The Future of Star Trek (Also, Why I Hate Fan Gatekeeping)
I love Star Trek. I've always loved Star Trek-- I got into it a bit too late for The Next Generation (but I do remember watching 'Rascals' on television one Saturday night when it was actually airing)- but DS9, Voyager, everything that came after? I grew up with all of it. Eventually, I went back and watched every bit of Star Trek I could get my hands on and I am loving Discovery, Lower Decks, Picard, Prodigy, and now Strange New Worlds.
I love the shows. I love the franchise. I love the characters. I love the struggles and fighting to keep an optimistic future. I love it when creators and writers take risks with the franchise- because sometimes the results are uneven, but (and granted I may be a wee bit biased because I love the franchise so much) rarely are the results genuinely bad.
But what I can't stand? Less charitable people would call it: "Terminally online people who do nothing but complain, complain, complain," but a better and more charitable description would be: "Fan gatekeeping."
There's a TikTok account that floats by occasionally on my FYP that always makes me roll my eyes. I haven't even bothered to learn the name of the dude in question because every time I've seen him, he's complaining about the 'quality of the writing' on the new Trek shows. Or he's complaining about how everything has to be 'about their feelings' and it just makes me wish my eyes had the ability to do a complete 360 in my head because you know what? It's probably a function of social media more than anything else- so I should judge less harshly, but I don't like content that revolves around ceaselessly complaining. "It's not real Star Trek" "It's too 'woke'" "They talk about their feelings too much."
You know what? Franchises- if they're going to have any staying power and last for decades are going to need to evolve. When I first heard about Discovery, I was hesitant, because at the time I was like 'who needs another prequel?" But by the end of the second season, I was all in on Discovery being one of the most ambitious franchises in all of Trek. They took risks with their story and provided their characters with ample room to grow and develop. By Season 4, bridge officers who hadn't got a lot of love were starting to get their moments and their storylines developed further. And yes, people talk about their feelings-- that doesn't bother me a bit, because you know what? It's realistic.
Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) essentially died and came back to life and when through a profoundly traumatic event. Even in the future, that's some heavy shit to deal with. It should also come to no surprise that a crew that (hey, this shouldn't be a spoiler at this point) travels 900 years into the future to save civilization as we know it might have some trouble dealing with their decision and yes, they might have some feelings about that. Every regular person would!
And let us not even speak of the cameo at the end of Discovery's fourth season. I don't have strong opinions on Stacey Abrams one way or another- but the cameo was brief, it was not bad- she's politician enough to know how to deliver a line- and it didn't bother me a bit. But to some people, it was the end of freaking days!
As a viewer, I want to be entertained. In the times we live in, I wouldn't mind a little escapism either- to be honest, but it's more important to me that a franchise I've been a fan of for decades now evolves, breaks new ground and takes the occasional risk with their characters and storytelling than it keeps trying to recreate the old shows that everyone likes. That's not sustainable over the long term. So far this year, we've had four different Trek shows drop. (The tail end of Prodigy- which might have technically ended late last year, I can't remember, Season 4 of Discovery, Season 2 of Picard, and the debut of Strange New Worlds.) By all rights, Trek fandom should be throwing a party to end all parties- and some folks are, but... too many folks aren't.
And maybe my point of view on all this fan gatekeeping isn't all that unusual. Maybe if you're not terminally online, you can watch a show and not project contemporary political ideologies (all of which are shockingly shallow, imo) onto every aspect of it. (Though in the case of Trek: you're looking at a post-scarcity society that is very... socialist? So... you shouldn't be surprised about the politics you find in this franchise. I mean, just sayin'.)
The future of Star Trek is incredibly bright. I am excited. Bring it on. Try different things. People will like some of it, some of it they won't- but I like different eras. I like different types of stories. I like animation. I like different styles of writing. I like characters that feel like they're experiencing events they live through on-screen- that's what makes 'Family' and 'The Inner Light' two of the best TNG episodes. Trek is at its best when characters are having feelings.
(And if you think I'm picking on Trek: go look at the reaction to the new Dr. Who casting... It's the same thing all over again. People shriek about perfidious wokeness instead of seeing what they do with the story and the character itself. When Matt Smith got a new set of regenerations for the 50th Anniversary, you knew this was coming. In order to keep the franchise fresh, Doctor Who couldn't always be a white dude going forward. I haven't watched a lot of Jodie Whittaker's run, but from what I hear, it's less about her performance and more about the quality of the writing-- I liked what I saw in her debut episode. Ncuti Gatwa is excellent in Sex Education and for real? Go look at that man's face. And his eyes...if I'm going to make a prediction, I can imagine him as a bit of a bastard- as many Doctors are, but also as a fun, sexy, saucy, bold, Doctor. The possibilities are endless and I expect that's why they chose him. More importantly: give him a chance before you decide to hate him.)
In short: everyone needs to calm the fuck down, take a deep breath, enjoy the plethora of Treks (and or other franchises you have), and adopt a simple rule when dealing with new iterations of your favorite show: if any given change makes for a more interesting story or more interesting characters, see where it goes before you start complaining.
Fan gatekeeping is out of control and I hate it.
If anyone needs me, I'll be over in my corner watching the latest episode of Strange New Worlds and enjoying the hell out of myself.