Posted in Monday Mayhem

From Utopia to Dystopia

I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation lately—benefits of having a Netflix subscription. So far, I’m halfway through Season 4, and by the time you read this, I will have blown past Season 5’s premier. Having watched the series during its first run back in the late 80’s, early 90’s, I’ve come to appreciate all the hard work that went into the show. From props, makeup, set design to story, music and characters, there is a bit of everything for everyone.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Crew
Star Trek: The Next Generation Crew

First, I will have to agree with you that it’s a strange conversation to talk about space, aliens and worlds from a far distant galaxy for my Monday Mayhem post. The thing is, I’ve always found something interesting when I watch Star Trek in that it has appealed to my sense of optimism. No one can say The Next Generation wasn’t way ahead of its time.

For instance, tablets of every size grace the hands of all those aboard. Many scenes with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) features him in his ready room reading a report on what looks like a prototype for an iPad. He then quickly switches to a small device that looks like an iPod touch. From there, he scans the small display standing upright on his desk—again, another prototype for LCD monitors.

It is evident Star Trek is forward thinking in design and intent. Even today, the show does not look dated in any way. It still has lessons for all of us who are looking for something that would put life into perspective.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Captain Jean-Luc Picard

My biggest lesson I’ve gleaned from many of the show’s social commentaries is that the Prime Directive rules. For those unfamiliar with the Prime Directive, it is a moral code devised by the United Federation of Planets to prevent members from interfering with cultures, either at the cusp of development, or unwilling to have outsiders to work with them in any way. The idea is meant to discourage Federation members from imposing rule on a less than developed civilization against their will.

Funnily enough, many civilizations, in the context of progress and time, are not looking to change, but want to remain stagnant—drawn in their own ways, unwilling to progress from the ameba stage—whether intelligent or not.

One of those civilizations in the show, for example, is the perfect utopia. Visitors to the planet notice the difference immediately. The stark contrast of it citizens wearing a minimal amount of clothing in comparison to their visitors is intentional. Also, their laws are simple to follow and provides a sense of security to all those who follow the law. The planet, however, has one flaw. It isn’t immediately visible. If anyone breaks the law, even the least of these laws—perhaps accidentally stepping on a flower in a greenhouse—the sentence is quick and immediate. Death.

For this planet, the Prime Directive is a no-no. They will handle their own affairs in their own way.

And that’s what I’ve learned most from Star Trek—you cannot help those who do not want help. Try if you may, a person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Have you watched any of the Star Trek shows or movies? What have you learned from the series?