Now, one of the most amusing things I’ve seen/heard on this (particularly from a certain colleague of mine) is something to the effect that my fandom is frankly inconsistent with my beliefs in matters of politics, faith, etc. The argument’s something to the effect that the Star Trek universe is atheistic (which, as anyone who’s seen Deep Space Nine knows, is simply not true)— or at least secular-humanistic. While Gene Rodenberry was certainly not religious— still, his greatest creation has as a rule been sure to treat such things fairly and honestly— radicalism and blind faith is condemned; authentic faith is celebrated.
The other claim is that Star Trek as a rule leans Left. Well… it depends. The original series— the one we all know about, with Kirk, Spock, etc.— was at heart freedom-celebrating and patriotic (Roddenberry was a veteran). And… how many times had Kirk and Co. violated the Prime Directive (non-interference) in order to— wait for it— topple a dictator?
Roddenberry certainly leaned more Left the older he got: the Ferengi, for example, were conceived as a satire on free-market capitalism (though as DS9 fleshed that race out… it turned out to be pretty “big-government”, after all). Nonetheless, Star Trek remained vehemently anti-tyranny in general… and pretty darn anti-Communist (see: the Borg). And it’s worth noting that Ronald Reagan himself once visited the sets of The Next Generation— and that he and Gene hit it off pretty well.
Still, there’s been one question that Star Trek has long struggled to deal with— which brings me to my analysis of J.J. Abrams’s second contribution to the franchise. (For a look at the film itself, rather than its politics, see Ronald Rowe’s always high-quality $0.02, coming out on Tuesday, May 21st, on our sister site, Flick Rev.) Namely: are we justified in breaking the rules— and violating our principles— in order to “do what is necessary” for, say, national security?
Deep Space Nine addressed this with the creation of Section 31— the secret, shadowy, allegedly autonomous “black ops” organization charged with doing whatever it deems necessary to protect the United Federation. Ultimately, both sides were shown to have something of a point—troubling and angering the show’s Dr. Julian Bashir to no end. Still, Section 31 ultimately “took it too far”, as far as the show was apparently concerned.
Not to spoil anything, but our latest Trek classic, Star Trek Into Darkness, gives a nice nod to the above. This brings me to the issue I’ve been hearing a lot— brought up by actor Benedict Cumberbatch and discussed by various critics. Namely: “The movie delivers a critique/condemnation of the Cheney/Rumsfeld mindset”— think, “betraying our values for the sake of security, blah-blah-blah.”
Well… for the most part, the “crossing of the line” Spock (and ultimately Kirk) condemns in the film is, to be blunt, more akin to what Barack Obama’s done. Again, I won’t give anything away… but there’s a plot point that bears an intriguing resemblance to the current Administration sending out the drones to take out a U.S. citizen who was working with Al-Qaeda— along with a current tendency to send such drones to cross the border into countries we’re not at war with… to “whack” targets without said countries’ knowledge or approval.
Still, in the movie’s case, the scenario is a bit of a “straw man”— Kirk’s target is a lone wolf, who is working alone and not with a terrorist organization hostile to the Federation. And as he’s formerly “one of our own”, he’s a domestic terrorist— a particularly violent criminal. Thus, as a Conservative, I agree Spock has a point. And ultimately… when we discover exactly what Starfleet got itself into— it turns out to be the kind of thing neither Administration would ever dare get involved in (hopefully). If the film was supposed to reflect current national security debates… it exaggerates to the point of “Well, no one’s for that!”
As Ben Shapiro notes in Primetime Propaganda— though J.J. Abrams is a professed liberal, his stuff’s always fair, leaving politics at the door. Thus, while Star Trek Into Darkness does give us thoughts to leave the theater with, on “lines that must never be crossed”— still, it is, if anything, fair, balanced… and ultimately non-partisan.