At one time the future of Star Trek was about a better tomorrow and a better world for us all. Star Trek was aspirational. It was about the best of humanity. It was a positive future where we got along and did great things. We had overcome our hardships and difficulties and bridged our differences in order to create a better tomorrow.
In fact we had become so good at bridging our differences that we could do it with other species no matter how different they were. We had an uneasy detente with the Romulans and were actually at peace with the Klingons by the time of TNG. The Romulans were a species with values and beliefs that were an anathema to not only humanity but the Federation. We were not their friends but nor were we at war.
Klingons were a warrior race with a somewhat authoritarian government. The lesson in both instances being so long as both sides respect differences peace can be maintained.
Different ideas were sought out by humanity as a whole as well as tolerated by the Federation. The stories in Star Trek were generally about growth or great discovery or how humans could be better and in the end are better. They were about a better tomorrow in a hopeful future.
That has changed though. Or rather is being changed. Star Trek is being rewritten and retconned into something else. It is becoming something darker and less hopeful. It is aiming for the baser or lesser aspects of humanity and no longer reaching for something higher.
In my opinion this change for the worse started with the reboot films. I will not say necessarily the first one, though the groundwork was certainly laid, but definitely by the second one. The embracing of sinister agendas there by Starfleet at-large was something unusual in Star Trek. Rogue Starfleet officers were not uncommon previously. Bad individuals doing things contrary to Federation ideals or just contrary to being a decent person were story elements before but Starfleet as a whole acting negatively was not normal. Back in Into Darkness Section 31 was portrayed as an integral part of Starfleet rather than a rogue organization acting separate from Starfleet as it previously had been depicted. Nobody knew this essentially fascist organization existed because it always worked in secret. There it was well known and even had a large complex unto itself.
Discovery ran further with it by giving Spock a previously unmentioned adopted sister (repeating the Sybok mistake from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) as well as introducing previously unmentioned darker elements into the Federation. Heck much of what was in Star Trek: Discovery in the first two seasons was not even hinted at along with certain things being contrary to well-established Star Trek lore.
But beyond that the retconning went beyond what had showed up in a prequel series. They also began to tinker with the biographies of foundational characters by doing new stories with Sarek, Spock, and Captain Pike. By adding new stories they began to add in new elements and previously unmentioned events which changed not only the biographies of the characters but began to alter the fabric of Star Trek as well. I am not talking tweaks or expanding upon but alteration of Star Trek.
Star Trek is not-or at least was not-a dystopian future with dark elements. It is a better tomorrow but is now being written by people who do not believe humanity can do better. These are small and weak individuals who think everyone else is small and weak just like them. They do not believe that people have a better nature.
The stories are not about people who may disagree working together but about-to use a modern term- “owning” the other. I think about an early Season Two episode of Discovery where an Enterprise crewman that was the episode jerk got killed and forgotten about by the closing credits rather than learning a lesson or getting punished. His presence was to show how right Burnham was. That is small thinking.
Lower Decks is one big goof on the whole concept. It is not the best of the best doing good things. These are not good people that you would trust to save you but petty and spiteful people that are not worthy of handling the most basic of jobs.
Picard has rewritten a once great Starfleet captain into a week man fighting a never good Federation. Gone is any hint of a nature which would allow someone to be an effective commander.
I feel that with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds that trend will continue. They have already begun by adding elements to Number One. They have added Uhura the cast here which leads me to believe that they will be setting up an appearance by Captain Kirk. It has been my theory that would occur.
In strange new world we have a female character with a very similar name to Khan Noonien Singh. Are they related? Or does she just have a similar name? I’m guessing she’s related and somehow they will shoehorn in a Khan story centered on her character. But that brings up the question of why it was not mentioned in the classic episode “Space Seed.”
You could also go with the explanation that Spock is in the habit of withholding important information from everyone else at the possible cost of his own life and that of the crew. That seems like a significant character flaw and contradictory to Spock’s previously displayed nature. Then again they’ve been working on changing his biography ever since the first few episodes of Discovery.
With each new story set as a prequel they are given the power to add bits and pieces that were never there and eventually point to that as justification for Star Trek being something it never was. “We can do this because we already did that and because we already did that it’s Star Trek.” Retroactive justification.
We need a better tomorrow to look towards. We need something to strive for. We need heroes that are better than us in the end. If our imagined tomorrow is no better than today, then why try? If our imagined heroes are just like us, then why try? This may seem a little silly but humans have always needs needed something to aspire towards. We need examples to follow even if those examples we create ourselves. We know what we should be and a visual representation shows us how to get there.
The original Enterprise crew and even successive crews of successive Star Trek iterations up until and including Star Trek: Enterprise were all people to strive to be like even if they were at times imperfect. Why? Because they worked to overcome their imperfect natures. They existed in a better tomorrow and tried to live up to that better tomorrow.
If what we saw on Discovery or Picard is any indication, then what we get in Strange New Worlds will not be the characters living up to higher ideals. They will not reach for the stars but rather be something less. They will not try.
I have low expectations for Strange New Worlds. I hope it is something good, but I do not have a strong belief that it will be. I think it will be another show crafted by small people who think that others, like them, are weak and unwilling to strive. It will have good production values with the Star Trek name attached but not be Star Trek at its core.