By Ben Drake
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More Fact than Fiction

This article is over 16 years, 7 months old
I thoroughly enjoyed Mark Bould's article on HG Wells ('The Shape Of Things To Come', May SR) especially the opening War of the Worlds joke.
Issue 297

But a minor niggle I can’t allow unchallenged: Mark’s assertion that ‘too often [in] the Roddenberry-Lucas-Spielberg complex, a spaceship is just a spaceship and a robot is just a robot’.

The Star Trek series may on the face of them be glossy and mainstream, and for sure there are some straightforward phaser-totin’ fight the baddies episodes. But in fact far more often they do explore deeper themes, in many cases using the SF context to raise questions that most popular shows would shy away from. To sceptical comrades I’d recommend in particular the Hugo Award winning Deep Space Nine (DS9) episode ‘Far Beyond the Stars’, one of the most interesting and challenging pieces of SF ever made, about racism and the politics of SF itself. Or on a lighter note check out ‘Bar Association’ (again DS9) in which downtrodden Ferengi Rom organises his fellow bar workers into a union and leads a strike against his capitalist brother Quark, a process that transforms his own consciousness and self-image. (Surely the only show on US TV to contain – approvingly – a quote from The Communist Manifesto?)

As for Star Wars, again I don’t deny the huge corporate marketing enterprise it’s grown into. But still, I’d urge anti-war activists to look again at its over-arching story: the corrupt pseudo-democratic Republic is undermined from within by its manipulative chancellor, who exploits fear of the phantom menace of separatist terrorism to demand ever-extending ’emergency’ powers and the creation of a huge hi-tech army. Ultimately the Republic becomes the Empire and dissidents are forced to launch an armed insurgency. And in the end, the Empire is brought down by its underestimation of the capacity of under-equipped colonised peoples to resist and fight back. Ring any bells?

In Solidarity, and May The Force Be With You!

Ben Drake

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