Top 10 Times Star Trek Was Way Ahead of Its Time

Written by Garrett Alden This franchise boldly went where no one had gone before. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the 10 times “Star Trek” was way ahead of its time. For this list, we’re examining the times that the sci-fi franchise “Star Trek” managed to be ahead of the curve in cultural and technological issues, to the point where they either predicted the future, or else helped... make it so. Engage! Have an idea you want to see made into a WatchMojo video? Check out our suggest page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest and submit your idea.
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Top 10 Times Star Trek Was Way Ahead of Its Time

This franchise boldly went where no one had gone before. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the 10 times “Star Trek” was way ahead of its time.

For this list, we’re examining the times that the sci-fi franchise “Star Trek” managed to be ahead of the curve in cultural and technological issues, to the point where they either predicted the future, or else helped... make it so. Engage!

#10: Universal Translators

These nifty gadgets are the reason that everyone in the “Trek” universe seems to speak English, with a few exceptions. The idea that language, one of the primary barriers between people, would be overcome in the future was definitely a forward thinking idea and one that has since come closer to being realized in our time. The ability to instantly translate speech into another language is still far from reality, but current translation apps can manage around 80 different languages, which is a good start for planet Earth.

#9: Flat / Big Screen TVs

In our modern world of LCD and big screen televisions, the technology of The Original Series especially can look antiquated, but the people of the time were used to cathode ray tube TVs, whose size and screens were small or average at best. Although big screens had been invented by the TNG-era, they weren’t nearly as thin or as advanced what was seen on screen. Fast forward to today, and TVs, monitors, and even laptops are looking closer and closer to their 24th century counter parts – flat, and as large as you’d like, or even curved towards the viewer.

#8: Video Calling

Quite often, a starship’s viewscreen is used for communicating via teleconference. And few things in an era of landlines seemed as forward thinking as being able to talk to someone and look at them at the same time. The Original Series featured this technology decades before it became viable for humans of the 20th and 21st centuries. While video calls weren’t necessarily unique to “Star Trek”, the franchise certainly did them more memorably than most, often allowing for tense conflict without ever leaving the ship or even meeting their opponent face to face.

#7: Automatic Doors

Many things about “Star Trek” impressed upon the audience that it was set in the future, and one of the simpler things was the doors. Automated sliding doors were around in the 1960s, but they were nowhere near as prominent or widespread as they are today, where they’re found in many public buildings, from grocery stores to hospitals. However, the ones on “Star Trek” were achieved by people off-screen pulling the doors open. Despite their manual operation behind the scenes, the Enterprise’s doors helped show viewers that even something as culturally ingrained as opening a door with your hands could look radically different one day.

#6: Breaking Interracial Taboos

While there were actually several interracial kisses on American TV before this one, including one on “Star Trek” itself in the famous Mirror Universe episode, this is generally cited as the first, due to its place in pop culture. Kirk and Uhura are made to lock lips by a sadistic race of telepaths. Despite cultural-taboos, the kiss caused little controversy. It has drawn some criticism since, however, given such a landmark event was achieved by forcing the characters into the act, rather than it being consensual. Regardless, it did help pave the way for better portrayals of interracial relationships in media.

#5: Personal Computers

Several decades prior to their availability in the real world, “Star Trek” envisioned using computers for personal, individual use. While it might seem like a no-brainer now, computers of the time were enormous while offering the computing power of a basic calculator. Additionally, they were rare, and therefore hardly useful to the common person. The computers shown on “Trek” were, by comparison, smaller and featured better interfaces than most people at the time could even conceive. The franchise even predicted the use of tablet computers, with their portable, and convenient PADD devices.

#4: Gender Identity

Gender identity is a subject that will only generate more widespread conversation, but it was a topic and notion rarely addressed by most in 1992. Among the many times “Star Trek” addressed LGBTQ themes, albeit in a thinly veiled manner, was an episode The Next Generation entitled “The Outcast” when Commander Riker falls for Soren. A member of an androgynous race called the J’naii, Soren breaks the mold by self-identifying as female. Her species’ society looks down on those with any kind of gender identity as perverse outcasts worthy of shame, and forces the gendered into conversion therapy. Star Trek may not have re-defined the concept of gender, but it was an early and powerful voice in the discussion.

#3: Cell Phones

Communicators on “Star Trek” were essentially cell phones in all but name, able to make calls from enormous distances, even from the surface of a planet to a ship in orbit, and all in a small package. Although many of the devices on this list may have helped influence real technology, communicators are confirmed to have inspired cell phones according to their inventor, Martin Cooper. “Star Trek” even managed to predict more recent functions, since the communicators were even voice activated; a feature that’s only become common since smart phones have been implemented.

#2: Gender Equality

“Star Trek” has an excellent record of portraying strong female characters, and even inspired some women to join the NASA space program to explore the final frontier in real life, including astronaut Mae Jemison. The original series featured Lt. Uhura, who was unquestionably the equal of the largely male bridge crew. TNG would see three female officers in positions of power, “Deep Space Nine” had many strong, complex characters, not the least of which was second in command Major – later Colonel – Kira, while “Voyager” proved that audiences were ready to accept a female-led series and ship, all while rarely making any reference to gender.

Before we get to our top choice, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Holodeck
- Replicators (3D Printing)
- Audio Interfaces

#1: Multicultural & Multiracial Representation

“Star Trek” was light years ahead of its contemporaries when it came to multiculturalism. Series creator Gene Roddenberry felt very passionately about depicting the future as he wanted it to be, with a vision of a more diverse and understanding tomorrow. The Original Series – and those that followed – featured a varied supporting cast, representing multiple races and cultures, while slyly commenting on race relations, and sociopolitical topics, while gaining support from the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. It’s difficult to overstate the impact watching the show had on young non-Caucasian audiences, who could finally see themselves reflected onscreen with equality and dignity.
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