October 29, 2011

Trekkin' on Halloween

Since my pre-halloween plans lead me and my friend down a fantastic, fun, and eccentric road ultimately leading to me enjoying the whole of today--lounging, reading, lounging, watching House, lounging--I find myself home early and in deep thought...about Star Trek.

I know, this makes me a total geek. But I embrace my geek heritage and if I had a flag that somehow symbolized the country which me and my geeky sisters and brothers occupy, I would wave it, proudly, embracing all that our culture has to offer us and other cultures. Also, I'm sure in our Geekdom, if you will, it likely would be difficult what to place in the center of such flag. I mean, would we all agree with a lightsaber crossed with a phaser? Or the Rebel symbol overlapping the arc of the Federation? And, of course, we haven't even discussed the multiple inclusions of science fiction from cyborgs to zombies, and vampires to wizards.

Oh what to include in this great flag?

This got me to thinking about The Federation of Planets in the Star Trek universe. How difficult it must of been to work with all of those different aliens (which I assume after a while they stopped using that term) and how much deeper the identity pool go after multiple species started figuring out that they could mate with each other (or not). And even after creating such concepts as The Prime Directive (a guiding objective making sure that the federation is as anti-colonial as possible) I am certain there are still whole galaxies and space empires that want nothing to do with being a part of a unified organization.

Yes, my Netflix account has allowed me to go where no geek has gone before...or at least few geeks who have time (or make time they don't have...like I'm doing) and return to watching Star Trek series I've only been somewhat familiar with.

Beam Me Up A Quick Background
As a kid I struggled with watching the original series in syndication. I can't figure out why but I know the set felt/looked cold, and I was already a Star Wars kid so the cool sci-fi stuff looked fake. I struggled with the movies because the early ones had a lot of bugs crawling out of places. Not fun. I watched the animated series, and at the very least that enabled me to learn about the crew, but (like all cartoons so I don't entirely know why I'm picky about this) the repetition of watching them run everywhere got to me.

Gotta shoot someone...run.
Gotta get to a transporter...run.
Gotta get a burrito...run.


It wasn't until Star Trek: The Next Generation that I finally felt invested in the Star Trek universe (and many would say "for good reason") which is why I was heavily disappointed in the post TNG follow-ups: Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise. And the movies didn't help (and really other than the remake and Wrath of Kahn, I'm only invested in First Contact and The Undiscovered Country...mostly because those last two movies aren't extended episodes but critical events in the evolution of the Trekkie universe...this aside was way too long...someone order me a hot cup of Earl Grey tea...sorry, I mean: Tea, Earl Grey, Hot).

Thankfully, Netflix has allowed me to revisit these series. And I'm not all the way through them yet (have been watching Voyager and DS9 at pretty much the same time which is messin' with my head) but I have noticed something rather interesting. Here are crew pics of all five shows:

A couple of things here:
1. These are respective trademarks and copyright of blah, blah, blah, blah...
2. I put them in a timeline of where they would fit in the chronology of the Star Trek Narrative, not when they shows themselves came out. (Or tried to, it's a reverse timeline.)

Now, what do you notice?

For starters, hopefully you notice the diversity. Not just of varying earth cultures, but also of non-earth cultures as well. And there's two levels to consider: not just the chronology of the crews, but the show themselves. Sure, I understand that there were likely some strong intentions behind making captains not white and not male (although if you also watch a lot of TNG you'll notice how many women hold positions of high power within the Federation outside of the Enterprise). Yet it's interesting to note part of this science fiction vision was that there was less of a divide amongst our cultures and identities that there have been throughout history.

Maybe the millennial generation will start to fix, solve, prevent, avoid a lot of the diversity issues older generations experienced.

At the same time, and I say this knowing that each of these crews are technically considered part of a "space navy", look at the uniformity. The clothes, mostly, strike me because they display two aspects I'm amazed to see: 1. how color dictates power structure and profession; 2. how even the non-uniforms still don't seem to have that much variance in style.

Again, I know that they are all "military" and therefore must have some uniforms and easy way to show power structure. But this is the future where things are supposed to be more inclusive. This contradiction I do not necessarily find hypocritical or some neo-colonial-post-colonialism. And, yes, I've seen the show and seen different cultures still where their "traditional" garbs (although also noticed that these different cultures have little variance among their own dress).

However, as our world progresses, and, I would like to believe, becomes more inclusive and understanding of identity differences, does that mean that the power structure will become more uniform and we will lose other aspects of individualization? Is there some type of zen or karmic balance that always keeps conformity and diversity in check with each other? Will Worf continue to get plot lines that seem stereotypically suited for underrepresented identities?

No wait, that last question is for another day.

In short, I raise this because I wonder if the Star Trek series sort of has the whole agency and hegemony (big words that talk about authority and power) concepts figured out. I wonder if maybe Rodenberry and subsequent writers and producers had some notion that authority will still exist even in an ultra-progressive world. In a two-part episode from DS9 the crew travels back in time and essentially has to recreate a historical event to keep the timeline straight. The event mirrors what just happened in the Occupy Oakland situation. I'm not trying to say that soon I'm going to be able to order a Marco's pizza in a food replicator (but how awesome would that be!?!?!). But I do wonder what crappy events took place before these "utopias" were created. I am also wondering what structures had to be put into place to ease and/or erase a lot of other social tensions, problems, etc. that we still experience.

I think there's some hope to be had here, and some realization that a system will always exist. And the best way to handle this deep thought is to have a glass of milk and a cookie. So, for now, I'm going to live long, prosper, and wonder about how our future will change.