The Star Trek franchise is one of the most successful and enduring pop culture phenomena of all time. It’s a quintessentially American phenomenon with its hopeful, optimistic view of a peaceful future where there isn’t a need for money (except with backward, primitive species like the Ferengi) and there’s no racism, sexism, ageism, or, we assume, homophobes or transgender haters.
Like Mary Poppins, the Star Trek universe is practically perfect in every way.
Even though we assume there are elections in the Federation of Planets, nary a partisan subplot ever crosses the screen in all the various iterations and permutations of the show whether in TV or film.
It’s not like Star Trek was ever apolitical. It was downright revolutionary in its depiction of race relations and equality for women. But it drew a line at favoring one ideology over another.
But the newest entry in the Star Trek franchise, Strange New Worlds, is not shy about showing what side their taking in current political disputes.
The first blatant example of electioneering, on Star Trek Discovery, was a cameo by current and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams as none other than the President of Federation of Planets. The second was a weird plot twist in the pilot of new show, Strange New Worlds in which the 2020 capitol riot is depicted and blamed for starting a Second American Civil War and the destruction of the planet. To put it more succinctly, Orange man bad.
To be fair, since the original 1960s series Star Trek has always delved into cultural and societal issues. It has always been credited with diverse casts, with tackling issues like saving the whales (remember that?) and with reflecting American and global foreign policy.
All of that should live long and prosper, but these two recent incidents go a good deal farther. This isn’t issue advocacy, it’s pure partisan politics.
Why is that a problem? Isn’t that what Star Trek has been doing all along?
Examining current issues through the lens of a science fiction universe is standard-issue sci-fi. Star Trek’s gift was its ability to address hot-button issues like racism in a nonthreatening, entertaining way. In “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” from the original show, two aliens — one black on the left side, the other black on the right — demonstrate how pointless their hate against each other is.
But Strange New Worlds insists on hitting its audience upside the head with a two-by-four.
So, for example, almost everyone supports “voting rights” but that isn’t the same as supporting Stacey Abrams. Almost everyone condemns the Capitol riot and political violence, but that’s not the same and placing unique blame on one single event from one side of the spectrum.
Ultimately, the problem here is that this kind of political signaling is alienating for those fans who are not part of the Democrat Party political tribe. As a fan myself, it hasn’t made me turn off the shows, but it’s jarring and also breaks the narrative spell of fantasy and science fiction which is why people tune-in in the first place.
There is no escape. The radicals and their allies in major media have a stranglehold on entertainment programming. As long as the radicals can claim to be “triggered” by traditional values and reject any hint of opposition to their agenda as “hate”, America will be a monochromatic parody of the “original America.”