Science Fiction, Children's Literature, and Popular Culture: Coming of Age in Fantasyland

By Gary Westfahl | Go to book overview

6

Opposing War, Exploiting War: The Troubled Pacifism of Star Trek

In an article published in Science-Fiction Studies, "Star Trek in the Vietnam Era," scholar H. Bruce Franklin has argued that the original Star Trek series (aired from 1966 to 1969) mirrored growing American disillusionment with the Vietnam War, focusing on four episodes which he claims "dramatize a startling and painful transformation in the war's impact on both the series and the nation" (25). In "The City at the Gate of Forever" (broadcast April 6, 1967), a crucial script change argued that antiwar movements only served to improve the chance of an enemy victory. "A Private Little War" ( February 2, 1968) showed Kirk re-enacting President Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam War policy on another planet, but gave prominent attention to Doctor McCoy's vehement objections. "The Omega Glory" ( March 1, 1968) presented an alternate Earth devastated by war between Americans and Asians, reflecting disillusionment with the war after the Tet offensive. And "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield" ( January 10, 1969) concerned a planet that annihilates itself in a racial conflict inspired in part by foreign wars. Thus, Franklin maintains, the producers of the series visibly moved from an endorsement of the Vietnam War to ambivalent concern about the war and finally to outright opposition to the war.

However, there is first of all one fact which significantly undermines Franklin's chronological analysis: The clearly antiwar script for "The Omega Glory" was written by Gene Roddenberry in June 1965--as one possible script for the second Star Trek pilot--well before the two openly or mixed pro-war episodes cited by Franklin. Perhaps he could find political significance in the decisions to not film the episode in 1966, when support for the Vietnam War was still strong, and to finally film the episode in 1968, when support for the war was weakening. However, there is no evidence that either the producers of Star Trek or NBC executives ever argued for or against filming a given script for strictly political reasons. A more likely explanation is that "The Omega Glory" was simply regarded as a weak

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