Illustration for article titled Which emStar Trek/em has the better vision of the future?

It's a battle between the original Star Trek and its movie re-boot to decide which vision of the future will triumph! Two Star Treks enter, one leaves.


In response to this piece on the decline in optimism in science fiction movies, commenters lightninglouie and Eric took a closer look at the way the imagined-future in Star Trek had changed over the years, from an optimistic anomaly to a much darker take on the source material:


The future sucked plenty in '70s SF movies. You had futures with deforestation (Silent Running), mandatory euthanasia (Logan's Run), overpopulation (Soylent Green), rising crime and anarchy (Mad Max), and oligarchic corporations (Rollerball). You had humans transformed into mindless workers (THX-1138), hedonists (Sleeper), mutants (Omega Man), or far-future slaves (Planet of the Apes), or sport (Zardoz), or food (Soylent Green, again). And on top of that, you had the stuff that would carry over into the next few decades — robot uprisings (Westworld), unfriendly space creatures (Alien), and zombies (Dawn of the Dead). The bright, shiny future of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a total anomaly by comparison. And even the "upbeat" Star Wars could be considered dystopian, since the heroes were fighting a despotic Empire. The notion that movies about bright and optimistic futures used to be commonplace is a myth. By the mid-'80s, and for most of the '90s, the major studios had more or less stopped making movies set in the future or in space altogether. (The big exception was the Trek movies, but they were cheap to make and had a built-in audience, so easy money.)

I think the big problem with the Abrams movies is that they're not really Star Trek, just generic Hollywood action movies with a Star Trek desktop theme. This is a problem with just about any updating of a "classic" property — look at Lone Ranger. If you're spending $200M on an "event" movie, they're all going to be running the same software underneath.


Star Trek—The Motion Picture isn't just an outlier, it's basically a throwback to the 1950s fare like Forbidden Planet. Exploration is its own reward! We'll solve problems through reason!

D'ya remember: in ST:TMP they fire the ship's weapons exactly once in the entire movie? At a rock that gets in their way.

Then they face something that threatens the entire human species, and they talk to it and ask it what it wants. And then a crewmember sacrifices his mundane, meaty existence to save the human race by evolving into some kind of higher being. Negotiation and altruistic self-sacrifice, that's Roddenberry's version of problem solving, as opposed to Abrams' version of shooting everything and then shooting it some more and then skydiving at it and then shooting it again (or maybe punching it, punching is good). TMP isn't a very good movie, but the by-the-numbers-cynicism of Into Darkness makes it look like some kind of weird masterpiece.


What do you think? Should Star Trek go back to its optimistic roots or run full tilt towards its darkest possible timeline?

Share This Story

Get our newsletter