Monday, September 25, 2017

Secret Star Trek: Infinite Bellicosity in Infinite Conflagrations

I really don't know where to start.

I watched the two-part opener of the new Star Trek series and I'm still wondering if I didn't hallucinate it all. I'm still wondering if I didn't have some weird flashback and find myself in an alternate timeline where Star Trek was created by John McCain and Lindsey Graham instead of Gene Roddenberry.

A weird dimension where Star Trek is very slick and very costly recruitment propaganda for some alternate-reality, militarized Space Fleet.

Oh wait- I forgot. We already have a militarized Space Fleet in this reality.
Members of Congress have laid the groundwork for the U.S Air Force to establish a new branch of the military, known as a Space Corps, by January of 2019.

The proposal came from Congressmen Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Jim Cooper. D-Tenn., the top representatives of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, which oversees military space operations. They introduced the legislation into the House Armed Services Committee National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Tuesday. 
According to a joint statement by Rogers and Cooper, the Space Corps would reorganize the national security space enterprise “to ensure prioritization of the space domain by creating a U.S. Space Corps as a separate military service within the Department of the Air Force and under the civilian leadership of the Secretary of the Air Force.” 
"There is bipartisan acknowledgement that the strategic advantages we derive from our national security space systems are eroding," the statement said, "We are convinced that the Department of Defense is unable to take the measures necessary to address these challenges effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scale of its problems."
Now I get it. Just how militaristic was all this then?

Well, it's the most flagrantly militaristic SF I have seen since in a very, very long time. So much so that it actually veers perilously close to doctrinaire fascism.

First of all, forget the prefab debates over "diversity"; that was just a master-class lesson in Knowles' First Law ("Whenever a controversy over symbolism erupts in the media, it's usually disguising another hidden symbolic message altogether.") There's no real diversity to be found here, every individual impulse is subordinated to authority. The only conflict among the crew is how genocidal they should actually become.

This is the fetishization of uniformity and the worship of empire. This is the weaponization of Star Trek. This is the Star Trek I always saw the potential for but hoped would never come. This is the Verhoeven Starship Troopers version of Trek, without the smirking irony. And it's so techno-fetishistic, it's practically slashporn for AIs.

We're a long, long way from Deep Space Nine, my friends.

Let me be absolutely clear about this: Star Trek Discovery is nothing else but a balls-out glorification of preemptive war and technocracy, the militarization of women and the (literal) demonization of individuality. Peacemakers and diplomats are not only seen as weak and naive dupes but as virtual traitors who get what's coming to them. 

Just how vitriolic is this new Trek? Well, look at it this way: the insufficiently-warlike science officer is revealed to be a member of a race who exist only to be hunted and eaten. 

No, I'm serious.

We see yet another makeover for the Klingons, who are more inhuman and grotesque than we've ever seen them. They are irredeemably alien, sporting bizarre costumes and mouths filled with huge, sharklike fangs. 

Come back, General Murtok. All is forgiven.

And despite all the diversity window-dressing, most of the Klingons are not only very dark-skinned (and apparently played by predominantly black actors) they are actively racist towards light-skinned Klingons. And they're also fanatically-religious and emotional where our Starfleet heroes are Dawkinsian wet-dreams of cold rationality.

Yet the Klingons are also responding to what a reasonable person could argue were aggressive actions by the Federation; installing a plasma array (read: military equipment) near their border, invading their sovereign territory and killing one of their citizens.

However, the Klingon's real transgression seems to be "clinging on" to individuality (or "disarray" as Starfleet sees it) and resisting the joy and glory of wearing the ostentatiously-Masonic Starfleet uniform, which reduces all diversity and difference to a neatly-manageable singularity of mind and purpose. 

Oh, I almost forgot: the Klingons' god Kahless is actually Lucifer, in case you didn't figure all that out. We're subjected to excruciatingly long and ponderous scenes in which the Klingons growl about their worship of "Light" and argue about who will be their new "Torchbearer" since Michael- yes, her name is Michael- does away with the old one. 

Never mind the de rigeur ludicrousness of five-foot tall women beating up trained soldiers who are literally three times their bodymass, the blatant symbolism along the way just makes your jaw drop. 

How blatant? Well, the entire two-parter actually takes place in the solar system of a binary star. In fact the second part is titled "Battle at the Binary Stars." So, my guess that we would be seeing some Sirius symbology in this series was right on the money.

Plus, an unsubtle 9/11 inference.* That happens too.

There are all kinds of little AAT easter eggs tossed in along the way, including a riff on the Nazca Lines. There are 17s dropped here and there in the dialog and all kinds of sacred geometry and occult symbolism scattered hither and yon. 

We also get a running visual clue that may point to an Hegelian dialectic; the Masonic royal blue-and-gold isn't just sewn into the Starfleet uniform, we also see a kind of inversion of it among the Klingons, whose environments are as predominantly gold as the Starfleet environments are predominantly blue. 

The unconscious implication of all this being that one day the troublesome binary (or "chaos" as the series trailer has it) will be resolved through Synthesis to the harmonious Starfleet unitary.

Yeah. It's not your imagination- this is our pop culture circa 2017. So how does this all work as drama?

Well, it has its moments, even if those moments are all shamelessly manipulative, emotionally-speaking. The writers pull out some fairly-effective tricks from the agitational-propaganda toolkit even if all they are essentially doing is re-staging "Sacrifice of Angels."  I can't begin to imagine how much they spent on this production but every single penny is up on the screen.

However, the acting is uniformly terrible.

I realize that's almost a gimme with any Trek pilot but still, you notice. The woman who plays Michael-- no, seriously, her name is Michael-- is not only a bad actor she's really not much of a screen presence. When she isn't pouty she's livid, and her fan-service backstory really doesn't do much of anything but give you a slight whiff of paedo-ick. 

And her asskicking really doesn't go over very well. She looks about as tough as the Keebler Elf. But I don't want to single her out; everyone else is equally as terrible. And plus, it's not her fault her character is the mariest Mary Sue who ever sue'd. (And seriously; who else but a Hollywood hack would send two extremely petite women on a commando raid into a stronghold of alien death-cultists the size of linebackers?)

Mind you, I'm not worried about the "diversity" casting-- my favorite Trek is DS9, after all-- I have a problem with the shitty acting. 

Having signed up for CBS All Access to watch this postmodern Green Berets will I continue on with it? For the time being, probably yes. It's such a mind-boggling fever-dream of a Trek I'm actually kind of fascinated by it. By that I mean it's such over-the -top warmongering propaganda generously seasoned with cryptomasonic symbology it's practically my obligation to see how this all plays out.

In the past I didn't worry overmuch about the fact that Star Trek is basically propaganda advertising for a worldwide military dictatorship because I didn't really see it reaching an audience that I was particularly worried about, militarily-speaking. But today, with the ubiquity of desktop drone warfare and the ideological struggle sessions taking place on college campuses every day, I actually am starting to get a bit concerned about it.

I'll let Lt. Commander Eddington have the final word...

*As well as a dig against those peacenik Euroweenies.