The logical appeal of ‘Star Trek’

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By Zachary Porcu

By Zachary Porcu

When the average person thinks “Star Trek,” there are an automatic bundle of associations that go along with it.

One thinks “Star Wars” and “Dungeons and Dragons,” costumes and conventions, technicalities and made-up languages, cheesy science-fiction and a plethora of other imagery.

But for whatever sort of appeal it has as a cult television series or as a staple in the sci-fi fan’s diet, “Star Trek” undoubtedly contains mature content fascinating even to those who are not fans of the genre.

Most non-fans will casually dismiss the show as “geeky,” but at a much deeper level, it remains as a source of profound concepts and ideas on which even the most mature of human dramas play out their arguments.

Perhaps the most obvious point of “Star Trek” is that the series takes place on a ship in space, one with a distinct chain of command.

This brings an important point to the fore: that of Captainship.

Since Capt James T. Kirk in the original series, the various incarnations of “Star Trek” have all boasted their array of powerful leaders.

Often a role unsupported in many modern dramas, “Star Trek” brings back the old ship hierarchy and makes a powerful point of it.

The captain possesses full power, but also full responsibility, not only to the ship and crew, but to a much higher calling.

In “The First Duty,” an episode from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Capt. Picard explains that “the first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth, historical truth or personal truth. It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based.”

From tricky diplomatic decisions to risking their lives to save whole planets, the rigor of the problems that the various captains have faced over the years serve as the model for a classical heroic leader and provide the moral grounding for the series.

Since Mr. Spock in the original series, each new incarnation of “Star Trek” has also included an essential non-human crew member, one which follows a more or less “logical” role, be they an android like Cmdr. Data or a Borg like Seven of Nine.

Although probably included as a more or less balancing agent to temper the strong morally-aligned role of captain, this crew member allows a glimpse into that world of logic and reason which is so often overlooked in our modern world of emotional sitcoms and romantic comedies.

Although seen as geeky, “Star Trek” actually returns the viewer to an earlier time, perhaps of frontier times in the founding of this country, or even farther back to the great explorations of history.

The arctic tundra and steamy jungles of the past no doubt dazzled explorers as much as Klingons and Romulans fascinate us today.

In the opening lines of the original series, Capt Kirk is heard announcing the now-famous tag-line: “Space, the final frontier,” and it is precisely that.

In such a pursuit of adventure one cannot help but be imbued with a childhood sense of wonderment at the seemingly boundless expanse of space and the nearly limitless adventure it affords.

While it is true that “Star Trek” has a massive cult fan-base and its more stereotypical fans are the butt of many jokes, the quality of the series goes past mere sci-fi and ascends into the realm of excellence.

With a series that began in 1966 and the eleventh “Star Trek” movie opening in theaters almost fifty years later, it’s safe to say that “Star Trek” is much more than a geek thing.

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