This year is the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise. Therefore, it’s appropriate that Star Trek: Beyond, the third installment of the “new” Star Trek timeline and the 13th Star Trek film, is the number-one film in America and a certified summer blockbuster.
Star Trek: Beyond is a fun, fast-paced action film that also has a political subtext. The villain — a vicious alien named Krall — is motivated by a hatred of The Federation’s (i.e., Star Trek’s galactic government’s) ethics of universal peace and brotherhood. Krall believes that unity fosters division, which embraces an ethic of militarism and conquest.
Whether or not it was the filmmaker’s intent, the conflict between the militarist Krall and Captain Kirk could be seen as a left-wing allegory of the conflict between modern-day neoconservatives and the New Frontier/Great Society liberals that inspired Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry.
Never mind that when Roddenberry was creating Star Trek the neoconservative founding fathers were New Frontier/Great Society liberals. And never mind that first generation neocons openly admitted that they moved to the right not because they wanted to save cold war liberalism from the new left by reshaping the conservative movement.
These inconvenient facts highlight a naive notion, promoted by Star Trek, that there can ever be a global or galactic government backed up by a powerful military force that respects individual rights, and doesn’t impose its will on weaker countries or planets.
Has there ever been a empire that actually protected rights, or do large governments inevitably turn tyrannical? And has there ever been an empire that followed anything close to Star Trek’s “prime directive” that forbids Federation representatives from interfering with the “internal development” of a native culture?
Don’t even get me started on Star Trek’s absurd notion that a society could progress if it eliminated money.
The last Star Trek movie “Into Darkness,” dealt with some of the same issues that America faced post 9/11. The plot of Into Darkness centered around a Starfleet Admiral’s plot to provoke a global war. He justified his actions by pointing to an act of terror from the previous film that he thought justified preemptive war in order to protect peace. This seems vaguely familiar…
Another Star Trek movie that questions whether the Federation was an unquestioned force for good was Insurrection from 1998. In this movie, that featured the cast of the spin-off Next Generation, the crew of the Enterprise faced a Starfleet Admiral who was violating the prime directive. The admiral was displacing an indigenous people from their home planet in order to gain control of the planet’s raw materials.
As much as I enjoyed Star Trek: Beyond, I did wish they had developed Into Darkness’s 9/11 analogy instead of returning to the simplistic and unrealistic utopianism that is the hallmark of most Star Trek offerings.
Still, I recommend Beyond and I appreciate Star Trek for giving us 50 years of both fun and thought-provoking movies and TV shows. Star Trek does celebrate respect for individual rights. It is a shame that the creators and writers do not understand that we need free markets and limited government in all areas if we are to truly live long and prosper.