It’s time to come clean. I’ve been a lifelong Trekkie – never to the extent of attending fan conventions in Starfleet costume, but nevertheless devoted. Yesterday I went to see the new movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness, which is excellent. It sent me to a superb 2001 book on my shelves, Star Trek: The Human Frontier by mother-and-son team Michele and Duncan Barrett. I love this book. They write: “We interpret Star Trek in a historical, cultural context. Much of its preoccupation lies in the nexus of questions about what we might shorthand as ‘modernity’ and ‘humanism’.”
Star Trek: The Human Frontier
They argue that the entire Star Trek oeuvre both embodies progressive 1960s politics and constitutes a reflection on what it means to be human. Over time, the simple rational and scientific optimism of the early series gave way to darker themes, explorations of fragmented identities, mental illness, religion and irrationalism, and the character of leadership. Not surprisingly, given the state of the world, the new movie continues in this more pessimistic vein, while ending with an upbeat reaffirmation of the original Enlightenment principles. It raises the pressing modern question of trust and distrust in authority. I thought the design of the movie was also fascinating – particularly the new versions of the Starfleet uniforms. The working uniforms are very similar to the 60s originals, but the dress uniforms in the ceremonial scenes on Earth are strikingly 1930s and conformist.
As anybody mildly interested will know, Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the bad guy, a rational, calculating genius with a strategic mind. I thought it was interesting that he should turn up in the role, given his characterisation as Sherlock – see my previous post on economists’ vision of ‘rational man’.
Finally, Spock has a simply brilliant line, which will appeal to all economists: “I’m a Vulcan; we embrace technicality.”
It should be the motto of all economists: Live long and prosper!