The utopia of Star Trek might seem appealing, but it has issues. The universe exists on an uneasy balance between the United Federation of Planets, those who reject such monoculture like the Klingons, and technology beyond our wildest dreams. Central to all of that are humans, and there’s a particular reason for that.
In Star Trek, mankind takes center stage. Throughout the Star Trek series and Star Trek movies in order, we follow various crews, made up mostly of humans, who navigate intense political situations and all the new planets and races. Obviously, this is because of the narrative benefit, since most of the audience is human.
But there’s a deeper reason why many of the best Star Trek characters come from Earth – they present the most chaotic perspective on everything that’s happened. From the Star Trek captains through to chief medical officers and engineers, we are meager apes playing with toys beyond our comprehension.
That’s the position taken by prokopetz on Tumblr (compiled by Tor), who observed that the crews of Star Trek starships are “deranged hyper-neophiles” making incredible tech function as best they can. Ever wondered why stuff on Federation vessels always malfunctions? It’s because we barely understand how it all works, nevermind how to appropriately pilot anything made of it.
To other races, we’re basically mad scientists stunned to find their haphazard interdimensional portal works. Yes, the Federation puts on a stoic veneer, but it’s all to cover up our own absolute bullheadedness towards a future that’s beyond our wildest dreams.
Another user added that the reason Scotty is chief engineer (and perhaps some others in the franchise who hold similar roles) instead of someone from one of the races that has greater understanding of these ideas is because most other candidates don’t want to deal with warp cores. If we consider them an extrapolation of nuclear fusion, I can see their point.
Other commenters jumped in, looking at how Vulcans and Klingons might joke about how humans aren’t the best species for carefully testing something. We’re more of a “see what happens” kind of lifeform, setting our sights high then dealing with the fallout. I think that might be a stretch given our current standing in space, but then, in present day we’ve yet to be handed a warp core.
To be honest, I’d be more concerned about World War III should that happen. Alas, Star Trek’s portrayal has us on the bleeding edge of our own capabilities, and that’s part of why I love it. We’re always pushing forward, because that’s the only direction time is taking us. Does it cause problems? Yes, and lots of them, but we overcome ever challenge in stride.
Are we the most lassiez faire race in the galaxy? Probably, but hey, maybe the real problem is that we’re the only ones willing to look at an absurdly powerful warp drive and think, “Hmm, wonder if we can break through the edge of the universe in this”.
To see what else we get up to in the future, keep an eye on our guides to the Strange New Worlds season 3 release date, Star Trek Legacy release date, and Star Trek 4 release date. We have lists of the best science fiction movies and best time travel movies too, and a guide to Avatar 3, if this has you in the mood for more wily storytelling.