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The Dystopian Utopia: Star Trek: Discovery

Updated: Jul 31, 2018

By Hayden Cooper

Star Trek has gained a reputation for radicalism on an intergalactic scale. But as Hayden Cooper discovers, this universe is a little less inclusive than it seems.

Defining a Genre

Star Trek for many is the quintessential Science Fiction. It invented (or popularised) many of the things that now are staples of the genre; teleporters, shielding, warp speed, laser based weapons.

It is also the quintessential utopia: a world without pursuit of capital, with racial harmony, that can defeat any evil.

Utopianism fills a funny place within Science Fiction. Traditionally it has been argued that Science Fiction is merely a subset of utopianism. The goliaths of Sci-Fi theory have been extremely hostile to dystopian works being included, most notably 1984 and Brave New World.

Space Communism?

Jameson (Archaeologies of the Future proving a seminal text in the field) describes trends towards utopianism as running parallel to dialogues about politics. Jameson sees Sci Fi as a political movement in and of itself, built upon the desire to create a better world by drawing parallels with our own (and embellishing them).

However he sees it as a failed movement, much as how he saw communism. It should be noted he is specifically referring to the academic concept of “communism” that was popular in discourse during the early years of the soviet union, rather than communism as a political philosophy as we understand it today.

Anti-communism, much like anti-utopianism is worse than the movements they critique. He argues that we should aim for anti-anti-utopianism and anti-anti-communism. In practical terms, we should use our arguments with liberals to forge our own ideology.

Star Trek is inherently liberal. Fans of the show, myself included, preach of its radicality; but this simply isn’t the case. The show talks about a world without money, with racial harmony. Behind the scenes it had the first ever interacial kiss on screen; it had nonbinary characters; diversity was always the aim.

These radical aims are what made the show famous. Spock was placed in the show as a commentary on racial acceptance: he became so popular some cite the character as the reason for the renewal of the second season.

But Star Trek was never radical; me