We did it, Trekkies! After sitting on [Star Trek](tag:3299704) for over 10 years, CBS are finally premiering a new Star Trek TV show in January 2017. Naturally, this news has sent fans wild with speculation: will the new show be set in the prime timeline or reboot era? How will it relate to the rest of the TV series? And so on and so on. This is definitely an exciting time for Trek fans, with the 50th Anniversary coming up next year along with the release of the Simon Pegg penned [Star Trek Beyond](tag:817262). And with the promise of the new TV show comes the potential of a renaissance of Star Trek, and the sci fi genre in general...
Humanity's Greatest Mission
There are many many reasons why Star Trek has stood the test of time to engage both older viewers and younger audiences, and that is due in large part to the values of the franchise. Gene Roddenberry had some very specific aims when he wrote The Original Series...
"Star Trek was an attempt to say humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day it begins to not just tolerate but take special delight in differences of ideas and differences in lifeforms. If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there."
These ideals of diversity and acceptance were reflected in the casting of the shows, and Trek has continued to push beyond the boundaries of what was allowed on television programming (in fact, a lot of the sexy stuff from TOS was done to distract the censors and allow challenging ideas like Vietnam allegories to slip by). And of course, the diversity of casting had real world consequences...
In fact, Oscar winning actress Whoopi Goldberg was inspired to go into acting after seeing Lt Uhura on Star Trek TOS, and later asked to have a small role in The Next Generation so she could be involved in the show that meant so much to her. At its best, Star Trek is an optimistic, thought provoking story, which has real world consequences in both society and the scientific community (you can thank TNG for iPads). So why is that desperately needed nowadays?
Grim SciFi & The Need For Optimism
There's definitely a tendency for science fiction to lean towards dystopias and grim themes. This is unsurprising, as scifi gives us the opportunity to tell a story of what-ifs, and that can definitely tend towards shocking cautionary tales. But if the success of [The Martian](tag:959366) proves nothing else, it's that we also like to see optimistic stories, ones which show humanity's capacity for love. We shouldn't underestimate the power of feel good scifi.
Essentially, Trek is important because the entire concept argues that humanity can be, and will be better. The ideals of The Original Series are firmly planted in social humanism, and while later shows pointed out the flaws of the Federation (especially it's vaguely colonial mission), the theme of each Trek series was the betterment of humanity.
It already seems as though the new Star Trek series will embrace the spirit of the original shows: we haven't had much information so far, but this statement is confidence inspiring.
"New characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception."
So... basically they're going to seek out new life and new civilisations, boldly going where no-one has gone before? Ok, got it. But that was pretty much a given.
Star Trek is a strange entity, known for being camp and silly but also cerebral and challenging of social norms. Roddenberry managed to blend this perfectly in The Original Series, while The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine took a more intellectual approach, with Voyager and Enterprise going back to the "boldly going" method.
It's going to be exciting to find out how the new Star Trek forges its own identity, whether that will be to continue plot threads from previous shows or break new ground by giving us something surprising and new. In any case, with all the science fiction franchises getting mainstream success, it's great to see Star Trek jump on that nerd bandwagon, and hopefully this will continue beyond the new show for years to come. Personally, I can't wait to see the unique impact this particular show will have on society! But what do you want from the new show? Let us know in the comments, or write your own post!
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