Observations on Star Treks New and Old
We live in a time in which every person in the USA – possibly in the world -- has some awareness of Star Trek. As of this day in 2022, there are 11 (!) Trek series available for viewing, with the twelfth – Strange New Worlds -- debuting in May.
Those of us who are old enough to have been fans from the beginning know that Trek often deals with the contemporaneous issues of the day during which the given iteration of Trek exists. And, as often as not, the very casting of the series or an episode will make a political statement.
Therefore, as I said here, since the entertainment industry has long been dominated by liberals and leftists, it should be no surprise that Star Trek’s political and cultural statements are progressive in nature.
So, when I found out that Democrat politician Stacey Abrams had a cameo as the president of earth in the fourth season finale of Star Trek: Discovery, I shrugged my shoulders.
Some of my conservative friends, however, are incensed. People, please. If you’re going to get mad about Abrams’ walk-on, you haven’t been paying attention. Almost everyone involved in Star Trek, especially the actors, are public liberals/leftists and have been insulting those of us who are not for years.
This incident stands out.
Sirtis was Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Alley was Saavik in the movie Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. And there are many other examples from other cast members.
Only 90-year-old William Shatner declines to publicly pick a political side. It’s one of the reasons I adore him.
For the record, Abrams did okay, though she did break character for a split second.
I do, however, think that Discovery is going overboard in its casting of women as leaders. There’s Captain/Emperor Georgiou, Captain Burnham, Admiral Cornwell, Klingon Chancellor L’Rell, the Trill president, General Ndoye, the Federation president, Earth’s president and the president of Ni’var -- the planet formerly known as Vulcan.
Seriously, we get it, Discovery: women can lead. I could have told you that. But if I’m feeling beaten over the head with your message, you know that plenty of other people are.
However, let the progressives “progress.” That’s my view for the most part.
Thinking about all this, my mind wandered over the various political and cultural statements made by the franchise over the decades and one of those statements – made in The Original Series (TOS) – is relevant to today.
I wonder what the public response would be if the character of Pavel Chekov were introduced in one of the modern Treks rather than 55 years ago.
Chekov was very Russian and, occasionally, spoke the language.
In TOS and the associated movies, Chekov was portrayed by American actor Walter Koenig with a … curious (said in Spock’s voice) … Russian accent. However, in the J.J. Abrams movies, the role was played by the late Anton Yelchin who was a babe-in-arms when he and his parents left the barely still-existing USSR for America.
In short, Yelchin was a real Russian.
Right now, because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, all things Russian are scorned by many public opinion makers and being excluded — rightly and wrongly — from sports, arts, and cultural organizations in the USA and worldwide. Contrast that with the way Pavel Chekov was received at the height of the Cold War and five years after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Think that Chekov would be no big deal in 2022? You make the call.
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I don’t think that a good guy character who happened to be Russian could be introduced into the current Treks for one reason: we had a much more philosophically-educated populace in 1967 than we do now. Right now, people understand only good and bad and even there, only subjectively so. The identities of the good guy and the villain could change tomorrow, and most would accordingly change their opinions.
(There’s another reason as well: Russians are white and there’s no progressive cultural backlash in demonizing any white group.)
For all too many, there is no concrete truth underneath the perception of good or bad.
I hope Strange New Worlds proves me wrong about a potential ethnic Russian character — could even be a third actor portraying Chekov — but I’m not taking any wagers on it.
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers and fellow Trek fans!
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I think that may be why DS9 was peak Trek (fight me!)
By placing the show at a nexus where many other civilizations passed through, and near a hotly contested planet, they were able to explore stories the haughty Federation would never dirty their hands with. Even the Ferengi (previously just a capitalist punching bag), Cardassians (big bad until the Dominion showed up) and the religious Bajorians were all treated as three dimensional.
And Gul Dukat was best character. 💙
Walter Koenig went on to play Alfred Bester, PsyCorp Cop in Babylon 5 a few decades later. Bester was almost as good of a villain in the series as Q was in Next Generations. And Koenig played it like he was enjoying himself. Cheers -