ACE has posted a grim round-up of news on the science fiction front as evidence accumulates that Doctor Who, Star Trek and Star Wars have all been dragged down by enwokened, holier-than-thou leftist meddlers. Like the monotone and lock-step Cyberpersons that they are, the producers and script-writers of these former standard-bearers of the small and big screens all think alike. They are not remotely interested in imagining other worlds or futures – or even pasts. No, the only world they want to essay is our world; this place; Earth in 2020. More specifically, they want to ‘address’ the politics of the world in 2020. This green-screening of creativity has come at a predictable price: box office receipts for the latest Star Wars are woeful, Doctor Who continues to bomb (on the watch of its first female lead) and the coming Star Trek Picard – another iteration of everybody’s favourite sci-fi franchise – is set to become the most political show in the genre ever made. Patrick Stewart insists on it. “Picard,” he says, is “me responding to the world of Brexit and Trump and feeling, ‘Why hasn’t the federation changed?'” Ace notes that the producer of the new series is already distancing himself from the Stewart-driven changes – which may include f-bombs. That’s right. ‘Make it fucking so.’ That sort of thing. If only there was a smidgen of naughtiness back in the days of Deanna Troi but – *sigh* – I digress.
Unfortunately, I cannot write with authority about Star Wars. I’ve never seen any of the many instalments and have no intention of doing so. Years of channel-flipping, seeing featured clips on other programs or YouTube mean that I can tell C-3PO from R2-D2 but that’s about it. It always struck me as Sesame Street in space. But Doctor Who is another matter. For those of us who pleaded with mums calling dinner-time as Tom Baker dealt with Davros or took a beating from Sontaran fat-head Field Major Styre, the Doctor was a VIP. And his moral ‘message’ – lightly delivered – was a good one. The Doctor was kind, forgiving, a gentleman, loyal and brave. When I watched the current Doctor’s “Speech on Humanity” this morning, it seemed like a send-up. But no – it’s real. Apparently, the Doctor is now a Time Lord Greta Thunberg, just as Stewart’s latest Picard is Bernie Sanders at the helm of the Enterprise.
Star Trek (the original) was before my time but The Next Generation was a television staple in the early 1990s. Yes, even back then Jean-Luc Picard was a prude but the storylines were good; the run-ins with the Borg were especially entertaining. If anything, Voyager was even better than TNG. It was more than random encounters of an increasingly boring kind. The Voyager crew was lost behind enemy lines, with distance and hostiles conspiring to box them in forever; it was a slow-boiling jail-break caper along with the more customary arcs. I always respected Captain Janeway too (played by devout pro-lifer Kate Mulgrew). There wasn’t a single feminist lecture in the entire seven season run that I remember. And there was Seven of Nine, about whose moniker jokes were told – of a wishful thinking variety.
Is there more to the decline of these series than political backlash? I believe so. All three have been in virtually constant production or – in the case of Star Wars, promotion – for nearly 60 years. They are all conceptually jaded, verging on clapped-out. CGI brought some new energy and spectacle to the cinema excursions of Star Trek and even TV’s Doctor Who but audiences want more than realism. What do they want? They want what people have wanted since ancient times in stories and tales of adventuresome derring-do. They like the contest between good and evil to be a close-run thing because they know it always is. Truth inheres in the hearts of men and doesn’t automatically triumph in lesser skirmishes. It triumphs ultimately. Love of suspense and the thrill of an uplifting denouement is hard-wired into us. We can take it when good doesn’t win on the day but even the melancholy of loss highlights the affirmation we yearn for – and hope to find in the world’s future or our own. We are seekers of the truth. I think the backlash is less political than spiritual. The moral relativism actuating most ‘entertainment’ today – wherein there are no ‘truths’ but only agendas – removes the primordial soul of story-telling. Money-grubbing and narcissism are all that remain. In archaic times, pretenders surely existed and were shooed from the fire-flickering caves. Their stories died.