5 Years Later, Turns Out Star Trek Referencing Elon Musk Was a Bad Idea

5 Years Later, Turns Out Star Trek Referencing Elon Musk Was a Bad Idea
Image credit: Legion-Media

Good stories are timeless, and sci-fi is no exception.

Even if progress eventually catches up with your fantastic inventions and surpasses them, as happened with many writers of earlier centuries, a solid story still may age well. But writers are often tempted to use shortcuts towards popularity, which undermine their stories in the long run.

If you rely too much on memes of the current day, the story might lose its sheen, once said memes are forgotten. And if you reference famous current-day personalities in your story, well, you might run into the same problem that creators of Star Trek Discovery just encountered – you also might inadvertently tangle your story in politics of what will be the current day a few years later. And not in a way you might have wanted.

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Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter is one of the biggest political controversies of this year, which we're not going to discuss here. But creators of Star Trek Discovery are going to be mentioned in discussions of it, whether they want it, or not, because in season 1, episode 4, "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry", their Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) attempted to inspire demotivated Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) by asking him if he wants to be remembered as a failure or to go down in history along the great scientific minds, such as the Wright brothers, Zephram Cochrane (the inventor of the warp core in the Star Trek setting), and, yes, Elon Musk.

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Whether Musk's engineering achievements deserve such acclaim is quite disputable. If he ever succeeds in making spaceflight relatively cheap, he just might, theoretically, deserve a mention in the same phrase as people who enabled air flight of heavier-than-air machines and faster-than-light spaceflight, but, well, first he has to succeed, and even then, creators of the very first space rocket programs would deserve that honor more. What is not disputable is that this year people have remembered that throwaway phrase, and it caused quite a backlash.

It is rather doubtful that said phrase is going to "haunt the writers for decades." In fact, the nature of public politics almost ensures that it would be quickly forgotten again. But right now it certainly caused a small storm on Twitter. A lesson in being cautious with references to the hot new thing or popular person of the day, if anything.