This, to me, is Star Trek:
I sit here crying as I type this, as it has been a few years since I have seen the episodes these clips belong to. They are still powerful, still move me, and remind me why I love stories so much. And why Star Trek is Star Trek. Now anyone who has enjoyed Star Trek will have similar but different clips, maybe the ending of “City on the Edge of Forever,” or Data’s last moments with his “daughter,” or the end of Wrath of Khan. And so many more.
But for me, Star Trek is this. Stubborn, tragic optimism in the face of cold hate and cynicism, and love. Just love.
Star Trek, in the 50th year of its existence, is not the clips I have shown you. It is this:
So instead of celebrating its 50 anniversary, the last few years of Star Trek have been characterized by lawsuits, divisive fan rage, and everyone claiming their vision of Star Trek is the right one. And this year has heightened tensions, with a big dumb movie company playing yo-yo with a lawsuit, fans spewing vitriol all over the place, and a big budget movie that Paramount has barely promoted, especially given the size of the movie and its summer release.
Added to this is the fact that to celebrate one of the most important Sci-Fi franchises returning to its natural medium, TV, CBS is using it as a guinea pig to test out its new streaming service. All alone, without any other new programming to back it up(I could be wrong here though).
No one involved deserves to be associated with Star Trek. Star Trek pushed a message of inclusion and optimism in a time when it would have been much easier to bury your head in the sand or embrace hate and fear. They stood up boldly and said “The world does not have to be this way, it can be like this.”
And I believed. I still believe. Even though everyone and everything tells me not to. Even though the people who are lucky enough to be custodians of the Trek legacy and the people who claim to be the property’s biggest fans would rather burn down Trek in the name of fanboy rage or cold, out of touch corporate greed and cynicism. People who have forgotten what Trek means or never knew or cared to know in the first place.
Sure, all incarnations of Star Trek could be more diverse, they could be more accurate with the science, and a thousand other minor criticisms. But I’m frankly sick of the internet and its gleeful embrace of cynicism and it policy of one problematic element damns the whole thing. That’s not the point.
The point, today, is that the future is not something to be afraid of and it is definitely worth striving for. And believing in. Problems are to be solved, that doesn’t mean it will be easy, and it doesn’t mean that new problems won’t pop up or the first few solutions won’t work. Trek is about believing in the process of discovery and the beauty of knowledge. And sometimes blowing shit up or hitting a man in a rubber suit with hilariously fake boulders.
In the 50th anniversary of Trek, we are the dreamers who have failed the dream. The people swirling around Star Trek are a perfect microcosm of this. Everything is somebody else’s fault, and it is easier to threaten, insult, and bully than to find a new way forward. And on the internet, Trek is just another corporate property to coldly dissect and discard. Everyone has to prove that the version of Trek in their head is the truest and best version and screw everyone else.
But as an African-American man, Trek is much more to me than that. It reminded me that these are my stories too, and this is my world as much as it is anyone’s. It is a glimpse of a better world that I want my children and their children to have. A belief in the love of knowledge and stories that I refuse to apologize for, even in the age of cynical fandom. That should be the message of Trek in its 50th year, not lawsuits and wars of words fought over the internet.
I love Trek, I love the original series, the original movie series, the new movie series. I love The Next Generation, I love Voyager, I love Enterprise. And boy do I love Deep Space Nine. I love the idea of a better world, no matter how far off it may be or how hard or uncertain the road to get there is.
That is Star Trek. That is why it has lasted 50 years.