Gene Roddenberry and the Lost Social Consciousness of Star Trek

Posted by Michael Pinto on Oct 26, 2008 in Star Trek |

The above interview with Gene Roddenberry was from Good Morning America in 1986 (I believe that’s Joan Lunden with her big 80s hair asking the questions). Roddenberry came to my mind because he brought the series to life, but sadly was shoved to the side even during the original run of the series which as he points out wasn’t a success during its original run. In fact even after the movies brought the show back to life he was pushed over after the first film.

The interesting thing that Roddenberry talks about in this interview is how the original series had quite a bit of social commentary — which has been something that has been quite lacking in the franchise since the 80s. Yes there may have been one episode here or there, but for the most part Star Trek has played it safe in its many reincarnations. And sadly looking at the new film that’s being produced by guess is that we’ll see more of the same.

In fact the irony of history might be the that remake of Battlestar Galactica has been much more textured when it started life as a “me too!” series in the late 70s while Star Trek has become a clone of Star Wars. But there’s also more than that: While Roddenberry was accused of taking credit for quite a bit of good work he did surround himself with some very talented people. And what made that original series stand out was that it made you think — there are very few shows in the history of television that have done that before or after (with the possible exception of something like The Prisoner).

I personally would love for Star Trek to get back to its roots and become an intelligent TV show which is more than just dramatic spaceship battles. Science fiction is one of the few genres that can be smart without it feeling out of place or being forced upon the audience. It’s a genre that should engage the imagination and challenge us to think (and rethink) rather than escape. Of course my guess is that Star Trek will never go back to what it was: The big problem is that unlike that interesting show that got cancelled it has to justify the investment to keep it popular and that means big effects and small minded scripts. The royalties roll in, but the soul of the series is lost.

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