The Left Gets Star Trek Dead Wrong
In an episode of the original Star Trek series, Mr. Spock observed, “In critical moments, men sometimes see exactly what they wish to see.” Indeed, that’s the case with Leftists when it comes to Star Trek itself.
Liberals love to proclaim that Star Trek’s popularity had to do with the original show advancing a liberal viewpoint, including the idea of a universe without God and faith. One comes across this take on Trek seemingly all of the time.
The latest instance of note came in an Entertainment Weekly story on the new series Star Trek: Discovery, set to launch its first episode on CBS on September 24th, with subsequent episodes beaming up via the online CBS All Access service. EW reported the following exchange taking place on the set of the new show:
The director halts the action and Lorca, played by British actor Jason Isaacs of Harry Potter fame, steps off the stage. The episode’s writer, Kirsten Beyer, approaches to give a correction on his “for God’s sakes” ad lib.
“Wait, I can’t say ‘God’?” Isaacs asks, amused. “I thought I could say ‘God’ or ‘damn’ but not ‘goddamn.’”
Beyer explains that Star Trek is creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a science-driven 23rd-century future where religion basically no longer exists.
“How about ‘for f—’s sake’?” he shoots back. “Can I say that?”
“You can say that before you can say ‘God,’” she dryly replies.
Really? Well, it’s true that Roddenberry was an atheist, and actually very hostile toward religion. But that doesn’t mean that was the case with the original Star Trek series.
I’m a Star Trek fan, particularly of the original series. And in that series, God or faith only seemed to be mentioned or noted prominently three times.
In one episode (“Balance of Terror”), a member of the crew prays on her knees in a chapel after the death of her fiancé.
In another episode (“Who Mourns for Adonais?”), Captain Kirk tells off a powerful alien who wants the crew to worship him. Kirk says, “Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one quite adequate.”
Most interesting perhaps was an episode (“Bread and Circuses”) in which the crew visits a planet where the Roman Empire is still running things in a 20th-century-like setting. After Captain Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy escape to the Enterprise, Lt. Uhura notes that she has been monitoring transmissions, and discovered that the peace-loving “sun” worshipers on the planet, who were central to the episode, were not actually worshipping the sun, but instead, the Son of God. Kirk remarks: “Caesar and Christ, they had them both and the word is spreading only now.”
Hmmm, seems like God and faith very much are in the mix during Star Trek’s 23rd century – or at least they were in the mix.
In reality, spouting off liberal views or presenting a Leftist take on life in space had nothing to do with Star Trek getting on the air in 1966, struggling to last three seasons, and being reborn via a string of movies – particularly regaining its mojo with the second film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Instead, Star Trek succeeded in, well, more traditional ways.
First, the three lead characters – Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) – and their friendship had deep, lasting appeal. Most important, viewers have long loved Kirk, Spock and McCoy as they helped, supported, needled, laughed, and argued with each other, and in various ways, proved to be courageous, wise, resourceful, and compassionate.
Second, entertaining, interesting and varied stories were told (in particular, episodes like “City on the Edge of Forever,” “Balance of Terror,” “Bread and Circuses,” “Space Seed,” “Mirror, Mirror,” “The Trouble with Tribbles,” “The Menagerie,” “Journey to Babel,” “Court Martial,” “The Galileo Seven,” and “Amok Time,” to name a few).
Third, Star Trek served up a good deal of humor, and, when at its best, some crisp, smart dialogue.
Fourth, viewers could enjoy plenty of action and adventure as the crew explored distant stars and planets.
Fifth, the show offered an inspiring and optimistic view of the future, along with a cool starship (the special effects were quite good for 1960s television), and actually spurred many real-life individuals to pursue careers related to space.
Sixth, tie it all together, and Star Trek was fun, entertaining and intelligent television. That is, it was, overall, good storytelling.
Were there times when Star Trek offered preachy lefty tidbits? Sure. That got particularly heavy-handed at times in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television show. And Trekusually has been at its most clunky when going down that path.
That brings us back to Star Trek: Discovery. Will it succumb to painful preaching, or will it serve up the best of Trek, that is, compelling characters, good storytelling, humor, and space-faring fun? I have to say that, at this point, I’m not optimistic.
Originally published on Pastor Stephen Grant.
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