As we are halfway through our return to the 25th Century, we can pretty much settle into the rhythm of Star Trek: Picard. It’s a bit of a clunky narrative but a lot of fun character work for new and returning players. Most discouraging but perhaps least surprising is for all the things Season 3 has done to get us those wonderful character moments, it can’t escape the Kurtzman of it all and has at its center a big dumb mystery around Jack Crusher.
Mercifully, Picard is not hiding the ball. A recurrent problem with a lot of serialized shows is setting up a lot of mysteries that are slowly dripped throughout the season and you have to hope the mystery at the end is worth it.
Star Trek has always wrestled with managing its legacy and the ability to do something new. Fans are always a prickly bunch judging a new series, movie, or a given episode as to whether or not it feels like Star Trek.
As soon as I was exposed to it, I was a rabid fan of Star Trek. We share a birthday, September 8, and a value system that holds art and science as equals. Trek was more to me than a fandom. It was a vision of our shared future world that was achievable. Maybe not warp drive and phasers, but philosophically and materially achievable. While I loved the Original Series, it was The Next Generationand Deep Space Nine that seemed to realize R. Buckminster Fuller’s (one of my favorite thinkers) dream of universal equity.
When I first saw The Force Awakens after a fully funded summer media apparatus of hype in the winter of 2015, I remember the following Christmas morning my mother turned the corner, threw me a Force Awakens pillow, and coldly chuckled “Merry Christmas.” It was a good joke — like many the Force is moderately strong in my family — but it left me to wonder, what Christmas spirit at Walmart possessed my Mom to buy me this gift? I suspect my mother may have unknowingly become a Disney market research statistic. But after the last five years and our predestined Rise of Skywalker, I am largely left to ask the same question.
It is no secret that I love Star Trek. My daughter asked me why. I told her the following: I love it for its aspirational nature, its optimistic outlook for humankind, it’s marrying of science and art, and its borderline Shakespearean drama. I also love it for its horrible effects, its over-emoting, and the sheer high-corniness of most of the story lines. To me, Trek is the epitome of important television1. It entertained me. It made me think. It spurred me to action. Trek and Raiders of the Lost Ark are directly responsible for my pursuing undergraduate and graduate education. I learned things from Star Trek. Our conversation got me thinking about what I have learned from Trek.
So in the spirit and honor of Cal Fussman’s “What I’ve Learned” column in Esquire magazine, Star Trek’s 50th and my 44th, I want to share “What I’ve Learned: Star Trek Edition.”
Star Trek has meant a lot to me as a fan of pop culture, science-fiction, and television. It also has meant everything to me as a human being.
My grandfather, who was a WWII veteran, likely served in a segregated unit in the war. He returned home to a nation still refusing to deal with Jim Crow and other societal injustice.
When I was a very young, I recall him watching various genre programs like Wild Wild West, Gunsmoke, Rat Patrol, The Man FromU.N.C.L.E., and countless other series. However, he especially loved Star Trek.
A little context before you jump into reading this: I’m a child of immigrants (access: child of immigrant experience) who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago: the not very diverse kind of suburb (access: white suburbia experience).
I’ve been a Trekkie since I was about seven years old when Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) first aired. Up until then, my father and I use to watch some old Star Trek episodes or the films… Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was a favorite of mine. It was great to see George Takei up there, but I really loved seeing Uhura be the strong independent female especially by the time the films came out.
Since the The Nerds of Color is not the only awesome thing on the internet, we spent the weekend scouring the web for some of the most NOC-relevant links around. Here are five stories that have gotten the most buzz around the N.O.C. office.
Over at the Huffington Post, arts and entertainment reporter Mallika Rao asks “Is it Time to Retire Apu?” for their first installment in a series on Indian Americans and the entertainment industry. In an interview with Hank Azaria, the Caucasian actor who has voiced Apu on The Simpsons for over two decades, the actor credits a viral video featuring comedian Hari Kondabolu for making him reevaluate his take on the character.
Kondabolu says he… didn’t appreciate how many people would respond to his bit. Perhaps he underestimated the sanctity of The Simpsons in the comedy world (he’s a fan himself, but, as he points out, “you can be critical of the thing and still love the thing”). The Apu problem is a well-worn topic in his inner circle — in his mind, he was courting the danger of being “hacky” by rehashing it.
But the rant went viral, eventually making its way to Azaria. The actor credits the monologue with stirring his first misgivings. “If the only representation of Jews in our culture was Robin Williams’ impression of a Yiddish guy [from “The Birdcage,” starring both Williams and Azaria], I guess I might be upset with that too,” Azaria says. He cites one line of Kondabolu’s that stuck with him: Apu’s accent sounds like “a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.”
As some of you may know, I’ve been a Star Trek fan for most of my life. Back in middle school, my friends and I had the Star Trek Encyclopedia, as well as any tech guide or manual that Simon & Shuster decided to put out. We were the ones watching all those Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns that used to clog up Channel 20′s schedule. As I got older, however, my pallet began to prefer more mature tastes, such as Power Rangers and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I gave up the ghost during Voyager, and I’ve only seen a handful of Enterprise. That said, you can take the boy out of Trek, but you can’t take the Trek out of the boy. My brain’s still full of a lot of useless 24th century knowledge, and every now and then I find myself trying to make sense of it. During an usual bit of insomnia last week, I found myself wondering why, exactly, a human would even want to join Starfleet.
Welcome to Day 4 of ST:NOC, and it’s an all-alien reveal in the categories of First Officer and Counselor/Chef/Shoulder to Cry On!! Tune in tomorrow for the final day of ST:NOC, when we tell you the winner (by an incredibly razor-thin margin) of our choice for Captain, as well as our vote for best Starship!
It’s Day 3 of ST:NOC, and we’re revealing our surprise picks for Chief Medical Officer and Chief of Security — both men who are perhaps most noteworthy for having won the heart of a Dax! Read more and vote your favourites after the jump!
It’s time for the Day Two reveal of our first official ST:NOC crew (check out the earlier entries here)! Today, we reveal our picks for Chief Engineer and Communications. Vote for your favourites after the jump!
“Balance of Terror” is rightfully considered one of the best episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS), with anti-war and anti-bigotry messages couched in an intense battle of wits and starships. It’s also an important episode for the franchise as whole because it introduces major antagonists for the United Federation of Planets in the unsettling form of the Romulans. In the opening of “Balance of Terror,” we learn that the Federation, despite having warred with them a century earlier, never actually saw what a Romulan looked like. Without knowing the face of the enemy, Kirk and his crew have to entertain the possibility of a spy in the crew. But before they can start accusing one another, a chance visual transmission is intercepted by Uhura, and the crew and audience share in the stunning revelation that the Romulans have pointy ears.
Although Romulans, with this episode, have pretty much been with Star Trek since the beginning, they have also remained — 47 years later — remarkably undefined. As we learn more about Klingons, we learn about their bushido-like code and oligarchical feudal system of government. The Ferengi are commerce-minded chauvinists that don’t like war (though war is good for business). The Cardassians have a Prussian efficiency and ruthlessness that they share with the Romulans, but they go on to demonstrate other aptitudes and capacities through seven seasons of development on Deep Space Nine (DS9). Moreover, those three races change quite a bit in the course of the audience’s time with them. We meet characters that are quite often wrestling with their cultures and governments in rapid flux. Cardassia flirts with a Weimar Republic before the Dominion War. Ferenginar becomes more progressive as Quark’s mom challenges gender norms. Chancellors Gorkon, K’mpec, Gowron, and Martok all evince different personalities and approaches to changing and saving their government and their people without losing identifiable Klingon cultural tics.
To celebrate “Star Trek Week” here on The Nerds of Color, I asked the NOCs to vote for their favourite crew-members; from the results of this survey, we compiled the official Star Trek: Nerds Of Color fantasy crew. Every day, I will reveal two new ST:NOC crew members!