Progress Backwards: Star Trek’s Voyage Away From the Leading Edge

My friend Crystal over at Geek Outsider was kind enough to ask for my thoughts on the recent media coverage of Star Trek’s progressive legacy.  So I whipped up this little Op-Ed (basically just an excuse for me to be exceedingly contrarian) that ended up being equal parts criticism and justification.  Here’s a quick look…

Quark as Lumba

This week’s Star Trek hype started me thinking.  How does a series that we in the Geek community so singularly associate with progressiveness become what it is today?  It’s shockingly easy to criticize later iterations of Trek for their failure to live up to the original’s legacy of equality.  But maybe we’re coming at this from the wrong direction.  Maybe it isn’t about what Star Trek became.  Maybe the question should be, ‘what was Star Trek in the first place?’  And to answer that, we need a little context.

For starters, what does ‘progressive’ mean anyway?  Is it just being politically liberal?  Does it have to do with technological progress?  Is it about being ‘edgy?’  What made The Original Series (TOS) progressive?  There isn’t a quick and easy answer to any of these questions, but they lie at the core of what TOS was and why it remains iconic today.  These are also questions that have very different responses today than they did in the 1960s.  And that is my argument in a nutshell.

Now don’t get me wrong.  My argument isn’t that TOS isn’t progressive, just that it was progressive in the context of the 1960s.  It’s not that the ideals of TOS aren’t progressive anymore; it’s that the forefront of being progressive has changed.  So when The Next Generation (TNG) tried to capitalize on the progressive success of TOS by featuring, among others, a blind, black helmsman and a female chief of security, it didn’t manage to resonate the same way that Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura or George Takei’s Sulu did.

You can read the rest of the article over at Geek Outsider.  It’s also a pretty great place for getting some alternative perspectives on SF, fantasy and comic culture.

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Posted on May 20, 2013, in Theory and Discussion and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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