Monday, November 07, 2005

Why I Love Star Trek (and am learning to love Stargate SG-1)

Ok, so any of you who know me can probably skip this one since you've probably heard this speech a hundred times before. But it seemed like a record of my philosophical musings would be incomplete without it. In fact, i think Star Trek is probably one of the reasons i ended up being an attempted philosopher.

The thing that makes star trek so incredible (especially the older series like Next Generation) is that it's not just about the drama or the action, but it's about thoughts and ideas. it doesn't just play with your emotions, it makes you think. But setting itself in the future, among alien races on other planets (or in the case of SG-1, in a compound that doesn't actually exist and is completely different from our daily realities, and also dealing with aliens and distant planets), sci fi allows us to look at ethical and philosophical isues from a new perspective. They address the same issues we face daily, war, justice, racial relations, even personal relationships - but they take them out of the settings we're used to seeing them in. They don't talk about Blacks and Whites, they talk about Cardassians and Bajorans, or Klingons and Romulans. So I, as a white person, can look at the racism issue from a more objective standpoint - taking myself out of the picture. It's not about us and them anymore. I can forget for a minute my personal experiences and concerns and look from the outside at two other groups dealing with the issue. And it makes us all think more clearly about both sides.

Of course, i'm postmodern enough to admit that completely objective thought is impossible. I can't completely forget about my experiences as i watch the experiences of others. But it brings me a lot closer.

Capital punishment looks a lot different when we see it in a world so far removed from our own that we don't have a vested intrest in who wins or loses. It's not my relative who was the victim nor my relative who is the condemned. So it looks different.

Sci fi also helps us think about ethical issues we don't have to face yet. What about time travel? I really don't think that will ever be possible, but if it is one day, we will be better prepared to make decisions about it because sci fi has for decades already been making us think about what might happen. How much worse for us if we only started thinking about it once the situation was upon us? How many mistakes would we make that could have been avoided if we had just had more time to think before we had the power to act? You can probably see how this same concept applies to other things that are not possible for us yet, but may be in the future. Human cloning keeps getting closer, but Star Trek was dealing with it decades ago. (i think? Maybe not decades . . . I'm not sure. I know they talked about it in TNG but i'm not sure which season)

Anyway, that's why i love star trek. Although, i don't hardly watch it anymore. Kind of like star wars or even Lord of the Rings. You watch it a few times and it impacts you and you talk about it forever.

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