I've been watching a lot of Star Trek: Voyager recently*. During a marathon viewing, I had two big revelations about the show:
1) Captain Janeway might just be favorite captain**. That in no way diminishes my ardent worship of Picard, my adoration for Sisko, my utmost respect for Archer, or my admiration for the original Space Cowboy, Kirk. But Janeway? She's my kind of leader. Brash, bold, honorable, but also willing to put a photon torpedo between your eyes if the situation calls for it.
2) Voyager is, at its core, extremely hopeful.
The latter fact is what really struck me. Here you have a ship that is pulled to the other side of the galaxy, well beyond where anyone has gone before. At the end of the pilot episode, they are 75 years away from Earth and desperate to return home. Their journey is wrought with danger and the fear of the unknown. The crew should be despondent. There should be more pessimism, more angst.
But there's not. Even during its darkest moments, there's a sense of hope that runs throughout the show. Optimism that, despite it all, they will get home.
The thing is, having watched and read a great deal of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, that optimism is completely striking. So many of my favorite genre tales are ones where humanity is on the brink. Death, destruction, and doing whatever is necessary to survive. Sometimes at the cost of a main character's own code of ethics. Sometimes at the cost of others.
And many times, any sense of hope has long since been purged from their minds.
Now don't get me wrong, I love pretty much all Sci-Fi/Fant. Dark, light, happy, sad, I read and watch it all. But there's something about Star Trek, and Voyager in particular, that speaks to me. I like the world where humanity is driven by the love of science and wonderment. I soak up the stories where the brash and bold leader encourages a sense of determiation among her people. And I am inspired by the thought that no matter what the odds, our species can overcome internal and external crises with a sense of pride and honor.
Heck, I want to live in that kind of world.
Granted, Voyager is a work of fiction. A pretend universe with fake characters. It is, after all, just a story.
Then again, imaginary worlds and the make-believe people who populate them are the bread and butter for many writers. We use them as tools to tell our tale. But sometimes, if we're lucky, we touch the lives of our readers. Maybe even influence them in some way.
It certainly was the case for the writers on Stark Trek who believed that our future was one of optimism, not despair. Because of them, I am filled with hope.
For fake worlds and for our real one.
Summoned Chaos: July 2014
Joshua Roots is a car collector, beekeeper, and storyteller. He enjoys singing with his a cappella chorus, golf, and all facets of Sci-Fi/Fantasy. He and his wife will talk your ear off about their bees if you let them.
*It's been a slow month.
**Or, at least, tied with Picard. Because, come on. It's Picard!