By William Markiewicz
Being a science fiction fan, I consider Star Trek a pearl among TV spectacles. As in all show business ventures, there is an encounter point for conflicting tendencies; inspiration versus money. This results in shows of uneven quality; those who don't believe in collective intelligence try to drown the audience in mainstream mediocrity. But too many creative minds are involved for the harm to be permanent, so Star Trek is still worth seeing. The best episodes are undoubtedly those in which the protagonists face their own anguish. The claustrophobic enclosure of a space ship combined with the "angst" of deep space favour dramatic intensity on a Shakespearean scale. The best effects in Star Trek are theatrical ones. Perhaps its future lies in theatre and -- why not -- in opera.
Star Trek highlights also the limits of our imagination; our perception of the alien worlds is surprisingly shallow. Those pseudo-Aliens take us into our own antique and medieval past. They are Vikings, Indians, Barbarians in space ships. Their leaders dress and behave pompously; caricatures of Roman senators, Caesars, Chinese emperors, or empresses if female. Caricatures they are because bi-dimensional, cardboard creatures, they lack the drama and authority of their models. Their conflicts are juvenile. Is it because of our ethno-centrism that the earthlings always seem superior, patronizing, winning. Or is it because we know only ourselves and, without models, can only create pseudo-aliens.
Perhaps for the same reason the humans of the future are not totally satisfying. Are the "good sergeant" Jean Luc Picard and the "jolly macho" Will Riker the best ideals we can dream about? We know nothing about the political, economic, social, spiritual structures of these future human societies; maybe the producers don't want to take a stand. And the decision of Picard, Riker and Counsellor Troy not to have families for the sake of their careers seems ridiculous. Cocoon-like space ship conditions look ideal for family life. Crew members rub shoulders constantly anyway.
For me, the best creation is Commander Data, the machine in search of humanity. We know enough about humans and machines to create a familiar and appealing personage; human enough to be a friend, machine enough to be a servant, ambiguous enough to be humorous. Having no ego he displays neither servility nor arrogance. A monk in the service of an infinite loyalty, and on an eternal quest toward, after all, a hollow goal. Maybe he best represents our role in the universe.
To create the most convincing alien characters within their territories and situations, we need, perhaps, a big dose of Dadaism, surrealism, poetry, quantum mechanics... all cooked by computer.