Saturday, 3 September 2016

Star Trek >>> 'What happened to the progressive and optimistic vision of future?' @ BBC Radio 4

Science fiction has a habit of saying more about the present than the future:
Futures Forum: "The real-life Mad Max will be about water"
Futures Forum: Climate change... and 'Interstellar': degrading soil and running out of food

We have had 50 years of predicting the future:
Futures Forum: A history of predicting technological advances >>> Tomorrow's World at 50 on BBC Radio 4

But much of this has been very disappointing:
Futures Forum: Of Back to the Future and the promise of flying cars
Futures Forum: "Where are the flying cars?" or, "What happened to derail so many credible ideas and prospects?"

Fifty years ago saw the launch of a 'progressive view of the future':

Celebrate the legacy of 'Star Trek' during 50th anniversary panel

The panelists talked at length about examining that vision through the prism of current events. “I think ‘Star Trek’ in general has been about individual rights and about respecting everyone no matter who or what they are,” said Spiner. “And we’re living in a world right now where that sort of respect is being challenged, not just all over the world, but in our country too, and it’s disturbing. And I think a lot of our politicians and a lot of our fellow citizens could take a page from ‘Star Trek’ at this point and have a bit more respect.” (In what ended up being a very socially conscious discussion, hunger, pet adoption, ecological concerns also came up.)

William Shatner, Brent Spiner and more celebrate the legacy of 'Star Trek' during 50th anniversary panel at Comic-Con - LA Times

10 Ways Star Trek Was Socially Progressive

The 1960's was a period popularly characterized as a tumultuous time of revolutionary ideals and social dislocation. The longevity of the cultural, social and political upheaval of this period is remembered over the intense conservative reaction it received. Unsurprisingly, the enormity of the change in cultural perceptions, particularly in the United States, could not have been successful without a deep change in popular stereotypes and opinions.

A new medium had arrived to assist in this radical departure from traditional values; Television. In 1966 a new show debuted on NBC; Star Trek. Since the inception of this peculiar cultural success it has driven progressive ideas of idealism, tolerance, and above all; hope.

10 Ways Star Trek Was Socially Progressive

Although not everyone agrees with that understanding:
Star Trek Has Never Been Progressive, It’s Utopian. - Cyborgology

Or even with the 'economics':
The Economic Fantasy of "Star Trek" | Foundation for Economic Education
Star Trek's Pseudo-Economics | Foundation for Economic Education

Here's a look at the impact of the series on Radio 4 from earlier this evening - and to what extent 'the future' has been realised:

Star Trek - The Undiscovered Future

Archive on 4

The first episode of Star Trek aired half a century ago, on 8th September 1966. Space medic and broadcaster Kevin Fong asks what happened to the progressive and optimistic vision of future that the iconic television series promised him?

In 1964, Star Trek producer Gene Roddenberry repeatedly failed to convince US television studios and networks to buy his idea for a new kind of science fiction series. Eventually he sold NBC the concept of a sci-fi story in which the human race explored space, united in racial harmony and with benign global purpose.

This was the era of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the western world: mutual nuclear annihilation had almost happened in 1963. The US and USSR were engaged in the Space race.

Yet in Star Trek, American captain James Kirk had a Russian, Pavel Chekov, in charge of the Enterprise's weapon systems.

The battle for civil rights in the United States was also coming to ahead. Gene Roddenberry cast a black woman as fourth in command of the Enterprise - Lieutenant Uhura, the ship's communications officer.

The Vietnam war was ramping up and relations between Mao's China and the United States were at a low. Yet another senior figure on the Enterprise's bridge was Mr Sulu, who Roddenberry wanted as a representative of Asia.

How far have we voyaged towards Star Trek's vision of the future and what of it is likely to be fulfilled or remain undiscovered in the next 50 years?

Kevin Fong presents archive material of the likes of Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) talking about the inception and filming of the original Star Trek series, and their thoughts about Roddenberry's vision of the future and its impact in the United States at the time.

For example, Nichols relates how she had a chance encounter with Martin Luther King the day after she had told Roddenberry that she intended to leave Star Trek after the first series. King told her he was her number fan and almost demanded that she didn't give up the role of Uhura, because she was an uniquely empowering role model on American television at the time.

For a perspective from today, Kevin also talks to George Takei who played Mr Sulu. Takei laments the ethnically divisive politics of the United States in 2016.

He meets Charles Bolden - the first African American to both command a shuttle mission and lead NASA as its chief administrator. In the age of the International Space Station, he compares himself to the 'Admiral of Star Fleet'. But the former astronaut also talks about the anger he first felt in 1994 when he was asked to fly the first Russian cosmonaut ever to board an American space shuttle.

Kevin also talk to cultural broadcaster and Star Trek fan Samira Ahmed about the sexual and racial politics of the Original series.

Rod Roddenberry, the television producer son of Gene Roddenberry, tells Kevin about his father, his father's politics and creative vision, and why Star Trek still endures, even though its future remains unattained.

BBC Radio 4 - Archive on 4, Star Trek - The Undiscovered Future

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