Star Trek 50th anniversary: Robert Beltran says the Prime Directive is ‘fascist crap’

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As part of CNET’s coverage of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, I talked with a dozen cast members from across the franchise about everything from Star Trek’s inclusive message to how they really felt about their characters.

By Ian Sherr

Robert Beltran is known for two things in the Star Trek universe: playing Commander Chakotay in “Star Trek: Voyager” from 1995-2001, and complaining about it to the press.

Get Beltran going, and he’ll grumble about just about anything related to Star Trek. He didn’t like the monotony of shooting. (“I often say it’s like working in a factory.”) And he’s not a fan of its predictable format. (“I kept telling the writers, ‘If you can just take three minutes off a bridge scene and write another scene with human beings talking, the show is going to be much better.'”)

He even rails against the show’s “Prime Directive,” a guiding principle that prohibits Starfleet characters from interfering with the development of alien civilizations.

“The idea of leaving any species to die in its own filth when you have the ability to help them, just because you wanna let them get through their normal evolutionary processes is bunk — it’s a bunch of fascist crap,” he said. “I much prefer the Cub Scout motto.” (The Cub Scout motto, by the way, is about doing your best and helping others.)

So, it’s safe to say Beltran’s not much of a Trekkie. He barely watches TV anyway. He prefers the arts, music and stage work. He writes poetry and composes music.

startrek50cropped2.jpgThough initially he hoped the Chakotay character could present opportunities to explore culture and identity, Beltran, a child of Mexican immigrants, ultimately realized that wouldn’t happen much. But he’s made peace with it, and come to appreciate aspects of his life as a pseudo nerd-celebrity. Like many  Star Trek cast members, he appreciates the fan enthusiasm that’s helped keep the franchise alive.

“I also knew I was going to work with a bunch of great actors and a great crew,” he said, adding that the seven years he spent on the series were well worth it. “I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

Beltran, 62, is currently turning toward more theater work and focusing on his music

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