In between seasons two and three, I’d like to take a moment to discuss trends so far. This is done both as an academic exercise and to give you an idea, after four months, of how my sanity is coming along. Also to end the season on a month, because, c’mon, one day off.
To start with, I want to assure my readers that I’m fine. I have not been mistreated, though if we look at the user IMDB ratings for the upcoming episodes, I’m not sure for how long I’ll be able to say that.
Something I’ve increasingly come to grips with is that I grew up on Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, when Star Trek was a coherent universe with a lot of time and culture already under its belt. We’ll see a dramatic shift in that direction later, but for right now we’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in quality because, to be frank, some of the scriptwriters seem like they watch the show and some of them seem like they wanted to put their short story on television and The Twilight Zone wouldn’t bite. I’m looking at you, “Catspaw.”
By this point, we’re starting to get enough of a corpus under our belts to call bullshit when the crew pulls out something ridiculous that is not logically consistent within the universe presented to us. This is a tricky transision. Look, I love Doctor Who too, but the science in that science fiction is basically magic. That’s fine, but that’s not what Star Trek tries to sell us on. There’s science fiction, and then there’s fantasy with a science fiction backdrop. The distinction isn’t always hard and fast, but broadly, fantasy follows from or plays off of the Monomyth, and the theme is that one person, generally a Chosen One but occasionally an everyman in the right place at the right time, can make a Difference and Change the World.
Science Fiction tends to be a very different message. It’s best at showing us a world we could create and helping us examine though situations just far enough from our own how we should handle moral dilemmas of our time. Star Trek tries, over the course of its history, to be the latter, with greater or lesser measures of success. But at this point, it’s very much on the cusp.
Kirk has a few defining character traits that cause this effect. He refuses to give up. He doesn’t believe in the ‘no-win scenario.’ He very much exemplifies the ideal of a Chosen One without actually being one. (The Star Trek reboots adhere to the Monomtyh, but original Trek does not.) He may be the best of the Starfleet captains, but he’s the product of a society that decided to be better than what it was. He agonizes about breaking rules, but in doing so he acknowledges that there are reasons for them. He doesn’t rail against the system – he is the arm of the system, interpreted with common sense.
I don’t have an ending for this, so here’s a picture of a fish on stilts.