- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com -

These Are the Voyages of the Starship Diversity

In a world where the only stories that can be told and retold are Harry Potter, Star Wars or Star Trek, Netflix has been in the forefront of generating the most exciting, creative, and daring new TV content. Their sci-fi series in particular: Expanse, Salvation, Ascension, have been visionary and the latest series of Black Mirror the most beautiful yet. So it was odd that they would stream the fifth incarnation of Star Trek. Discovery promised be full of innovation but is, in the end, a very dark vision of a society based on an insular identity politics.

Star Trek: Discovery [1], set after Enterprise but before Star Trek, is a CBS production (international audiences were able to view it on Netfix, but CBS has resisted selling it to Netflix [2] domestically). Plot-wise, it probably imagines it is following in the original trail-blazing series’ footsteps. In 1966 the USS Enterprise challenged the social cleavages of its time and re-imagined a better society: Cold-War hostility evaporated through the inclusion of a Russian officer, Chekhov. Soon after the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Uhura was a leading black officer on the comms desk. The Enterprise was a floating United Nations bringing its view of human rights to the Universe and the creatures they met.

Star Trek: Discovery, however, is not an optimistic vision of a re-imagined society. It is a didactic presentation of a peculiarly zeitgeist identity politics fully imagined and realized in the future. The vision is terrifying: characters are reduced to a diversity check box, thin, not fully-realized, and robotic.

No more so than the central character, the non-captain, Michael Burnham, a woman with a man’s name, adopted by mixed-species parents. She is the central lead and fulfills the function usually played by the captain: she calls the shots, uses renegade or maverick tactics, and demonstrates that little bit of extra Star Fleet magic (though nothing she ever does is that spectacular.) This captain who never sits in the captain’s chair is a critical and central element of the identity politics imagined here. But the device reveals the central flaw of that agenda. But more of that later.

change_me

The show too is perhaps victim to the Netflix format. The Crown was released in its entirety, reflecting the new appetite for binge-watching complete box-sets in one go. Discovery, however, was released internationally on Netflix as weekly episodes. And yet there was nothing episodic about Discovery. No villain of the week, no new planet to explore. Just one long narrative arc that grew ever ambitious until not even this Universe could contain it and the ship found itself in another: a parallel universe of toxic masculinity and narcissistic murderous females.

And this was because there is no room in Discovery’s universe for white male heterosexual characters.

Captain Gabriel Lorca is the “official” captain, and plays the alpha-male willing to take risks. Why? Because it turns out he is a sociopath from another dimension who wants to be emperor in his version of reality. (Poor Jason Isaacs cannot escape his villain type-casting, after slaughtering too many children in The Patriot, and siding with Voldemort as Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter.)

Lorca is replaced by a sort of walking shrimp with very thin legs and frilly gills that display his fear, Captain Saru (Doug Jones). His shaky ascendancy to captain is by a fault of his diversity inclusion as first officer. He appears physically weak, timid, camp in the tradition of C3P0, but is celebrated as an “other,” because in the alternate reality his species is at the bottom of the food chain, eaten by humans.

As with Jones/Saru, white male straight actors are only permitted on set wearing prosthetics: James Frain as Vulcan Sarak, and Kenneth Mitchell and Damon Runyan as Klingons. The exception is Harry Mudd who makes an appearance from the U.S. version of The Office, but he turns out to be a self-serving megalomaniac.

Even the heterosexual Ash Tyler (Shaza Latif), Captain Burnham’s former lover, is drippingly pathetic. His relationship style is entirely co-dependent, deriving his slim sense of identity from his relationship to Burnham. He offers nothing, often cries, and ends up murdering the gay doctor. In previous episodes of Star Trek, Tyler would be the relative non-entity in a red shirt that dies in episode two on a planetary excursion (of which there are almost none on Discovery). Here he survives to the season finale where, at last, he self-identifies as trans-Klingon having undergone a sexually abusive relationship and/or species reassignment surgery (we’re never quite told which). But we are happy he leaves with his abuser or surgeon, who is now female leader of the Klingon Empire—even this warrior caste have accepted the non-patriarchy.

Rather than explore, discover or embrace new worlds, the crew of the USS Discovery find themselves at Star Fleet HQ lecturing the most pan-plural association ever conceived on their values. Captain Burnham holds forth in a speech on their own righteousness.

They have pursued the endless frontiers of identity politics, that shark that must keep moving or die in its quest for new offense.

Because it is not the discovery of new worlds that animates Star Trek Discovery, but the need to relentlessly devour and challenge those in power. It is why Burnham is the non-captain. Burnham is internally-displaced: so that she can forever challenge power without ever having to hold it.  

This vision of an inclusive society is disappointing. The writing is self-conscious and insecure, unable to cope with the full human experience, such as one with white male heterosexuals in it. Sadly, Star Trek Discovery does a huge disservice to those whose identities it is trying to celebrate and affirm.  The newly imagined world of Star Fleet is insular, insecure and populated by robotic non-characters whose only function is to be a protected characteristic. In the end, Discovery discovers very little.

Christopher Bullivant is a UK-based writer and former political speech writer. He has  also written for the Daily Telegraph, UnHerd and CapX. He tweets [email protected]

 

 

30 Comments (Open | Close)

30 Comments To "These Are the Voyages of the Starship Diversity"

#1 Comment By The Other Side On March 2, 2018 @ 1:35 pm

I had to look this up to make sure the article wasn’t some kind of pompous ridiculous satire. Nope. It’s real.

#2 Comment By Allen On March 2, 2018 @ 2:29 pm

I am a Star Trek fan and I was able to get halfway through the first episode before shutting it off. “Oh, they’re going to talk…and talk…and then…talk some more. Geez, when does something actually happen on this show?” These characters are the liberal versions of televangelists. I keep expecting to see a character in a glittery jacket and a pompadour asking for money to support Alien Lives Matter.

#3 Comment By Nestor On March 2, 2018 @ 2:49 pm

“I had to look this up to make sure the article wasn’t some kind of pompous ridiculous satire”

More, like, the TV series that it discusses is unintentionally self-satirical, in its pious Leftist pomposity. This article is merely cataloguing the series’s inanity.

#4 Comment By Kodos the Executioner On March 2, 2018 @ 3:58 pm

Set phasers to “FABULOUS”…

(oh no; those evil nasty phasers of mass destruction.. what ever will we do?… let’s have a group hug!)

I knew what was coming. I saw it starting back when the “next generation” started making every other episode into some sort of ‘object’ lesson.
I flat-out refuse to even consider watching this bilge.

#5 Comment By Michael Fumento On March 2, 2018 @ 5:07 pm

Ha! Terrific! What a truly horrible show. They don’t even understand the concept of “prequel.” You see, that means it happens BEFORE. It is inherently difficult because you have to in a sense hold back on nifty CGI things you’d like to display.

But ST: Enterprise did a fairly good job of being a prequel, even though it sucked in its first 2 seasons. The final two seasons were pure Star Trek.

That’s also a problem with STD apart from the pure darkness and having no likable characters and all that. Too damned much CGI. Trek was always about character development, in part because there was no CGI for the original series. But subsequent series still kept the focus on characters. Every STD is like the Fourth of July.

Helpful advice? Kill of STD. And start watching The Orville! Forget that it’s made b the Family Guy guy. Orville is like STTOS in the funnier shows like The Trouble with Tribbles. Most of the episodes have very serious problems and people often die on both sides. The Orville is NOT a satire of ST; although I can understand that it had to be sold that way. It’s the real thing, with different badges. May it live long and prosper.

#6 Comment By Scott in MD On March 2, 2018 @ 6:00 pm

I did enjoy the show up until the last 10 minutes of the season finale. The sets are fantastic, I am happy with the story, I like that it is a bit darker. That being said, as one who values diversity and believes in Anthropomorphic Climate Change, I found those ‘messages’ (is that the right word) to be a distraction. The story was strong enough to not need to beat me over the head with it.

I didn’t notice the lack of a white male lead until this article mentioned it. I guess as a comfortable white male I wasn’t threatened by it so I ignored it. Your mileage will obviously vary on that.

#7 Comment By J Ryan On March 2, 2018 @ 6:16 pm

It must really be terrifying to some of you to think that in the far future, the world doesn’t revolve around hetero men, and their wishes, anymore. I’ll have a sad for you, if I can find the time.

#8 Comment By LouisM On March 2, 2018 @ 9:57 pm

“Other than that Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play.” I thought was the most fitting comment. I agree with everything said in this article about STD erh uhm Star Trek Discovery. I HATED IT AND DO YOU KNOW WHO WATCHES SCI-FI? BOYS AND MEN! WHO IS OMITTED? BOYS AND MEN! WHO ELSE WAS OMITTED WOMEN THAT BOYS AND MEN COULD IDENTIFY WITH! Instead boys and men get lectured in a TV show that is basically telling them that not only are boys and men omitted from grammer, high and college education geared toward women, not only are boys and men omitted from the workplace geared away from men toward some leftist definition of multiculturalism and diversity, not only are men omitted from being husbands and fathers in a family but boys and men can watch STD and know they will be omitted from society for the next 500 years. The acting was horrible and unbelievable. The female characters horrible and unbelievable.

The odd irony here is that after watching contemporary SJWs and feminists spit in the face of boys and men, one almost wishes that the muslims migrants would win and Islamic Law would put these feminists behind burkas and hijabs. Similarly in the future after watching these feminist actors there was a part of me wishing the Klingons would win because these STD women are pathetic. NO WONDER STD HAD THE HIGHEST CANCELLATION OF SUBSCRIPTIONS EVER AND THE STUDIO WAS SCRAMBLING FOR A RETHINK BUT THERE IS NO RETHINK FOR THIS MANURE. THE SAD THING IS THAT HOLLYWOOD WONT GET THE MESSAGE FROM THE VIEWERS. THEY’LL TRY THE SAME SJW LEFTIST MANURE UNDER A DIFFERENT STORY OUTLINE.

#9 Comment By Marcelo Carvalho On March 3, 2018 @ 1:48 am

Strangely, it makes sense.

#10 Comment By The Queen Diva On March 3, 2018 @ 4:01 am

Is this article supposed to be a satirical critique of the clueless type of conservative who attacks liberal identity politics while they themselves blindly engage in their own form of identity politics?

Oh wait, the writer’s serious. That’s unfortunate.

#11 Comment By Realist On March 3, 2018 @ 4:07 am

Amazingly stupid.

#12 Comment By Curzo On March 3, 2018 @ 6:09 am

I gave Discovery a chance…until it did something that made it unwatchable to me:

It gave me a decent,watchable starfleet captain, Lorca. And I thought, despite the flaws in the other characters – they had this solid, dependable man watching over them things would ok. When I looked at Lorca I heard in my mind “Context is for Kings.” and thought ‘You rule…’

Then Discovery yanks the rug from out under my feet…Lorca is the Bad Guy?! And Burnham is the Heroine?!! Are they having a laugh?!

Turns out they mean’t it: So…Goodbye Discovery…and Good Riddance…

#13 Comment By ellen On March 3, 2018 @ 8:04 am

i have been a star trek fan since watching the original tv series as a child with my father. i have never paid attention to the politics of it or the ‘meaning behind the story’. to me it is just science fiction entertainment pure and simple. in that way i have enjoyed every star trek franchise and enjoyed discovery.
just my 2 cents

#14 Comment By Chris On March 3, 2018 @ 11:10 am

Identity Politics has now ruined Star Wars and Star Trek. I hope America survives this latest Commie onslaught.

#15 Comment By MrsDK On March 3, 2018 @ 11:10 am

I am hoping that there is more to the story with Lorca. I’m hoping they bring him back — and not as the hidden “baddie”.
He was the best thing about the series.

I’m a rabid fan of the Original, and there are things that I loved about Discovery. The only thing that seemed too politically correct was the gay male couple. Visually, Discovery is absolutely stunning. I’m hoping they build on the good and shuffle off some of the self-conscious “diversity” which has a tendency to destroy a good story.

#16 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On March 3, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

“insular, insecure”

Just like that whole “diversity” trip.

#17 Comment By Beesoc On March 3, 2018 @ 12:31 pm

To the author: Quite a feat thst you managed tosith through an entire episode, let alone a season. They don’t pay you enough for this mind pollution.

#18 Comment By David Nash On March 3, 2018 @ 1:57 pm

Don’t do Netflix, so I am limited to what has appeared on YouTube. But, then I am miffed at the Corporate Suits who were so afraid of Axanar stealing their thunder, they destroyed all the fanfic shows. It was a justified fear, since even the worst fan movie was worlds better than what little I have seen.

#19 Comment By Winston On March 3, 2018 @ 6:16 pm

For a detailed review of this pure SJW garbage show, see the five month old YouTube review “Star Trek: Discovery is Truly God Awful (Spoilers) – The Dave Cullen Show”. For an education on how we got here, watch on YouTube “The Architects of Western Decline – A Study on the Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism” and “Postmodernism and Cultural Marxism – Jordan B Peterson”.

#20 Comment By RP_McMurphy On March 3, 2018 @ 6:57 pm

“Identity Politics has now ruined Star Wars and Star Trek. I hope America survives this latest Commie onslaught.”

Star Trek has been far-left since its inception. It’s not even subtle. You haven’t been paying attention.

#21 Comment By Jonathan Lester On March 4, 2018 @ 2:15 am

I don’t think I disagree with any of the red-pill critique, but I do happen to remember the lead actress in “The Waltons” was Michael Learned.

#22 Comment By SOL On March 4, 2018 @ 2:40 am

Spot on.

#23 Comment By JGH3 On March 4, 2018 @ 8:24 am

I have been a Star Trek fan from the very beginning, and as others, started watching it with my Father. It was for its time a captivating show, full of wonder and hope for the future. So many people were inspired and became engineers, scientists and medical doctors as a result of this show. So many items that we take for granted were a direct result of the vision of the future shown to us all.

Discipline, loyalty and self-sacrifice for a greater cause were extolled. There was strife, but to serve the message. The beauty of the presentation of the message was that it was subtle, nearly invisible but effective. Not in your face in a way that would create as many opponents as followers. That has always been the magic of science fiction.

I grew up with the Lone Ranger and Superman in black and white. The world and life in general is hard. Even the greeks had two tragedies for every comedy. Now it seems, every form of entertainment (drama, comedy and even sports) NEEDS to show the dark side of mankind. Yes mankind as in “man”.

The original Star Trek helped give the world so much. What will Discovery contribute?

#24 Comment By timelord On March 4, 2018 @ 12:53 pm

Dude, it’s science FICTION, aka escapist entertainment. Put down the cup of outrage and just change the channel if you don’t like it. Get a grip.

#25 Comment By Rob G On March 4, 2018 @ 1:52 pm

“It must really be terrifying to some of you to think that in the far future, the world doesn’t revolve around hetero men, and their wishes, anymore.”

Yes — all us heterosexual males are just scared to death of what may happen to us in a totally fictional future.

Someone doesn’t have his/her thinking cap on today.

#26 Comment By Moone Boy On March 4, 2018 @ 6:20 pm

I never would have made the “trans” connection – but perhaps that’s because I don’t understand the what and the how the hell who was transformed into who, on this show.

Similarly: It was a wee bit of a surprise to me, as to the gay couple… but… it _is_ a couple of centuries from now, on an interstellar spaceship, and do you really think that’s farfetched?

I didn’t notice the lack of heroic red-blooded men, I think mostly because The Next Generation was already so shiny PC, the darkness of this one was a welcome distraction.

It’s frankly sexy (in a non-Oberlin College way – check out that Empress on Q’onos!) and edgy enough to appeal to my teenage geek self.

(Honestly, it’s more distracting when I see US Sci-Fi shows of the future, where everybody’s still starkly black and white and dating within their race. No one’s been to Mexico or the Mediterranean? Hell: to France, even?)

#27 Comment By Richard McEvoy On March 5, 2018 @ 12:00 pm

Science Fiction like mythology is a comment on the present, not the future, and one where the tropes are exaggerated for effect. So, on the one hand, we have a “good” Federation which celebrates diversity to a high degree, on the other, we have a fanatical semi-religious Klingon empire which refuses to turn into something “other” than some ancient and anachronistic version of itself and, finally, we have an evil empire which is the antithesis of the Federation. For a brief moment, as well, the Federation was nearly corrupted into taking immoral measures, but it resisted thanks to plucky Michael – who apart from the name was played pretty much as a spunky cis gendered black female lead (think Uhura with b*lls). Rather obvious allegories re the West, Russia and the Middle East abound. But, in many ways, the Star Trek universe is rather like Iain M. Banks bohemian “Culture” where its apparent debauchery and weakness also hides goodness and strength and dedication to truth, justice and the American way – including the desire to “export” its freedoms.

#28 Comment By Cosmin Visan On March 5, 2018 @ 6:16 pm

Yes, there was a lot of virtue signalling, and it was tiresome. But you miss that the show continued a metaphysical examination of the Dark side that started with Star Wars, and is presented to the public in the guise of fiction… but that is because the critics of the show do not believe in such things as metaphysics, thus missing the dimension entirely and focusing on social optics (like the lefties they criticize).

#29 Comment By Crabbieappleton On March 11, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

So, the takeaway here is: As long as a straight white guy is giving orders, have as many coloured people as you want.

#30 Comment By Jon On March 12, 2018 @ 1:18 pm

What Dark Side portrayed through fantasy which is no more than an importation from ancient Persian Mazdaic cults? So denial of a Dark Side or the understanding that evil is simply the negation of goodness is a denial of metaphysics? What rubbish!

Reducing a narrative to a Manichean dichotomy of good versus evil may make for entertainment which appeals to a wide audience mainly of the young. But it also makes for bad metaphysics. I’d rather discuss divine agency and its workings while standing upon the head of a pin than presenting a story of heroes and villains in a perpetual contest between good and evil while wistfully praying for a gotterdammerung that puts these recurring series finally to bed without any future sequel.