Underrated - Overrated: Star Trek

Image Credit: Laoise Tarrant

Ryan Jennings makes the case for the under-rated Star Trek franchise

Hey, you. Yes, you! Don’t avert your eyes away now! I know the very mention of Star Trek conjures up images of overzealous nerds crowded into a basement sweating and bellowing over the most minor inconsistencies across a series that spans 600 hours (25 full days) of watch-time. Well, it can be like that but also so much more. Precisely because of this reputation, people scoff at it, but any show where somebody is willing to invest that much time into it deserves a deeper dive.

Star Trek has played a vital role in shaping our world. A plethora of doctors and engineers have attributed their inspiration from watching Bones and Scotty on screen every week as small children. It also featured a diverse cast, including one of the first African-Americans in a leading role, an Asian-American, and a Russian character as a good guy during the height of the Cold War. Martin Luther King Jr wrote to Nichelle Nichols encouraging her to stay on the show and that it was the only thing he’d allow his children to stay up and watch. It was different from the suffocating Whiteness of television at the time.

I want to conduct a little thought experiment. Think of 5 or so TV shows or movies that depict the future. I can almost guarantee that your choices depict a dark, depressing dystopian future full of misery, death and edgy mood lighting. If you couldn’t think of any here are some examples: Terminator, Alien, Blade Runner, Ready Player One, Interstellar, I am Legend, The Hunger Games, I could go on. The central thread running through major mainstream imaginings of the future is that we are in for a bleak, harrowing time as we progress further in time. Who could blame them? If you look around you see a society heading towards climate change oblivion, where we can barely afford to live, and never mind even dreaming of being a homeowner. 

Star Trek stands in stark contrast to other shows or movies in the genre. They live in a post-scarcity society where hunger, war and disease have been eliminated. There is so little strife on Earth that they travel around the galaxy solving ethical problems and helping alien races to progress the plot. Star Trek has taught me a lot about being a right and just person, and after a bleak round of modern news, nothing brings me joy like sitting down to an episode and thinking that one day we will get there.

If you’d like to learn more or if you want to see first-hand proof then lucky you as all the Star Trek shows are available on Netflix right now. A perfect beginner episode is “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, season 5 episode 25 “Inner Light”. Live long and prosper.