I didn’t like the premiere episode of the new Star Trek at all. I was so repelled that I felt no desire at all to see the second — but I know, other people feel otherwise. Even some scientists are still enthusiastic. For instance, Jeremy Yoder lists all the bad biology in past and present episodes of the show, and still recommends it, even after the galactic fungus and space-hopping tardigrade story, which makes me nauseous to even listen to the video clip explaining it with outrageous technobabble. I guess his ability to suspend disbelief is far more robust than mine.
So, honestly, it’s hard to watch almost any episode of Star Trek without my biology-sense tingling. But here’s the thing: the bio-bollocks is often deeply entangled with what makes Trek great. The episode of Voyager in which two characters are temporarily transmuted into one touches on questions of personhood, and what makes us unique, self-determining individuals. The shape-shifting villains of Deep Space Nine created innumerable opportunities for stories about paranoia and power in wartime and the risks of trading freedom for security. The biological impossibility of Mr. Spock’s parentage makes him a touchstone for anyone who’s lived with dual identities or a sense of alienation from their community. The de-evolution virus … well, okay, that one I can’t justify. But by and large, when Star Trek has stretched and often broken the limits of biological realism, it’s done so to tell stories that are worth the telling — and that inspired many a nerdy kid to stick with science long enough to learn how fictional Star Trek really is.
I agree that the pseudoscience isn’t the point of a Star Trek story. I just feel like, if the writers cared, they could take the time to get the science right, and that good science wouldn’t detract from a good story.