What Star Trek Means

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The new Star Trek movie is getting rave reviews and reviving the talk of space as the final utopian frontier. On the Media's Brooke Gladstone, a huge trekkie, discusses the show's meaning. What have you learned about the real world from the Star Trek world? What did you think of the recent movie? Comment below!


Brooke Gladstone

Comments [54]

veal ham from melville, ny

Even as a small child it bugged me that the different spaceships always meet up on the same plane, even though there is no up or down in space. I can imagine an intergalactic war over which way is up.

Jun. 01 2009 12:16 PM

This film is not and will never be Star Trek. I don't understand how it is getting good reviews. Seriously, Nemesis was better. While Star Trek has always had to bend science somewhat to make the story work, this film has a juvenile understanding of astronomical phenomenon which would be more suited to Star Wars.

May. 29 2009 04:47 PM
artista from greenpoint

name her!
Suzette Hadden Elgin
La'adan lives!

May. 27 2009 11:53 AM
Giuseppe Castellacci from Manhattan

On Saturday night,
at the Lincoln Square AMC theater staff were checking your ticket at the escalator, a first. On my way to a mere movie, "The Soloist," I notice the line to the IMAX trekked down all the way to the lower floor, also never seen before.
Perhaps the economy has really turned around. Trekonomics!?

May. 12 2009 11:37 PM

[39] Steve from Brooklyn said: "What I liked was how Star Trek was atheist."

There's a nice interview with author Tom Flynn on the subject of "Science Fiction and Atheism" at POI: I listened to it months ago; it's still on my mp3 player, I enjoyed it that much.

Roddenberry was a secular humanist. I think he was agnostic too.

May. 12 2009 08:44 PM
Sainted_Mother from New York, NY

I love the Trek universe. Period. I'll take it warts and all. Yes ... it does have "gay" people (look at the episode from ST:TNG, where "Soren" is not any gender and prefers "female" ... Yes, it does have Hispanics, albeit spareingly, more as an afterthot (again TNG, Ambassador Mendoza, e.g., in "The Price").

Plain and simple, it is hopeful, and says we'll survive ourselves. It's my fave soap opera ... if it's on TV ... and I'm watching TV that night ... anything else had better be REALLY good, or I'll choose it ... any flavor / version / movie.

The new movie?? REALLY cool ... invigorates the dream.

Live long and prosper / Peace and Long Life.

May. 12 2009 06:12 PM


You have six comments on today's James Fallows topic (China), which is enormous.

There are 47 comments on the topic of Star Trek.

I can't figure out what that means!

I believe China, holding so much US debt, is going to be a major part of our future, scary as that may be. So it's probably a lot more fun to think about more hopeful things, like space travel, than what we and China have done to this earth...

BTW, looking forward to the new Star Trek flick.

May. 12 2009 02:18 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Oh, P.S.: That [46] said, Star Trek's Bernie Madoff would probably be a Ferengi....

May. 12 2009 12:09 PM
Amy from Manhattan

First, "all *four* series"? Brooke, what kind of a Trekkie are you? There were five: the original Star Trek, The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space 9, & Enterprise!

And while I originally had the same problem Bill [8] does (one homogeneous civilation per planet--& if there are 2, they're at war!), I later realized, mostly through discussions of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" & its metaphors, that these alien species were representations of various human characteristics the main characters had to deal with--kind of an extension to the Kirk/Spock/McCoy = ego/superego/id concept one of the callers talked about.

May. 12 2009 12:04 PM
Raj from NYC

This was a fantastic movie. It brings me back to the trekkie fold.

It impacts my life (I let it !) as I am inspired to taking on more risks in life, career, & Parenting.

Go see it and let it inspire!!


May. 12 2009 12:01 PM
Rob from The Bronx

It is easy to criticize the original series some 40 years later through today's lens. The original series was groundbreaking, the network guys didn't want an alien on the bridge and I even heard that Rodenberry wanted a woman for the original captain (need verification). A black communication officer was unheard of, and such a diverse crew. The movie was action packed and fun but it lacked the compelling social themes that was often present in the original series and TNG.

May. 12 2009 12:00 PM
Costa from Astoria, NY

Star Trek The Next Generation and especially Deep Space Nine inspired me to major in International Criminal Justice at John Jay College because they introduced the concepts of International relations, politics, war and diplomacy to me at a young age.

May. 12 2009 11:59 AM
hjs from 11211

fear of the other is universal, not just this nation.

May. 12 2009 11:58 AM
Bill from New York

Good lord, what are the "two sides" of Obama's "nature"? Do you people think about what you're really saying when you talk about this stuff? Stark Trek has taught us so much....

May. 12 2009 11:58 AM
Paulette from Manhattan

I grew up in Birmingham Alabama, in the 70 and 80s our local network would rerun the orignal series every weekday at 4pm. Me and all my friends would race home to watch it, it had a great impact! It still helps to reinforce human (and alien) rights!

May. 12 2009 11:57 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

What I liked was how Star Trek was atheist. Except for that horrid Deep Space Nine...

May. 12 2009 11:56 AM
dbnyc from brooklyn

i'm not a trekkie but star trek the next generation helped me at harvard law school! i remember watching an episode about the borg when i was taking a class on race relations and the law, and that episode really helped me crystallize my thoughts about collectivism and group vs. individual thinking...

May. 12 2009 11:56 AM
Dubya from Soho

What about the all white world of the Jetsons? Which future is true????? Red or blue pill?

May. 12 2009 11:55 AM
Dom from Institute for very very nervous

I was in high school in 1966-1968 and had a Friday night job so I never saw Star Trek when it was new. But in re-runs, I loved the Frank Gorshen black / white face episode. It spoke to the stupidity of racial politics that was burning through America at that time.

May. 12 2009 11:55 AM
Robert from NYC

I never watched the original showings but it soon appeared rerun late nights on a local channel (WOR 9 or WPIX 11) and that's when I got hooked; I'm not, however, a trekky (not that there's anything wrong with that). I thought it was fun.

May. 12 2009 11:54 AM
Paulette from Manhattan

I was born and grew up in Birmingham Alabama during the civil rights movement, Star Trek was wonderful tool to reinforce human (and alien) rights. During the late 70s and 80, the local network would rerun the original series every weekday at 4pm, all my friends and I would race home after school every day to watch it. It had a great impact on us all.

May. 12 2009 11:54 AM
Davis from Brooklyn

The series may have evolved but the movie didn't. The movie was enjoyable as a simple movie but unfortunately it still enforces the same stereotypes about race, ethnicity and sex. Kirk is still the (Alpha male) captain and still the most important! Uhura still on the switchboard.

May. 12 2009 11:54 AM
the truth from bkny

We are only going to "go" as far as the writer/director's imagination. We need to change who is writing and directing this fiction.

May. 12 2009 11:54 AM
hjs from 11211

jgarbuz 1
now it all makes sense!

May. 12 2009 11:53 AM
Steven from New York, NY

The backstory of Star Trek is very dark. The federation grew out of some kind of global war, perhaps nuclear, that occurred in the early 21st century. (I always thought that this paralleled the emergence of the League of Nations and the UN.) Anyway, mankind was nearly destroyed in this war. That was always ominous. Is it prophetic?

May. 12 2009 11:53 AM
jeff from brooklyn

I really enjoyed this movie!
Although I wouldn't ever consider myself a huge Star Trek fan, I did watch the original series as a child and I thought the prequel did it proud! The casting was done in a way that paid homage to the original characters without it turning into a caricature. Having said that, I also thought the performances were fantastic!
The plot and story was smart and entertaining. I actually had to go back and watch it a second time to fully understand some of the more complex twists that I missed on the first viewing.
The music was incredible, the cinematography was spectacular!
All around it was a tremendous film and I'm going back to see it a third time today!

May. 12 2009 11:52 AM
carlos from New Jersey

Like John Leguizamo put it in his autobiograhical comedy, there were no hispanics in Star Trek! What's up with that? Swine flu killed them?

May. 12 2009 11:52 AM
Drew from Manhattan

Next time you talk Star Trek you should get Faith Salie back on- did you know she had a recurring role on one of the recent series?

May. 12 2009 11:52 AM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

The first Star Trek was the best. I never got into the later incarnations. Another possible reason for long-lasting impact of the original series could be that it was in re-runs for years (Channel 11 in NYC). In the early 70s I used to watch it every night while making dinner for my family.

May. 12 2009 11:52 AM
Michael Stroz from United States

This is the best thing I've learned from the original series:

Having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting; it is not logical but is often true.

May. 12 2009 11:51 AM
Naoko from Osaka, Japan

I was a big fan of the original TV series as a child. I was most amazed by their "One" language and I thought it was best. And now as an English learner, I think it's fun to have many kinds of languages we can learn from each other in this real world!

May. 12 2009 11:51 AM
Steve from Bushwick

Are there gay people in space?

May. 12 2009 11:50 AM
Matthew from NYC

I learned that there will be no iPhones in the future. Yipee!

May. 12 2009 11:50 AM
Andrew Blais from South Orange, NJ

I've learned that if 21st Century people used their Ur-tricorders (that is, cell phones and iProducts) with as much discretion as Kirk and Spock, daily American life would be a heck of a lot more civil.

You never see a member of an Away Team pop out the communicator only to say "Hi.... yeah.... I just teleported...what's going on at the ship? Really...?"

May. 12 2009 11:50 AM
B. Jones from Brooklyn

What I learned about real life watching Star Trek?
I learned that Hollywood continues to keep movies almost exclusively white unless diversity is required for the movie. Watching all the trailers leading up to the main feature

I am continually dismayed/saddened by the state of affairs in movies today. When will Hollywood boldy go where no person has gone before? We live in a Diverse world...right?

May. 12 2009 11:49 AM
Adam from Manhattan

I found the movie more frenetic than dramatic, but fun. Kirk and Spock have this time out been reinterpreted as representatives of a tired dichotomy between emotion and logic; Kirk is implausible as any kind of leader, and Spock is more tetchy than vulnerable and isolated.
That said, the racial politics seemed pretty good to me: the story begins with a heroic, selfless act by an Arabic captain, Starfleet Academy is presided over by Tyler Perry, and Spock himself is the ultimate mixed race success story.

May. 12 2009 11:48 AM
Ken from Soho

I learned from Startrek that everyone will speak English; not only humans, but all species in the universe.

May. 12 2009 11:47 AM
Maria from Brooklyn from Brooklyn, NY

I learned that all personalities and cultures are beautiful and that their strengths and weaknesses are purposeful. We need Spocks AND Kirks, Klingons AND Humans. Diversity is the universe.

May. 12 2009 11:47 AM
Julia from Skillman, NJ

Excellent!! Abrams has brought Gene Roddenberry back to life. I am gladly recommending this film to everybody. It's great!!!

May. 12 2009 11:46 AM
the truth from bkny

We will never ascend beyond race in this country...very sad.

May. 12 2009 11:46 AM
Robert from NYC

And a YECHHHH, back to you Brooke!!! LOL

May. 12 2009 11:44 AM
Gene Hirschel from Edgewater, NJ

Despite the other non-Trekker comments, Star Trek indeed was a a ground breaking concept on TV. True there are "peoples" out there in Star Trek universe that had certain patterns, and Star Trek acknowledges that and then demonstrates time and time again individuals who break those stereotypes. A black woman working the switchboard? How about the fact that the communications officer is a very high position aboard a Navy ship and is the first voice many aliens hear, not to mention that she has the technical knowledge to repair the electronics. She even took command of the bridge on the original show. So, the show acknowledges the current state of our world and shows how to break through.
Eugene Wesley Roddenberry was a Freemason and used Star Trek to demonstrate the Masonic concepts of equality and living "On the Level" with each other. The invented concept of the Vulcans, IDIC, states that the beauty of the world is the "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination." This is now the de facto corporate culture across the world because of Star Trek and the vision Gene had. Remember the xenophobic culture of the 60s, and understanding that the first interracial kiss was on Star Trek, and understand that the ripples of that kiss are still felt today.

May. 12 2009 11:43 AM
JohnG from Manhattan

I've learned many things from science fiction. Alas, nothing from any of the incarnations of Star Trek. Contradiction? No. Star Trek is set in the future, but it is not science fiction.

May. 12 2009 11:42 AM
Stephen from New York

I'm a long time fan of the original show. Alas I must agree with Armond White's review of the new movie in the New York Press, "It’s watchable, yet still terrible cinema...designed to thrill people who cannot tell the difference between movies and TV."

May. 12 2009 11:38 AM
john from Annandale NJ

I grew up on the original Star Trek. Everyday after school as reruns. The new movie, for me, was brilliant! Fast paced, fun, and the actors were absolutely nailing those characters. I can't recommend it highly enough. And now I know why Spock was spending so much time on the floor beside Uhuru's switchboard. I think the series did teach me the world, the universe, was just one big melting pot, and I still hold to that. Some of the aliens are scary and different, but for the most part, we all ought to try to just get along. And the movie suggests that even Romulans just want to be loved, and raise families, and buy baby clothes, etc. And so that new movie: I say don't miss it.

May. 12 2009 11:27 AM
Nelson from Queens

Horrible Trek! Might as well be watching a Michael Bay Movie. Bad dialogue, bad story, and bad production design! Plot holes so big you could drive the Enterprise straight through!
Wasted some good actors, especially Karl Urban's performance who is great as Bones! Please use a different director for the sequel!

May. 12 2009 11:24 AM
Bill from New York

Post-racial? Stark Trek was one of the most racist shows ever aired, and the picture of the worst that multi-culturalism has to offer. While humans had the full spectrum of motives and personalities available to them, this race is warlike, this one logical, this one greedy, this one empathetic, etc. (We know this in our world from the narrow racially and culturally based voting blocks minorities are lumped into, for starters.) Narrow, unitary, planet-wide cultures (like the one, 6 billion strong, that the prequel exterminated with stunning ease): how imaginative! The show may have achieved something post-racial for its multi-culti *human* crews, but only at the expense of the grossly essentialized alien races who were, in the end, the mirrored truth of that show's (quite topical) flakey racialism.

May. 12 2009 11:22 AM
Charlie Roberts from Oceanport, NJ

I wish William Shatner would go somewhere where no one has gone . . . and stay there!!!

May. 12 2009 11:16 AM
Tabitha from Brooklyn, NY

What did I learn about the real world from Star Trek? I learned that you can never be old to suddenly develop a fangirl crush. (This is my way of saying that Zach Quinto did a great job as Spock.)

May. 12 2009 11:16 AM
Paulo from Paterson, NJ

Quick and dirty review: "A non-stop thrill ride of wild coincidences, tumbling camera angles, and excessive lens flares!"

May. 12 2009 11:13 AM
Seth from Upper West Side

Shatner said it best in an SNL skit over 20 years ago:

Get a life, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it's just a TV show! I mean, look at you, look at the way you're dressed! You've turned an enjoyable little job, that I did as a lark for a few years, into a COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME!

May. 12 2009 11:13 AM
Alvin from Manhattan

Post-racial? Ha! In the original Star Trek show we had:
An inscrutable Asian techie nerd;
An emotional Russian, pro-Soviet stereotype;
A black woman working the switchboard;
A Scottish engineer (a stereotype from another age and place that's unfamiliar to many of us).
But hey, when all the women are dressed in miniskirts, all is forgiven.

May. 12 2009 11:09 AM
Mark Speer from brooklyn, NY

"Star Trek" by JJ Abrams has given me one of the best movie-going experiences I've had in the last 10 years, and there's no bigger "Star Trek: The Original Series" purist than me, without a doubt. The simple themes The Great Bird of the Galaxy immortalized (do your best, believe in a better future, one person CAN make a difference) are themes I know have made my life a more creative enterprise, and all of them are done honor (Q'apla!) by the newest crew of the beloved ship. Live long and prosper, Captain Lehrer.

May. 12 2009 11:08 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I was never much of a Star Trek fan, and watching this last effort did little to convert me. The only good parts were by Nimoy himself. The rest of it was little more than an uninspiring, pedestrian grade B sci-fi flic.

May. 12 2009 10:50 AM

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