Seven years ago I would have been beyond excited for a new Star Trek TV series, like the one just announced by CBS due to premiere in January of 2017. When Enterprise was unceremoniously cancelled in 2005, despite having hit its narrative and creative stride in its fourth and final season, I gave up hope of seeing Star Trek on TV again in my lifetime. For eighteen straight years, almost all of my childhood, Star Trek had been a staple with at least one or two series constantly on the air, and facing a world without Star Trek in my living room was a depressing prospect. So the me in the period of 2005-2009 would have been thrilled with today’s news. But the reality is that I’m filled with some strongly mixed feelings about the news, despite my undying love for (almost) all things Trek.
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Star Trek IS Political, and That’s the Way I Like It
The 2016 US Presidential race has already devolved into something of a circus, and while I generally stay out of politics on this blog a recent article about one of the potential candidates caught my eye. Republican Senator Ted Cruz, a conservative, recently did an interview with New York Times magazine where he talked about his preference for Han Solo and Spider-man, but what really stood out was what he had to say about Star Trek. Cruz has mentioned being a Star Trek fan before, and it wasn’t a surprise to hear him say he prefers Kirk to Picard, but he went on to make some very incorrect claims about Star Trek that came to the attention of none other than Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. But before we get to Shatner’s response, here’s what Cruz had to say:
You’re also a fan of ‘‘Star Trek.’’ Do you prefer Captain Kirk or Captain Picard? Absolutely James Tiberius Kirk.
Well, that goes with being a Kirk person. It does indeed. Let me do a little psychoanalysis. If you look at ‘‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’’ it basically split James T. Kirk into two people. Picard was Kirk’s rational side, and William Riker was his passionate side. I prefer a complete captain. To be effective, you need both heart and mind.
I thought your critique might go in a different direction, because ‘‘Next Generation’’ is more touchy-feely in its politics than the original. No doubt. The original ‘‘Star Trek’’ was grittier. Kirk is working class; Picard is an aristocrat. Kirk is a passionate fighter for justice; Picard is a cerebral philosopher. The original ‘‘Star Trek’’ pressed for racial equality, which was one of its best characteristics, but it did so without sermonizing.
Do you have a suspicion about whether Kirk would be a Democrat or a Republican? I think it is quite likely that Kirk is a Republican and Picard is a Democrat.
Although Cruz is certainly welcome to prefer Kirk to Picard, there are several things very wrong with his assessment of Star Trek. Continue reading