Mark Fischer’s work Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology, and Lost Futures connected themselves to the various pieces of Star Trek shapes I still carry with me from back when that sort of thing still mattered.
Probably because Enterprise, of all the Trek properties, is I think the most properly Derrida-ly haunted.
I’ve spent the last couple of years coming to terms with the passage of time or my own personal failure to capture it and discovering Fischer’s writings has in some ways helped. It’s touched on that personal failure being not nearly as personal as perhaps I had first thought. As it sort of settled into my mind it seemed to plug into my recollection of Star Trek Enterprises’ Temporal Cold War story line.
Fischer opens the text describing what he means by future, by progress, and points to another writer who articulated an idea of future that bumps up against our lives, quoting Franco Berardi’s After the Future
I am not referring to the direction of time. I am thinking, rather, of the psychological perception, which emerged in the cultural situation of progressive modernity, the cultural expectation that were fabricated during the long period of modern civilization, reaching a peak after the Second World War. These expectations were shaped in the conceptual frame works of an ever progressing development, albeit through different methodologies: the Hegel-Marxist mythology of Aufhebung and founding of the new totality of Communism; the bourgeois mythology of a linear development of welfare and democracy; the technocratic mythology of the all-encom-passing power of scientific knowledge; and so on.Franco Berardi, After the Future
It’s been a long road…
At the cusp of the year 2000, it seemed that this linear development of welfare and democracy had reached some sort of narrative peak. I think we can all attest to how our current moment in the year 2020 affirms the end of this anticipated state of being.
But in the lead up to the year 2000, Star Trek ran out of future to project. And it was not alone.
Star Wars would begin to explore the narratives of it’s own historical underpinnings, but perhaps most importantly the Matrix would describe a future desperately clinging to a version of the past to enslave the living.
This past would allow the future to sustain itself following a catastrophic nuclear war. Notably it is this future where even escaping is part of that very system.
Star Trek would be but another facet of this same precious stone whose premise was most clearly articulated in the works of Philip K Dick and then re-articulated in the writings of Grant Morrison, whose premise was that Arcadia had never come to be.
Back in that shaky first season of Enterprise, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga’s story of a future come to cancel itself seemed like a way to advance the overall narrative of Trek’s ongoing futures while allowing the series to glimpse backwards 100 years before Kirk, without totally committing to the bit.
This signal that would cross pollinate the fictions of numerous writers of a post cold war landscape would find expression within the imaginal realm of a still coherent Star Trek as: The future might still not arrive, even in its own past.
The stakes of Star Trek not happening at all seemed to surround what otherwise should have been quaint serialized story telling of humanity’s freshman attempts at getting along with others and maybe working out some of the trauma it carried from the personal growth it managed in the last century. At least that was the shape of that era in an aborted novel series that was published about a year before Enterprise would first air.
What continues to annoy me about Star Trek Enterprise was the conceit that alien first contact would somehow unite the world in unity and common cause.
It allowed the writers of Enterprise to avoid grappling with the hard work of writing a plausible emergence of utopia on earth. How that would possibly come to be in the shadow a global nuclear war that happened sometime before first contact in the show’s continuity of 2064, and the launch of the NX-01 Enterprise is ambiguous.
They seem to have plagiarized Alan Moore’s Watchman, or wherever this idea came from, in thinking that the other (be it extra-dimensional squid or pointy eared space elf) would be the catalyst for mankind to unite either in not nuking one another, or towards traveling the stars.
What’s interesting is the release of U.S. Navy video of U.F.Os several years ago did very little in that regard to settle anything, rather it seemed to muddy the waters around extra terrestrial life or contact.
I guess this lets us zero in a bit more on what 1st Contact is hoped to be, or what it telegraphs into, which is the longing for Christ, ultimately.
This 1st Contact Star Trek longed for wasn’t just discovering intelligent alien life. It was about intelligent alien life recognizing us as intelligent as well. Discovering interstellar kinship and that the likeness, the reflection might saving us from ourselves.
1st Contact was the search for the Nativity, and Zephram Cochran flying his first warp capable ship the Phoenix was merely a magi pursuing his star to the East and in the process pulling down heaven to a very broken and bloodied earth.
Star Trek is beloved, I think because it is this nod to humanity’s reconciliation to itself, that we can be salvaged. It is one tough little ship, and it has work to do. Thus the action schlock sold to us as Trek in recent years, namely CBS All Access’ attempts at Trek have been poorly received because this quest is dismissed when we’ve most collectively longed for it’s narrative coming from a technocratic materialist future. You know, to ease our concerns about modernity and what these forces are actually bringing into our lives.
Finding a star in the east is taken for granted though, and Enterprise doesn’t necessarily address the quest at hand. The quest is that our main character, Jonathan Archer is haunted, by his father, by failure, and by his dreams being denied by paternalistic forces guiding his planet’s government. He has this superior metaphor for masculine virility sitting in his engine room and he’ll be damned if he doesn’t show it to every space faring race he encounters, as this is some strange rite of passage or legacy for the main Character.
A blind and ignorant sort of captain who is ferried into the future by his father’s death, and his obligation to the legacy he left behind. The hope for the future is lost in the past, and the inevitability of a future which is no longer divined by the stars being supplanted by our longing for yesterday is encapsulated in a man who’s character arc is summed up in the title of his first story: