At Slate, Matthew Yglesias has an interesting article reviewing all of the Star Trek and many of the movies from the original 1960s series to the present. He especially focuses on the series’ ideology and politics, and its “utopian” vision of the future.
Despite coming at the issue from a very different perspective, I actually agree with much of Yglesias’ analysis. I think he is right that Deep Space Nine had many of Star Trek’s best episodes, that Voyager was the worst of the TV shows, and that the 2009 “reboot” movie (which I criticized here) takes the series in the wrong direction. Most fundamentally, I think we agree that Star Trek is interesting because it takes on serious issues about the kind of future we should want for humanity. That is a big part of the reason we are still talking about Trek almost fifty years after it began.
On the other hand, I have a much more critical perspective than Yglesias on Star Trek’s mostly left-wing politics, which I articulated in this Institute for Humane Studies podcast. As I explain in the podcast, I like Deep Space Nine better than the other series in part because it is more willing to question the Federation’s values, though it ultimately does still endorse them. I also disagree with Yglesias’ view that the economy of Star Trek is post-scarcity, thereby making socialism workable (and indeed the only feasible economic system). As I discuss here, many important goods and services are still limited in the Star Trek universe, including the energy sources that power starships, planetary real estate, a variety of personal services, and – most importantly – replicators. The replicator – the very technology that supposedly eliminates scarcity – is itself scarce; the Federation and its various rivals apparently […]