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‘Member Berries

Look, if you love having warmed-up leftovers from 35 years ago, that’s great. There’s a whole sub-genre of literature about this trope and the human condition of longing… for lost youth, lost innocence, lost love, lost opportunities, the whole thing. If you ask me, that’s thematically the literal opposite of Star Trek, and it seems like the entire planet knew it because the fan response to this new iteration of our religion is just now… our tepid response to a TV show. The secular foundation of hope, of order, of respect for institutions and history and Kennedy-esque values of warmth and good-fellowship and a common goal of uniting intellect and raw emotion into a balanced self-aware view of our species in the firmament has been supplanted by… soulless copyright retention on the backs of creative geniuses who at least had an inkling of the point of their jobs.

I don’t know if anybody under 50 ‘members, but the Sixties were a time of political upheaval, not unlike now. I suppose you could make the argument that the human condition is always in a state of political upheaval, but look how they handled it in pop culture, the first canary in a coal mine of popular thought. Active subversion, stealth commentary on society, and a more subtle transformation of the notion of human interaction sort of ruled the day on the airwaves from The Twilight Zone to The Flintstones, but Star Trek famously, historically, carried that banner with aplomb. You can talk about the plots of your shows around the water cooler; but “Let that Be Your Last Battlefield” obviously points out the ridiculous of racism, “Devil in the Dark” is a commentary on the universal-ness of motherhood, “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” while a rollickin’ time travel adventure yarn, is also an ice-bath-challenge of the realization a father eventually has that even your cool-ass life as a Top Gun fighter jockey is nothing compared to the life your son is going to have if you do your job raising him right. Sure, you can watch the 1966 Batman and thrill to the biff-bam-pow of the frosting, but the arch adult commentary on the duality of man is there for the adults in the cake, too.

What’s modern Star Trek about? “The human adventure is just beginning”? I don’t see it. I’ve been following the BTS of Discovery since before it started and watched all the episodes. What’s the theme of that show? What’s the goal? What’s the theme of Picard? It’s obviously not the human adventure, because the title character isn’t human. And if there’s a subversive point that the definition of “human” is so elastic in the future that it includes inanimate objects, well, I guess that’s cool, but that’s more of a Demon Seed, Ex Machina kinda thing, which is fine, but, you know, not under the remit of the original show.

Which is fine, like I said, but it’s a little mixed-messages when the boat is keeled over into all that references-and-eggs thing that takes the place of actual creativity and character work. Hey look! It’s an old-style phaser, glommed together from parts of others! Hey, look! Every character in the vastness of space don’t just know each other and worked for years together, but now the new ones introduced are all related to each other. What is the point of that except to not have to do very much inventive work to make the audience care? Are these guys that fucking lazy? They are the new stewards of an IP that has turned into a secular religion and these guys are all JESUS HAD A SECRET STEP-SON and UTOPIA STILL EMPLOYS JAMES BOND and APPARENTLY ROOM LIGHTS HAVEN’T BEEN INVENTED YET. Their exercise in copyright retention added not one new special inventive thing to the world. Everything in three seasons of that show was a reference to earlier, more interesting, vital, and meaningful adventures. This last season, especially, was like listening to an old worn out vinyl of The Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits. Sure, those songs were fantastic once; helped us all out of bad moods or made good ones more exciting. But it just sounds so empty and hollow, playing old songs instead of new.

Best thing I can say is that’s over now and we don’t have to think about it any longer. Like The Anson Mount Adventure Hour dropping its S2 trailer looking like it’s going to continue its just-above-average Trekiness by doing new and interesting things with (mostly) fresh characters but still can’t get away from shoehorning in stupidity like Jim Carrey Kirk having Girl Wrath of Khan mooning over him, it’s amazing to me that the most honest and shining example of the real meaning of Trek, the beating heart of the human condition the smart fans respond to, is a dopey cartoon full of fart jokes.

Lower Decks’ McMahan is a genius; Matalas is a burger-flipper. When given the chance to write last lines for characters, he either bailed on it outright and did a cutesy cutaway like a thousand better films and movies, or just had his title character quote somebody else. It’s like these guys never read Thomas Wolfe or processed the theme of “You Can’t Go Home Again.”

This whole show was lazy and self-doubting and, as usual, I think TNG ended with “All Good Things.” What a completely average exercise in copyright retention. Star Trek used to add things to the world. Bits of philosophy to ponder, moral decisions to be considered, thrills to be had, sure, but its adrenaline meant something.


Larry Young
Larry Young
Larry Young is a writer: non-fiction, graphic novels, and pop culture criticism. His work has appeared in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, VARIETY, and THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION. A frequent guest on the video podcasts MILLION DOLLAR MAILBOX and WORD BALLOONS, he’s also co-host of SERIOUS STAR TREK and the sister YouTube channel of this website.


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