THE SUBTEXT OF STAR TREK
What has a big belly, translucsently pale skin, a woman he doesn’t deserve, a schizophrenic relationship with his living room furniture, a love of non-poisonous food, two thumbs, and a hopeless love-hate relationship with Star Trek?
The correct answer, of course, is Helmut Kohl (Mrs Kohl…what a fox!). But close readers of this column could be forgiven for guessing me. Now, there’s always a news peg to talk about my thumbs or the woman and the couch needs no excuse to butt in (that’s not fair!). But Star Trek, ah, sweet, sweet imperfect Star Trek, that’s something different. We often get email from people saying “@#$$^%# with the Star Trek references already! More about Pabst Blue Ribbon!” (what’s that from?).
But the boy can’t help it. I sit here writing this column woefully pressed for time, drinking from a Star Trek coffee cup — and not just any Star Trek coffee cup. It was specially made in China, where only the best coffee cups are made by the gross ton. Using special paint, some very talented political prisoners stenciled Kirk, McCoy and Spock in the transporter room. When you pour hot beverages in the cup the images suddenly “materialize.” It’s like Kirk and the gang transported right into my morning coffee! [Insert audio of an incredibly doofy laugh here].
Of course it doesn’t work any more. They just stand there now, not quite materialized, not quite invisible — sort of like Alec Baldwin’s alleged brain. It’s as if the obviously carcinogenic paint was intended to only last a couple weeks before it broke (sort of like their treaties). Assuming some Chinese censor is reading this column, I’ve probably cost some slave-laborer his special birthday-orange peel and grub dinner.
Anyway, I love Star Trek and now I’ve got a news peg! The United States Post Office — that’s right the government agency which proved the existence of Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street — has minted a brand-new Star Trek stamp.
What? It is a news peg. It is too!
Anyway, the stamp depicts the starship from the original series — number NCC-1701, not the subsequent NCC-1701-A thru whatever they’re up to now. This is good because a lot of bad things have happened to Star Trek since the original series in general and since the death of Gene Roddenberry — the show’s creator — in particular. Without belaboring the point (as if it was possible), Roddenberry had a profoundly optimistic vision of the future. He believed that man could conquer any obstacle through intellect and perseverance. In the not too far-flung future of the Star Trek universe, human values — which were incontestably American values — were not only superior to those of other races, they were the secret to our success. Values and intellect alone are pretty useless unless you have a working institution that can harness these qualities in the face of real resistance, be it ideological or simply a Klingon with a disrupter. That’s why they created a semi-military organization with a dedicated officer corps committed both to an ethical code as well as a spirit of exploration.
Obviously, such thinking drives the Left nuts for the following reasons: 1) The Left is married to the notion that unless we let them fix things, the future will be a horrible place 2) they think that technology is deeply suspect and will in all likelihood be the cause of our future problems 3) to them “American” values are too racist, sexist, homophobic, meat-eating, whatever, ever to be the basis of a just and noble society 4) of course, militaries suck under any circumstance 5) institutions that limit human choices are evil.
Combine all of this with the obvious Cold War references, the fact that all the chicks had to wear really short skirts and carry clipboards around, Shatner’s ridiculously macho over-acting, and wonderful American jingoism, and your are left with a show only a feminist could hate.
But even I have to concede that in a future that was supposedly devoid of sexism the ladies did receive pretty shabby treatment in the original Star Trek universe. In episode # 79 — the very last episode of the original series — Kirk is hounded by an Anita Hill of the 23rd century. Dr. Janice Lester is furious that she has been denied a captaincy and is sure that it’s because A) she’s a woman and B) because she used to beam out to the point to watch the submarine races. Dr. Lester is of course depicted as a total nut case (“hose beast” in the vernacular of Wayne’s World) for thinking she could be a captain of a starship.
But most of Star Trek’s anti-Leftism was on more solid ground. In “The Way to Eden,” a bunch of hippies who walk around in sandals and clearly reek of space-age bong water are cruising around in their faster-than-light VW bus in search of some sort of no-cover-charge Shangri-La. They’re all cool and they can jam on their flutes and lyres, they just don’t want to work for the man. They find their planet Haight Ashbury, only to discover that all the free fruit is poisonous. It’s like finding a whole planet full of great looking chiba ganja — only to find out its laced with some really bad junk (for older readers “chiba” is one of the slang words these kids today use for the dangerous narcotic “marijuana” a.k.a. the “demon weed” or canabis.”). The lessons are obvious, dude, freedom ain’t a place like Maine or Virginia — freedom is a state of mind. (Now, when was the last time you read a reference to the musical Shenandoah?)
There were dozens of specific episodes that extolled, or subtly endorsed, the Declaration of Independence (54), the Truman Doctrine (45), Vietnam (45), racial equality without racial demagoguery (9, 70), Christianity (43), the moral superiority of classical liberalism (39, 30) and the ability of really cheap novelty vomit to fly through the air (29). (If you’re wondering what the numbers are for, they are solely for the use of Trek-geeks who want to know which episodes I have in mind. These examples are not exhaustive).
But the new Star Trek(s) tried to counter-act the manly Americanness of the original series by among other things putting a Frenchie at the helm. Fortunately, at some point in the future, the French are finally conquered for good by the British, which is probably why the Enterprise wasn’t surrendered to the Romulans. At least you have to assume that considering they hired a Brit for the role of Jean-Luc Picard. But they did other non-Trek things, many of which were very good. They emphasized diplomacy more than before. They gave women some real power. Indeed the ship’s doctor was a woman and the ships — ugh — counselor was an empath who went around feeling everyone’s pain. The new age writing was on the wall.
But most infuriating sign that revisionism was in the air was the fact they made the chief villains the Ferengi — a race of ravenous capitalists with small teeth, bald heads and large noses (those noses are very wide rather than long which may be a sign that even the producers realized how Semitic these guys were). In the old series the villains were Klingons and Romulans, and both of these races were essentially Communists of one sort or another. In the new series the villains were charging everybody too much interest and trying to buy commodities at low prices.
By the time Gene Roddenberry died, the various spin-offs were becoming hotbeds of gender hand-wringing, environmentalist pot shots (it turns out that warp technology was creating too many interstellar potholes and humans would have to learn to live within reasonable limitations). The last remaining Trek show — Star Trek Voyager — regularly sermonizes about the fate of the American Indian (we saw that coming at the end of the Star Trek Next Generation), the interstellar environment, and the limits of technology. The most recent Star Trek movie Star Trek VIII: Endive Salad and Mineral Water on Hollywood Boulevard was an unrelenting screed about the need for baby boomers to drop out of the rat race, give up superficial things like age and beauty and “appreciate the moment.” It was a gitchy-goo travesty.
I could go on forever about the crypto-conservative nature of the original Star Trek, the New Agey luddism of the later Treks, my problems with Federation policy etc. I am not exaggerating. But I will stop here because the Surgeon General has determined that people who go on too long about such things dramatically reduce their chances of kissing a girl ever again.
Oh yeah, my couch just reminded me about the news peg. There’s this stamp with a space ship on it. It’s part of a series of stamps that include such things as “bugs and insects” and “Irish Immigration.” Go figure.
EXCUSES & NEW STUFF
I know, I know, I know. The list of the overrated 100 is way overdue. But we are trying to launch a new website here so you’ll have to be patient. I think we’ll definitely probably, have it up tonight. (and if you’re reading this on Thursday morning click here for the NRO 100 most overrated [Link defunct]).
In the meantime, we have plenty of other interesting stuff going on:
We’ve been mounting our own version of Hurricane Floyd Watch — we’re doing Hurricane Pat watch. At our Pat Watch [Link defunct] center are all the links you need to know what the Heck Pat is thinking and where he’s going. As part of our continuing coverage there’s the NR poll about whether Pat Buchanan should bolt the party. As of this “printing,” 70% of NRO readers think he should stay.
But it’s not all-Pat, all the time, there’s John Miller’s wonderful piece about the closing of Tiger stadium [Link defunct]. And the What’s that From [Link defunct] feature is turning out to be incredibly popular.
Also starting first thing tomorrow is our new feature, NR Debates. This week we have debate over — you guessed it — whether or not Pat Buchanan should leave the party. It’s between Pat Choate, former Vice Presidential candidate of the Reform Party, and Richard Galen the head of GOPAC.
And there’s one last thing I guess I’ve got to notify readers about. Starting with the October issue, which should be on the stands now, I am a regular columnist-contributor to Brill’s Content. I write a conservative media criticism column. I’m sort of the right-wing frick to Jeff Cohen’s Left-wing frack. This should not subtract from my five day a week schedule of G-File production or my strict regime of going pants-less 22 hours a day. But every now and then the Brill fact-checkers do call me and ask me to prove all sorts of things, like” my name, my favorite color, whether God could create a rock so heavy he couldn’t lift it etc. They are just one of a few distractions that make a daily column just that much more adventurous.