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Star Trek Morality

Entry 1068, on 2009-08-05 at 22:45:02 (Rating 3, Philosophy)

An interesting podcast I listened to today was an interview with a person who had been closely associated with Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, for many years. She talked about how influential the original TV series and all its subsequent series and movies have been, but also commented on the many underlying themes of morality and equality which were unusual for the time (at least in the original series).

Some of the themes were disguised because of the political sensitivities of the time. Actually, they weren't exactly subtle but apparently they were obscure enough to fool the TV executives and allow the program to be shown without interference, although an episode showing a kiss between Kirk and Uhura (she was black) wasn't shown in the Southern states! But the woman who played the character, Nichelle Nichols, was persuaded to stay on in the role by Martin Luther King (no less) because he thought she was a role model for the black community.

So what other sorts of themes were common in the Star Trek programs? Scientific progress and how it could be used to solve problems was one. No one living in the "civilised" parts of the Universe really lacked much because of unlimited energy supplies and material synthesis technology. So the future achieved through science was positive unlike a lot of other science fiction.

Another obvious theme was the consistent examples of equality and against xenophobia. The crew of the Enterprise came from a variety of backgrounds and Spock was from another planet. Sure it was a bit biased towards males but considering the era it was quite remarkable.

Finally there was the religious stuff - or lack of it. There were gods in Star Trek but they tended to be advanced aliens (often mentally unbalanced ones) or some other natural phenomenon. And the crew didn't show a lot of superstition or religious belief.

The original series had some other good stuff too. Apparently the "prime directive", a rule forbidding contact with other civilisations which hadn't yet joined the galactic community was really a commentary on the US military action in Vietnam!

Yeah sure, some of the acting was pretty atrocious and some of the stories were a bit weak, but Star Trek surely was a very influential program - especially when you understand all the hidden messages of unconventional (at the time) morality!

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Comment 1 (2360) by SBFL on 2009-08-06 at 09:04:57:

Funny you should mention this. Just the weekend before last I was browsing amazon.com and looking at buying all the box sets of the TV series', plus the complete set of 10 films (the new one has yet to be released on DVD). I never got into it like the geeks did, but what red-blooded male doesn't like sci-fi? By the time I added them all to my wishlist, the costs started to mount, but I will buy the sets one or two at a time. The question is, is blu-ray going to go mainstream, or should I buy them on DVD?

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Comment 2 (2363) by OJB on 2009-08-06 at 09:37:24:

Blu Ray hasn't done as well as people expected. It seems now that the future is probably in downloads stored on digital devices (I have hundreds of movies on a hard disk attached to my TV). However, if you do want high def on conventional media Blu Ray is the only option at the moment.

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Comment 3 (2364) by SBFL on 2009-08-06 at 10:26:24:

The thing is, is high def these days apparent to the naked eye? At the end of the day a good movie is still a good movie displayed via VHS on a 19" CRT. The plot is always the number one attribute. Anyway, I think that the DVD is probably going to be the last physical media for movies much in the same way CD's are for music. There's only so far you can take quality before the differences become neglibile to the human senses. Like you said, downloads and HDD's (due to broadband going mainstream and getting cheaper) are the medium of the times. HDD's have been around for yonks, so what can change other then them getting bigger and cheaper? I don't think we could put movies on punch cards though!

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