To Boldly Colonize [...]

Star Trek is a bit of a mish-mash of colonialism and the desire to rise above colonialism. The famous intro is a good example of that tension.

The juxtaposition of TOS and later Star Trek franchise installments both reveals progress internal to the franchise and continuities that refuse to leave the past behind. For instance, TOS opened each episode with Captain James T. Kirk’s (William Shatner) masculine mission: “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” While this statement promised that Star Trek would bring viewers to peoples and places hitherto unknown, its purportedly universal “man” evinced the gendered exclusions of a utopian journey. Fittingly, TNG revised TOS’s mission in the late 1980s by informing viewers that they would “boldly go where no one has gone before.” This shift to the gender neutral corrected past omissions to make Star Trek’s travels more inviting to female voyagers.

This updated statement, however, does not include everyone. The persistent use of the phrase “new worlds” evokes a long history of inequality forged between “discoverers” and “discovered.” Though Kirk and Picard promise “to go where no man/one has gone before,” they expect to find “others” already there. Though Star Trek imagines social progress through the allegorical veil of extraterrestrial cooperation, its mission statement and naval metaphors reveal how the franchise maintains a Eurocentric vision of progress and discovery that excludes the rest from the West. By reconsidering Star Trek’s linear progress—a viewing practice facilitated by video on demand services such as Netflix, but prompted by the production history of Star Trek itself—we can see how Star Trek’s future remains mired in the past. (Source)

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