Star Trek has been one of the most openly political and progressive science fiction shows on television ever since it first aired. The series dreams of a utopian world in which materialism has become irrelevant and mankind has moved beyond racism and sexism, with many of the episodes showing our characters dealing with allegories for contemporary problems. This has continued right through to Star Trek: Picard, which often throws up ethical dilemmas.
Patrick Stewart was recently interviewed by fellow The Next Generation alumnus Wil Wheaton on The Ready Room and was asked if the world still needed Star Trek, and here’s what he said:
“I always believed, and it was easier to bring this into the work back in the time of Next Generation. That what Next Generation was offering was hope. There will be a future and it will be better. There is that still I think the Star Trek world. But what we’re having to do now is to reflect; gently, subtly, not with a sledgehammer, the world that we are presently living in.
Star Trek always did that. Particularly in the last four or five seasons of The Next Generation, we did that. … With metaphor, we can compare the world of Star Trek to the present-day world. And we need to be doing that in this world because we are in some trouble. And it is the only people who can get us out of this trouble.”
Stewart then went on to discuss Star Trek‘s place in the current political climate, saying:
“I have little confidence in our politicians. I am talking about the UK as well as about the USA. It is people who are going to improve, how we live, where we live, and the safety in which we live. We’ve seen that recently with controversy over police violence and so forth. But it’s harder in Star Trek: Picard because our world is much more uncomfortable than it was at the time of Next Generation. Starfleet and the Federation, one could rely on 100%.
They were there. They were rock solid. Not so solid now it would seem. There have been shifts in all of that, as there have been shifts in our lives. I hope we can find ways that are not too heavy-handed whereby we can underline the fact that it is people themselves who can make the difference.”
It’s not surprising that after thirty years immersed in the world of Star Trek that Stewart understands it so well. His comments should come as a reminder that the core of the best science fiction isn’t fantastical stories about things that will never happen, they’re reflections of the world around the writer. What’s kept Star Trek relevant more than fifty years after the first episode aired isn’t the rubber alien masks, it’s that we can relate to the situations the crew finds themselves in as they so clearly reflect the world around us.
Stewart capped off the interview by confirming that Star Trek: Picard season 2 is indeed going ahead and that he’s received “encouraging news” about them starting up production again. Let’s hope they play it conservatively though and don’t take any risks. Patrick Stewart just turned 80 and I don’t want to see him getting Coronavirus!