I grew up watching the last truly hopeful sci-fi vision offered to this culture – Star Trek. Whatever you might think of it, even Gene Roddenberry is purported to have acknowledged one of the reasons for the show’s success was Star Trek’s fictional future had all the people of Earth living in tolerance, peace and prosperity.
Of course, in the early days of Star Trek the producers didn’t have the budget to create visuals of life on the home world. The characters only discussed it in dialogue and still the audience was drawn in by the dream. Now, many decades later, people are still drawn in by the dream of Peace on Earth and creative storytelling that uses alien encounters to explore what it means to be human.
We forget now how far out on a limb Roddenberry went with his vision of a racially and gender integrated command crew from a world at peace. We forget that at the time our country was being torn apart by struggles to end a war and secure civil rights for people of color. Many people were angered by racial integration and afraid of technology, too, when Roddenberry dared to present his hopeful vision of a peaceful and ethnically integrated future with advanced technology.
Today, the cultural impact of Roddenberry’s vision is an ongoing, global phenomenon. Scientists and engineers of my generation have created everything from personal computers to flip phones (”Beam me up, Scottie’). I’m not alone in believing that at least some of that innovation, at least in part, is because we were all weaned on the images and ideas of Star Trek.
Now we have a new generation coming up afraid of ecological devastation and perpetual war. We need to dare to dream like Roddenberry and offer an alternative vision of hope to address those fears.
Now we could make a sustainable future come alive with the newest visual effects and the oldest teaching tool we have – storytelling. I’m looking for collaborators interested in giving our culture that much needed shot of hope.
Some people have tried to tell me that a world of peace and justice will be dull, but I’m not talking about some new-agey “everybody becomes saints so there’s no conflict” vision. I’m talking about characters who are still flawed, flesh and blood human beings. Remember, there was nothing saint-like about Captain Kirk.
Speaking of which, have you seen “How William Shatner Changed the World”?
It’s an entertaining tongue-in-cheek look at the impact of Roddenberry’s vision. It’s really about how Roddenberry changed the world.
Apparently, Gene Roddenberry once commented, “No one in his right mind gets up in the morning and says, ‘I think I’ll create a phenomenon today,’” .
Lucky for me, I’ve never been in my right mind.