Monday, July 25, 2016

Captain's Log: Star Trek Purpose Renewed

A pause between parts of the Trek50: When It All Began posts to note the successful opening weekend of the feature film Star Trek Beyond and especially the 50th anniversary panel at ComicCon that introduced news about the new Star Trek television series slated to begin in January.

The series is to be called Star Trek Discovery, and Discovery is the name of the starship featured.  It will be in the Star Trek prime universe (as I believed it would be), though no time frame was announced.  Showrunner Bryan Fuller had previously revealed that the first year would tell a single continuous story over 13 episodes.

The ComicCon panel seemed motivated by the darkness revealed most recently through the just concluded Republican convention, in contrast to the intent of the new series.

“Think about what’s happening in America, and think about the promise of Star Trek, and what we can all do to get there,” Fuller said, as quoted by the Hollywood Reporter.

"Star Trek, in general, has been about individual rights, about respecting everyone, no matter who and what they are,” said Brent Spiner. “We’re living in a world right now where that respect is being challenged. It’s disturbing. I think a lot of our politicians and a lot of our fellow citizens could take a page from Star Trek, and have more respect for humanity.”

Michael Dorn pointed to the Klingons, Starfleet's enemy in the original series but an ally later. Dorn thinks there’s a lesson there from Roddenberry to the rest of us: “He wanted to show that we had moved on, that the characters had evolved…. There were a lot of guys who didn’t like Klingons, still. But they learned a lot about each other.”

Scot Bakula sees Star Trek as a beacon of hope, even at our lowest points: “I continue to be hopeful that, even when it gets dark, we as a species will figure things out.”

 Fuller ended the sessions by asking all the cast members and fans in the audience to take the hand of the people next to them and “make a promise to leave this room with love, to leave this room with hope, to leave this room and take responsibility to craft a path to Gene Roddenberry’s vision.”

Further quotes come from the Guardian: “The time is coming to figure [our problems] out. We need to figure it out,” [William] Shatner said. The original Captain Kirk was especially passionate about his desire for our planet to overcome the many obstacles – environmental, social, and political – that consume us. Star Trek has always been a liberal, inclusive voice in entertainment. 

 Pressed for details on the new series, which premieres in January 2017, Fuller said: “[It] has to continue to be progressive, to push boundaries, to tell stories in the way Gene Roddenberry promised.” 

Noting that the big ComicCon hits were more recent superhero sagas, the Guardian continued:  Some stories never die; they just get renewed and refreshed for the present. 

 In the case of Star Trek, that story has never been more necessary. Toward the end of the panel, Fuller requested the audience turn to the person next to them and take their hand. “Let’s make a promise to everyone in this room. Look at each other and leave this room with love,” he said.

 Everyone did as he asked, because if there is one thing that defines the Star Trek fan, it’s their belief in the inherent goodness of the human race and their undying optimism that even as we gratify the years behind us, we never forget that the great project given to us by Gene Roddenberry was one defined by a never-ending passion for making the world better each and every day that we have on this planet."

Bit of an update here with some more quotes from a TrekMovie followup:

Bryan Fuller: “The state of this country right now terrifies me and saddens me and I feel like we need something like Star Trek to remind us that, collectively as a human race we’re going to get our shit together, and we’re going to build a better future, and we have to start working much harder on that today.”

Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth hoped the new show would inspire people to think, to act and to live a better life. "If they’re just entertained, I don’t think we’ve done our job" Roddenberry said.  He added that the mission of Discovery would be "not just discovering aliens and new planets necessarily, but discovering things about ourselves. Star Trek has always been about that, so I think you’ll get a lot of that in the new show."

Next Gen's Michael Dorn seemed to like what he heard in terms of plans for the new series. "We’re at a place in our society where there was a lot of hope back in the 60s and 70s about where we would be in the 2000s, and I think we haven’t lived up to that hope... Science Fiction in the 60s always pushed boundaries because it was science-fiction...really tackled some major issues and I think that’s what the original Star Trek did, and that’s what these guys are going to do because they really have a passion for it, and I think it’s a good idea because if it’s not going to come from science-fiction, then it’s not going to come from anything else."

The sense that the TV series title communicates is a return to Star Trek stories of exploration, and clearly Fuller intends them to explore as well the soul of Star Trek for a new generation.

Accounts of this session and the excerpts available on YouTube have given me more hope for Star Trek's future than anything else in years.

Also of recent note are this Washington Post piece on the history of Star Trek in championing diversity, and this National Geographic article on seeing real versions of Star Trek planets in the night sky.

Coming here soon, the final two parts of Trek50: When It All Began, about the 1930s when the early Star Trek creators were young:  "Palaces of Imagination" and "The World of Tomorrow."

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