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Now that being socially responsible includes catching up on our television and movie viewing, I encourage a deep dive into all things “Star Trek.”
Not “Star Wars.” The intergalactic movie franchise that gives us confusing timelines, dystopic plot twists, and disturbing familial relationships like kissing siblings and trying-to-kill-one-another children/parents is not what we need to lift our spirits as we hang out during the stay-at-home order.
“Star Trek,” the other intergalactic movie and television franchise, was created by Gene Roddenberry, who imbued the show with the philosophy that the human potential was “remarkable” and would yield a better, fairer world – perhaps the very outlook we need in these uncertain times.
I was a fan of Star Trek long before the coronavirus pandemic. As a child, I was enthralled with the rather corny, yet heroic exploits of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, Capt. James T. Kirk and Vulcan First Officer Spock in the original series. As a young adult, I appreciated the vastly improved leadership skills of Patrick Stewart, playing Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in “The Next Generation” series, which takes place a century after the original series. Most recently, I have been impressed with the remakes of the original Star Trek movies, which use a creative and believable alternate timeline (well, as believable as any alternate timeline) to give Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock unlimited rewrites of dusty old scripts from the original series.
These Star Trek plot lines, as well as of the lesser known plot lines like “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager,” portray a future where the men and women have matured beyond our current self-defeating radical partisanship and xenophobia and have embraced the Earth as a partner to be nurtured as opposed to a commodity to be used up.
Male and female leaders in the Star Trek future have created a society where all children are nurtured to embrace their innate potential and to use this potential to lead fulfilling lives that contribute to the good of everyone. Child neglect and abuse are wonderfully absent, as are sexism, racism, and homophobia.
Technology in Star Trek’s future has eradicated nearly all diseases and has helped society figure out how to meet everyone’s needs. Everyone has access to ample food, shelter, and energy. The concept of keeping up with and surpassing the proverbial Jones is unknown. When material needs are met, people can invest their time and talents into improving themselves and others. Homelessness, hoarding, and getting mine before you can get yours have ended.
Most science fiction futures are dystopic with the Earth a burnt-out shell and its environment toxic to human life. Not in Star Trek. My favorite scenes are not set on distant worlds but on the beautiful and ecologically thriving Earth. We have made peace with our environment. Global warming and habitat destruction are relics of the past.
This is the future I want. This is the possible future Star Trek allows us to see.
I admire the leadership of Capt. Picard because he is confident and resourceful and because he trusts his crew to do their best, especially in times of great stress. His crew collectively develops plans using the best information at hand, and then he tells them to enact with the now legendary command, “make it so.”
Let’s “make it so” as we develop our plans to stay safe with our family, friends, and colleagues. Let’s find hope in Star Trek’s portrayal of our future, and let’s revise the famous title sequence to each Star Trek episode and movie to match our current realities: Space (in our homes): the current frontier. These are the voyages of the Sauk Valley community. Our current mission: to explore the strange new worlds within our homes. To seek out new education and new entertainment. To go boldly, where everyone stays safe!
Dave Hellmich is president of Sauk Valley Community College. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.