Starlog 8: Adventures and Star Trek: A Plot for a New Show for a New Time

Professor: Adventures

Professor visits alien plant (ap) A

At first I enjoyed this planet.  In almost every detail it was similar to Earth.  I lived in great comfort.  Everything was Quality Number One.  Guest Services explained that anything not of Quality Number One was thrown down one of the many chutes and used for fuel.  Quite economical, I thought.  Then I noticed how few people there were.  I cut short my stay.

Star Trek: A Plot for a New Show for a New Time

A basis of Star Trek is an address of issues that affect humanity.  In Joseph Bien-Kahn’s Wired article “Star Trek is Brilliantly Political.  Well, at Least It Used to Be”, “Star Trek is nothing if not a product of the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement—a time when the United States became a superpower in a newly aligned political landscape. The period provided a backdrop for Trek to comment on issues of race and class (Roddenberry’s Enterprise crew had moved past sexism and racism, but they still encounter many species and planets plagued by it). It also allowed the series—and many of the franchise installments that came after it—to serve as a blueprint for how to exist as an empire in a fragmented world.” 

What if a new television show that depicted a utopian and optimistic vision of the future of an issue today was to be developed? A global issue causing fear and concern today is COVID-19.  Since people are unable to participate in the economy at the level before the virus, economics in America has been upended.  In “I Don’t Feel Like Buying Stuff Anymore”, BuzzFeed news reporter Anne Helen Petersen writes about the history of consumerism and economics during national disaster.  Petersen reports that “buying things has become so central to our understanding of recovery from economic trauma”.  Petersen notes, “Two weeks after 9/11, President George W. Bush famously called upon Americans to soothe their grief by shopping. ‘Get down to Disney World in Florida,’ he said. ‘Take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed.’ The country had already been in a mini recession since the previous March, and the sharp decrease in travel and entertainment that followed 9/11 threatened to deepen it….After declining sharply in September 2001, personal consumer spending rose sharply just a month later. The recession ended shortly thereafter”.   However, “[the pandemic’s] wreckage is so vast, so all-encompassing, that no amount of presidential rhetoric, no calls for patriotic mass consumption, can conceal it. The illusion has been shattered. We’re buying less because we’re scared for the economic future and concerned for the workers who make buying things possible, but we’re also buying less because the actual act of purchasing — at least in person — is a risk”.  She wonders what will happen if we do not return to the old way of operating.  What if people continue to buy only necessities and things that “offer an experience”?

If a television show that depicted a utopian and optimistic vision of the future of COVID-19 were to be developed, then perhaps the world in that show would have removed consumerism from the basis of its economy.  Perhaps consuming necessities and those things that offer an experience might not be at the basis of that economy, either.  In the vein of Star Trek, which presents an idealized world characterized by values such as honor, integrity, diversity, and equality, perhaps this new show would focus on the experience of being–the many ways of being in which that term can be understood–physical, metaphysical, etc.– and how those experiences are informed by various values that are part of the metanarrative of the world of the show. In order to allow focus on being, all essentials readily would be available, and the ideology of conspicuous consumption or of consumption beyond the essentials would be obsolete.

Today, people truly are living in a new reality that affects every area of life.  Returning to old ways of operating may not be possible.  However, people do have the opportunity to change life to the best extent of their ability.  Star Trek allows people to think about new possibilities—an optimistic vision of the future that might be workable.

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