Recently I suggested that the most valuable thing a new Trek series could offer would be a rational, humanistic, progressive vision of the future. Of course, we all know the knee-jerk response to such calls. That this is "dated." Of course, people just say that, never really explaining it, but what they seem to mean is that the only respectable view of the world holds it to be "more mysterious than intelligible . . . more evil than good" as John Crowe Ransom put it, and that the only proper thing to do is wallow in the dark-and-gritty dark-and-grittiness of it.
This hardly seems an unquestionable position to me. Indeed, spelled out in this way it seems to me an extremely dubious one, passing off a snob's irony, a thug's callousness, a bigot's prejudices as wisdom ("Welcome to the real world!") by wrapping them up in the obscurantism that the gullible take for profundity.
And it all seems to me the very opposite of what anything bearing the Trek label ought to stand for. Consider those things that did make James Whitbrook's wish list for things a new Trek would offer, among them an interest in ideas. An exploration of ideas cannot amount to very much without reason, or the expectation that knowledge means something, such as this view denies.
Indeed, the sterility of the simultaneously pompous and dark "conventional wisdom" is all too clearly demonstrated by that show which in so many minds seemed to supplant Trek as the template for small screen space opera. In the middle of a fit of not particularly imaginative Trek-bashing, another author at the same site where Whitbrook wrote remarked that, in contrast with figures like Data or Seven of Nine offering an outsider's view of humanity, they preferred BattleStar Galactica's "Cylons, who school us about humanity by screwing and killing us."
The truth is that Galactica actually offered nothing in the way of "schooling us," just dumb soap opera and dumber head games. Indeed, in the show's consistent subscription to that view of an unintelligible, evil universe, it slammed the door hard on the possibility of insight into humanity, or anything else.
But just as people don't stop and think of what they mean when they say the Trek vision is "dated," they didn't ask just where Galactica was going with everything, and then after getting burned when it became perfectly clear that it was going absolutely nowhere, failed to learn the lesson.
Fortunately, that's not the final word on the matter.
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