak of “Deep Space Nine” and its festival of New Age Crapology. The best thing that could have happened to Deep Space Nine was for it to be consumed by a supermassive black hole, crushed into a nothingness from which it could never, ever return. Mercifully, that is what would happen, in television programming terms.
If we were to have a new Star Trek today, Captain Planet would be at the helm no doubt. The ship would be solar powered, which would be a little difficult in the blackness of space, but modern environmentalism and science fiction are equally distanced from reality.
Phasers and photon torpedos will be gone in the next version of the Enterprise, to be replaced with interstellar cannons that will fire legions of pasty-faced diplomats at its enemies, armed with reassurance and understanding.
And the Klingons? In the original, they were the Enterprise’s bloodthirsty enemies, emulating what the USSR then was to the US. Later, they became fiercesome allies, as we hoped that Russia would be.
In the future they’ll probably turn into ambiguously-gendered galatic art critics, with a taste for cappuccino brewed on Rigel 5.
At that point, I think I’ll just see what’s on Sports Center.