T90-year-old actor William Shatner, best known for his starring role as Captain James Tiberius Kirk from Star Trek: The Original Series, is heading into space, for real this time. Shatner will be launched this Wednesday by the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos’ private aerospace company, Blue Origin.
The whole premise of Star Trek was utopian: it pushed the boundaries of diversity, progressivism, and inclusion in television and the sci-fi genre. That Shatner is affiliated with Bezos sounds like a contradiction. And yet colonialism and capitalism are too ingrained in the culture of the United States for even sacred projects like space travel or Star Trek to remain intact.
Blue Origin, created by Bezos in September 2000, aims to make spaceflight more accessible to people who can afford it. It all started small and in the shadows, first secretly buying land in Texas. It has gradually grown and employs 3,500 people. The Washington Post, also owned by Bezos, ran a big briefing, revealing the toxic behavior that drives the company’s ability to compete with its rival, Elon Musk’s SpaceX. One employee described Blue Origin in these terms: âIt’s very dysfunctional. It’s condescending. It’s demoralizing, and what happens is we can’t move forward and end up with huge delays.
The space business is financed by the wealth obtained by crushing small businesses and exploiting workers. These workers made disturbing allegations against Amazon, including being watched by intimidating guards in neo-Nazi-style gear at a distribution center and having to urinate in bottles because they feared taking drugs. breaks in the bathroom. Blue Origin, then, has its origins in the worst of capitalism and represents a terrible start to civilian space travel, a process that Bezos and most Americans unfortunately view as an act of “colonization.”
Blue Origin should be the antithesis of everything Star Trek, and in many ways it is. The Star Trek universe is one in which humanity overcame their differences and established the one world state of the United Earth Government, and ultimately a cross-species alliance under the United Federation of the Planet – often referred to simply as the Federation. Humanity has eliminated poverty, money and capitalism as we know them. This has enabled the United Earth government to use its resources more efficiently for projects such as space travel and to bring dignity to all of Earth’s inhabitants.
Much of the Star Trek series follows the perspective of members of Starfleet, a federal agency that sends search and peacekeeping missions to explore the new “frontier.” This exploration is tempered by their “Prime Directive” which is a guiding principle that prevents members of Starfleet from interfering with the progress of less developed extraterrestrial civilizations. The first directive, and much of the politics of Star Trek, is seen as a response to US interventionism of the 1960s, but as Jamie Saoirse O’Duibhir wrote in a Tempest magazine article “[i]It is precisely because of the First Directive that Star Trek pretends not to be a colonial power, but rather than avoiding colonialism, it is simply reinventing colonialism to be something that benefits the colonized â.
This colonial premise was clearly incorporated into the origin of Star Trek. The show was originally presented as a “train of wagons in space”. Wagon Train was an earlier television show that followed the exploits of a group of white settlers traveling through the process of colonizing the western border of the United States. Much of this tradition continues through to Star Trek. Starfleet is largely human, its values ââand sensibilities predominantly Western, like the series’ obsession with Shakespeare.
The first directive seems to fit perfectly with the history of colonial condescension in the West. This assumes that supporting the “fewer” people will inevitably lead to war and collapse. The Federation sees itself as inherently superior to other coalitions and civilizations and able to decide which planets deserve technology that can end hunger and poverty. The show offers many positive examples of major directive violations throughout the series, but the original show relies on Captain Kirk’s white male bravado to defeat lesser peoples, often using his physical strength. and her sexual prowess to navigate complex situations.
Despite all of this, Star Trek still deserves a lot of praise for such achievements as one of the first interracial kissing on television. And many subsequent iterations, especially Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, helped complicate and challenge the policy established in the original show. But many of the more recent versions have been bogged down by modern capitalism and the desire to sell Star Trek to the masses. Star Trek movies have been pretty much stripped of their political character, swapping late-era morality and questions for action scenes and women who barely speak.
William Shatner makes a mistake by teaming up with Bezos. Blue Origin is a big part of the evils that the folks at Star Trek have already overcome. And while the original series has its issues, its premise is much better than what Shatner endorses with this company. Star Trek was an attempt to paint a better picture of humanity, and a company like Blue Origin has no place in a future that even longs to be like Captain Kirk’s.