The red carpet premiere of the latest STAR TREK series could have easily been dampened by the mood at the studio. Earlier in the afternoon, Paramount received a bomb threat by someone claiming to be an ally of the terrorists that attacked the World Trade Center. Security responded by enforcing strict ID checks on all visitors. The trunk space of every vehicle that entered the lot was thoroughly inspected creating long lines, a virtual traffic jam and impatient guests.
Yet, the cast and crew of ENTERPRISE refused to allow the spirit of TREK to fall victim to intimidation tactics. The premiere, which could have easily been canceled or postponed, valiantly carried on. None of the actors or producers expressed frustration with the invasive security surprising given the large number of past and current TREK players that were in attendance. On hand were, among many others, Jeri (Seven-of-Nine) Ryan, Brent (Data) Spinner, and, of course, ENTERPRISE's Scott (Captain Jonathan Archer) Bakula.
Of course, when faced with the inexpressible tragedy of recent events, one can't help but wonder whether the idealistic future represented by the work of these actors even seems possible anymore? TREK creator Gene Roddenberry based his vision around an Earth that is able to eradicate disease, famine and even war. In the series' mythology, no one has to live in poverty, or in fear of fellow humans. It's this goal of a peaceful future that often appeals to fans' imaginations...
However, when watching footage of the rubble in lower Manhattan, is it even possible to believe that Earth will ever reach a TREK-like utopia? Is Roddenberry's vision a reasonable goal we should be working toward? Or is it simply an unattainable fantasy, serving only to remind us of a prosperity we can never really have?
A hard question, to say the least, but LeVar Burton (Jordi LaForge of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION), who also attended the premiere, chimed in with his thoughts. "Can I let you in on a secret? Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future is not only something we can achieve, it's something that we've begun to achieve. It's an idea that we've been working towards from the moment the first episode aired in the '60s."
"STAR TREK is an example of popular culture that can actually guide the direction in which we evolve," he continued. "It's a feedback loop. We get to watch these episodes and contemplate that kind of future existence. Then we subtly, but powerfully, move ourselves in that direction."
According to Burton, the very fact that audiences respond to TREK shows that there's a place for utopian values in our society. And moreover, by responding, audiences actually perpetuate Roddenberry's high-minded vision on a personal level.
"We dream it into reality," Burton said.
And he wasn't alone in his views.
"I know that right now it seems difficult to imagine [the TREK] future ever coming true," said John Billingsley, who portrays ENTERPRISE's Dr. Phlox. "But without a message of hope, like the one STAR TREK offers, we'd have nothing to shoot forso we'd never have a chance. In that way, I believe the show plays a very vital role in our culture."
Gary Graham, best known for his work as Detective Matt Sikes on Fox's ALIEN NATION, plays Vulcan ambassador Soval in the ENTERPRISE pilot. As the most peripheral of the attending TREK actors, he sported a differing opinion as to humanity's future.
"I don't think [Roddenberry's] goal is unattainable," Graham said. "To say otherwise is to put an end-mark on infinity. I think we can all just do our best and hope that it inspires people to a higher ideal."
"Oh yes, it can be achieved," remarked Garrett Wang, who played Harry Kim on STAR TREK: VOYAGER, "I'm sure it can. The bottom line is cooperation we just all need to cooperate."
Cooperation, after all, is what saved the Voyager crew on several occasions and what eventually brought that crew home.
Perhaps most excited about the premiere was Bakula, however, the actor still clearly showed concern about recent events. He took the time to personally ask many of the fans and media in attendance whether their friends and family in New York were safe.
"Roddenbery's vision included an end to war," stated Bakula, "That's an ideal that I hold dear. And anything that affords us hope will carry us to our destiny. Even something like a TV show, which is normally a piece of escapism, can give us that if we let it."
Will we ever achieve anything like Roddenberry's dream? No one can know for sure, but one thing is certain. If we stop believing, we'll be sure to fail.
The keyword that everyone at the ENTERPRISE premiere kept repeating was "hope". Maybe that is what STAR TREK is all about.