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For Imagination Connoisseur, Troy Ray, Star Trek: Discovery’s focus on identity politics is what may lead to the downfall of the Star Trek franchise.
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Star Trek: Discovery S3:E7 “Unification III” is as frustrating to me as it is disappointing. In your video on the episode you shared your point of view that Star Trek had decided to go anti-Semitic. Yours was fascinating insight and not one I would have readily agreed with had I not heard you out. I replied to your video and added that, in my point of view, their inadvertent racism is also insulting to anyone who comes from a bi-racial or multi-ethnic family. This opinion was formed based on the way that the Vulcan quorum treated the woman who was of combined Vulcan and Romulan ancestry. Over night, while I marinated in my distaste — I know, it’s a nasty geek habit of mine — I came to realize what it was that I found so truly off-putting about this episode, and perhaps all of season 3 of DISCOVERY.
This Star Trek has fully embraced and validated identity politics. It’s become the driver of the show. This is antithetical to the mythos and spirit of Star Trek. When a character in Star Trek says, “Even science cannot be separated from cultural and political context,” that is not a statement of fact. That is not aspirational. That is an agenda. And it’s the agenda that caused the Germans to lose WWII and the Russians to lose the Cold War. And if this is the philosophy of the 32nd century, well, now you know why after 1000 years the Federation’s technologies and cultures seem to have regressed from what we knew. You already saw this happening in PICARD. The regression of culture and technology was to the point where androids were slaves and drug addiction and poverty had taken root again, even among some of our main characters!
This Star Trek has fully embraced and validated identity politics. The crew of the Discovery has problems to solve but everywhere they go they are turned away, not because of anything they have done, but because of WHO THEY ARE. They go to Earth? Denied because they are Starfleet. They go to Trill? Denied because they are Starfleet, thus Federation, and also because they are human. They go to the Planet Formerly Known as Vulcan (although, “Lieutenant, Vulcan has no moon.”)? Denied because they are Starfleet and because they are human.
On Trill, how does our hero overcome the identity politics that prevent her from achieving common ground? She beats up everyone who is in her way and takes what she wants.
On Ni’Var, how does our hero overcome the identity politics that prevent her from achieving common ground? She acquiesces to it. She agrees with it. She’s not Vulcan, she’s not Romulan, so she has no business asking for help to solve a problem. Her opinion doesn’t matter, much like the opinion of Romulo-Vulcan Peer Shira, whom the other members of the quorum INVALIDATE because of WHO SHE IS rather than what she says or what she has to offer. Shira can’t appeal to logic or tradition or etiquette because she’s doesn’t have any of those things because she’s a half-breed. I laugh to keep from crying.
I can only think back to the relationship between Captain Picard and Lt Worf wherein Captain Picard tells Worf how much he admires him. Orphaned in wartime, Worf had a very troubled upbringing where there is always a clash of cultures between his Earth family and his Klingon heritage. And when Worf allowed the aspects of his Klingon culture and beliefs, and perhaps even his nature, to rule him to the point that it violated the values and tenets of the Federation, Captain Picard and the rest of the crew were always there to remind him of his wrongdoing, pigheadedness, or short-sightedness. But Captain Picard also told Worf once that he took the best parts of being Klingon and the best parts of being human, all those beliefs, all those values, and integrated them into someone who would become the most courageous man Jean-Luc Picard has ever known.
This Star Trek doesn’t acknowledge those sorts of personal triumphs. The MERIT, if you will, of overcoming trauma and tragedy in order to learn, grow, and become more than you were before, to become a part of something bigger. On Star Trek Discovery, we cry and we punch people until we win. We leave logic and cooperation and aspiration behind. And Michael Burnham gets exactly what she wants by recounting every unprofessional and un-Star Trek thing she’s done during the run of the whole show. She wins. She ALWAYS wins — even when she loses.
It’s terribly frustrating and disappointing. Perhaps I’m taking things too personally because Spock is my favorite fictional character of all time when I was growing up. Perhaps I identified with him, being bi-racial and multi-ethnic myself. Perhaps I wanted to be super-smart and super-strong with sexy pointed ears. Perhaps he’s just a great fucking character that I love unconditionally and I take offense when I see ideals he fought for being picked apart on Star Trek. Lovingly destroyed on Star Trek.
Thank you for letting me ramble and vent. It feels good to do it among folks who might understand and also might disagree without resorting to insulting me. It’s why I adore the Post-Geek Singularity.
Live Long and Prosper, Friend