Star Trek: Into Darkness

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin has a review of the new Star Trek film. Ilya liked the action in the movie, but believed that the movie did not take on the serious questions about the future that the Star Trek shows addressed.

I agree with Ilya that the new movie fails to address the serious questions, but I think that was largely true of all of the Star Trek movies – especially the good ones. It was the series – and especially some of the individual episodes – that really addressed these matters. And, of course, it is a lot easier to do that in a series. A smaller percentage of the public watches these series, and one can devote a minority of the shows to the serious questions, without devoting the entire season.

This last claim connects to a more general point: the importance of the type of medium or genre of popular entertainment. The modern cable and pay TV series – like Game of Thrones or Madmen – can do in 10 or 12 episodes what a movie or a traditional series of 26 episodes that were broadcast could never do. We owe the current golden age of TV to this new medium of entertainment.

Getting back to the Start Trek movie, the new movie and the rebooted movie series were able to accomplish something that the old movies never achieved: the first two consecutive movies were both good. The old series of movies, peculiarly but consistently, generated one good movie only to be followed by a bad movie. That was frustrating. Star Trek: Into Darkness was able to avoid this affliction.

Mike Rappaport

Professor Rappaport is Darling Foundation Professor of Law at the University of San Diego, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism. Professor Rappaport is the author of numerous law review articles in journals such as the Yale Law Journal, the Virginia Law Review, the Georgetown Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. His book, Originalism and the Good Constitution, which is co-authored with John McGinnis, was published by the Harvard University Press in 2013.  Professor Rappaport is a graduate of the Yale Law School, where he received a JD and a DCL (Law and Political Theory).

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  1. Jonathan says

    My only trib…er..quibble with this is really Star Trek II – I think that dealt with an amazing amount of “deep” questions (and threw in an incredible score at the same time).

  2. Titus says

    Star Trek could never deal with the serious questions posed by Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future. It could never, for instance, present any story arc that vindicated Roddenberry’s apparent view that technological advancement would fundamentally alter human nature or wholly extirpate religious faith. It never even tried to present any justification whatsoever for how a planetary control economy without any currency or personal income functions. It never addresses the question of what becomes of individuals or human societies who dissent from the atheistic orthodoxies of Federation pablum.

    History suggests that Roddenberry’s future of centralized planetary administration, profitless economics, and bland government orthodoxies is only possible if it carries a substantial dark underbelly of oppression. The movies are fun, but they become utter nonsense if taken seriously on any sort of philosophical level.

  3. Mike Rappaport says

    Titus, I think that the best episodes came out of Deep Space 9, which did deal with some of these issues (but my modifying them) — including both money and religious faith (sympathetically portrayed).


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