As a child who grew up on Star Trek, I originally saw the aliens on Star Trek as, well, alien. As a teen, I started to understand symbolism as thought who the aliens really represented were our enemies (the Klingons were kind of like the Soviets and the Romulans like the Chinese right?). But starting in my thirties I began to see it for what I think it really is, Star Trek is really holding up a mirror to American culture itself. Sure, the Federation is what we aspire to be, what we hope we would become in the centuries to come. But the aliens portrayed are really what is holding us back, not from outside but within our society itself. And the aliens are none other than the darker side of ourselves.
The Klingons have a love of violence and glorify fighting. Ever been in a video game store and see what many of us do for “fun”? It largely is not solving puzzles or exploring. It is shooting, slashing, or blowing something or, more often than not, someone up. The Romulans are conniving and will switch allegiances when they see it in their best interests. Let’s see, Vietnam was our ally in World War II, our enemy in the 60s and 70s, and today is again increasingly becoming our ally again. The Borg want not to destroy their opponent but assimilate them. They want their opponent to become just like them. Have we ever been guilty of trying to export our culture and impose our norms on others? I wouldn’t know where to start. The Cardassians take over territories and then have headaches over what they have taken. No comment needed there. The Ferengi see nothing beyond whether something is financially profitable for them or not. They are the “greed is good” aliens of the future. Might that not reflect part of our problems today with materialism? Even the Federation allies of the Vulcans who want to analyze without getting emotionally attached (ever watched PBS’s Newshour?) or by contrast the Betazoids who feel other people’s emotions (ever watch daytime TV?) reflect part of who we are. The Bajorans, the most spiritual and religious of the aliens, are sometimes the most violent fighters too (the contradictory nature of faithful people in our world sometimes).
Real aliens, if they exist, probably are not us with a few extra bumps or ridges on their heads. They probably are not going to be shades of our personalities either. It will be interesting if we find them somewhere in the universe one day. But, one thing that stands out as we study our universe and that is even if they exist, life in this universe is unusual. It is not the norm. Life is truly is a gift, a precious thing.
I hope we try to build a just society and beware and be aware of our internal demons that nag us. I hope we continue to work at being good and valiant neighbors as the Federation is portrayed.
And I hope writers of fiction continue to hold a mirror up to us to challenge us to be more than we are today. It is a great time to be alive. And there is much to do. This life isn’t just the final frontier, it is the only frontier for us. Let’s work for tomorrow.
Until next time,