Reading Time: 5 minutes A series that brought the optimism of Star Trek to the threshold of the 21st century ended with the message that empathy is the solution to all conflict. A generation later, that concept is much harder to accept.
On ‘tomorrow sorrow’: How we grieve the future today
Reading Time: 7 minutes I was six years old when Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired one of its most beloved episodes, “The Inner Light.” In it, Captain Jean-Luc Picard wakes to a life not his own. He lives in a small village, where he works as an iron weaver, and everyone explains that he is recovering from […]
Is ‘A Quality of Mercy’ always the answer to a balance of terror?
Reading Time: 10 minutes There are two ways of watching the first-season finale of Strange New Worlds: either aware of its source material, from possibly the best episode of The Original Series, or… not. For those who know “Balance of Terror” (TOS, S1E8), you’ll probably find yourself marveling at how faithful “A Quality of Mercy” is to the former […]
What makes a home for ‘All Those Who Wander’?
Reading Time: 8 minutes The first season of Strange New Worlds started with Captain Pike grappling with foreknowledge of a terrible fate that awaits him in Star Trek canon. Meanwhile, Spock this season has struggled with a relationship that The Original Series tells us is doomed. In both cases, SNW made the road to these futures feel uncertain in […]
Once upon a time in ‘The Elysian Kingdom’
Reading Time: 9 minutes Classic Trek series always left room for play, and sometimes did so quite literally, with beloved characters play-acting in completely different roles for many episodes. Holodeck episodes in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager allowed crew members to play-act consciously. Q-continuum, time-travel, and mirror-universe episodes invited a range of unwilling, unintended, and naturalized […]
‘The Serene Squall’, and other perfectly human contradictions
Reading Time: 8 minutes One of my biggest issues with J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009) was its abysmal treatment of Spock’s core struggle with his human and Vulcan halves. Oh, he still had that tension in the movie! But Abrams also had Spock casually shacking up with a human (Uhura!) while loathing the human side of himself. Did […]
Can any civilization ‘Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach’?
Reading Time: 9 minutes There are many useful narrative structures for humanist stories, and all tend to get airtime in classic Star Trek series. Some involve a juxtaposition of multiple storylines, to hold different crises and outlooks in tension. Others present the full problem early on, allowing different perspectives and conflicts to emerge as characters struggle to find a […]
‘Spock Amok’: Walk a mile in my ears
Reading Time: 9 minutes One of the most important facets of Star Trek: The Original Series was its spirit of play. In some ways, this was necessary. The series would often be filmed haphazardly, scripts written and handed off to actors last-minute, the late-60s wing-and-a-prayer production flying by the seat of its pants to make it all work on […]
‘Memento Mori’: To live with the prospect of death (Strange New Worlds)
Reading Time: 9 minutes Like any self-respecting Trekkie, I learned the basics of gunpower from Star Trek: The Original Series. One of TOS‘s most memorable scenes comes from “Arena” (Season 1, Episode 18), when Captain Kirk, trapped on a planet with minimal resources, has to use his wits to survive an encounter with a brutish reptilian species called the […]
Strange New Worlds: Star Trek’s return to humanist form
Reading Time: 9 minutes I almost didn’t watch Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which started airing this month. I’m glad I did: it’s deservedly being called the best of the recent Treks, and there’s a lot to be said about this series as a humanist. I had reason to be reluctant. The franchise hasn’t been in great shape for […]