Posted: 2022-11-21
Word Count: 1284
Tags: cartoon star-trek tv

Over the weekend I commented on a YouTube clip – surely one of the most pointless activities1 on the Internet – and used the term “Trek-nature” with reference to modern Star Trek series: Discovery, Lower Decks, Picard, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds. I coined the term as an analogue to “Buddha-nature”, which I remembered from high school researches into Buddhism as a nebulous, mystical term for the “Buddha within” … or some such.

Too many discussions on the Internet and elsewhere use loaded terms. In fandom circles statements like “it’s not real Trek” are common. Which, specifically, is ridiculous: all five shows listed are set in the Star Trek universe, produced by the legal copyright holders to previous Star Trek shows, and feature references to said previous shows to establish they belong in the same continuity. (Or to pander to fans of those shows, depending on one’s perspective.) Thus I eschew terms like “real Trek”, that sound like they means something specific but really don’t. “Trek-nature” sounds ambiguous, pretentious, silly, and ultimately unresolveable.

But what do I mean by Trek-nature? “Trek-nature” is, put simply, the thing that drew you to Star Trek. It’s the thing that makes one show resonate with you, while the lack of it leaves you cold (or even angry). Obviously everyone will define that thing slightly differently, and that’s OK.

For me, it’s scenes like this2, from Strange New Worlds episode 1x01:

Star Trek, to me, is the hopeful notion that, even if our present world is a godawful mess, future humans will learn to get along, reach out to the stars, and forge an alliance with hundreds of alien worlds3. In my lifetime I’ve seen America’s great bogeyman the Soviet Union fall, the two Germanies unite into a peaceful industrial nation, and the Internet, a technology once reserved for academia and the military, connect people around the world. Granted, all these things gave rise to new problems, with many more unanticipated ones cropping up, but to paraphrase a new favorite space opera, Legend of the Galactic Heroes4, the current order of things had a beginning, so it will sooner or later have an end. (Which, now that I write it and remember the context, sounds ominous.)

In any case, the best of Star Trek shows people – human and otherwise – resolving their differences with a minimum of violence.

As for which of those new shows, in my opinion, have Trek-nature:

So the lesson here, I guess, is be wary of the over-hyped “serious” shows and watch the cartoons. (And Strange New Worlds.)

  1. In the sense that YouTube comments tend to be a dumpster fire. Even the more thoughtful comments eventually degenerate into angry rants and bizarre tangents. Just like the rest of the Internet. ↩︎

  2. If YouTube deletes this video, it’s the speech near the end where Captain Pike shows warring alien factions the lead-up to his Earth’s World War III, and how they’re walking down the same path. “Maybe that’s why I’m here,” Pike says, “to remind you of the power of possibility. […] Because, until our very last moment, the future’s what we make it. So, go to war with each other. Or join our Federation of Planets, and reach for the stars. The choice is yours.” (The last bit reminds me of the original The Day The Earth Stood Still.) ↩︎

  3. Personally I don’t think we’ll ever discover hundreds of humanlike aliens, or even find a way beyond the speed of light. But nothing in the laws of physics or evolutionary biology precludes humanity from learning to get along. ↩︎

  4. A thoughtful military-philosophical space opera, despite the pompous title. I’m watching the remake, subtitled Die Neue These, on Crunchyroll but people rave about the original, now available on HIDIVE. ↩︎

  5. Having recently rewatched all (current) three seasons, I’m tempted to wax poetic about Beckett Mariner’s slow growth from an out-of-control pain in the ass to an (almost) responsible officer. But her voice actress, Tawny Newsome, probably says it better. “Crisis Point” (1x09) remains my favorite episode though, especially the scene where the real Mariner, portraying a Khan-like villain in a holodeck “movie”, fights a hologram Mariner constructed using real Mariner’s logs, and in the heat of battle both versions admit to things they’d she’d otherwise never say out loud. Watch here (or here and here), at least until YouTube takes them down. ↩︎

  6. When I first saw the anouncements and character designs I thought, “Well this is a bad idea.” I’m glad to be wrong. ↩︎