Nothing in popular culture, or in consumer capitalism, is ever really new. Superhero team-building is a venerable comic-book practice, one that flourished in the ’60s and ’70s — with the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four — more or less contemporaneously with the first voyages of the Starship Enterprise. The Enterprise, though, is a convenient template, because it provides a setting that resembles an actual office, with screens and workstations and a dress code. The ship is a subsidiary of a multiplanetary body called the Federation, in principle a utopian political entity but in practice more akin to a modern diversified corporation, with global (that is, galactic) reach and a complex bureaucratic structure. Captain Kirk is a division head whose responsibilities include dealing with external crises that are variously comical, outlandish and harrowing. But the bulk of his job is keeping the Enterprise running from one installment to the next, which means attending to infrastructure and human (or Vulcan) resources.
For its time — the distant future but also, in terrestrial terms, what we now think of as the “Mad Men” era — the Enterprise was a fairly diverse workplace. In retrospect, the crew’s composition might look like tokenism, but cultural differences were also integral to the show’s ethos and structure. And the new run of “Star Trek” movies builds on the original’s multiculturalism, presenting an idealized and mostly harmonious workplace where differences are respected and the hot buttons of race, gender and sexuality remain for the most part unpushed.
A.O. Scott, “Superhuman Resources”, The New York Times (14 August 2016), AR10.