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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.

5 Comments

  1. Cleofis
    February 28, 2014 @ 7:41 pm

    “You consider potentially saving the lives of millions of Federation citizens a burden?”

    “Yes I do. And we consider it your burden, as we have grown weary of watching you toil with your fruitless conflicts and plots against one another.”

    Josh, I've been trying to think of an excuse to give you this blog post I'm about to link to, and now you've given it to me: http://circumstantial.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/technology-and-the-void/

    Having said that, an excellent series of posts, enough to make me want to seek this out for myself. I'm also beginning to get very curious on how your take on TMP is going to shape up as we draw nearer to it, so I eagerly await the future.

    I also take it you're not a big fan of the Dominion War, and while I've always enjoyed it, it really does feel at times as though Star Trek has been hijacked by some other show (or narrative) it really has no business being.

    Reply

  2. Josh Marsfelder
    February 28, 2014 @ 10:32 pm

    Thanks for the link. That's a very long and thoughtful post and I unfortunately disagree with a lot of it, but I want to save the majority of my analysis of 1980s and 1990s Star Trek for when the rest of this blog's narrative catches up with that point in history,

    Just in brief, I'll come right out and say the post-scarcity aspect of TNG-era Star Trek is not a theme that I'm personally terribly interested in and don't plan to explore all that deeply, largely because I lack the economics chops to properly talk about it: I highly recommend folks who are interested in that side of the franchise to check out Kevin Carson's blog Tea, Early Grey, Hot, linked to the side: He'll give you a much more thorough analysis of that stuff than I ever could.

    As for the warmaking stuff, my two cents is simply this: War can exist in the 24th century because hatred, bigotry, fear and authority still exist in the 24th century. As advanced as humans have become, those particular vices still seem to stick around, and that's all people need to come to blows.

    But in spite of that, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine also posit a world where empathy and an examination (and understanding) of one's own positionality are far more common virtues than they are today, and that's just about enough for me. Regular readers know that drama, at least the Western variety, is not something that does a whole lot for me either as a reader or a critic, so the alleged lack of it in 1980s Star Trek doesn't bother me in the slightest (even though I think that blanket generalization is a bit unfair to begin with).

    And no, if it wasn't clear by now the Dominion War arc is probably one of my least favourite phases of Star Trek history. Apologies in advance to anyone who was hoping for a glowing re-conceptualization of it from me. This is not to say some of the questions it raised about and problematization of Star Trek's fundamental ethos weren't necessary, I just think DS9 was absolutely the wrong place to indulge in that kind of self-critique. IMO the showrunners approached it from completely the wrong angle, it permanently and irreparably derailed a show I otherwise adored and I still feel Moore and Behr went too far to the opposite extreme, such that it's possible they may have temporarily forgotten what makes Star Trek valuable and worthwhile.

    But the basic questions the Dominion War arc raised still needed to be asked. Actually, I'd recommend anyone who wants to see that kind of deconstruction of Star Trek pick up this series instead: I think it gets at all the same truths, but examines them in a far more appropriate context. After all, Star Trek is never this overtly militaristic or technologistic again.

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  3. Cleofis
    March 1, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

    I thought it was a rather interesting way of thinking about it, but I see your point. I'm actually really looking forward to see how you'll handle TNG's early years, which are long overdue for the rehabilitation I know they merit (even if I'm not entirely sure how I'd personally go about it). I think The Dominion War is a really interesting setting for a story, but I can definitely sympathize with the idea that Trek was not necessarily the place to do it (I would even hazard a guess Moore himself realized this and reimagined Battlestar Galactica for that very purpose).

    "After all, Star Trek is never this overtly militaristic or technologistic again."

    Technologistic, no, definitely not. Militaristic, well…let's just say Into Darkness wasn't exactly a damning critique of Western militarism. Or a good Trek film. Or a good anything, really 😛 In fact, for all The Dominion War may have derailed Trek/DS9 for a couple of years, it's still got nothing on the reboot.

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  4. Josh Marsfelder
    March 1, 2014 @ 7:06 pm

    "I would even hazard a guess Moore himself realized this and reimagined Battlestar Galactica for that very purpose."

    The more I think about it the more I'm inclined to believe something like this happened. One of the strangest things about the past decade or so in science fiction for me has been trying to reconcile my utter distaste for the Dominion War with my fannish delight in Moore's Battlestar Galactica. I do think Moore is a talented writer and has some interesting and important things to say. It may just have been, ultimately, that Star Trek wasn't his franchise (which is bizarre, given how much of an unabashed Trekker he is).

    "Technologistic, no, definitely not. Militaristic, well…let's just say Into Darkness wasn't exactly a damning critique of Western militarism. Or a good Trek film. Or a good anything, really."

    I had momentarily forgotten about Star Trek Into Darkness, and I was happy. Now you've reminded me of its existence and I am no longer happy.

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