The Way Out is the Way In: Encounter at Farpoint
by William S. Kowinski
In the Star Trek saga, we see a bright future: of humanity in control of itself and its technology, at peace on earth and engaged in ethical, peaceful exploration of the universe. This is Gene Roddenberry’s so-called optimistic vision of the future.
But what is easy to forget is that the journey between here and there includes a global war that devastates the planet and a post-apocalyptic aftermath that sends humanity back into a new Dark Age. And according to Star Trek chronology, it’s all coming up pretty soon in our future.
Though this particular Star Trek future was referred to in the original series, it was given its fullest and boldest treatment in the first episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the two hours known as “Encounter at Farpoint.”
Not much attention has ever been paid to how harsh this vision is, or how boldly Roddenberry states his view of his present, and where it is heading. But if we are to understand how profound the ultimate Star Trek vision is, we have to understand the immediate future we are hurling towards, according to this saga.
Because the Star Trek vision isn’t of an inevitably better future. It is of a future that requires us to change—a better future that begins when we consciously become better ourselves. This first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation stakes out the territory this series will explore: what a better humanity might look like, what its challenges might be, and how these exemplars of that humanity meet those challenges.
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