Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Star Trek Propaganda

For Star Trek fans out there, have you ever noticed the continual drumbeat in all Star Trek TV series and films that the United Federation of Planets is a good institution? With certain relatively minor exceptions, have you noticed that these “good guys” always win? That they rarely suffer any combat losses of anybody important to the story? Their principles are shown again and again to work perfectly? And that almost everyone in their future society is perfectly happy to never be paid in money, to work just for personal enrichment?

Doesn’t that sound just a bit like stuff from a propaganda film? Like a Soviet Union-era film showing square-jawed Russians stalwartly doing right, marching forward to brilliant success with only minor losses, repudiating base capitalistic greed, and embracing an international brotherhood where all nations and races are accepted? Any downside to the system is brushed aside, the stories moving from one triumph of the “good” system to the next?

Well, what about a story that features a time travel device through which Gene Roddenberry sees what he thinks is actual footage from an idealistic future society? This inspires him to create Star Trek as we know it. The protagonists of the story discover this fact and also a means to the time travel device Roddenberry had access to. They find a way to use it to travel to the future, excited at the chance to see the “real” Federation, the one that inspired the hopeful visions of Star Trek.

But when they arrive they find out that what had inspired Roddenberry was not actual footage of the Federation at all. Instead, it was their propaganda films. The “real” Federation is oppressive and barren of hope. Portrayals of their victorious Federation crews bravely exploring the galaxy is the one thing the deeply depressed people of this future world have to look forward to.

Oh and the production quality of these films? Let’s say that when Roddenberry made the first Star Trek , he was inspired by what he thought were dull documentaries—so these originals would have production quality like that of the first of the Star Trek shows…only worse…


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