New “Star Trek” shows flaws of today’s sci-fi

“Star Trek Into Darkness,” the new Star Trek vehicle, benefits from 3-D and the latest movie gadgets, but suffers from not having Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry alive to make it original and creative. [SPOILER ALERT:] The story is twice-warmed-over from the original television version, and presented on the big screen before as “The Wrath of Khan.”

The cast is cool, with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto back as Jim and Spock. Zoe Saldana as Uhuru is quite adequate, but I’m still waiting for her to match her performance in Avatar. Benedict Cumberbatch is as good as any Khan so far. Old time Trekkie fans like me and my movie buddy nod our approval.

But the best part of the experience came even before the movie started. The theater we were in ran three trailers from upcoming science fiction movies – blockbusters all. Unfortunately, like nearly all American sci-fi, they present the grimmest of all possible futures. We are either starving to death or being eaten by zombies in almost every predicted future!

The reason is capitalism, and the particular part of capitalism that we’re living through today. Sci-fi generally extends current trends in a linear, non-dialectical way. If an author sees that the population is increasing, he/she projects the idea that people will eventually have to become cannibals to survive. If he/she sees curtailment of civil liberties, then the future must be a rigid dictatorship. If there are more shootings in America’s schools, then sci-fi authors have to say that future first graders will necessarily be armed.

Almost every sci-fi movie review nowadays uses the word “dystopia.” It means “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives;” “anti-utopia,” according to Wikipedia. Outside of sci-fi movie reviews, the word seems to have no other use in our language.

Gene Roddenberry’s future wasn’t like that, and that’s why there are still Trekkie festivals, reruns of four TV versions of “Star Trek,” regurgitated Roddenberry plots in movies, and generations of people worldwide who spread their fingers and say, “Live long and prosper.” Roddenberry’s future shows humanity that has already conquered its internal problems and only finds desperate situations when confronting new worlds. We overcome those situations, too.

When you stop and think about it, Roddenberry’s is really the only possible future. It’s a future worth thinking of and working toward. Until we bring that world about, we can enjoy the Star Trek movies.

Movie information:
“Star Trek Into Darkness”
Directed by J. J. Abrams
2013, PG-13, 123 min.

Photo: “Star Trek Into Darkness” official site