When actor Zoe Saldana was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Monday night, she reminded viewers that the creator of Star Trek Gene Roddenberry was a police officer before he became a writer and creator of the science fiction hit.
With the upcoming release of the thirteenth movie from the Star Trek franchise, many of the movie’s stars have been asked about the influence the show has had on their lives. But the influence of Star Trek isn’t only restricted to the big screen, because it has also been very influential in today’s culture and technology.
Many people have credited Star Trek for being the first show on television that showed women and minorities in breakthrough roles, not only showing viewers that anything was possible but that humans can do better.
Gene Roddenberry has been widely quoted on his approach to the Star Trek universe and the future he created for his characters.
“If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”
Roddenberry died in 1991, but his views of the world were ahead of their time and have been tested to be evergreen enough to take on the social issues we’re dealing with today.
The war of words exchanged between police departments and Black Lives Matter activists and the reports of unarmed blacks being killed by police are at an all-time high these days, after the recent violence against police officers in Dallas, Baton Rouge and even more recently Kansas city.
The Inquisitr reported on the heated exchange between CNN journalist Don Lemon and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark Jr. over the Black Lives Matter group. Clark is a person who has been very outspoken and declared war on the protesters, and he was even given a pulpit to amplify that call during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Monday.
That officer could take some direction from the Star Trek creator’s humanistic approach to not inflame more tensions and instead act as a more responsible leader of his community, as Gene Roddenberry’s history as a police officer put him right in the center of a police department which has a reputation and a history of being notoriously corrupt.
Gene Roddenberry joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1949, one of the periods when the department was being purged of corruption after a scandal broke out over the police chief when it was discovered that he was involved with a prostitute during a robbery.
This was also the same police department that, only a few decades earlier, had come under scrutiny in the famous case of Christine Collins, from which the movie Changeling starring Angelina Jolie is based on.
In an article by The Orange Country Register about the militarization of the Los Angeles Police Department, it’s noted that the Police Chief who replaced him, William Parker — who was known to be incorruptible — was also someone Mr. Roddenberry would base his infamous Star Trek character Mr. Spock on.
Mr. Spock is often seen as the wise and perfect balance of objectivity, but he isn’t without his problems, as the character is often tested to deal with his emotions in many situations.
Black Lives Matter has been very influential in drawing attention to corruption in police departments nationwide, to the point where a police force such as the one in Ferguson, was pressured to reform by the Department of Justice after the killing of Michael Brown.
But the group is now being attacked, as The Inquisitr points out, after the recent killings of police officers, as the source of that violence — despite the fact that the gunmen acted alone.
The process of improving these relations is clearly quite slow, and so perhaps the kind of rhetoric coming from Sheriff Clarke — to wage war on Black Lives Matter — is what should to be expected, as these ideas of inclusiveness go through some growing pains.
One article by Wired about the creation of the Star Trek series points to Roddenberry’s progressive values; in this case it’s about LGBT issues. But it does point to something interesting, which is that the reception the series received when it was first on television — despite the new approach with the show’s characters — made no immediate difference to the culture at the time, which could be because the show only ran for two seasons before it was canceled.
But now, in hindsight, Star Trek has made more of an impact in society than Gene Roddenberry would ever know, but there’s no doubt that he might have wanted it to make a difference in law enforcement too.