The Final Frontier

On Netflix, I’ve been watching the first Star Trek series from 1966-69. I hadn’t viewed many episodes when I was a teenager. Our antenna ears television reception wasn’t exactly Star Date 2525. Now, fifty years later, this 21st century old man observes how our perspectives have changed and remained the same.

Diversity wasn’t “in” back then.

Supposedly, the series was “ground-breaking” by having a black woman (Uhura) in a prominent role on the show. But folks of color, black or brown, were few and far between. Heck, even Sulu, the only Asian-American, didn’t appear on many shows.

Every time Captain Kirk beamed down security guards to another planet, they were always Caucasian. Generally, these guys were killed off. “Lost another crew member,” Kirk would moan. I doubt they were paid much, but still. . .Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity weren’t in vogue with the Federation’s Human Resource Department.

The Me-Too Movement would’ve had a field day.

Women? Each show boasted the most beautiful women in the world in skimpier and skimpier outfits. Female crew members wore tops which barely covered their behinds. Whether friend or more commonly foes, alien women filled the galaxy with lustful costumes, stacked bosoms, and sex-starved antics. More alien women fell “in love” with Kirk than James Bond in his heyday.

The Captain loved the Enterprise more than any one woman, but he portrayed the quintessential, heterosexual macho man to the hilt. No LGBT hints with any characters. Sexual orientation was one-sided.

Often, the thematic struggle was whether the logical reasoning espoused by the Vulcan Mr. Spock would win out over the emotional, argumentative counterpoints of Dr. “Bones” McCoy.
Spock based decisions and calculating future outcomes on empirical facts; Bones argued back with concepts and values of love, hate, friendship, sacrifice, and survival no matter the mathematical odds.

In today’s world, we throw facts aside without remorse. There are so many numbers in our solar system, we really can’t trust any one of them. We fall back on values and our personal, emotion-driven experience. Can’t trust the data provided by the news or fake news; can’t trust the commentators fired over sexual harassment allegations; can’t trust the written word, tweeted every few seconds. (Was there any life before Twitter).

Logic? Probabilities? We pay attention when meteorologists prognosticate when and where a hurricane will hit. Any gambler on any given Sunday will listen to the experts’ point spreads. We poll Americans daily on who they’ll vote for and what are their vices and virtues. We digest the data we’re fed—but make our final decision on our feelings under-pinned by our values.
In conclusion, I didn’t miss much by not watching Star Trek when I was “growing up.” (My favorite show was Get Smart, but that’s another article). Viewing each episode now, however flawed, has taught me that we sure live on an imperfect planet, but the Enterprise never visited a perfect one. Capt. Kirk and his human crew were always showing others a better way to exist and make progress.

I think there is hope (illogical) for us in this crazy (emotional) world. The other day, I sat in a booth behind a man dressed in a jacket, shirt and tie. He’d brought a homeless man in and bought him lunch. An act of kindness and an old TV show connected a couple of dots for me.

We, as humans, can do this. We can turn this ship around, maybe not at warp speed like the starship, but with the velocity of virtuous values, fueled with intersubjectively verifiable facts.
To paraphrase the Star Trek introduction, we can boldly go where many others have gone before.