Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Final Frontier

Reading The Field Negro this morning, his comments on the classic TV series Star Trek got me thinking about just how revolutionary it was at the time. Sure, it looks creaky, sexist, and old-fashioned when compared to other science-fiction programs (with a hell of a lot more money) like Lost or Battleship Gallatica today, but in 1966 it was important to me because it was the first science-fiction show that I seen where the future wasn't a melanin-free Utopia. As a Negro child growing up in the turbulent '60s, it was comforting to see other colored people in outer space.

Don't forget, it wasn't just the multi-cultural casting that was groundbreaking in Star Trek, it was the stories as well.

As Rod Serling did in his classic The Twilight Zone, Gene Roddenberry used the science-fiction premise of Star Trek as artful misdirection to comment on the hot-button issues of the era (the Vietnam war, religious intolerance, bigotry) that never would have gotten past the major TV networks otherwise. Remember "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"? Maybe it was heavy-handed, but damned if it ain't still relevant.

Once you get past the aliens, phasers, and FTL warp drive, I think the most mind-blowing idea in Star Trek was Gene's optimism that the human race would finally reach the stars without blowing itself up first.

I wish I shared his faith. It's kind of difficult these days.