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Does Star Trek Even Make Sense?
Sierra Times ^ | May 1, 2003 | J. Neil Schulman

Posted on 05/01/2003 10:58:43 PM PDT by J. Neil Schulman

Does Star Trek Even Make Sense?

by J. Neil Schulman

Let’s get this out of the way. I’m a Trekkie.

I’ve been watching Star Trek since it hit the air in 1966. I know every episode of the original series by heart. I watched the Star Trek animated series. I’ve seen all ten of the theatrical Star Trek films, and the spin-off TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and now the latest Star Trek series, Enterprise.

Carrying a press card from the tabloid newspaper, The Star I covered the first major Star Trek convention held in New York City, where I met all the original series’ bridge crew except William Shatner.

At a later convention I fondly recall reclining on a bed at a room party, next to, and chatting with, Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura.

I even spent a half hour on the phone, sometime in the mid-70’s before Star Trek: The Motion Picture revived his career, chatting with Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry. Believe it or not, he was so unbothered by fans at that time that his home phone number was publicly listed.

I’ve gone to the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas several times, and bought my daughter a Tribble.

The point to this is that I feel well-qualified to discuss the ins and outs of the Star Trek universe.

The new series, Enterprise, takes place earlier in the story time-line that the rest of the TV series, before the formation of the Federation, on the maiden voyage of the first Starfleet vessel with a warp-drive fast enough to get anywhere interesting. It’s also before Starfleet’s “Prime Directive” has been passed into law, making it a crime for Starfleet to interfere with the “natural” cultural development of another species – or does that just apply to species that haven’t yet developed warp drive? And does the Prime Directive apply to anyone not in Starfleet? The different Star Trek series keep contradicting each other on these points.

I can see what Gene Roddenberry was thinking when he thought up the Prime Directive. It had something to do with avoiding that bugaboo of the anti-American left, “cultural imperialism.” I don’t recall that Roddenberry ever tried to stop Star Trek from imperializing cultures around the world with American values, so maybe he did think this idea only applied to extra-terrestrials.

But for the life of me, I can’t figure out what the heck the darned Prime Directive means in the first place.

Star Trek episodes throughout the years have made a point of extending human rights to intelligent rocks (the Horta on the original series episode “The Devil in the Dark”); self-aware robots (“Data,” a regular on Star Trek: The Next Generation), and self-aware computer programs (“The Doctor,” on Star Trek: Voyager).

Now, on a new episode of Enterprise, “Cogenitor,” Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) upbraids his chief engineer, Charles "Trip" Tucker III (Connor Trineer), for teaching a third-gender sex-slave from a newly encountered species how to read and awakening in it enough of a desire for freedom to ask the Captain for political asylum.

This newly encountered species isn’t rocks. They are almost human. They look human, eat human food (although they find it unfragrant), and one of their females even wants to have sex with a human male on a first date. That’s human enough for me.

Trip demonstrates that the alien third-sex “cogenitor” (Becky Walhstrom) -- treated like a useful fertilization machine by its own culture, not even given the status of having its own name -- has superior cognitive abilities. It learns how to read complex material in a single day, understands human movies at first viewing, and outplays Trip, an experienced player at a game of skill, on its first try.

Captain Archer, concerned with maintaining diplomatic relations with a technologically advanced, and therefore useful future trading partner, more than the messy business of opposing slavery, hands the refugee back to his/her/its shipmates, where the raised-consciousness Cogenitor promptly commits suicide.

The episode ends with the Captain laying a guilt trip on Trip.

Never mind that Captain Archer is the real guilty party for denying the slave asylum, using 21st century multicultural relativism as his justification.

Probably one of Archer’s ancestors also had practice papering over the brutal crimes of other “equally valid” cultures by working as a producer for CNN.

Wonderful message Star Trek sends out. Rocks, robots, and computer programs can have the protection of human rights, but not third-sex alien slaves. I’m sure this policy will make perfect sense to whatever extraterrestrials we humans actually encounter in the future.

The point is that the morality and politics of Star Trek verges on incoherence. In other words, it’s typical of the sort of writing you’d expect from current-day American liberal TV writers. It appears to be written for the sole purpose of allowing one character each episode to spew moral outrage at another character, and which character gets tagged outrageous and which one outraged is pretty well unpredictable. There are no discernible, consistent, overriding principles to help us, just the outrage du jour.

It’s enough to make Spock weep.

Copyright © 2003 by J. Neil Schulman. All rights reserved.


In addition to having written for The Twilight Zone, J. Neil Schulman is author of the Prometheus-award-winning science-fiction novels, The Rainbow Cadenza, and Alongside Night. His newest novel is the comic theological fantasy, Escape from Heaven.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Philosophy; Political Humor/Cartoons
KEYWORDS: alien; enterprise; extraterrestrial; fiction; gender; roddenberry; science; series; sex; star; startrek; trek; tv
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1 posted on 05/01/2003 10:58:43 PM PDT by J. Neil Schulman
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To: J. Neil Schulman
Star Trek is a military soap opera. That should explain it.
2 posted on 05/01/2003 11:01:54 PM PDT by agitator (Ok, mic check...line one...)
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To: J. Neil Schulman
I stopped watching after the episode where Phlox refuses to cure an alien race because of misplaced evolution theory and before the episode where Vulcan mind-melders were compared to homosexuals.

The liberal duo of Brandon Braga and Rick Berman have ruined Star Trek.

3 posted on 05/01/2003 11:04:09 PM PDT by Hawkeye's Girl
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To: J. Neil Schulman
It could be worse. DS9 could still be on.
4 posted on 05/01/2003 11:09:52 PM PDT by Psycho_Bunny
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To: J. Neil Schulman

Tammy Bruce explains it all in her book, The Death of Right and Wrong.

5 posted on 05/01/2003 11:10:22 PM PDT by patriciaruth
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To: J. Neil Schulman
I, too, have been a longtime Trek fan. But anyone paying attention must have known that the Enterprise's port-side engines are constantly steering the show left. In the 60's the original crew was always spouting off for liberal causes that were that era's hot issues.
6 posted on 05/01/2003 11:13:25 PM PDT by cartoonistx
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To: J. Neil Schulman
It’s enough to make Spock weep.

Spock, yes, but Leonard Nimoy, no.

I used to belong to his fan club. He's an idiot lib.

I checked out Bakula's Trek but couldn't stomach it. And after seeing the lady captain actress on Craig Kilborne's show cheerleading the audience to vote for Gore, I stopped watching her spinoff.

7 posted on 05/01/2003 11:14:45 PM PDT by patriciaruth
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To: cartoonistx
Well, ending racism was not a purely lib issue. And the Trek episode that indicated women could not be trusted to be Captains reflected the fact that both libs and conservatives were sexist in those days. The S&M Trek was probably lib.
8 posted on 05/01/2003 11:18:34 PM PDT by patriciaruth
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To: patriciaruth
*clap clap clap*

No matter what, Captain Kirk did the right thing. Sure, he ended up in hot water for breaking the retarded Prime Directive all the time, but in the end he was always proven correct. In contrast, Captain Archer could be replaced with Kofi Annan, and no one would be able to tell the difference.

Fortunately for those of us who would like a real return of Star Trek to the American vision of TOS, Enterprise's ratings are really bad, and the last TNG movie bombed. Perhaps after this series ends we can take a 10 year break and start over.

9 posted on 05/01/2003 11:20:51 PM PDT by Hawkeye's Girl (rabid TOS fan)
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To: J. Neil Schulman
Star Trek=Liberals in Space.
10 posted on 05/01/2003 11:22:03 PM PDT by NYCVirago
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To: J. Neil Schulman
The ten reasons why I like the Enterprise series:

1. It is a fresh start, the temperal cold war should be a hint that they are not going to follow the old time line.

2. It is NOT ladened with political correctness, it has a little now and then, but nothing like ST:Next Generation, DS9 or Voyager.

3. They are not the biggest boys on the block and they know better than to act like it.

4. The human characters actually act like humans and not like wooden pc riddeled puppets.

5. Archer reminds me of Kirk, except that he smart enough to know better than to screw every pretty alien female that he meets. Die hard Terkies, you have to admit that Kirk’s love life did can back to haunt him on a couple of occasions.

6. Trip is a gentleman, who acts like a gentleman. And he has a sense of humor and is pro-life to boot.

7. In the Enterprise series there is not always a happy ending, there ARE unintended consequences, like in Cogenitor. Trip meant well but things happen.

8. The show is somewhat linear, in that what happens in the last episode is carried over to the next episode.

9. No one really wants to use the transporter. The crew of the Enterprise is intellegent enough to know that it is not a good idea to screw around with your own molecules.

10. The doctor of the Enterprise has come up with the most creative way yet to use a tribble, as petfood for his many animals.

11 posted on 05/01/2003 11:23:30 PM PDT by Paul C. Jesup
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To: J. Neil Schulman

This woman is so right, it's wrong.

12 posted on 05/01/2003 11:28:49 PM PDT by martin_fierro (A v v n c v l v s M a x i m v s)
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To: J. Neil Schulman
Old Star Trek is great, and it was all downhill from there.

TNG was just awful:

1. Data the android held rank in Starfleet. How would you like to compete for rank against, or serve under a robot?

2. Will Stryker was a 14 year old Ensign that hadn't even been to the Academy yet. How would you like to serve under that?

3. Counselor Troi was an empath who Picard had to get say-so from before he could use his weapons against aliens. A liberal psychologist is the prime commander in Starfleet's navy, to put it another way. Jim Kirk just said 'Fire!'.

4. Semi-domesticated Klingons manned the guns on Picard's ship. Not in Jim Kirk's navy, they didn't.

Old Star Trek had it right: When they got shore leave, it was all about finding sex and drinking yourself into a stupor like REAL sailors do. I saw none of that in TNG.

13 posted on 05/01/2003 11:32:34 PM PDT by The KG9 Kid
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To: Hawkeye's Girl
Go to and check out The Cynic's opinion of the current state of Star Trek. Funny stuff, but oh so true. Star Trek isn't dead. It's undead!

Berman and Bragga REALLY need to be fired and a new creative team put in place. Those two are the bane of Star Trek.

As for Enterprise, I see very little hope for it to be salvaged. Even IF Berman and Bragga were to be shoved out an airlock, can Enterprise be fixed? Doubtful. Best to let it die, give it a while, and then bring back a new one with a new creative team. Maybe set it a couple of centuries in the future of Next Generation, after the Federation has suffered a catastrophe which sets it back for a while (Like, for instance, its socialist government collapsing in on itself at last).
14 posted on 05/01/2003 11:33:06 PM PDT by Green Knight (Looking forward to seeing Jeb stepping over Hillary's rotting political corpse in '08.)
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To: J. Neil Schulman
The original series had four basic types of scripts: (1) space "westerns"; (2) morality plays; (3) social commentary; (4) futuristic sci-fi.

I always like the space westerns best. I was never too interested in guys painted half white and half black, or space hippies looking for paradise.

My single most favorite episode from TOS was "the Doomsday Machine." The guest star was William Windom, as Commodore Decker, Captian of the Constellation. It was a great screenplay, with fine acting, and a compelling story.

A close second would be the episode about Captain Kirk's duel with the reptilian Gorn. I'm a geologist and am very familar with the "Vasquez Rocks" area where the battle scenes were shot. I realy enjoyed the slithering reptilian dialog ... "I will be mericful, Kirk." And then the cliffhanger, will Kirk outwit his physically superior opponent with technology!

Great stuff.

15 posted on 05/01/2003 11:35:57 PM PDT by capitan_refugio
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To: Hawkeye's Girl; All
I have been an off-and-on fan, not as die-hard as some, but finding all the ST series (with the exception of DS9) interesting. TNG had a lot of good storylines (Darmok, Inner Light, to name two), but when it came to sheer captaincy, Kirk could mop the floor with Picard and Janeway, and still have time for a shag with (insert female's character name here) before dinner.

What makes the TOS characters better is the tension between McCoy and Spock, with Kirk in the middle. He emoted, sure, but it was honest, and you ended up rooting for the guy in the end, no matter how overacted it was. Picard & Lameway, on the other hand, always have this need to try to understand and negotiate. Had Kirk encountered those fuzzy-haired guys in Voyager, he would've shot first and negotiated later. "You want technology? Here, have some....ZAP!" Case closed.

What bothers me about Enterprise is that it is supposed to be set before TOS, but the characters act like the ones in TNG, and later. Nobody seems to have any balls, except Tripp; he seems to be the brashest of the lot, which should reflect the world at that alleged time: energetic, headstrong, etc, not the "Well, let's tread cautiously and not upset the gays who might be watching..." What they need is a villain who won't negotiate, who doesn't care to "understand" earth, or Archer, or anything, and who can pretty much kick their butt. No political correctness, no niceties, no prisoners.

TOS was written at a time when the underlying political situation was that the American way is the best way: cold-war Klingons could go pound sand. Nowadays, nobody has the right to call "foul" because of multiculturalism and the misguided belief that all cultures are as valid as the next one. (Maybe an episode where everyone is invited to shore leave by the Planet of the Cannibals.....) Archer doesn't emote, except to his dog, and that makes him a sorry captain. At least Picard and Janeway got pissed every once in a while. This guy, though....yeesh.

The producers need some testosterone shots or SOMETHING.

16 posted on 05/01/2003 11:37:01 PM PDT by Othniel (Elen sila lumennen olmentilmo.)
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To: The KG9 Kid
1. He was sentient. So he shouldn't have rank? Ah. So the best, most qualified individual shouldn't be hired for the job? What would you prefer, then? Affirmative Access for humans? Give them a leg up against the androids?

2. Will Stryker? Who's that?

3. At no point did Picard EVER have to get permission from Counsellor Troi to open fire. He only used her so he could get a bead on the aliens, if they were being honest, lying, threating, etc.

4. In this case Picard had the leg up on Kirk. Who was Kirk's security chief? Chekov? Worf was a total and utter bad-ass! Who WOULDN'T want him as security chief?
17 posted on 05/01/2003 11:38:45 PM PDT by Green Knight (Looking forward to seeing Jeb stepping over Hillary's rotting political corpse in '08.)
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To: The KG9 Kid
TNG = Star Drek-The Left Generation
18 posted on 05/01/2003 11:43:45 PM PDT by Free ThinkerNY (((Lunacy and Leftism go hand in hand)))
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To: Hawkeye's Girl
I agree with you, the overt Leftism has destroyed the story.
It has become little more than political indoctrination.

The original Star Trek was, for its time, great.

Starting with ST:TNG, the injections of PC began to overwhelm the sci-fi aspects of the show.

ST:DS9 had its moments, especially the Klingon plotlines.

Star Trek: Voyager was so PC that I finally gave up. A female Captain, a female Klingon Chief Engineer, a Native-American First Officer with a pagan tatoo on his face, a female "Wesley Crusher", and a Borgette who had to have her uniform spray painted on. The only white male bridge officer had to be sprung from prison in the first episode so he could submit to Janeway's "leadership".

If the PC became anymore in-your-face, they would have to rename Voyager the Red October.

I have had some hopes for ST:E, but so far it has been mediocre at best.
19 posted on 05/01/2003 11:52:39 PM PDT by the lone wolf (Good Luck, and watch out for stobor.)
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To: J. Neil Schulman
What I liked about Janeway was that if you messed with her crew or her ship, you would learn that you misjudged her.
20 posted on 05/01/2003 11:53:39 PM PDT by Ruth A.
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