Star Trek carries many of the sins of a franchise that began in the 1960s. To modern-day audiences, the content, particularly in the original Star Trek, and the later Star Trek: The Next Generation, often comes across as offensive or outdated in several ways.
It is undeniable that, due to the time of its creation, and the failings of the writers and showrunners, plenty of its content is outdated, and modern viewers may struggle. Nonetheless, there are numerous elements from the show that, even today, remain as relevant as they were back then.
Updated by Alexandra Locke on January 22, 2023: The various Star Trek series have had their fair share of controversies, but many of their core tenants still hold up to today’s audiences. The purely peaceful societies that the shows display present many ideas and sentiments that modern viewers would like to see in their own lives. Since the Star Trek universe is full of wonderful ideas, this article has been updated to include even more aspects that still hold up today.
10 The Technobabble Seems Plausible
The Star Trek franchise is home to a wealth of enigmatic technology. When the various ships are in danger, the crew – typically from engineering – comes up with a solution that, in any other context, would sound like complete gibberish.
Despite warp cores, transporters, replicators, and other tech that does not exist in the real world, the actors of the various series have managed to make all the technology sound feasible. Often, viewers have heard Geordi LaForge or Be’lanna Torres rattle off scientific-sounding phrases that are just believable enough to suspend audiences’ disbelief – no matter when the series aired.
9 The Show Includes Non-Stereotypical Characters From Several Backgrounds
The human race in Star Trek is a part of the multinational, multi-planetary, and multiracial Federation. Therefore, there are serious attempts to portray it as such.
While much of the bridge crew in the original Star Trek is made up of white Americans and aliens, there are nonetheless characters such as Chekhov and Sulu, who hold major positions that are essential for the Enterprise. In a particular rarity for the time, Sulu is a well-rounded, fully-developed Asian-American character.
8 The Show Pushed For Gender Equality
Part of the utopian vision of Star Trek lies in that the differences between people are largely academic, and do not have societal impacts on them this far in the future. As such, Star Trek attempts to portray women as having equal roles within Starfleet. This is more depicted in The Next Generation and later entries, but is still present in the show’s original series.
Of course, in a show from the ’60s, the attempt is far from perfect. Kirk’s treatment of women often raises eyebrows, ranging from the show sometimes treating female members of alien species as little more than romantic objects for him, and Kirk himself making several problematic comments about women. Furthermore, only some of the bridge crew are women, with the majority being men. Nonetheless, this was far more than what was done by most shows at the time and demonstrated the show’s desire to push for equality.
7 The Show Is An Exploration Of An Automated & Post-Scarcity Society
Gene Rodenberry, the creator of Star Trek, was unabashed, depicting in the show a post-scarcity, socialist society where people worked if they chose to, and otherwise enjoyed the abundance of resources available to them, with much of the manual labor done through automation.
These topics have, if anything, only become more relevant in today’s world. Automation is an incredibly-discussed topic, with machines becoming more capable of doing more and more jobs currently filled by humans, and many worrying about the impacts on society as a result. While the show is far from an instructive guide, a positive depiction of such a society can be refreshing to many.
6 The Next Generation Tries To Be Inclusive
Television censors in the era of The Next Generation made it difficult for the show to outright depict queer characters positively, but the show nonetheless puts effort into it. This is most notable in the episode “The Outcast,” where a member of the androgynous J’naii race develops feelings for Commander William Riker.
This episode has not aged perfectly. Nonetheless, the episode is presented as an allegory about homophobic discrimination, with the oppressors being portrayed to be in the wrong.
5 Accommodations Are Made For Everyone
One of the best things about Star Trek is that physical limitations are accommodated. The series never perpetuates that all humans are perfect in the future, but instead makes everything in their world accessible for everyone, regardless of physical differences.
Though this is most memorably seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation with Geordi LaForge, numerous characters throughout the Star Trek franchise use the technology of their times to their benefit. Fans today can only hope that the real future will be so inclusive.
4 Star Trek Portrays Messages Of Harmony & Cooperation
Despite common violence and storylines about war, Star Trek was never a show about the military or violent solutions. The Enterprise is primarily an exploratory and scientific vessel, with the Federation having very strong views about warfare and its place.
As a result, the show often prioritizes peaceful resolutions to situations and emphasizes the importance of cooperation between people of all demographics. The Federation itself is composed of dozens of races, and the folly of war between the Federation and other species, as well as between different species, is the point of numerous plot lines. It is something of an evergreen message, but it applies today.
3 Violence Is Purposefully Toned Down
Every iteration of Star Trek has prided itself on depicting an evolved society. As such, they also boast about only using force when they have to. However, Star Trek characters usually opt for humane methods even when violence is called for.
Their phasers are usually set to stun (except in the case of imminent danger), and their palms are always open or classed together when they throw punches. The palm punch, in particular, is not only a less inciting use of force but also mitigates the damage to the recipient. In a world still filled with violence, audiences, even today, are intrigued and relieved to see that humanity has the potential to come a long way.
2 Lieutenant Uhura Inspired Many
In the 1960s, seeing Black characters, especially those played by Black actors, was uncommon at the time. While, in the modern-day, a single Black female character amongst the bridge crew is not particularly impressive, at the time of Star Trek, it was very groundbreaking.
Nichelle Nichols inspired many fans as Nyota Uhura, the high-ranking Lieutenant. While things have come a long way since Star Trek—and have further to go—Lieutenant Uhura remains a groundbreaking role in TV history. Not to mention that Nichelle used her notoriety as Uhura to help recruit people to NASA.
1 “Plato’s Stepchildren” Was A Milestone For Diversity In Television
Star Trek has always been relatively progressive for its time. However, it was also a pioneer in more than just space exploration. The original series was the first time an interracial kiss was portrayed onscreen.
While it does not seem like a lot now, Kirk and Uhura’s kiss in “Plato’s Stepchildren” paved the way for many different types of relationships to be represented moving forward. Though television today still has a long way to go, this kiss was the first step toward much-needed change.
NEXT: 10 Best Friendships In The Star Trek Franchise