Comrade Picard: Star Trek’s Unfortunate Communist Message

December 2, 2011

This is an edited version of something i wrote for a class back in college. It got me an A, too. As you can see, while I enjoy Star Trek in all its forms, I still have serious reservations about one little aspect of its mythology…

In the Star Trek Universe, there is no greater commandment for Starfleet personnel than the Prime Directive, otherwise known as General Order #1 (“The Drumhead” TNG 095). It dictates that Starfleet personnel must not interfere with the development of less technologically advanced worlds. This includes, but is not limited to, sharing advanced technology, “helping” a world develop, or even revealing that there are other intelligent beings in the universe.

At first glance, the Prime Directive seems both benign and logical. If a pre-warp1 civilization is exposed to the truth about life in the universe, or is given technology too quickly, they might self-destruct.  Our own history shows that when two societies with a large technological gap between them meet, the results can be disastrous. The Prime Directive serves to both protect alien cultures and the Starfleet personnel who study them.

However, the Prime Directive also prevents humanitarian action and places all other priorities, even sentient life, on the back burner. It is an absolute law. In effect, it prevents Starfleet captains from taking action that could save lives, even in instances where such help would go unnoticed by other civilizations. In the two hundred years since it was created, the Prime Directive has become a plague upon the Federation.  In fact, despite Starfleet’s protests, a captain’s test of morality should be judged on whether he or she had actually broken the Prime Directive, not whether they upheld it.


Star Trek ENT All Crew by ~KadouCreations on deviantART

The United Federation of Planets was founded in 2161 (“The Outcast” TNG 117). Ten years before, the various species in our section of the galaxy existed with each other through loose alliances and treaties. Humans had barely left the Solar system and lagged behind several other species, notably the Vulcans.  In an effort to prove themselves, Humans entered the world of galactic politics with a small fleet of ships capable of nothing faster than warp 52 (“Broken Bow” ENT 001).

The first ship sent to explore the galaxy, the Enterprise NX-01 commanded by Captain Jonathan Archer, faced hostile alien species and caused shifts in the political field.  For example, Archer and his crew exposed Vulcan spying equipment on the Vulcan monastery of P’Jem, increasing tensions between the Vulcans and their neighbors, the Andorians, in the summer of 2151 (“The Andorian Incident” 007).  By mid-fall, both sides were on the verge of war, and the Vulcan consulate on Earth placed the blame on Archer’s meddling (“Shadows of P’Jem” 014).

Throughout Enterprise’s mission, the Vulcans, who exercised a control over Starfleet3 that many Humans did not appreciate, shepherded Earth. Captain Archer, for example, often blamed the Vulcans for stifling human technological development. It took Humans nearly ninety years after inventing warp drive to even hope to become a truly interstellar civilization. The Vulcans, however, insisted they did not interfere because Humans were irrational and driven by impulse.

In the Vulcans’ eyes, they never interfered and only offered their services where needed (every episode after “Broken Bow”). In reality, the Vulcan High Command unofficially controlled Starfleet for many years. They could say what ships could launch, where they could go, and even what Humans could and could not do once in space. In early 2151, they tried unsuccessfully to delay the launch of Enterprise, citing threats to planetary security from the newly encountered Klingon Empire. In some cases, the Vulcan ambassadors asked Starfleet to divert Enterprise so the crew could help with Vulcan internal affairs (“The Seventh” ENT 033).

Meanwhile, Vulcans condemned Humanity’s intrusion into alien affairs since they felt Humans could cause more harm than good. This fear would later be echoed by the Federation towards its own captains, and the Prime Directive would be written in such a manner that it bound Starfleet from acting on emotion.


Vulcans 2.0 by *Blackwidina on deviantART

Even in pre-Federation times, however, the Vulcans had something akin to what would later be called the Prime Directive. As early as 1957, when a Vulcan survey ship crashed on Earth, the survivors knew they could not interfere with human development4 (“Carbon Creek” 027).  Starfleet adopted a similar, unwritten system nearly two hundred years later.

When the crew of Enterprise explored new worlds, they tried their best to not interfere, although there would be no legal repercussions if they did. The Prime Directive was not made into law until sometime after 2168 (“A Piece of the Action” TOS 049). The early Starfleet (pre-Federation) is shown trying to prevent cultural contamination in “Civilization” ENT 009 and “The Communicator” 034. In both instances, the crew disguised themselves in order to blend into the culture they were studying.

In “The Communicator,” though, Archer is faced with the choice of either sacrificing himself or telling the people on the planet his real identity5. In this instance, only the crew’s quick thinking saved him. He was willing to sacrifice himself to protect a culture bent on killing him. Even before the concept of the Prime Directive was made law, Captain Archer knew the importance of preventing cultural contamination. However, had Archer actually shown the aliens who he really was, there would have been little legal repercussions from Earth, though the Vulcans would undoubtedly have put pressure on Starfleet to either court marshal or reprimand him.


Boldly going by ~Damon1984 on deviantART

There may actually be a reason why the concept of the Prime Directive was not made into a written law with pre-Federation Starfleet. Humans were in the lower end of the technological spectrum in relation to their neighbors. They lacked shields, advanced weapons, and even transporters were fairly new to them. There would have been little for them to interfere with in the way of technological development. They only encountered a small handful of species that lagged centuries behind humanity. Therefore, early captains had leeway with its application.

The unbending nature of the Prime Directive, however, may also have come about because of the nature of space travel.

Starfleet ships employ a mode of faster-than-light travel known as warp drive. Though the early warp drives required weeks or months to travel from one star system to another, the warp drives of the 24th century (TNG, DS9, VOY) still required many hours or days to travel from place to place. Points along the Federation frontier often require travel times as high as several months (“The Neutral Zone” TNG 026, “The Icarus Factor” 040, “Second Chances” 150, etc).


Star Trek – TNG era by ~davemetlesits on deviantART

Even though ships also use faster-than-light communications known as subspace radio, it still takes time to receive orders when a ship is far from the core Federation worlds (“Heart of Glory” TNG 040, “Ensigns of Command” TNG 049, “Night Terrors” TNG 091, etc). Since direct contact with Starfleet Command is impossible in many cases, the lawmakers who originally created the Prime Directive as an unbending rule may simply have been trying to automatically destroy any possibility for cultural contamination. If the law leaves no room for interpretation, it is unlikely a starship captain would attempt to find some way of breaking it. However, in the 22nd and 23rd centuries, the Directive was not enforced with an iron fist. Human ships never wandered too far from contact with Starfleet command, so orders could be received in real-time. Violations of the Prime Directive were analyzed on an individual basis, as was shown in the hundred years after the Federation was founded.

By the mid-23rd century, the Federation had spread to include several species and encompassed at least a thousand planets (“Metamorphosis” TOS 031). Humans and Vulcans remained the most influential species, and Starfleet worked to protect the Federation and study the galaxy. By this time, the Prime Directive was a much more powerful force and every starship captain was willing to uphold it to the fullest extent. Blatant violations could be prosecuted.


Star Trek The Crew by ~KadouCreations on deviantART

However, one captain saw that the Prime Directive was too unbending to adapt to the challenges of exploration.  Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the starship Enterprise NCC-1701 (the second starship to bear this name) was notorious for his utter disrespect for regulations when he felt the greater good was at stake. During his historic five-year mission onboard the Enterprise (2264-2269), Kirk amassed a record of seventeen time travel violations, a record even into the mid-24th century (“Trials and Tribble-Attions” DS9 503). His disregard for the Prime Directive was also infamous.  During his mission, however, he influenced only those cultures he felt needed help.

For example, in late 2266, the Enterprise accidentally became embroiled in a war between Eminar VII and the planet Vendikar. Since neither planet was a Federation member, Starfleet had no right to intrude. The inhabitants of both planets, though spacefaring for five hundred years, lagged behind the Federation technologically, making them candidates for non-interference. However, when the Enterprise visited the planet and was declared a casualty in an electronic war, the crew was required to report to disintegration chambers so the kills could be confirmed. Instead of sacrificing his crew, Kirk worked to end the computerized war, ending the conflict and saving his crew (“A Taste of Armageddon” TOS 023). Though his interference was a blatant disregard for the Prime Directive, Kirk was never prosecuted for it. In fact, Kirk felt he was justified in breaking the Prime Directive. He placed sentient life and the welfare of his crew above regulations. In his mind, the countless lives lost to the war outweighed any cultural contamination.

A few months later, in early 2267, the Enterprise encountered a pre-warp civilization in the Gamma Trianguli system. Upon closer inspection, the crew found that the inhabitants had lived in cultural stagnation for ten thousand years. At that time, they created a machine named Vaal who fed them and protected the planet, extended their lives, but also prevented them from growing culturally. Eventually, they reverted to a technological stage similar to the North American natives at the time of Columbus’ discovery. Kirk saw this and concluded Vaal had to be destroyed in order to free the people from its grasp (“The Apple” 038). In this case, however, the security of the ship was also threatened.  Vaal concluded that the Enterprise could disrupt the balance of power, so it tried to destroy the ship. Even before the crew was placed in danger, however, Kirk already contemplated freeing the people fromVaal’s influence. Ship’s doctor Leonard McCoy also supported Kirk’s decision, citing it is every culture’s right to change and grow.


Kirk Study by ~hoganvibe on deviantART

This pattern of interference repeated throughout Kirk’s five-year mission. If he felt something threatened freedom or life, he acted. His interference into other cultures also included the inhabitants of Betta III (“The Return of the Archons” TOS 022), the Terran Empire of the mirror universe (“Mirror, Mirror” 039), and the miners of Ardana (“The Cloud Miners” 074). In each instance, Kirk placed the Prime Directive below the lives of sentient beings. No legal retribution was ever brought down on him, and he became a legend to other Starfleet officers for over a hundred years after his missions (“Trials and Tribble-Attions” DS9 503).  This should come as no surprise since, in modern times, legendary heroes are the people who defied authority and helped change history: Thomas Jefferson, Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., Abigail Adams, etc.  Kirk understood a law is not just simply because it is a law. Laws exist in order to preserve the common good, but if the law prevents a greater good from occurring, then that law must be broken.

By the mid-24th century, however, both the Federation and Starfleet underwent several changes in policy. The United Federation of Planets changed from a capitalist society to neo-Marxist system6, and Starfleet hid its intentions behind a mask of exploration. Though some spirit from the vast expansion of the 23rd century remained, the 24th century was marked by armed conflicts and massive political changes.

This might be linked to something called the Tomed Incident, which occurred in 2311 and created a fifty-year-long isolation between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire (“The Neutral Zone” TNG 126). Thousands of Federation lives were lost (The Defector TNG 158), and the Federation agreed to never develop or use cloaking technology onboard their starships7 (“The Pegasus” 264).  In this new era of political and military conflict, the Prime Directive changed in order to protect the Federation more than it protected others.


Star Trek TNG by ~KadouCreations on deviantART

For example, the Prime Directive forbade Starfleet officers from interfering in the affairs of any government, regardless of its technological status.  It even forbade humanitarian aid towards other worlds, even if it could be kept from less civilized species. This was not the case in Kirk’s time. Violations of the Prime Directive for humanitarian aid were not explicit, but since Kirk never received punishment, it is likely Starfleet Command thought his actions were justified. By the 2360’s, however, any interference in the affairs of another world was seen as worse than death for the inhabitants of that world.

In late 2365, the crew Enterprise NCC-1701-D discovered that the fourth planet in the Drema system would destroy itself through a geological anomaly and kill the native population, a pre-warp culture. Captain Jean-Luc Picard could not prevent the catastrophe, even though the Enterprise-D had the technology and time to do it. In the end, Picard violated the Prime Directive and restored the planet’s geologic stability (“Pen Pals” TNG 141).


Picard Funny by ~dalehawkster on deviantART

Picard actually needing to figure out whether or not to help means that the Directive was engrained so deeply into Starfleet behavior that even basic humanitarian instincts were called into question.  A similar situation occurred in mid-2370 when the Enterprise-D received a distress call from a Federation observation post on Boraal II.  The planet’s atmosphere underwent violent electrical disruptions, and, by the time theEnterprisearrived, most of the planet was uninhabitable.  Though Picard could have saved a single village of the native population without their knowledge, even taken them to a new planet without contaminating them, he chose to sit by and watch the planet destroy itself (“Homeward” 165). The difference between the motivation in the first and second cases is not clear. Except for the fact Picard heard broadcast pleas from someone on Drema II, the situation remained the same. He could have helped Boraal II without cultural contamination. Instead, he adhered to the rigid Prime Directive and allowed countless people to die.

Picard is not the only member of Starfleet to display this isolationist and non-interference policy.  For almost forty years, the entire Federation stood by while the Cardassians tortured, enslaved, drove the Bajorans from their home world, and left for many more for dead after the Cardassian Occupation finally ended. In those forty years, the Cardassians killed roughly ten million Bajorans (“Cardassians” DS9 425). Since the early 24th century, the Cardassians occupied Bajor and left only after decades of terrorist activities (“Ensign Ro” TNG 103, “The Emissary” DS9 401), but not before they poisoned much of the planet’s farmland (“Shakaar” DS9 470). Throughout the Occupation, Starfleet cited the Prime Directive as their reason for non-interference. As Captain Picard would later lament, it occurred in someone else’s territory, so it was not the Federation’s place to intervene.

Keeve, a Bajoran resistance fighter, replied to Picard:

…You were innocent bystanders for decades as the Cardassians took our homes…  as they violated and tortured our people in the most hideous ways imaginable…  as we were forced to flee […].  How convenient it must be for you. To turn a deaf ear to those who suffer behind a line on a map. (“Ensign Ro” TNG 103)

In the 20th century,America turned a blind eye to the plight of the Jews during Hitler’s reign, then later as he stormedEurope.America only became involved in both World Wars because we were attacked directly. Politicians feared that the situation inEurope was an internal affair, therefore something we had no business in.


No War by ~Urday on deviantART

In both instances, Star Trek and real life, a major superpower with the means to end suffering and destruction failed to live up to its own principles. Both theUnited States and the Federation claim to value life and freedom. In both cases, each failed miserably. The Prime Directive makes it worse because it makes it illegal to assist someone, whereas in the real world, it was simply a matter of politics. The Federation therefore condones the most hideous acts, like the Cardassian Occupation, under the guise of neutral bystanders. However, there are no neutral bystanders. As soon as someone learns of a preventable catastrophe, they become participants. An unwillingness to help when one has the means is tangible to negligence and apathy.

The isolationist policy of the Prime Directive also has a secondary effect: since Starfleet cannot provide aid unless a world is a member of the Federation, less advanced worlds that achieve warp capabilities must vie for membership.

In effect, the Federation lures other worlds into becoming full-fledged members by promising to protect them and give technology (“The Price” TNG 156, “The Hunted” 159).  Since many hostile species roam space, it is a bargain many less advanced worlds cannot afford to pass up.


Starfleet Logo by ~firebox on deviantART

It is a weighed bargain, however. New worlds must conform to the ideals of the Federation or they may not join.  Bajor faced this problem when their ancient caste system was reestablished for a time. The Federation does not tolerate caste systems (“Accession” DS9 489). Member worlds are therefore assimilated into the Federation, leaving them well-protected and economically secure, but without some traces of their former culture. The Prime Directive is used as a political tool. Instead of exploring new life, the Federation exploits it.

It should be evident by now that the Prime Directive, despite its idealistic beginnings, has been turned into a political safety net by the 24th century. Over two hundred years of implementation, it is apparent a captain needs room to make choices that can affect millions. Starfleet often finds itself in situations it never encountered before since it usually charts areas of space unknown to others.

An unbending law like the Directive can cost millions of lives, and cultural contamination is placed even above the preservation of life.  On at least two occasions, Captain Picard was willing to let millions die simply to preserve their culture (even though said cultures would become extinct). In the Federation (at least in Starfleet), such an act is proof of high morality. In the real world, it is a perfect example of the consequences of isolationism. It was not seen as a problem in the 22nd and 23rd centuries.  By the 24th, however, the Directive’s goals made it incompatible with the government’s policy. Therefore, captains of this era are certainly justified in breaking it when the situation demands it.


NO BLOCKADE ON HUMAN RIGHTS by ~ademmm on deviantART

If we discovered a technologically inferior society in some remote corner of the world, untouched by modern civilization, we would undoubtedly try to study them.  If we then discovered that they would be killed within a week by some natural disaster (hurricane, lava flow, or maybe some disease we have a cure for), would we sit by and watch them perish? If we assisted them, even if they knew where the help came from and they saw our technology, would it really damage them more than death? Picard and the rest of the Federation seem to think so. They place themselves on a high pedestal and watch the rest of the galaxy as wars and injustices occur all around them. The Federation may claim to be enlightened, but they ignore basic ethics, like the sanctity of life, and the edict that with great power comes great responsibility. Instead, the Federation is content as long as it is safe and Starfleet stays out of trouble. Preventing cultural contamination is a lofty goal, but it is not the only ethical Starfleet should vow to uphold.

If modern-day Earth followed the Federation’s example, President Roosevelt would have followed his political advisors when they declared the Nazi invasions as an internal European matter, something the United States had no concern with. Powerful nations would turn a blind eye whenever an earthquake devastated a section of a third-world country.


Your Siblings Logo by ~sdknex on deviantART

Might would make right, and the people with the most power, hence the most responsibility, would be content to let death and destruction ravage the Earth. The Federation is a powerful organization. It commands resources that dwarf modern-day standards (fusion power, massive engineering projects, etc), and it holds the technology to wipe out hunger and disease across entire planets. Instead of helping where they can or when humanitarian issues are at stake, the Prime Directive steps in and the resources remain unused. Starfleet then claims to be a neutral bystander.

The Prime Directive started as nothing more than something to consider when exploring new worlds. It was intended by the Vulcans to prevent Humans from letting their emotions get the best of them. In the first hundred years, it evolved into a law designed to protect less-developed worlds and help them find their own way. By the 24th century, however, the Prime Directive was a shell of its former ideology. The Federation used it to boost its membership, and countless lives were lost elsewhere as isolationist policies took hold. Captains and Starfleet officers who break the Prime Directive should not be court-marshaled. If anything, they should be given commendations. Each time a Starfleet officer breaks the Directive in order to help someone, or to fight for basic freedoms the Federation cherishes, he or she sees beyond the law. Laws can never be absolute, or justice will be stifled.


star trek group shot by *nightwing1975 on deviantART

And now, before we get to the end notes and the references and all that jazz, let’s enjoy a little fun with Trek, shall we? I love the shows and movies (for the most part, but as you can see, I’m willing to have some fun with it. See you Monday, and keep sharing links and telling people about the site!

 

End Notes

1The term pre-warp refers to a civilization without faster-than-light capabilities.  In essence, it is any society that is confined to its home solar system.  “First Contact” TNG 089 establishes that the Federation makes official contact with a world once it develops warp drive, but even then only after extensive study and even surface reconnaissance by trained operatives.  Captain Picard called First Contact missions the most dangerous mission any starship could be sent into.

2Starfleet started out as an Earth-based program.  It was apparently assimilated by the Federation after the Constitution was ratified, probably because it had proven its merit in the Romulan Wars of the late 2150’s.

3The Vulcans had ships capable of warp 7, and speeds beyond that were rumored for other species but never confirmed.  Though no actual speeds for warp factors were ever given, “Broken Bow” (ENT 001) suggests than the Enterprise NX-01 is capable of at least 100c, and as high as 125c at warp 5 (the official policy is that warp factors for TOS and ENT-era ships are cubed in order to get their respective speeds.  Warp 2 would therefore be 8c and warp 5 would be 125c, which is consistent with the shows).

4During the months the Vulcan crew stayed on Earth, though, they affected Earth’s development in several ways.  T’Mir, the leader of the expedition, sold a piece of Vulcan technology to allow a friend of hers to attend college, a young boy named Jack.  The technology she sold was an adhesive substance called “Velcro”.

5Archer and Lieutenant Reed were captured while trying to retrieve a piece of advanced technology they accidentally left behind on a pre-warp world.  The government that captured them mistook their physical differences to mean that their enemies had engineered super-soldiers.  As a result, Reed and Archer would be put to death and dissected.

6The reasons behind this assumption would require a report onto themselves, so I refer you to Mike Wong’s excellent essay on the subject, “The Economics of Star Trek”, at http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/index.html.  In short, there is no money, the government controls nearly all means of productions, there are never any references to private business beyond something small like a restaurant, and military work is the best chance to advance in society.

7In early 2371, however, the Federation reached an agreement with the Romulans.  The Empire agreed to lend Starfleet a single cloaking device for use onboard the Defiant NX-74205 when the Dominion threatened our section of the Galaxy.

 

Works Cited

“Ensign Ro”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Michael Piller.  Directed by Les Landau.  Produced by David Livingston.  NBC,20 October 1991.

 

Works Consulted

The Original Series

“Balance of Terror”.  Star Trek.  Written by Paul Shneider.  Directed by Vincent McEveety.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry.  NBC,15 December 1966.

“The Return of the Archons”.  Star Trek.  Written by Boris Sobelman.  Directed by Joseph Pevney.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry.  NBC,9 February 1967

“A Taste of Armageddon”.  Star Trek.  Written by Written by Robert Hamner and Gene L. Coon.  Directed by Joseph Pevney.  Produced by Roddenberry.  NBC,23 February 1967.

“Mirror, Mirror”.  Star Trek.  Written by Jerome Bixby.  Directed by Marc Daniels.  Produced by Roddenberry.  NBC,6 October 1967.

“The Apple”.  Star Trek.  Written by Max Ehrlich.  Directed by Joseph Pevney.  Produced by Roddenberry.  NBC,31 October 1967.

“Metamorphosis”.  Star Trek.  Written by Gene L. Coon.  Directed by Ralph Senensky.  Produced by Roddenberry.  NBC,10 November 1967.

“A Piece of the Action”.  Star Trek.  Written by David P. Harmon and Gene L. Coon.  Directed by James Komack.  Produced by Roddenberry.  NBC,12 January 1968.

“The Cloud Miners”.  Star Trek.  Written by Margaret Armen.  Directed by Jud Taylor.  Produced by Roddenberry.  NBC,28 February 1969

The Next Generation

“Heart of Glory”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Maurice Hurley.  Directed by Rob Bowman.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry.  NBC,3 April 1988.

“The Neutral Zone”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Maurice Hurley.  Directed by James L. Conway.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry.  NBC, 29 May 1988.

“The Icarus Factor”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by David Assael and Robert L. McCullough.  Directed by Robert Iscove.  Produced by Robert L. McCullough.  NBC, 7 May 1989.

“Pen Pals”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass.  Directed by Winrich Kolbe.  Produced by Robert L. McCullough.  NBC, 14 May 1989.

“Ensigns of Command”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass.  Directed by Cliff Bole.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry.  NBC,15 October 1989.

“The Price”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Hannah Louise Shearer.  Directed by Robert Sheer.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry.  NBC,26 November 1989.

“The Hunted”.  Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  Written by Robin Bernheim.  Directed by Cliff Bole.  Produced by Ira Steven Behr.  NBC,21 January 1990

“First Contact”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Dennis Russell Bailey & David Bischoff and Joe Menosky & Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller.  Directed by Cliff Bole.  Produced by David Livingston.  NBC,3 March 1991.

“The Drumhead”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Jeri Taylor.  Directed by Jonathan Frakes.  Produced by David Livingston.  NBC,29 March 1991.

“Night Terrors”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Pamela Douglas and Jeri Taylor.  Directed by Les Landau.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry and Rick Berman.  NBC ,31 March 1991.

“Ensign Ro”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Michael Piller.  Directed by Les Landau.  Produced by David Livingston.  NBC,20 October 1991.

“The Outcast”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Jeri Taylor.  Directed by Robert Sheerer.  Produced by David Livingston and Herbert J. Wright.  NBC,29 March 1992.

“Second Chances”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by René Echevarria.  Directed by LeVar Burton.  Produced by Peter Lauritson.  NBC,6 June 1993.

“The Pegasus”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Ronald D. Moore.  Directed by LeVar Burton.  Produced by Ronald D. Moore.  NBC,23 January 1994.

“Homeward”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Naren Shankar.  Directed by Alexander Singer.  Produced by Peter Lauritson.  NBC,30 January 1994.

Deep Space 9

“The Emissary”.  Star Trek:  Deep Space 9.  Written by Michael Piller.  Directed by David Carson.  Produced by Rick Berman and Michael Piller.  NBC,3 January 1993

“Cardassians”.  Star Trek: Deep Space 9.  Written by James Crocker.  Directed by Cliff Bole.  Produced by Peter Allan Fields and Peter Lauritson.  NBC,24 November, 1993

“Shakaar”.  Star Trek:  Deep Space 9.  Written by Gordon Dawson.  Directed by Jonathan West.  Produced by René Echevarria.  NBC, 22 May 1995.

“Accession”.  Star Trek:  Deep Space 9.  Written by Jane Espenson.  Directed by Les Landau.  Produced by Hans Beimler and Steve Oster.  NBC,26 January 1996.

“Trials and Tribble-Attions”.  Star Trek:  Deep Space 9.  Written by Ronald D. Moore and René Echevarria.  Directed by Jonathan West.  Produced by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Steve Oster, and René Echevarria.  NBC,4 November 1996.

Enterprise

 “Broken Bow”.  Enterprise.  Written by Brannon Bragga and Rick Berman.  Directed by James L. Conway.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,26 September 2001.

“The Andorian Incident”. Enterprise.  Written by Rick Berman, Brannon Bragga, and Fred Dekker.  Directed by Roxann Dawson.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,31 October 2001.

“Civilization”. Enterprise.  Written by Phyliss Strong and Michael Sussman.  Directed by Mike Vejar.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,14 November 2001.

“Shadows of P’Jem”. Enterprise.  Written by Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong.  Directed by Mike Vejar.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,6 February 2002.

“Carbon Creek”.  Enterprise.  Written by Chris Black.  Directed by James Contner.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,25 September 2002.

“The Seventh”. Enterprise.  Written by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga.  Directed by Davig Livingston.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,6 November 2002.

“The Communicator”.  Enterprise. Written by Andre Bormanis.  Directed by James Contner.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,13 November 2002.

 

 

3 Replies to “Comrade Picard: Star Trek’s Unfortunate Communist Message”

  1. You’ve written an incredible amount about star trek to show you know nothing about it. Fortunately your tutor must not have watched much trek either. Military careers are not the only way to progress in the federation, this is why all the captains have thoughts of doing other careers and the majority of other humans the enterprise serves are not in star fleet – also, star fleet is explicitly stated as being ‘non-military’ which is why their ships have only a small armament and civilians are on board.

    To make your point you have to use the turd that is enterprise, which was written by idiots, and apply it to the gem that is TNG that was actually written by credible writers who didn’t bin series but went on to write even bigger ones.

    I criticise you so strongly because (a – you have put a lot of effort in, the standard is high, and so more is expected from you and b: you are principally right – star trek’s society is communist, but this is a good thing – not ‘unfortunate’ as you pen in your title) Star trek is a series about problems humanity might face when we acheive communism and eliminate war, poverty, exploitation and all the problems we consider important today. This is why it is such a valuable contribution to our cultural idea space. The prime directive is not exploitative you silly, if you don’t get involved in something – you can’t exploit it. Moreover, why are you arguing in favour of caste systems? Of course you don’t get to keep your antiquated class based structures of society that subjugate and divide people when you join a fully communistic society, communism doesn’t mean EVERYONE wins, and as class systems (including caste systems) perpetuate themselves by being reproduced by the richest and most powerful classes, you have to eradicate them fully. It might seem sad to those that gain power from these systems of mis-led reactionaries, but this doesn’t weaken your culture, it actually enforces it, as your cultural mythos is no longer connected to power and status but is something you hold only because it has affinity with your existence and world view. There are numerous examples of strong cultural beliefs existing within the federation, from obvious ones like Chicotay’s native american trip out box to subtle ones like how Troi and Riker use betazed language to refer to their relationship.

    1. “You’ve written an incredible amount about star trek to show you know nothing about it. Fortunately your tutor must not have watched much trek either.”
      Where in the world did you think I had a tutor for this? I’ve bene watching Trek since 1996 at least. Every series, every movie. I guess I must have missed something along the way.

      “Military careers are not the only way to progress in the federation, this is why all the captains have thoughts of doing other careers and the majority of other humans the enterprise serves are not in star fleet – also, star fleet is explicitly stated as being ‘non-military’ which is why their ships have only a small armament and civilians are on board.”
      It’s certainly the only way you get to actually fly a ship and explore. And none of the careers mentioned seem to go far beyond small-scale endeavors. Sisko wanted a restaurant. Picard would love to go back the vineyards. There is never any talk of franchising, of making it better, of growth. While there are independent traders and ships, they are tiny and rarely seen. How often did the Enterprise have to go on cargo runs to colonies? Or to ferry someone?
      And as for armament? Let’s see… anti-matter-based weapons are not what you’d call “lightly armed.” Going by the Tech Manual, we’re talking weapons in the megatons. Visual evidence suggests yields much lower but still nuclear. Ship-based phasers are also the equivalent of WMD-yield weapons. They may not be “military,” but they function as a military with a various other duties no modern-day military has to take on. When war breaks out, Starfleet takes point.

      “To make your point you have to use the turd that is enterprise, which was written by idiots, and apply it to the gem that is TNG that was actually written by credible writers who didn’t bin series but went on to write even bigger ones.”
      In analyzing the Trek canon, you don’t get to pick and choose which series or even episodes you like. If it aired, it’s canon. Whatever your thoughts on Enterprise, it’s real. Deal with it.

      “I criticise you so strongly because (a – you have put a lot of effort in, the standard is high, and so more is expected from you and b: you are principally right – star trek’s society is communist, but this is a good thing – not ‘unfortunate’ as you pen in your title)”
      Thank you for putting this work up to a high standard. I use the term “Unfortunate” in the sense that the Federation, despite many advances both technologically and socially, has basically become an imperialist superpower drawing in weaker nations through force. Non-compliance in the face of certain death is just as much a death sentence as pulling the trigger yourself. This facet is “unfortunate” because the message of peace and cooperation can get lost in the debate and the actual merits of communism are once again lumped together with the atrocities committed by the state.

      “Star trek is a series about problems humanity might face when we acheive communism and eliminate war, poverty, exploitation and all the problems we consider important today. This is why it is such a valuable contribution to our cultural idea space. The prime directive is not exploitative you silly, if you don’t get involved in something – you can’t exploit it.”
      And you also can’t save it. You can’t intervene when millions are slaughtered. You can’t lend basic humanitarian aid. That’s what Trek has shown time and time again. The Federation is willing to stand by and do nothing for someone who is not part of the Federation. In “The Last Outpost,” Data outright claimed that the Federation has let VARIOUS civilizations die off and be preyed on simply to maintain the Prime Directive. And if a member world falls into crime and poverty, like Tasha Yar’s homeworld, then it just gets kicked out to fend for itself.

      “Moreover, why are you arguing in favour of caste systems? Of course you don’t get to keep your antiquated class based structures of society that subjugate and divide people when you join a fully communistic society, communism doesn’t mean EVERYONE wins, and as class systems (including caste systems) perpetuate themselves by being reproduced by the richest and most powerful classes, you have to eradicate them fully.”
      I’m not for caste systems. Not in the least. It was one of the clearer examples of how an old system clashed with the Federation’s values, and given that it was a plot point in an episode and not just trivia, I thought it one of the better examples.

      “It might seem sad to those that gain power from these systems of mis-led reactionaries, but this doesn’t weaken your culture, it actually enforces it, as your cultural mythos is no longer connected to power and status but is something you hold only because it has affinity with your existence and world view. There are numerous examples of strong cultural beliefs existing within the federation, from obvious ones like Chicotay’s native american trip out box to subtle ones like how Troi and Riker use betazed language to refer to their relationship.”
      I never claimed culture was erased. I claimed that member worlds needed to change their culture to suit the Federation. This has pros and cons. Obviously, getting rid of a caste system is a step in the right direction. However, the Federation is fairly homogenous. These pockets of culture are mere curiosities in some cases.

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