Cultural Commentary in Science Fiction

In the article, Sarantakes discusses an allegory of the nuclear bomb and its destructive abilities. In an episode titled “The Doomsday Machine,” the crew of the Enterprise is tasked with destroying what is described as a “giant, planet-destroying death machine” (Sarantakes 88). This “death machine” essentially parallels the nuclear bomb, which has the ability to inflict great destruction on Earth. Having already destroyed planets in the Star Trek world, the machine continues on its path, and the crew goes to great lengths and experiences loss (Commodore Matt Decker dies) to neutralize its threat. This serves as an allegory for containing nuclear weapons during the Cold War, as these nuclear weapons can essentially destroy its host planet, and great effort is required to stop this weapon from inflicting mass destruction. Therefore, Star Trek is able to paint a negative picture of nuclear bombs in citing the damage it creates if used.

It is often difficult to bluntly challenge prevailing political ideologies, as shown through the difficulty in tackling topics in Star Trek directly. Therefore, science fiction generates an opportunity to explore topics that parallel actual political/cultural ideologies through subbing out real-world events and ideas for fantasy. This allows viewers to form opinions about these detached topics without essentially generating their opinion on these topics’ real-world counterparts. Therefore, science fiction allows creators to help guide viewers towards certain beliefs through creating alternate examples that are exempt from the pre-conceived notions and beliefs of the viewers. The creators also do not face the backlash associated with discussing real-world topics directly.

The Twilight Zone serves as a good example of cultural critique. Not only does the show use allegories to discuss current events as in Star Trek, the show also distorts society to comment on the possible effects of certain social and cultural behaviors and practices on society.

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One thought on “Cultural Commentary in Science Fiction”

  1. The Twilight Zone is an interesting example to consider, as, as you noted, it takes situations to their extremes in order to examine them. This style of critique often allows one to make a much more powerful argument for or against some concept, though it does suffer from criticism of its own, as some such arguments are perceived as ridiculous, and simply thrown out on that basis.

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