What Makes Something 'Star Trek'?

Discussion in 'Future of Trek' started by David.Blue, Sep 27, 2013.

  1. David.Blue

    David.Blue Commander Red Shirt

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    This keeps coming up a lot in different threads so I decided to make one specifically addressing it.

    I think we can all agree Star Trek is a kind of space opera, and that it fits into a specific history with certain technologies as well as a given list of races and polities.

    But I think we can all agree this is not enough.

    For example, I am a big fan of the re-imagined BSG. But taking that same idea and putting it into Gene Roddenberry's universe--would it be Star Trek? Song-type androids wage a surprise attack on the Federation, wiping out all but a collection of civilian spacecraft and one lone starship to protect them and find some new home? Whereupon we find the long-lost world of the original humanoids and learn they suffered a near-identical fate when developing androids of their own? With the news some entity or entities like Q or the Organians are subtly shifting events to make sure the survivors have a chance but perhaps learn not to make the same mistakes all over again?

    Don't think I'm the only one to say "That doesn't seem like Star Trek to me."

    But why not? Just as if you assume that five centuries after VOY the Federation has become a despotic dictatorship, but a band of criminals and political prisoners find a sentient starship far more advanced than anything anyone has ever seen before. They decide to fight back, try to bring down the Federation! Well, that is Blake's Seven. A good show. I liked it a lot! But even the premise lacks an ineffable something that would make it Star Trek.

    What is that ineffable something, though? That something that TOS, TNG, DS9 and VOY all had. The movies as well, even the ones that weren't that good. Haven't read all the novels, not by a long shot, yet the ones I've read "feel" like Star Trek to me even if I don't like them (some of the early adaptations of TOS episodes oddly enough do not).

    So, what is that something that makes a show or movie or book Star Trek?
     
  2. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I'll be honest, I can't really define what 'Star Trek' is.

    But I know what I like about 'Star Trek', people who are willingly working together to explore the universe and sometimes have their preconceptions challenged. I like when it features larger-than-life heroes on a badass starship.

    Personally, I hate when I walk away from a Trek movie or episode and I don't have a smile on my face.
     
  3. grendelsbayne

    grendelsbayne Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I don't believe I can give anything close to a complete definition of what Star Trek is, either, but there are certain elements that I would point to as being at least part of the core of it.

    1 Obviously it's a space show with a high technology level. Although that doesn't preclude the occassional story foray into less technologically advanced places where the spaceships can't come to the rescue.

    2 It has significant ties to the optimistic ideals of the Federation - reaching a better world through cooperation, tolerance and scientific advancement. These ideals don't have to be unquestioned or even always dominant in all the characters. But they do have to be clearly present and enduring in some form. This is the biggest reason I would say BSG is clearly not Star Trek.

    3 It tells a mixture of adventurous stories focusing mainly on the characters, their exploits and their development, often posing challenging moral questions, and (somewhat) less straightforward sci-fi stories focusing more on the possibilities of technology and alien life and the inexplicable wonders of the natural universe, often posing fascinating questions of reality and philosophy.

    4 It tends to feature characters that are usually larger than life, but don't really feel larger than life - and are mainly intended to be more or less regular people in what is simply a rather fantastic world.
     
  4. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    I think that Star Trek can indeed be looked at as simply a space opera in space, but its basic premise--that of a diverse crew out among the stars--also allows it to be allegorical at times as well as tackle moral issues. But Trek is also an action-adventure series, so it can have big explosions, space battles, and fight sequences too.

    In a real sense, Trek is not one single thing. It can be thought-provoking and silly; character-driven and non-stop action; seriously dramatic and unapologetically campy. As such, it appeals to an incredibly wide audience: people of different ages, races, creeds, nationalities, etc. Both an ivy-league college professor and a high school dropout can find something about Trek they like, even if they're totally different things.
     
  5. bbjeg

    bbjeg Admiral Admiral

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    What Makes Something 'Star Trek'?

    The title, definitely the title.
     
  6. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    CBS and Paramount make something Star Trek. ;)
     
  7. nightwind1

    nightwind1 Commodore Commodore

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    Star Trek is kinda like porn- I can't explain it, but I know it when I see it.
     
  8. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    What Makes Something 'Star Trek'?

    Pointed ears. :vulcan:
     
  9. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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  10. bbjeg

    bbjeg Admiral Admiral

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    I think Gene would have revised that for each series (and each series of movies).
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2013
  11. TheSubCommander

    TheSubCommander Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    If you ask some around here, Star Trek can only consist of Kirk-Spock-McCoy-Enterprise.
     
  12. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    True. According to Paula Block, he considered The Original Series to be apocraphyl once Next Gen began.

    "Another thing that makes canon a little confusing. Gene R. himself had a habit of decanonizing things. He didn't like the way the animated series turned out, so he proclaimed that it was NOT CANON. He also didn't like a lot of the movies.So he didn't much consider them canon either. And--okay, I'm really going to scare you with this one--after he got TNG going, he...well...he sort of decided that some of the Original Series wasn't canon either. I had a discussion with him once, where I cited a couple things that were very clearly canon in the Original Series, and he told me he didn't think that way anymore, and that he now thought of TNG as canon wherever there was conflict between the two. He admitted it was revisionist thinking, but so be it."
    http://www.canonwars.com/STCanon.html

    That's why I don't take "what Gene would have wanted" seriously. TNG as the ultimate incarnation of Trek... *shudders*
     
  13. David.Blue

    David.Blue Commander Red Shirt

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    There's a similar issue involving Dark Shadows and Dan Curtis.

    Mind you, I think several seeming contradictions can be resolved when when considers the Temporal Cold War.

    Returning to topic--apart from the surface details, I myself think what makes something Star Trek has much to do with what Grendelsbane. It lies in an attitude towards the universe, an essential hopefulness coupled with a benevolent curiosity. Call it a belief that "progress" can indeed happen, in its most idealistic sense. Not automatically! But through the sincere effort of imperfect people.

    Craig Ferguson did a lovely bit describing Doctor Who, where he accurately described that show as about "the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism." Which seems a pretty good paradigm to me--standing for something and against something else.

    By that take, I'd suggest ST is all the background stuff (Vulcans, warp drive, the Federation, etc.) along with reason and compassion overcoming greed and prejudice. These seem the primary virtues getting most of the focus, and they specifically tend to counter those two specific vices.

    Consider for example the vast majority of regular "enemies" in the series (and books and films, etc.):

    Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Ferengi, Borg, So'na--doesn't it seem each of these are defined in terms of what makes them enemies by both greed and prejudice? Each intends to grab what they want, to accumulate more and more regardless of consequences. More, they all regard others as so much less important than themselves. Even Section 31. Or the Captain of the Exeter. The builders of the Doomsday Machine.
     
  14. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk The Real Me Premium Member

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    You may wink, but that's the truth!
     
  15. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The great man GR is allowed to change his mind but we've got to remember he is just a man who wanted to earn a living and got into disputes with people and this also coloured his judgement of what he decreed was Star Trek.

    Naturally if he was earning bucks from TNG he may choose to 'disown' previous series if there was some clash or he may have genuinely changed his mind about TAS and some episodes of TOS.

    Are we involved in GRs personal disputes though? And what about DS9 and VOY and ENT - do we really know that GR approved of them?
     
  16. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Now, that would have been more fun and interesting than the actual episode ("A Piece of the Action") we ended up with. Al Capone as President of the U.S. in a parallel universe makes more sense than a planet of copycats!