1990s >> 1997 >> no-1115-july-1997

Film Review: ‘Star Trek – First Contact’

It’s official: the future is socialist. We have it on no less authority than Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise. In this film spin-off from the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation the crew of the Enterprise boldly go back in time to the twenty-first century to save the planet Earth from an invasion by the dreaded Borg (cyborg, half-organic—half-machine), who not only threaten to take over the world but also the future. Of course the outcome should come as no surprise. But there is one scene on the Enterprise where Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) explains to a bewildered woman from the twenty-first century that in the future (Star Trek’s present) money has been abolished.

This is no accident of the script. The creator of Star Trek, the late Gene Roddenberry, framed the series so that, whatever the external threat, the crew of the Enterprise remained classless. No money, no wages, no class struggle. In one episode of the first series the crew rescued a few people travelling through space in a cryogenic stasis. Asleep for hundreds of years, their first thought on re-awakening was that their stocks and shares should now be worth a fortune. Captain Kirk and other crew members implied that stocks and shares no longer existed. And this was the problem Roddenberry had: there was only so much he could get away with (he had already the audacity to get a black female in the crew, at a time when it was rare for black men to get on the TV screen). It was not long into the first series that Roddenberry lost day-to-day control to other interests. Sponsors, the TV networks, actors. In particular, William Shatner (as Captain Kirk) was mainly responsible for introducing a militaristic and hierarchical element into the structure of the Enterprise crew—this was during the Vietnam War—and to this day the other actors of the first series admit to hating his guts.

Roddenberry oversaw the re-birth of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but soon lost control completely to its current producer Rick Berman. The latest TV Star Trek series, Star Trek: Voyager has virtually nothing to do with Roddenberry’s original ideas, and Berman has explicitly introduced an element of class struggle into the structure of the crew (perhaps to make up for the uninteresting new storyline). As producer of Star Trek: First Contact, the inclusion of a reference to a moneyless society is a nod in Roddenberry’s direction. Besides that this is probably the best so far of the Trek films: check it out on video.

Lew Higgins

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