Assimilate this!

I read this story over at The Mary Sue today and did a momentary “WTF?” after finishing it – former NASA scientist disses “Star Trek”.


Bear in mind that I’m not the biggest Trekker in the world – when I was younger, classic “Trek” was something that I endured rather than enjoyed, and felt rather slow and staid next to the glitzier, more elaborate cinematic fantasies of the post-Lucas/Star Wars era.  I was too young to fully appreciate the pioneering role that it played and the influence that it had on a generation of nerds, which is why I like to take time to sit down with my wife and catch up on it now, as she’s always had the good sense to be a Trekker of the highest order.

I can understand why some members of the scientific community might hate on popular culture (or aspects of it) for making their job harder and for diminishing the hard work and graft which goes into achieving scientific success – but it also makes the idea of space travel, of investing in technologies which might make our world better, of valuing the importance of ideas over superstition more accessible to an audience whose scientific knowledge started and stopped with their school career.

I’m all for the odd bit of hard science to balance out the laser swords and wise cracking androids but to blame “Star Trek” and pop-sci for diminishing science is more than a bit churlish, I think.  Shouldn’t we be pouring our scorn on things which genuinely deserve it? There’s a million more offensive science denying halfwits in positions of public influence who should be picked on and remonstrated with before you go about blaming a show/franchise which probably persuaded more than a few wide-eyed junior nerds that science was a discipline that they wanted to give their lives to.

“Star Trek” is most definitely not the problem here.



Filed under Films, Geekery, TV

4 responses to “Assimilate this!

  1. Jules Verne “created” space travel and submarines. Isaac Asimov defined robots for us. The beauty of fiction is that it allows us to dream.

    The NASA scientist is worried that regular people will think they can create spaceships? I don’t even understand what his point is.

  2. That’s a surprise. I don’t know how many articles I’ve read where scientists of all stripes, including those that work with NASA, give Star Trek props for inspiring them to go into the sciences. Although Star Wars may be larger in a pop culture sense it doesn’t inspire in the way that Star Trek has.

    • It’s the difference between science fiction and science fantasy, isn’t it?

      We look at Trek and it has science concepts and ideas intermingled with the adventure storytelling – and Star Wars has never avoided using magic and myth to plug the plot problems which couldn’t be dealt with by high-level techno-babble.

      Two different animals, though probably not so much to a mainstream audience.

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