PLEASE NOTE: This article has been on the web since 1994. It is not "a web site". It is one tiny article among dozens of others, on many different topics, which I have written since then. If you feel the need to send me HatEmail, please do, but remember that you're replying to an old article that's been on the web for 6 years now.

Why Star Trek Sucks

I love science fiction. I love stories of alien invasions, encounters, and distopian futures. I love speculative stories about the future use of emerging technologies. I enjoy reading intelligent and thought-provoking stories designed to make me think about the moral and ethical implications of technology. I even enjoy the occaisional Bug-eyed-monster story, just for fun. The best science fiction movies, in my opinion, are The Andromeda Strain, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Aliens, and maybe Jurassic Park. Why I love these movies above all other science fiction is that they have just the right blend of special effects, drama, but most importantly (and probably LEAST so in Terminator 2), they ask us to ponder, if just for a moment, the implications of our actions, the ethical use of developing or hypothetical technology, or how we feel about balancing our fear of the unknown with the moral and ethical descisions that might arise from a hypothetical situation.

The Trek Universe

Star Trek, especially the newest incarnations, is void of all of the things that make for entertaining, adult-minded science fiction. The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, have a sort of juvenile mindset to them. Instead of having people do exactly what they normally would do as humans, the Trek Universe has people behaving as though there are strict rules about everything that prevent a person from even considering self-preservation or self-indulgence as a primary motivator.

The entire world that the Star Trek Universe has created is bogus and lacking color. Take, for example, the fact that nobody in the Star Trek Universe listens to rock music. The one episode where a character did listen to rock, he was discouraged by Picard, and the alien Rock'N'Roll was excessively dissonant. How can a future exist where 100 years of music is erased from history? The only music people listen to on Star Trek is Classical and a non-descript "space jazz" kind of music. You'd think that in the future, there would be a bigger variety of musical styles, since musical styles never really die, they develop. After all, when you scan through the radio dial today, you do not find just one or two kinds of music. You find everything from pre-baroque to modern classical, country, western, all forms of jazz, all forms of rock, dixieland, gospel, International, and many many others. People from all over the world (and presumably from all over the universe) would listen to a larger variety or music.

The individual's quarters are almost completely lacking in those personal touches -- knick-nacks, posters, personal effects. Crew quarters are sterile. Only once in a while (usually when the plot calls for it) do we see personal effects and individual decor. Some might argue that Starfleet is a military organization, like the US Navy or the Marines, but reality only supports my observation. Bunks in a military barracks usually have pinups, posters, and tables with personal effects in them. Whenever people inhabit an area, even a shared one, they have an urge to mark it or at least make their personal area more pleasing to themselves, more individualized.

Easy on your mind

The intellectual arena in Star Trek never seems to go beyond High School Sophmore level. Take, as evidence, the fact that we only hear Shakespeare in the literary references of the characters. We never hear references to Satre, Nietsche, Voltaire, Locke, or other more interesting literary and philosophical giants. I mean -- who the hell would believe that an alien from another planet would casually quote Shakepeare like an English-speaking earth person? Aren't there alien philosophers who can come up with words of wisdom once in a while? I just cannot believe a shakespeare-spouting Klingon in the 24th century, unless he grew up going to high school in Cleveland, Ohio.

The views on politics in Star Trek stories are shallow at best. There is always a clear distinction between good and evil -- rarely any gray areas. Aliens are always either good aliens or bad aliens. Rarely do we see a political descision that involved chosing the lesser of two seemingly bad options. As a result, the right answer to every political and social dilemma encountered seems to be that The Federation (or the Commander) is always right. Picard, Janeway, and Sisko have the altruistic and flawless wisdom of messiahs; they are never really wrong about anything, and seem to know exactly what the best solution to any problem is. Never (except in flashbacks) do they make descisions that backfire, and which cause them to agonize over the results. At least Captain Kirk had real flaws which could screw him -- like his bad habit of screwing with half the women he met. Are we to believe that the only flaws that the main characters on the new Trek shows ever have only boil down to universal psychological nags, like not having done something differently in the past? Don't any of these people have vices, personal agendas, or "hot-buttons" that occaisionally get pressed?

All of the descisions Trek characters face seem to be laid out before them in simple cookie-cutter shapes. In real life, there are descisions that have to be weighed, and even when you make what appears to be the right descision, it can still have a negative effect. There are rarely any real moral dilemmas faced in Trek. Whenever such a dilemma is faced, it is usually only a dilemma because of unknown elements, which later get known in the episode, making a clear-cut black-and-white distinction between right and wrong. In the real world, you can do perfectly good, selfless things for people, and cause unforseen tragic events to occur as a result.

For example, you could set up a charity mission for the poor in a 3rd world nation, and give out free food and medical care to the needy. An unforseen tragedy of that act (which we have seen happen before), is that the reputation of that mission for giving free food and healthcare can spread throughout the country (even beyond it's borders), and large masses of poor, starving people could migrate to the location of the mission, looking for free food and healthcare, causing overcrowding and more poverty in an area than there was before the mission was started.

Trek's psychology is juvenile, too. I find it hard to believe that the technological future society of Star Trek could be so into kooky New Age pop-psychology, that it would have a psychic stationed on every spaceship as a counselor. Deanna Troi is the stupidest character I have seen on Trek -- her whole purpose is to state the obvious. We see a scowling alien screaming over the viewscreen, and Troi predictably babbles "I sense hostility in him!" A Character holds back a few tears or talks kind-of choked up, and Troi says "I sense sadness..." Get a clue!

Star Trek's Society

Starfleet is an incredibly unlikely and silly organization -- a socialist quasi-military goverment that seems to be in charge of everything; they seem to be in charge of commerce, government, arts, culture, the military, and the media. When was the last time the crew on a Star Trek ship watched an entertainment-oriented television-like program, or a movie? The Holodeck couldn't possibly be THE ONLY form of media entertainment. Even though we have digital photography, virtual-reality computer games, and mutimedia CD systems, it doesn't stop us from listening to tapes, looking at magazines, or reading books.

Evangelistic, The Federation goes across the universe and tries to make all the aliens follow the one, true way of the Earthmen. The altruism that Starfleet embraces is absurd. Who would believe that people would be willing to sacrifice their lives rather than intervene in the development of a more primitive alien culture, even if by accident? I mean, even the most morally upstanding people realize that "accidents do happen". There are several episodes where the crew is trying hard not to intervene with a developing alien civilization, and they face a tough choice between destroying the ship willfully, or letting the inhabitants of an alien planet know that other races exist beyond their world. Are these people for real? The federation instills this horrible altruism into it's people. We have episodes where characters turn down incredible gifts -- Jeordi turns down sight just to snub a superior being, Picard and Kirk turn down paradise in "Generations" just to save a primitive planet, and in another episode, Picard turns down being able to revise major events in his life for the better just to prove to "Q" that he can't be made to give into temptation. Characters seem willing to give up their lives or their safety just to push a principle. This is not a human-like or god-like quality -- it's just plain stupid and pointless.

Unlikely Civilizations

Never mind Starfleet -- what about the kooky alien cultures that exist around Starfleet? We have the Klingons, equally on par with the federation technologically, yet ruled by a singular fuedal warlord society. They can create impressive starships that are a match for the Federation, yet they know nothing of personal hygene or dental care. They know computers, but seem to have no patience to deal with any technology or people -- which would be neccesary for technological development. Klingons seem more prone to smashing computer screens in frustration, rather than being capable of making them or programming them.

Never mind the federation or the Klingons -- what about all the other alien worlds that exist in the Trek Universe? They are all the same! Every world that the Federation comes across is run by a single world government, with a homogenous culture, almost always consisting of humans with bumpy foreheads. Every alien culture dresses in mis-matched period costume parts from Earth cultures. They always speak perfect English, except when it's important to the plot that they don't. In nearly every case, The alien cultures are morally inferior to the main characters, and the federation has to come in and teach them how to do things the right way. It's as if the Earth's Federation is the only culture/government/organization in the whole Trek universe that has both oars in the water and has no problems. Even when they tried to have episodes showing flaws in the Federation, they just couldn't do it convincingly, or left big plot-holes unresolved.

Then there was that kooky alien culture called the "Binars", a race or beings so dependant on computers that they would die if their homeworld's computer ever suffered a temporary power-outage. Yeah -- like this advanced civilization never figured out the advantages of distributed processing, or even backup power supplies. I find it hard to believe that an any race would intergrate their bilology with digital computing technology to such a level as to make it deadly for their whole race if their main computer suffered temporary down-time. Even we are smarter than that in the 20th century -- in a reletive period of infancy of digital computing. Let's face it -- compared to 20th century humans, virtually all of the alien races in the Star Trek universe must be idiots. Will we ever see an alien race that teaches the Federation a lesson in morality or responsible use of technology? Of course not, because it's been established that the federation has solved virtually every problem known to man.

Blinded to Science

Star Trek science is occaisionally silly. Take for example the almost total acceptence of out-of-body experiences, psychic powers, and other paranormal delusions. They also accept mind-brain duality, and the use of technology to capture a person's essence into a computer's memory chip, then back into another body. This kind of fantasy technology ignores what we know about the brain -- about how it is the physical connections between neurons and groups of neurons which make us who we are. Star Trek wholeheartedly accepts the superstitious as fact, and designs episodes around strange new-age concpets which are not scientific at all. They also have a habit of forgetting about technology that is well established in other episodes. In one episode, Riker gets attacked by a virus that renders him unconscious, and his nervous system is affected. In previous episodes, they established that they could use the transporters to filter out alien organisms, and beam them out. But they suddenly forgot how to do this, and inserted these big, long probes into his brain!

Since they've established that the transporter technology was not only capable of both filtering organisms and parasites out of people, but also of holding all of the information for an individual for extended periods, why did the doctor on the Voyager need to make "holographic lungs" for Neelix, after it was already established that the technology existed to recreate his entire body from Transporter memory logs? Even Captain Kirk from the Original Trek was duplicated into 2 living, breathing individuals by a transporter accident -- 2 complete individuals whose only difference seemed to be personality.

I've seen that plot before...

The most annoying thing about Trek, however is it's strict adherence to well-established cliches and formula plots. Hardly ever innovative, Trek follows cliches and formulas so strictly that one can actually predict the outcome of the episode with only 5 or 10 minutes into the episode. You always know that by the end of the episode, all characters will be back to normal, and nobody will suffer any permanent effects from whatever transpired during the episode (this is always true, unless there is a planned major cast revision). Whenever there is a major cast revision, they predictably have a "going away" episode where the whole episode's plot revolves around the fact that the character is leaving. Wessley Crusher, Quark, "Q", and other assorted characters who appear frequently will always initiate problems for everyone else to solve.

Cliches that annoy the hell out of me are those horrible "Evil Twin" episodes. You always know that when a look-alike or twin of a character comes onto the scene, that they will cause trouble. The evil twin episode is simply the most over-used and predictable plot element ever done. Then there's those alternate universe episodes, which are similar to the evil twin episodes, but instead of one character being subjected to the arrival of their evil twin, the whole cast and crew of the ship has evil twins to deal with from another dimension. Time travel episodes are boring -- you always know that by the end of the episode, all history will be fixed, and no after-effects will remain, like things being slightly and unnoticeably different. The worst offense to my intelligence, though, is the "Season's end summing up" episode, where it's either Christmas or a birthday, and everyone gathers to pay homage to a character or to past events, or a character is wounded and having flashbacks. These episodes have only one purpose -- to finish off the season without shooting more footage. They simply show a bunch of clips from old episodes and tie them together with some kind of central theme. It's just dull, boring, and cliched.

Star Trek Geeks: Unwanted Children

What discussion about Star Trek would be complete without mentioning the most horrid by-product of the multimillion dollar marketing franchise -- The Geeks who worship the show. I used to think Scifi Conventions were neat getaways where you could forget everything and just be a kid again. But after a while, the pathetic Trek Geeks really get to you. I've seen some pretty bad droolers in my day. I met these fat pukes once, who dressed like Klingons, and had memorized the Klingon dictionary so that they spoke fluent Klingonese. What a waste of time! There are plenty of pathetic losers spending their last few dollars on overpriced Trek toys, even forsaking their rent just to own a plastic phaser that some model-bulder made for $15 worth of materials, or a $40 tape of Star Trek bloopers. I even met one guy who had a Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn federation uniform professionally made for him -- and it cost over $200 to make! It can get so bad that there are even people referred to as "Trek Nazis" -- people who think that Star Trek is the only science fiction worthy of being experienced. These Trek Nazis are known for their heavy-handed and exclusionary approach to running conventions, and have been known to bar people from conventions for wearing non-Star Trek related costumes, or bar dealers from selling non-Star Trek related items. Fortunately, I don't think this kind of Trek Nazism is widespread.

So in closing...

I used to like Trek. I enjoyed only 3 of the 6 movies, namely 1, 2, and 4. I love the increasing tackiness and out-of-date-ness of the original series, because it's good for laughs, But TNG, DS9, and Voyager are just crud. They are big-budget, glitzy, but intellectually shallow, like most TV scifi. They all suffer from bad writing, lack of insight, and a childish understanding of science, philosophy, and human nature. They are shallow - never exploring the real implications of the issues they explore. I think even comedy shows like the BBC's Red Dwarf have more insight and imagination, not to mention a better grasp of people. I just wish people would stop worshipping Trek as some kind of superior show. It isn't. It's got good effects, that's for sure, but you'd think that in the 90's, with more information on science available, more good philosophy to kick around, and lots of hot issues to discuss concerning technology, it would be possible for Trek's creators to rise above the dreck of other science fiction TV shows. It has spawned a whole society of degenerate, unclean, geeks who worship it with a zeal not unlike the Spanish Inquisition, and who spend their life-savings on crap associated with the show. I can't wait for it to go off the air.

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