Those of you who’ve been watching Star Trek: Discovery will have been hit abaft the cranium by some heftily unsubtle analogies for the state of modern-day humanity. Some of them are very not subtle – particularly what I swear could easily have been a short Brexit debate in this last episode (S1E13) but then again I was maybe just imagining it just as I was presumably imagining it when Vulcan had its isolationist wobble in an unused scene from fan film Prelude to Axanar.
For those who haven’t watched Discovery yet, I’m not going to quote the said clunkings, because it might spoil things. Although this post might spoil one of the mid-season developments, but hopefully not anything too critical.
It’s just that science-fiction — even space opera, which is the sci-fi drawer that Star Trek tends to be be dropped into — often deals with current topical issues in the guise of futuristic scenarios. The remade Battlestar Galactica was particularly strong on this.
In the case of Disco (we fans call it that because we’re cooool, man, and also we can’t be bothered to type “Star Trek: Discovery” every time and “STD” is less than ideal)… In the case of Disco, the references got me thinking about what may have been a misconception in my brain all these years.
While I’m very aware that Trek is fiction, I’ve still always held firm to the basic ideals that Gene Roddenberry initially built it around, and which its subsequent creators have developed so strongly:
The Federation: peace, cooperation, unity, equality, freedom and democracy.
Vulcan: logic, emotional mastery, and the overarching philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations – even if Roddenberry did originally make IDIC up entirely for merchandising purposes, it’s become more than he ever intended it to be.
These are firm principles of mine — or, at least, they parallel firm principles of mine. And I’ve always felt sure that, given time, these principles would emerge in the world, as people grew to realise the unsustainability of our current self-centred, competitive and confrontational ways. Ideally, we’d undergo this shift in attitudes without being forced into it by, as in Trek, a Third World War that devastated the Earth of the future, or the real-life dangers of climate change or, well, a Third World War that would devastate our world. But whatever the reason for the change, it would come. I was confident of that. I’d still like to think it’ll be so. But as I’ve watched through the first series of Disco, I have come to a bit of an unsettling realisation.
I worked on the assumption that we were in a world that would one day come to parallel the world of Star Trek’s Federation.
And then it dawned on me: we’re not in that world.
We’re in the Mirror.