I don’t want to completely rip on Star Trek here. I like Star Trek. It’s a good series. (Except Enterprise…) But there is a fundamental flaw within Star Trek that been bugging me. It’s a flaw that appears in every episode of both the original series AND Next Generation… And its a flaw that once you see it you’ll never unsee it..
I realize I’m risking the wrath of millions and millions of trekkies here and they’ll probably hunt me down for it, particularly as I can’t find any reference to this anywhere else on the internet… But I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to boldly go where no man has gone before. Which, ironically, is the problem.
Just take a look at these famous words. I’ve used the original series version for convenience’s sake.
Space… The final frontier… These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. It’s five year mission… To explore strange new worlds… To seek out new life and new civilisations… TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE.
I’ve highlighted the bits that indicate the problem. Now you may be wondering what exactly is wrong. It’s a space series… They’re visiting new planets regularly, exploring uncharted regions of space… Well… Yes and no. Sometimes the Enterprise crew do discover some weird new planet- Like the one where Dr McCoy starts seeing visions of Alice in Wonderland’s white rabbit, for example. But most of the time it isn’t some strange new world in an uncharted region of space. It’s exactly the opposite.
I have roughly calculated this hypothesis using the original series episodes. The Enterprise only discovers a strange new world in twenty one episodes out seventy nine. This is in contrast to the forty four times where man has definitely gone before and fourteen times where the waters are a bit murkier (IE the ones just floating around in space…)and it’s less certain if someone’s been there… But even if you added those fourteen to the twenty one it still isn’t more than forty four. And bear in mind some of those episode were aboard the Enterprise so it’s even less than that.
Most of the time the Enterprise is either visiting a colony or a star base, visiting/rescuing a scientific team at an outpost or coming across the wreckage of another vessel or going on a diplomatic mission to a species that has clearly had human interaction. In fact, that there is the basic plot for most episodes of the original series and Next Generation. (I haven’t calculated the hypothesis for Next Gen as the numbers are even worse.) Captain Kirk isn’t exploring the unknown like he should be doing according to that mission statement. He’s pottering about his own back yard, WHERE MAN HAS GONE BEFORE. And so is Picard. Pick any episode at random (of either series) and you’ll most likely find that the crew aren’t the first people there…
Ok, they are discovering new life on a regular basis. In fact most of the time it’s discovering them… (Or in Kirk’s case really discovering new life if you get my drift…) So they achieved that part of their goals at least. But as far as exploring strange new worlds and boldly going where no man has gone before… No. They just aren’t. As far as that part of their mission is concerned Kirk and Picard are absolute failures. And the phrase ‘WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE’ is apparently written on their God damned ships.
Gene Roddenberry’s original concept for Star Trek was a series about the exploration of the Milky Way, as described in the phrase above. Exploring in space, like Columbus or Captain Cook- Not acting like a cruise or cargo ship around the bits we know. It’s clear at some point that the concept of exploration went entirely out of the window/ they didn’t realise they’d gone off track. Most of the time the Enterprise can’t be considered exploring at all. True exploration is the unknown, where no one has gone before. It just doesn’t do that, most of the time.
But what about other series? DS9 is mostly a stationary series and there’s hardly any exploration involved at all. Although saying that, there is a bit of gamma quadrant exploration in there at some points, truly where no man has gone before. But then again, DS9 doesn’t have the above slogan. Enterprise is much like the first two series… Only with a bit more exploring (given that it’s set earlier… But again, like DS9… None of the above until the very end.) The prize for best job at doing this, however, goes to Janeway and Voyager for actually doing all of it- Exploring strange new worlds, new life and new civilisations and boldly going where no one had gone before… Even when she was only trying to get home and those things weren’t part of her mission.
However, this is a minor flaw. It’s just something that happens to be there in two Star Trek series out of five. And like I said at the beginning, Star Trek isn’t a bad series, on the surface. Like with anything, once you start to pick holes… (Take the number of Voyager episodes spent exclusively aboard ship… Is there even any point to them having a transporter?) Besides, there are plenty of downright dire science fiction series and films out there that are much worse than Star Trek. I just thought i’d point out this one little flaw and maybe make a correction to it:
Space… The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. It’s five year mission… To explore strange worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations… to ALMOST go where no man has gone before.
Do you reckon we can get Shatner to do a redub?