The “fallout” from my Star Trek Day blog editorial continues even five days later…on Facebook, in the comments section of that blog, and even via e-mail. In fact, after sharing my excitement over the new Trek series with my best friend, he was adamant in his resistance to the new direction of Star Trek.
You can slap the name on it but it don’t make it Star Trek! Okay, maybe it’s a little bit Trek, but it really is just bad TV, forget bad Star Trek. Terrible writing, terrible acting, bad directing. Unwatchable to me. If I had never seen Trek I still wouldn’t watch it as just below the standards of everything else I prioritize.
Yeesh! Well, hoping that I might be able to change his mind just a little, I sent my friend something I was really psyched about: the just-released trailer for the brand new animated series Star Trek: Prodigy…
He watched it, but my friend was NOT impressed…
Terrible. Not recognizable as Star Trek no matter how much you put old Trek actors in the show. It’s all young kids, stupid aliens, and action and special effects. It’s not about people and it lacks any depth and intellectualism. It bears no resemblance to Star Trek.
I joked to my friend that I was a Star Trek “liberal,” and he was a Star Trek “conservative.” This is also true in real political life. He voted for Trump and other GOP presidential candidates going back decades (although he has recently left the Republican party and re-registered as an Independent, but he is still quite conservative), and I’ve voted for Democrats pretty much since I turned 18. And yet, we’re best friends…we just constantly argue about politics. Yes, folks, it CAN be done!
However, in reference to Star Trek, I was using the terms “liberal” and “conservative” not politically but literally…as in dictionary definition of each word. Liberal literally means “open to new ideas, not bound by traditional forms.” I’m totally that way when it comes to Star Trek. I have a love/hate relationship with Discovery, and I think Picard did well for eight episodes and then jumped the shark on the last two in its first season (and the villains totally sucked). But I remain open and supportive of the various new series…as I’ve said in countless blog posts.
As a comparison, conservative means “tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions.” That’s my friend (and many fans) when it comes to Star Trek these days. And back in 1987, it was those “conservative” fans who thought Star Trek must be about Kirk and Spock (or maybe Captain Sulu) and 23rd century adventures, not a bald French captain with an English accent in the 24th century flying around in a starship that looked like a pregnant duck.
In short, my friend is Scotty looking at the U.S.S. Excelsior and saying, “Aye, and if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon.” And I’m Kirk responding, “Now, now, Mr. Scott…young minds, fresh ideas. Be tolerant.”
So now that I’ve not only stepped on the third rail of Star Trek (whether or not the new CBS series are good or bad) but ALSO on the third rail that is politics, let me go for the hat trick and step on the third third rail and add in religion so I can piss off just about everyone reading this!
The following editorial was actually written LATE Saturday night (like 2am because I couldn’t sleep and was catching up on replying to blog comments). One particular comment was written by a fellow calling himself “Cap’n Calhoun” and you can read his entire post here. But the main snippet I’d like to share is his final paragraph…
Your reviews of both the series and the fan films are a breath of fresh air. You take neither an unrealistically positive nor unrelentingly negative view of either, and you’ve had some interesting insights too. (I loved your breakdown of how the Lower Decks characters match up to fan types last year.) You’re able to keep the optimistic attitude one would hope for in a fan of an optimistic franchise, but you clearly aren’t wearing rose-colored glasses. You’re able to give solid criticism without acting like a killjoy to anyone who doesn’t agree. Please keep it up.
I hadn’t intended to write a particularly elaborate response, but at two in the morning, sometimes the muse just sings to you. And so this was (most of) my reply…
Like politics and religion, I believe that the problem with Star Trek (and sci-fi) fans today stems from two basic truths about humans in general:
1) We feel very entitled.
2) We hate to be wrong.
Most people are NOT selfless. In fact, we can be very self-centered and believe that we deserve better. It motivates some of us to work harder and others to complain (or both!). But when it comes to government or religion or Star Trek, we feel that our needs should be served. We pray to God or Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster because we worship Him/Her/It/Them, and that should count for something, right? Government should fix this or that because we pay such high taxes. Star Trek should be awesome because we deserve awesome for all the time and money we spend on it and how loyal we are.
We feel entitled.
As for wanting to be right, that’s totally a human thing. Religions have gone to war over wanting to be right. This country is currently tearing itself apart politically because Democrats and Republicans can’t bring themselves to a place of compromise and acknowledge that maybe both sides are a little right (correct) and a little wrong.
The problem with needing to be right is that when someone else believes differently, it challenges your “certainty.” Think about religion. If you and those like you believe that only by accepting Jesus Christ into your heart as your lord and savior that you will go to heaven, then a Jew like me creates a conundrum. I’m willing to risk my immortal soul and burn forever in the fires of hell simply because I believe otherwise. Why would anyone possibly make that choice? Why would I risk eternal damnation just to avoid loving Jesus? Is that really so hard? Why would Jonathan choose to take that dangerous chance? After all, he’s a smart guy (or seems to be). Why gamble unnecessarily when it’s so easy to just jump ship from Judaism to Christianity? And it’s not just me. Billions of non-Christians—including Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and countless others—will also be locked out of heaven if the majority of Christians (themselves a minority of the world population) are right.
That’s why many religions try so hard to convert others to their way to seeing things: because the more people out there who don’t share that same belief, the more doubt it creates (even in the back and most buried part of one’s mind) that “Hmmmm, am I really right about all this?” Doubt is, of course, the natural enemy of faith…always has been.
In order to fight that doubt—if trying to convert the non-believer doesn’t work—the “go to” alternative is to 1) cling to your own beliefs ever more tightly (what those of you who are already typing passionate responses to my comment about Jesus and Christianity are doing right now), and/or 2) vilify the non-believer and cast him out. After all, someone who doesn’t believe as you do must not be a good person, since you are obviously a good person. So you point out all of their flaws, use the “gotcha” whenever possible, call them names and insult them, and maybe even resort to confrontation and/or physical violence. (I don’t necessarily mean YOU you, more of the conceptual “you.”) The same thing happens in politics…particularly in the last decade or so.
This tribalism has been taken to extremes religiously with things like the Nazi holocaust and terrorist Islamic extremism…and politically with the Civil War, racism and prejudice in America, and even the recent January 6 insurrection.
A little less extreme has been fans’ reaction to the newest Star Trek series. But while no one is bringing out the gallows and shouting, “Hang Alex Kurtzman!” the online rhetoric and vitriol has certainly been turned up to 11 and beyond. And why? Because we want to be right; we HAVE to be right! So we seek out those voices who agree with us—in fandom, in religion, in politics. We read the “right” blogs, listen to the “right” podcasts, join the “right” Facebook groups, and watch the “right” news channels. And we complain about and insult the “other.”
That’s why, for many fans who rail against CBS, the arguments are passionate and absolute, allowing no room to accept the possibility that the new Star Trek is anything other than complete garbage and an insult to all the brilliance that has come before. In other words, they cling ever more tightly to their beliefs and often hurl insults not only at CBS but at any who disagree and actually show some support for the opposite opinion.
Granted, it’s not everybody…thank goodness! As many hornets as I awakened on Facebook last week, the vast majority still had better things to do. And not everyone is political junkie or a Bible-thumper. In terms of religion, I’m a “Whateverist” and don’t really care what someone else believes. And I certainly won’t insult someone or call them names for not liking new Star Trek. But to some out there, the need to be right and to pressure others to agree with you, or else be scorned and ridiculed, is very strong. It results in toxic fandom, toxic religion, toxic politics. It’s not pretty, but it is…sadly…very human.