Star Trek: Rediscovery

I’m not embarrassed to tell the world that Star Trek (most of all the original series, their movies, and the Next Generation) saved me.

I could have been a far worse person and I was well on my way as a very angry teenager, but I learned that there are things we can do about disastrous events and disastrous people…and they all begin with retaining the idealism to know what is possible and remembering that there are good people, too.

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am that I crossed paths with Norman Amemiya, who reminded me how good Star Trek was and took me to conventions like Necronomicon where I saw that there were other people like us, geeks with hopes.

I’ve watched a lot of Star Trek in my 47 years, and some of it has been godawful. Some of it has been cheap, and some of it has been corporate, and some of it has been dumbed down for a “general audience.” We shouldn’t forget “Spock’s Brain” or “Skin of Evil” or that weird-ass Irish ghost episode.

But tonight I saw the last episode of this third season of Discovery, and I’m reminded of why the show matters so much to me and why this particular incarnation of it is what I need now, even with its imperfections. Perhaps it is what a lot of us need now, especially after yesterday.

It’s sometimes hard to watch Star Trek and then check the news.

The show hasn’t always done a good job of reconciling its idealism with the reality we see all around us that there are a lot of people who prefer us all being low because that’s “who we really are”: competitive animals for whom cooperation is weakness and hope is delusion. Usually, the show sweeps us under the rug as living in the dark times.

But this third season of Discovery gets it right, just when we need it most. In the fractured Federation, many have decided that it is better to embrace the “reality” of self-interest and brutality …and then the U.S.S. Discovery arrives with old-fashioned ideals of what we can be.

All my life, I’ve struggled with what I call the intractable problem of assholes, fighting the ones who intend to be mean but saving the ones who are only accidentally so.  

What this season of Discovery reminds me is that we solve that problem just like the crew of the Discovery, by finding our people one by one and then (re)building from the small corner within our reach.

We win by living what we want to be, not what we’re trying to leave behind.

That’s a lot to say about something discussed in a boardroom at CBS and likely engineered to make me feel this way. But I detect in the show and especially its actors that they believe in it like we did in the 60s and 70s and again in the 90s.

And they’re making me believe in it again, too.