Sci Fi Friday: Star Trek’s George Takai on the Political Climate

Star Trek was started in the 1960’s as a way for Gene Roddenberry to sneak discussions of political issues past the networks. Fortunately political issues are discussed more openly now. TrekToday reports on a recent interview with George Takai (Mr. Sulu). Takai has been in the news recently after revealling that he is gay, but he also has some comments on today’s political climate:

“I’m a Japanese-American. I grew up behind US barbed-wire fences,” Takei told Foley. “We were first taken to the horse stables of Santa Anita Race Track, because the camps weren’t built yet. And then when the camps were built, they transported us two-thirds of the way across the county to the swamps of Arkansas…and why were we incarcerated? There were no trials. There were no attorneys. There was no due process. Simply because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. Yes, I know about racial profiling. And this administration has used fear to terrorize America. Yes, they are the ones who are terrorizing America. There are decent people who just happened to look like the ones who committed that terrible act on September 11, 2001, and they are being profiled and subjected to all these indignities.”

“You know, this administration came out with what they call the ‘Patriot Act’ which is the most disgusting name for an ‘Act’ that is so un-American,” the actor added. “I mean, due process and civil liberties have gone out the window. And this administration continues to tell us that we are terrorized. There are better ways do deal with this. Look at Britain. They caught the people before it happened. Intelligence is what’s really important.”

“And do you know what they are doing in this country? [The Military] are kicking out Arabic-speaking gay intelligence workers, just because they are gay! What is more important? National security or homophobia? In this administration, it’s clearly homophobia and not national security. This administration has it all wrong.”

A Fox News reporter noted that Takei seemed very passionate about this subject and asked him what he thought was the answer. “Britain has demonstrated that they can do it. Have good intelligence! By firing Arabic speaking intelligence officers, that is not the way to do it…look at the failure we have in Iraq. It is a disaster. Look at the incompetence we had in dealing with Katrina. In case after case, this administration has been the greatest threat to America.”

A recent post has another story on Takai under the fold. Additional Star Trek stories are reposted below.

James Doohan 1920-2005

Posted by Ron Chusid
July 20th, 2005 @ 2:44 pm

Scotty

I first heard of the death of James Doohan (who played Scotty on Star Trek) on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. Sure there’s the Supreme Court nomination, White House scandals, and other news, but they still devoted time for a tribute to James Doohan. That is just one small measure of his importance to our culture.

This was certainly not the most significant tribute which Doohan received during his life. For example, Neil Armstrong has credited him for giving him the inspiration to go into space. Scotty died on July 20, the anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.

As Scotty, Doohan provided an example that there is no problem which could not be fixed (even if we didn’t understand all the technobabble). Star Trek provides a welcome contrast to the problems we face today. In the Star Trek world, as opposed to Bush World, reason and science always triumphs over religious fanaticism. We see a philosophy of non-intervention in the affairs of others rather than senseless wars, and support for freedom over tyranny and injustice.

Star Trek Breaks Sexual Barriers

Posted by Ron Chusid
October 27th, 2005 @ 10:23 pm

Star Trek broke new ground for television. For some this occurred with the first interracial kiss on television between Kirk and Ohura.

Kirk Ohura Kiss

Viewers weren’t aware, until today, that Star Trek also may have featured the first gay starship crewman.

sulu

AP interviewed George Takei after he came out as a homosexual in a Los Angeles gay publication:

George Takei, who as helmsman Sulu steered the Starship Enterprise through three television seasons and six movies, has come out as a homosexual in the current issue of Frontiers, a biweekly Los Angeles magazine covering the gay and lesbian community.

Takei told The Associated Press on Thursday that his new onstage role as psychologist Martin Dysart in “Equus,” helped inspire him to publicly discuss his sexuality. He described the character as a “very contained but turbulently frustrated man.” The play opened Wednesday at the David Henry Hwang Theater in Los Angeles, the same day that Frontiers magazine featured a story on Takei’s coming out.

The current social and political climate also motivated Takei’s disclosure, he said.

“The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay,” he said. “The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young.”

Star Trek Lives

Posted by Ron Chusid
April 21st, 2006 @ 10:44 am

Kirk

An eleventh Star Trek movie has been announced for release in the fall 0f 2008 to be directed by J.J. Abrams of Lost and Alias. I’ll be looking forward to this, assuming the plot isn’t having the Enterprise crash on an uncharted planet, or to have the crew investigate conspiracies with ties to ancient mysteries which nobody can make any sense out of.

Seriously, the plot is to center on the younger days of the original Star Trek cast, and bringing new blood into Star Trek with J.J. Abrams might be helpful. The strength of Star Trek had been in the television shows rather than in individual movies, but for the first time since 1987 there is no televised Star Trek to base the film on. Star Trek was best when fans could follow the ongoing adventures of a familiar cast in a well defined future universe. Fans were interested in both the characters and the course of future history in Federation space.

For some fans Star Trek jumped the shark with Deep Space 9 being based upon a space station rather than a star ship exploring the galaxy, while others consider the grittier DS9 to be the best spin off. Most fans agree Star Trek really went downhill when we no longer had the familiar Federation space to explore with Voyager being lost in the delta quadrant. Televised Star Trek died with Enterprise, which again took away the ability to follow events in the future universe of the Federation by going back to the pre-original show days, along with a boring cast whose fate was hard to care about. They temporarily improved ratings on Voyager with a skin tight suit which emphasized Seven of Nine’s most prominent attributes (the same attributes which got Jack Ryan into trouble for trying to display them at sex clubs), but even a similarly well-endowed Jolene Blalock as T’Pol couldn’t save Enterprise.

The failure of Enterprise leaves me less enthusiastic about yet another Star Trek prequel, but with the lack of a current series it makes more sense. A single movie won’t have the same problems as an entire series such as Enterprise, and this will have the benefit of tying into popular characters such as Mr. Spock and the great-great-great grandson of Denny Crain, Captain James T. Kirk.

Seven of Nine:

sevenofnine

T’Pol:

Star Trek Meets the Vorlons

Posted by Ron Chusid
June 19th, 2006 @ 10:26 am

Since his success with Babylon 5, along with the failures of Star Trek in later years, there has been interest in J. Michael Straczynski’s proposals for revamping Star Trek. In 2004 Straczynski and Bryce Zabel came up with a proposal to remake Star Trek which Zabel has posted on his blog.

The idea, written before Ron Moore’s recreation of Battlestar Gallatica, is basically the same concept. Rather than having another sequel, or prequel, they would go back and recreate the original five year mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy played by new actors. They would modernize the show and not be constrained by all the details of the Star Trek universe established in previous shows (leaving the question of whether Star Trek fans can live without debates over canon). A remake would also get around complaints that an idea has been done before, as updating and repeating an old story would be expected in such a format.

It would be interesting to see how Strasczynski and Zabel would create the original show, but reading their proposal I had the feeling that JMS was stuck on Babylon 5. They envision the show having an underlying reason for the original five year mission in order to find information on an ancient race considered dead, but which remains alive to influence the fate of mankind. It sounds like we’d have the Vorlons moving from Babylon 5 to the Star Trek universe.

They compare this theme to the mythology episodes of The X-Files. Shows which tried to stretch out such a mystery over many seasons, including X-Files and Babylon 5, inevitably wind up disappointment many fans as such stories rarely turn out strong enough to justify the multi-year commitment. JMS and Zabel criticize the holodecks of Star Trek: The Next Generation arguing that “If you need a holo-deck to make an interstellar starship on the bleeding edge of the unknown interesting, something is seriously amiss.” Similarly they should not need a single mythology of such an ancient race to propel the show. Perhaps this could be incorporated into some episodes, but the series could be far stronger with a number of continuing story lines being developed to interest the viewers.

Another problem with the neo-Vorlon concept is that they envision changing the “Prime Directive” to be not about non-interference in the development of other civilizations but to be to do “whatever is necessary to find this long-lost race, and discover the truth about the common origin of all life forms everywhere, the truth that will unite a galaxy.” Certainly an interesting goal, but it lacks the vision of Gene Roddenberry’s original idea. Roddenberry’s original philosophy worked because it wasn’t just a science fiction idea about a fictional ancient race, but about principles which applied to our contemporary world.

Straczynski and Zabel make valid points about new ideas for Star Trek being limited by established cannon, but I would hate to see Jean-Luc Picard and other aspects of the Star Trek universe be totally thrown out. The problems cited can also be avoided in a manner similar to what was done with Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’d like to see another starship based sequel set a century beyond the last shows. Technology, and even human attitudes, can be updated. New enemies, and allies, can be created with humans venturing further out into the galaxy. As long as the underlying history is adhered to, it wouldn’t necessarily be important to recall all the specific details of old episodes (unless a writer specifically wants to continue a story line started in the past). If a character speaks in error about something which happened a hundred years earlier, there would be a simple explanation of a character being mistaken about history as opposed to being a violation of series continuity.

Regardless of the specifics of this idea, the proposal was fascinating to read and I am happy Zabel chose to post this on line.

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