Here's a question for the ages: When did we begin turning backwards? When did we stop looking to and dreaming about the future?
I saw that question somewhere, and, thinking about it, I kind of feel like Star Trek is a pretty good indicator of when the future started changing from something we dreamt about, and hoped for - and turned into something we don't want to look too closely at, unless we're pretty certain it's safe.
The Original series, from 1966-69 was leaps and bounds ahead of anything else. It turned Sci-fi into main-stream entertainment in a way that wouldn't really be replicated until Star Wars came around a decade later. It showed us a universe much like the age of sail; they had a pretty good idea about the big picture, but there were still vast areas unexplored and undiscovered. It was a far more tolerant world than the US in the 60's, and it's probably safe to say that the dream Trek displayed of the future was part of the changes in the 70's. Original Trek was a dream about a world, three centuries into the future,
The Next Generation, from 1987-94 was just that; the next generation. Set a hundred years after the first series, it exists in a more ordered and thoroughly explored universe. One fraught with less uncertainty, and more moral qualms. It is, in many ways, a 'safe' future. It tells us 'don't worry - we'll make the universe a safe and ordered place'.
Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) and Voyager (1995-2001) took place just a few years - a decade at most, as far as I can tell - from Next Generation. The leap into the future had become more precarious, and undertaken with less gusto and bravery. Deep Space Nine explored a stationary space-station (situated at one end of a worm-hole, but still), while Voyager sent a ship hurtling deep into unfamiliar space, leaving them with an endless quest to get back home to safety. The days of bold exploration for the good of society were at an end, and there was a sense of 'home' and 'safety' being the absolutely overriding goals.
And then we arrive at Enterprise (2001-2005). The much-maligned prequel to the Original series, it did, by all accounts a fantastically poor job at pulling together all the lose ends that had developed in a 30-year canon. It took place at the end of the 22nd century - a hundred years prior to the original series. And it marked the end of the bold leaps forward. Now the showrunners looked back, in stead. Into the past of their cannon. Into (presumably) safer territory.
It's not a singular trend, either. Star Trek XI (2009) did exactly the same. Took us back to a time before the Original Series - but it was played even safer, and took the cast total of the Original series and played around with them. Did it well, certainly, but did it, again, without any leaps into the great, unknown future.
Star Wars did the very same. In stead of showing us the future - what happened after the war, with Leia, Han and Luke - it showed us 'safe ground', in the history's past; how Darth Vader came to be, and how the Empire rose. Here, even worse, we already knew how the movies would end. It was no surprise that Anakin would turn evil, nor that Palpatine would become the Emperor. No fear about the future needed - because we know where we're going.
What happened to make us scared of the future? When did we stop dreaming great dreams on behalf of all mankind?
When will we dream again?