Trekkies can take comfort in new frontier of academia

New UCLA course will trace parallels between Star Trek, real world

Gabriel Gutierrez

U. of California-Riverside Highlander

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (U-WIRE) - Imagine sitting down to class and opening your notebook as the professor starts to speak. He begins with an explanation of the Klingon Worf and the humanity of the android Data. He then says that the midterm will cover the differences between Captain Kirk and Captain Picard.

Some sort of sci-fi fantasy? Not really. Daniel Bernardi, an assistant professor at UCLA, is offering a course next quarter that will take an academic look at the Star Trek phenomenon.

"Star Trek has been around for 30 years," he said. "It has become a mass media conglomerate. It's about race, gender and class differences. It's the ideal text."

Bernardi said the Star Trek series "reflects and refracts" the world today. The characters, he says, are metaphors for racial differences, gender and sexuality.

Organizations in Star Trek also reflect the world today. The Federation is, according to Bernardi, an allegory for NATO.

One of the "most obvious" parallels between the world of Star Trek and today is seen in the sixth Star Trek movie. The "Federation" (our analogous NATO) is needed to bridge the gap and help their enemies, the "Klingons" (which Bernardi parallels to the Soviet Union).

Bernardi noted the appeal of the different Star Trek series may stem from the historical context of the series. "The Star Trek of the 1960s was about anti-war and civil rights," he said.

"The Next Generation is neo-conservative and reactionary. There's less progressivism. Deep Space Nine is a metaphor for the 'all just get along' idea. A station cramped with aliens just trying to get along. It's multiculturalism."

Bernardi said he sees a similar outlook for the real world to that of Star Trek. "Diversity is the key to surviving," he said of the future. "We must be egalitarian or risk continuing down the current historical track in becoming a technically superior version of the Roman Empire."

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