Friday, August 24, 2007

The Real McCoy: Exclusive Interview with Terry Lee Rioux, author of From Sawdust to Stardust: The Biography of DeForest Kelley

Terry Lee Rioux, author of From Sawdust to Stardust: The Biography of DeForest Kelley took time to speak with Trekdom. As we prepare to see a new McCoy on the big screen in 2008, let us spend a few moments remembering and celebrating the life and work of DeForest Kelley.

Trekdom: Your biography of DeForest Kelley, From Sawdust to Stardust, is a wonderful and charming book. Can you tell us what motivated you to write it? Why did you choose DeForest Kelley?

Terry Lee Rioux: Thank you for the kind words about the book. I think I was as stunned as anyone to learn of his death back in 1999 - I don't think we as fans could know what that would mean to us. I was in touch with a friend of his (who has since written her account of her experiences with Kelley - see - Kris Smith's works as listed on -) and within 90 days I was talking with Mrs. Kelley - and the rest is - biography. I don't know how to explain my connection with him - but I do know that his friends became my friends and their stories became the biography. It will always be a cosmic mystery how everything worked out.

TD: Was it difficult to research Kelley’s life, considering he was such a private man?

Rioux: It was emotionally difficult, since I began the research only 90 days after his death - everyone was in mourning and there I was asking people to tell me about him. Hard times. Yes he was a very private man - but one who had so much to say! When he knew his time was short he put his papers, scrapbooks, photos and item into suitcases, and those suitcases went into a cabinet in the garage. He meant to be remembered, he meant to be understood.

TD: Based on your extensive research with friends and family, would you say that Kelley viewed Star Trek as a privilege, a mixed blessing, or a curse? Did he struggle, as Nimoy and Shatner did, to escape the Trek typecast? Would he have ever written I Am Not McCoy or told fans to Get a Life?

Rioux: Kelley loved Star Trek, he loved Gene Roddenberry. He loved what it meant. The best times of his life were Trek, the worst was living without it. He hated the cancellation, the wheeling and dealing, the in-fighting and the typecasting. When he learned that Nimoy had written 'I am not Spock' he said that he had better write 'I am McCoy'. He knew his fans had lives, great ones, challenging ones, ones full of kindness and healing - that is what he loved the most about the whole thing - the good people he knew that deep in his heart that he had inspired.

TD: You mention that, at one time, Kelley lived across the street from Rick Berman, yet they were not close friends. It seems bizarre that a legendary Trek actor wouldn’t have a closer relationship with his neighbor, a man essentially in charge of the Star Trek franchise. Any thoughts here?

Rioux: Yes Kelley lived across the street from where the Bermans lived for a few years. Even then Kelley had a well established 'wall of privacy' that few people were allowed to climb over. Kelley would put out Berman's trash cans when the family was gone and he was a good neighbor all the way around. I suppose on a professional level Berman and Kelley were in very different places in their lives.

TD: Lastly, a fun question. Any thoughts about the next Star Trek film, which will be a “re-imagining” of the original Enterprise crew? How can the writers give us a new McCoy that pays homage to the real McCoy?

Rioux: I think Kelley would caution anyone trying to create a vision of Trek without those who know it inside and out. Without Roddenberry - Without Nimoy, Shatner, Bennett, Meyer, he would strongly doubt it could be done at all. I know that because he has said as much - he would also ask 'Why?'

If McCoy was to be reincarnated in some way - the key that so many miss (the fans don't) is transcending Kindness. Kelley/McCoy were all about kindness, in danger, in adversity, in everyday life, Kindness was his power and it was the only thing he really had that put him in the 'superhero' role. It is why we remember - - and why we still miss him.


*To purchase a copy of From Sawdust to Stardust, click here. Trekdom highly recommends this book to our readers.
*Read TrekNation's review and's review.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Ethics of Star Trek: Exclusive Interview with Judith Barad

The Ethics of Star Trek, by Judith Barad, Ph.D (with Ed Robertson) is by far the most readable and well-argued scholarly work on philosophy and Star Trek. Readers will come away from this text with a deeper understanding of classical and Western philosophy, as well as a deeper appreciation of how the "messages" of Trek remain relevant today. The book demonstrates, quite forcefully, how Trek has risen above the mainstream of television entertainment by seriously exploring the ethical, moral, and philosophical dilemmas of our world.

The author, Professor Judith Barad, graced us with an exclusive interview about her work and her perspective on the Trekverse. Enjoy!


Trekdom: Your book, The Ethics of Star Trek, is a wonderful text, because, while delving into the complex teachings of many philosophers (Socrates, Plato, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, etc.) the chapters are very readable and accessible, especially for those of us lacking a strong background in intellectual history. Was it challenging to present these complex philosophies in a way that a general audience would understand, or did Star Trek make it easy, considering that so many episodes explore philosophical issues, ethical dilemmas, and existential choices?

Judith Barad: Since I started teaching these philosophies in 1982, I have tried to explain them in a way that a college freshman would understand. Star Trek made it easier to explain the philosophies because it illustrated the concepts and theories in a concrete yet entertaining way. The first time students are exposed to philosophy, many find it quite daunting. Like others who don’t have a background in intellectual history, beginning students won’t always “see” the importance of philosophical reasoning because it deals with issues from an abstract perspective. But Star Trek enables people to “see” for themselves the importance these issues have in the lives of characters they grow to care about. In contrast to the abstract concepts of philosophy, the Star Trek episodes are much easier to follow since they have a plot and characters that engage the viewer’s emotions. These episodes are designed to be interesting, designed to be entertaining. Moreover, Star Trek dramatizes ethical dilemmas in almost every episode, a fact I became aware of in 1966 when it first aired. It was and still is, to the best of my knowledge, the only prime-time popular series designed to motivate people to think about ethical decision-making. Roddenberry, who considered himself an amateur philosopher, said that underneath all the action and special effects, he was creating moral fables. As a result of his influence, Star Trek has continued to reflect the ethical issues current during each of its five series.

Although I found it easy to apply the philosophies to the episodes, Ed Robertson helped to make the book even more entertaining to a popular audience.

Trekdom: While reading your book, I was surprised by how different the ethics or “messages” of each series are in your analysis. Can you tell our readers more about the changing ethics of Trek, from the original Star Trek to Star Trek: Voyager?

Judith Barad: One very striking change from series to series has to do with the issues that were addressed. In the late sixties, Star Trek confronted racism, war, genetic engineering, and drug usage. Later, The Next Generation dealt with euthanasia, assisted suicide, and terrorism. In the nineties, Deep Space Nine and Voyager tackled sexual harassment, homosexuality, homelessness, animal rights, the injustice of HMOs, dumping toxic waste, and other environmental issues.

Another dramatic change involved the way women have been depicted in the various series, which is itself an ethical issue. In The Original Series, sexism was rampant, expressed in everything from some of the story lines (“Turnabout Intruder”) to the way actresses were clothed. In The Next Generation, women were clothed, generally, more in keeping with their professions. However, Doctor Crusher and Deanna Troi weren’t in the top tier of leadership positions. By the time of Deep Space Nine, Star Trek gave us a female first officer and the evolution was completed by Voyager’s Captain Janeway.

As I argue in The Ethics of Star Trek, The Original Series emphasized virtue ethics in a way that values the free choices of individuals over the dictates of machines or other kinds of more powerful beings. The Next Generation, while not abandoning virtue ethics, highlighted the ethics of duty. At the same time, it continued The Original Series concern that the free choices of individuals should triumph over that of machine cultures, like the Borg, or more powerful beings, like Q. Deep Space Nine wasn’t as concerned with virtue ethics or with affirming the choice of the individual over machines or more powerful beings. While it continued The Next Generation’s interest in the ethics of duty, its primary ethical principles are drawn from existentialism. Although The Next Generation did feature some existentialist principles, Deep Space Nine applied them far more regularly. Voyager, in contrast with the two earliest series, is more comfortable with the collective good and the Platonic notion of a philosopher queen.

TD: Were those differences a reflection of the broader cultural context? Would you say that Cold War beliefs in moral certainty gave way to existential doubts in the 1990s and that Star Trek reflected those changing perceptions?

Barad: Certainly, the changing issues were a reflection of the broader cultural context. This was also true of the changing role of women in Star Trek, although the positions of Kira and Janeway may still be a little ahead of the time.

If I were to grant that the early series expressed moral certainty, I must stipulate that this moral certainty wasn’t that of the traditional values found in the culture. For example, The Original Series was opposed to racism and war, unlike the traditional, conservative culture of the time. Yet it’s true that Kirk wouldn’t have violated his personal ethics, the way Sisko did in The Pale Moonlight. Kirk doesn’t feel such existential doubts about his actions as Picard does (Conundrum), and Picard isn’t as extreme in his existential doubts as Sisko. Janeway, on the other had, doesn’t seem to go through any more existential doubt than her two earliest counterparts. Since Deep Space Nine and Voyager were very contemporary with each other, I don’t see a clear progression from moral certainty to existential doubt.

TD: Despite the different outlooks of each series, you write about a “moral tapestry” of Star Trek, which unites seemingly contradictory philosophies into a coherent ethical system. Can you please say a few words about that?

Barad: The Ethics of Star Trek contains a list of principles, drawn from the great ethicists, which are used in most episodes in each of the series. These principles include the following:
1. Choose to do that action that you could rationally will everyone else to do.
This principle helps us to determine which actions are our moral duties. In deciding what to do, we should always ask ourselves as honestly as possible: (1) What’s the principle behind our actions? and (2) Is this a principle everyone should follow? Would we rationally want everyone to do what we intend to do? What we think is right (or wrong) for one person to do in certain circumstances must be right (or wrong) for any other person to do in relevantly similar circumstances.
2. Act so that you treat sentient individuals as an end and never as a means only.
A sentient individual is one who is capable of perceiving and feeling. The principle means that we should never use the services or skills of sentient individuals simply as a means for our own purposes. We must always recognize them as individuals with intrinsic value over and above our needs.
3. The intention motivating an action is more important than the consequences of an action. It’s not just what we do that matters, but also why we do it. In “The Measure of a Man,” Louvois ordered Riker to prosecute the case against Data for Starfleet. She warns Riker that unless he gives it his best effort, she will automatically decide that Data is a “toaster” and should be turned over to commander Maddox. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Riker does his best in the courtroom. Doing the right thing doesn’t always guarantee a good outcome. At the end of the story, Riker is devastated by his part in the trial. Yet the long-term outcome was that there won’t be a race of android slaves and Data was saved. Recognizing Riker’s intentions, Data tells him, “That action injured you, and saved me. I will not forget.”
4. The goodness of an action is assessed in terms of both its means and its end.
A bad means can’t justify a good end. The term ‘end’ refers to someone’s goal or purpose. If there’s something morally objectionable about either the end or the means to accomplish it, the action isn’t a good one. If alternative means are necessary, we must choose among them rather than an ethically objectionable means. For instance, in Insurrection, the Federation discovered a virtual fountain of youth, but to utilize it, an entire population would have to be displaced. There’s no other means available to achieve this benefit. While the end of prolonging people’s lives is a good one, the means necessary to accomplish it, in this case, is unethical. Seemingly conscious of this principle, Picard strongly opposes the Federation’s attempt to use the “fountain of youth.”
5. Freedom cannot be separated from responsibility. We should exert control over our inner life and our outer life, accepting authority and accountability for making decisions affecting ourselves and others. We’re personally responsible to set rules and limits for ourselves. No matter how tempting it is to shirk our responsibility, we can’t blame anyone else for the choices we’ve made—not our parents, not our bosses, not our friends, not television, not our economic system, nor any other aspect of society. If we say “I was just following orders,” we’re just as responsible as the person who gave the orders, even though we’re trying to fool ourselves into thinking that we had no choice in the matter.
6. Moral decisions are made by reason—not emotion or tradition. Reasoning, rather than emotion or tradition, gives us the tool we need to review, evaluate, and revise our ethical decisions. Good ethical reasoning requires us to recognize and go beyond self-deception, uncritical conformity, and ethical intolerance. Only by reasoning can we question our assumptions and objectively consider alternative ways to address problems.
7. Altruism has priority over egoistic concerns. When faced with a situation where we must choose between doing the unselfish thing or acting selfishly (all things being equal), we must act unselfishly.
8. We must not injure or harm others.
9. We must deal justly with others. The formal principle of justice states that no one should be treated differently from someone else unless it has been shown that there’s a difference between them morally relevant to the treatment at issue. This is why the question of Data’s sentience in “The Measure of a Man” is important. If he’s sentient, then the formal principle of justice requires us to treat him as equal to everyone else. If he isn’t sentient, then that fact would count as a relevant difference, justifying unequal treatment. Sentience, is this instance, is a relevant difference for whether someone should be treated as a disposable item.

TD: Fascinating! Lastly, do you have any advice for graduate students and colleagues who, while trying to write dissertations on Trek or use Trek in the classroom, have faced resistance from advisors or committees?

Barad: Not only had my Star Trek and Philosophy course been approved as a standard course within philosophy at Indiana State University, but I also had it approved by committees for general education credit. At first, there was some resistance because the notion of the course seemed to have nothing to do with philosophy. However, committees are required to look at a proposal more deeply and not abide by their first superficial impression. My syllabus and rationale for the course made it clear that students would be required to read standard primary sources. Then I argued that the value of philosophical material (or any academic material) is in its application. Star Trek shows students how the principles enunciated by the greatest philosophical minds can both be illustrated and used in interesting situations. Although I didn’t appeal to the increasingly recognized field of philosophy and popular culture, I also recommend that this be part of someone’s argument arsenal. There are several popular book series by publishers like Open Court that appreciate the marriage of popular culture and academic subjects. Finally, the best way for an academic work to receive attention is to appeal to people beyond the halls of academia. If the work is capable of receiving this attention while simultaneously edifying people who wouldn’t otherwise read such material, the work is far more successful than a work that only has other Ph.D.s for its audience.


*Purchase The Ethics of Star Trek here. Visit Ed Robertson's site here. Trekdom highly recommends this book for all Trek fans and students of philosophy. We also encourage Indiana State University students to take her Star Trek and Philosophy course when offered.

Also read TrekWeb's review.

Comments at Trekdom

Comments at Trekbbs

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

TNG's "The Outcast": Star Trek on Homosexuality and Gay Rights

by Jared B.

"In more than four decades, Star Trek... has broken through many barriers, such as being the first to have an interracial kiss (between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols) on broadcast television, as well as touting the values of peace and tolerance for all. Yet the series has refused to address forthrightly the topic of homosexuality where it would most matter—on television or film."
- AfterElton, "Star Trek's Forbidden Gay Frontier," April 20, 2006.

For many years, progressive fans of Star Trek have cried foul at the franchise's refusal to adequately address the subject of homosexuality. Trek has been accused of depicting a future where gays simply don't exist. Every 24th-century relationship is heterosexual, while every character is presumed or proven to be straight. Again and again, as many fans pleaded for a more representative future, the producers and writers failed to deliver.

How is it, fans asked, that Star Trek, with its reputation as progressive, open-minded, and tolerant, shuns away from the topic of homosexuality? How can the series that challenged racial prejudices of the 1960s now ignore the gay civil rights movement?

While it is true that years after other shows, such as Roseanne and Will and Grace, included homosexual characters, Star Trek refused to do so. There have been many excuses given. Producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga said they didn't want to highlight a character's alternative sexuality as something that defined the person as unique or different in an age of equality and social tolerance.

Yet, many fans see homophobic prejudice and studio spinelessness as the culprits. Whereas Gene Roddenberry used deragatory words to describe gays during the 1970s, he indicated a willingness to breach the subject in 1987. This willingness inspired David Gerrold's "Blood and Fire" script, an AIDS allegory containing homosexual characters. Unfortunately, studio executives (including Rick Berman) resisted. According to Andy Mangels:

"Berman was ultimately responsible for killing almost every pitch for gay
characters, and in interviews, was mealy-mouthed and waffling about the need for
GLBT representation. At the very least, he was gutless and didn't care about
GLBT representation. From the information and evidence I've seen, heard, and
read, I believe that Berman is the reason we never saw gays on Star
I shed no tears that he's gone, except that he did his best to ruin
the franchise on his way out.” (AfterElton, 3)

Advocates of gay inclusion view the few episodes of Trek which contain homosexual themes as inadequate and insulting. TNG's "The Host," for example, rejected the normalcy of same-sex love, because Beverly Crusher could not continue loving a man when he suddenly became a woman. DS9's "Rejoined" showed two women kissing, but their love stemmed from a "normal" heterosexual relationship. Another DS9 episode, "Profit and Lace" failed to deliver because "the context of male homosexuality and transgenderism are set up as comedic and insulting instruments." (AfterElton, 2) Lastly, Enterprise's "Stigma" is sometimes viewed as a copout AIDS metaphor because T'pol was presented as a victim, rather than as a consenting adult who deserved equal treatment.

These critics make many great points, and it is regrettable that Star Trek hasn't done more to live up to its claims of tolerance, equality, and "infinite diversity in infinite combinations." Yet, perhaps these critics overlook one episode which did forthrightly address the topic of homosexuality: Next Gen's "The Outcast."

In this season 5 episode (written by Jeri Taylor), Cmdr. William Riker falls in love with Soren, a member of the androgynous J'naii, a species which rejects gender distinctions and stigmatizes any individual who displays male or female preferences. "The idea of gender," Soren explains to Riker, "[is] offensive to my people. You see, long ago we had two sexes, as you do. But we evolved into a higher form... I don't mean to sound insulting, but on my planet we've been taught that gender is... primitive."

Later, when Soren discovers an attraction to Riker while coming to terms with her gender identity as a female, she confesses, "I'd like... to tell you something. Something that's not easy to say. I... find you attractive." Riker looks at her adoringly, while anticipating a possible future together. The following dialogue takes place [with this author's inserts]:

Soren: "I'm taking a terrible risk, telling you that. It means revealing something to you... Something that, if it were known on my planet, would be very dangerous for me. Occasionally, among my people, a few are born who are -- different. Who are throwbacks to the era when we all had gender. Some are born with strong inclinations toward maleness... and some have urges to be female. I am one of the latter. [read: I am not straight, like everyone else]"

Riker: "I have to admit... I got the feeling you were different."

Soren: "I was hoping you would. But in front of Krite and the others, I must be careful not to reveal myself... On our world these feelings are forbidden. Those who are discovered are shamed and ridiculed. Only by undergoing psychotectic therapy and having all elements of gender [read: homosexuality] eliminated can they become accepted into society again... Those of us who have these urges live secret, guarded lives. We seek each other out... always hiding, always terrified of being discovered... I've known I was different all my life. But I didn't understand how or why until I was older.

"I remember when I was very young... before I understood what I was... there was a rumor in my school that one of the students preferred a gender... in that case, male. The children started making fun of him... every day, they got more cruel... They could tell he was afraid... and that seemed to encourage them.

"He appeared in class one morning, bleeding... his clothes ripped. He said he'd fallen down. Of course the school authorities heard about it... They took him away and gave him psychotectic treatments. When he came back, he stood in front of the whole school and told us how happy he was now that he had been cured... After that, I knew how dangerous it was to be different. And as I got older, and realized what I was, I was terrified. I've lived with that fear ever since."

Riker: "Do you have relationships with others?"

Soren: "Yes -- with those who have discovered they are male [read: also Gay]. I've had to live a life of pretense and lies. With you... I can be honest."

When Riker starts to speak, Soren pleads, "Don't say anything. Just... think about it."

This episode does not end on a happy note. J'naii officials discover the forbidden affair, and Soren's "deviant sexuality" is put on trial. There, she makes an impassioned speech on the behalf of all J'naii who are like her:

"I am female [read: Gay]. I was born that way. I have had those feelings... those longings... all my life. It is not unnatural. I am not sick because I feel this way. I do not need to be helped, and I do not need to be cured. What I do need -- what all of those like me need -- is your understanding and your compassion.

"We do not injure you in any way. And yet we are scorned and attacked. And all because we are different!

"What we do is no different from what you do. We talk and laugh... we complain about work and we wonder about growing old... we talk about our families, and we worry about the future... We cry with each other when things seem hopeless. All the loving things that you do with each other... that's what we do.

"And for that, we are called misfits, and deviants... and criminals. What right do you have to punish us? What right do you have to change us? What makes you think you can dictate how people love each other?"

Clearly, Star Trek hit the mark with this episode, and critics should see it as an exception to Trek's broader discomfort with alternative lifestyles. It was subtle, in that it didn't openly show a same-sex kiss (because Soren was clearly played by a female actor). Yet, the message was powerful and provocative: J'naii society shouldn't dictate the rules of love. Likewise, neither should we.

Just as Riker expressed his disgust at the intolerance and bigotry of a supposedly enlightened people, so should we. And, in at least one episode, so did Star Trek.

*Thanks to TrekCore for the script to this episode. Original AfterElton critique can be read here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

"All the Galaxy's a Stage": Shakespeare in the Star Trek Universe


by Sean Hall

In the classic Star Trek episode "Catspaw," the intrepid crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise beams down to the surface of the planet Pyris VII. Once on the ground, they investigate and are confronted by three witches who chant: "Winds shall rise / and fog descend / So leave here all / or meet your end." At this point, the logical character Commander Spock (Leonard Nimoy) replies, "Very bad poetry, Captain." Thus, we have not only a reference to Shakespeare's Macbeth, but also a rather wry comment on the immortal bard's rhyming ability.

Shakespeare and the science fiction series Star Trek have always been linked together in an almost symbiotic bond. Characters in the series quote the bard, episodes are titled after his works, and stories are adapted to fit the outer space locales. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (played by the noted Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart in the series Star Trek: The Next Generation) has a worn copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare handy. Alien species such as the race known as the Klingons, created for the show, quote Hamlet, both in English and in their own fictional language. If Shakespeare is the foundation for modern theater, it is only fitting that he becomes the basis for drama in the future.

With all the gratuitous use of Shakespeare language and imagery in the series (including its four spin-offs, a successful franchise of feature films and a short lived animated series), is there an underlying reason to the use of the Bard's works? Does the combination of classic literature and pop-culture sci-fi result in something greater than the sum of its parts? According to Stephen M. Buhler, the use of Shakespeare in the Star Trek universe, specifically the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, serves to define which characters are the villains (Buhler 18). In general, he says the contemporary popular film use of characters who have the ability to quote Shakespeare is used as a device to establish moral ambiguity and to symbolize personal viciousness (Buhler 18). Here he relies on the many quotes of the villain of the film, General Chang (Christopher Plummer) and the chameleon shape-shifter Marta (supermodel Iman) (Buhler 22).

However, not every Shakespeare-spewing character is evil, and Mary Buhl Dutta argues that, instead, the use of Shakespeare in the original Star Trek series served as endorsement for the male-centric, Americanized ideal of a typical Shakespeare hero (Dutta 38). Within the progress of the series, the lead character of Captain James Kirk (William Shatner) "becomes" Macbeth, Hamlet, Ferdinand, and Petruchio. Always the hero, he has the ability to defeat the villain, even when his Shakespearean counterpart could not. For example, Dutta points out that in the episode "Catspaw," Kirk is essentially Macbeth (Dutta 40), yet here he has the ability to resist the evil pressure of the Lady Macbeth figure of Sylvia, unlike the original Macbeth.

Marc Houlahan furthers this theory by arguing that the use of Shakespeare in Star Trek is not only an endorsement but rather a continuation of America's attempts to Americanize Shakespeare (Houlahan 29). As the financing of BBC's official versions of Shakespeare, by four major American corporations (Time-Life, Exxon, Metropolitan Life Insurance and the Morgan Guarantee Trust Company) and the creation of the Folger's Shakespeare Library (located between the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.) serve to show America's attempt to claim Shakespeare as their own, so does Star Trek's use of the Bard's materials (Houlahan 29). Thus he uses again the film Star Trek VI to illustrate the assumption the Captain Kirk and the system of government that he works for, The United Federation of Planets, is a representation of America. Thus, Kirk's use of Shakespeare, as well as General Chang's serve as an attempt to mainstream Shakespeare for a primarily American audience (Houlahan 30).

Going in a totally different direction, Emily Hegarty argues that the use of Shakespeare in The Next Generation serves as a symbol of high-culture (Hegarty 55). She writes, "It [the series] uses Shakespearean allusion to underwrite repressive and elitist ideological gestures within its populist format." (Hegarty 55) She uses the example of a Next Generation episode "The Perfect Mate," in which Captain Picard uses Shakespeare sonnets to express desire, confirming the ideology that Shakespeare is the quintessential symbol of love poetry in our culture (Hegarty 56).

With all the use of Shakespeare in Star Trek, you would think that the symbolism would be lost and eventually become stale, and in fact, it has. Fewer references to Shakespeare are found in the last three series spin-offs, Deep Space Nine,Voyager and Enterprise. However, within the framework of the original series, The Next Generation series and the films, Shakespeare has become an integral part of the universe that the show inhabits. It uses Shakespeare as a springboard to discuss new ideas and to maintain a connection with the future and the past.

*This student essay was orignally published here.

Militarism and Peace in the Star Trek Universe

Part 3 of J. William Snyder Jr.'s article, "Star Trek: A Phenomenon and Social Statement on the 1960s."
Of all the social issues that Star Trek alludes to or addresses, the one it seems to spend the most time on is the ethics of war and peace. Star Trek ran during the escalation period of the Vietnam war, a time when relations among the superpowers were tense. It takes numerous opportunities to make comments and address war and peace issues, overall criticising use of force or the threat of it to achieve policy. Star Trek sets up and develops throughout the series striking parallels between the United Federation of Planets and the "West", and the Klingon Empire and the Romulan Star Empire as the "East". The series also have episodes that do not involve either of the Federation's enemies, but still make forceful comments on the evils of militarism.

The United Federation of Planets, the governing body in Star Trek with the Enterprise belonging to its military service Starfleet, is a product of the second season of Star Trek - prior to this the governing body of Star Trek is a united Earth government. Terry Worland in his article "Captain Kirk: Cold Warrior" offers and enlightening discussion of the relationship between the Federation and its adversaries. During the first season, the Enterprise has a few isolated skirmishes with both enemies, but as soon as the Federation is introduced, conflict between them takes on an ideological flavor in the episodes (Wortland 110). "It became clear that the Federation controlled a definite sphere of influence and a vital interest [that was being] continually challenged and threatened" (110). Moreover, Wortland believes that the Federation is not another United Nations, a rather weak organization with limited tools for achieving policy, but rather resembles the "free world" being defended by Starfleet, representative of NATO and the United States (110). "If the Federation represents America and the Western alliance, consider that during the time of Star Trek's production the U.S. government was seeking to challenge two principal adversaries in the Third World, especially in Vietnam" (112). According to David Gerrold, just as America was supposed to be the policeman for the world, Star Trek is the policeman for the galaxy, all at a time when it was being questioned whether or not America should play that role (Gerrold 156). Starfleet's originally scientific mission becomes one to "spread truth, justice, and the American Way to the far corners of the universe" (156) as well as to defend the Federation against its cancerous adversaries.

Just as the Federation comes to represent the "West" of 20th century earth, The Klingons seemingly come to represent America's staunchest adversary- the Soviet Union. William Blake Tyrell in his essay "Star Trek as Myth and Television as Mythmaker" compares the Klingons and the Romulans to the Indian tribes the U.S. fought in the western part of the country. The Klingons are the "Magua- sly, perfidious, and fallen" while the Romulans are the "Chingachgook, the noble warrior ever outside the white man's world" (Tyrell 712). However, I believe that given the time period in which Star Trek ran on NBC that examination of both the Klingons and the Romulans in terms of 1960's superpower relations provides a better interpretation of these two forces.) The Klingons are a race of warriors from a part of the galaxy contiguous to Federation territory. They are thoroughly rotten creatures capable of such brutality and violent conquest as to make Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union seem like a mere street corner bully. "Think of the Mongol Hordes with spaceships and ray guns. To the Klingons, Genghis Khan was a phony and Attila the Hun was a fairy. And Hitler was only a beginner" (Gerrold 22). They seem to live by the maxim that "rules are made to be broken by shrewdness, deceit, or power" (qtd in Tyrell 712). The Klingons are ruthless, planet-conquerers who use violent means to colonize "third- worlds". Kor, the Klingon commander "Errand of Mercy" (airdate 3/23/67), establishes Klingon rule on Organia with an iron-hand, issuing orders banning public gatherings of more than two people and a whole host of other repressive measures. Klingons are also creatures of duty and fatality- the hope of every Klingon is to die in battle. During the episode "Day of the Dove (airdate 11/1/68), Kang, the Klingon commander of a small force holding part of the Enterprise, responds to Kirk's threat to kill his wife with a fatalistic statement that she knows the costs of final victory and is willing to pay with her life in order to further the greater glory of the empire. According to Worland, the Federation is locked in a "Cold War" with the Klingon Empire over the colonization of "third worlds", and moreover, the Federation is committed to stopping the spread of "Klingonism" at all costs (Worland 110). Indeed, the Federation does conflict with the Federation over developing planets in the episodes "The Trouble with Tribles" (airdate 12/29/67) and "Friday's Child" (airdate 12/1/67).

However, one episode of Star Trek including a battle with the Klingons over a developing planet that makes a seemingly direct comment on the Vietnam War is "A Private Little War" (airdate 2/22/68). In this episode, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down to a planet in the Organian-imposed neutral zone where Kirk was once stationed. They find the Hillpeople and the Villagers engaged in a war, and oddly enough, the Villagers have flintlock rifles- weapons they could not have possibly developed in Kirk's absence. Kirk suspects the Klingons of supplying the Villagers with their relatively advanced weaponry, but he needs absolute proof. After obtaining that proof, and a few flintlocks to boot, Kirk returns to the Hillpeople's camp to arm them with the exact same weaponry. He justifies his action to Dr. McCoy by referring to the "20th century brush wars on the Asian continent" and noting that the only way to deal with the situation then was to maintain the balance of power between the two opposing sides. Kirk feels that he must do the same thing now as was done them in order to fight the Klingons. But by the end of the story, Kirk realizes that he has opened a Pandora's box by arming the Hillpeople and does not arm them anymore than he has. Oddly enough, this episode was broadcast during the Tet offensive, the bloody two month long attack by the Viet Cong on every major city in the Republic of Vietnam, including Saigon. This is widely acknowledged as the turing point of the Vietnam War as far as American public opinion. In this episode, "[Kirk] adopts the rhetoric of five presidential administrations in describing the causes of a civil war and the rationale for American/Federation involvement" (Wortand 114). Here, the Hillpeople come to represent the South Vietnamese as the U.S. government would have liked the public to view them- peaceful, unaggressive, and good-natured. Likewise, the Villagers come to represent the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong who readily take aid from the Klingons/Soviet Union. However, Wortland believes that Star Trek stopped just short of making a strong comment on the war. Instead, he feels the episode is ambivalent, wavering between a pro and anti war stance (Wortland 113). Because of this, both sides probably labeled it as either "treasonous" or "sharp criticism [of the war]" (Wortland 114). Either way, it seems that this episode was lucky to make it on the air given this very touchy subject.

The Klingons are not the only adversaries the Federation face. On the other side of Federation space lay the Romulan Star Empire. The Romulans are not seen very much during the course of the series. Apparently, the humans and the Romulans fought a major interplanetary war to a stand-off, then negociated a treaty calling for the establishment of a neutral zone that entrance into by either side constituted an act of war. The Romulans are creatures of pure duty, more so than the Klingons. In "Balance of Terror" (airdate 12/15/66), an episode during which the Enterprise and a Romulan warship engage in a battle, the commander's final act is to destroy his disabled ship to avoid the disgrace of capture. Comparatively, the Romulans are a regional power, but also one not to be taken lightly; allied with the Klingon Empire, they copy Klingon warship design in "The Enterprise Incident" (airdate 9/27/68) (Wortland 112). The Romulans were not as repulsive as the Klingons were, but they were much smarter than their Klingon counterparts (Gerrold 23). They are also not completely despised as the Klingons are, principally because they and Mr. Spock have the same distant ancestors (Wortland 111).

The episode "The Enterprise Incident" involves an act of blatant espionage by the Federation on the Romulan Star Empire. The episode opens by Captain Kirk, in a seemingly insane state of mind, orders the Enterprise across the neutral zone and into Romulan space only to be captured. While aboard one of the Romulan ships, Spock "kills" Captain Kirk with the Vulcan Death Grip (there is no such thing, but the Romulans do not know that!) after Kirk accuses him of selling him and the rest of the ship out. Back on the Enterprise, Kirk is given plastic surgery so that he looks like a Romulan. Then the true nature of the mission is revealed: the Enterprise is to obtain the Romulan cloaking device, a device the Federation considers a major threat to its security. They steal one of the devices and escape safely back to Federation space. It is widely known that Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana wrote this episode in response to the capture of the U.S. spy ship Pueblo in 1968. The vessel was allegedly spying for the U.S. in North Korean waters when it was captured. The captain was then told to sign a confession of spying or risk losing his crew. According to Wortland, the original plot was an exact parallel of the Pueblo incident, putting Captain Kirk in the same position as the captain of the Pueblo. But, intense pressure demanded that the episode be rewritten as to remove and doubt that the spying was justified (Wortland 113). "In fact, the way Star Trek told it, we were justified because our side was right and theirs wasn't" (Gerrold 159). Indeed, the episode could have served as a dramatic stage for television to make an argument about whether the U.S. was right in spying in this manner (it was widely believed that the government was lying about the position of the Pueblo when it was captured, but like other aspects of the show, Star Trek neglected this opportunity as well.

Finally, one episode that does not include either the Klingons or the Romulans makes a comment on the Vietnam War and on war in general. "A Taste of Armageddon", the Enterprise encounters a planet that is at war with one of its neighbors, but seems to be a thriving civilization not affected by the carnage of war. Kirk discovers that many generations before, the two planets agreed to continue their war, but to reduce it to computer simulated attacks and requiring the "casualties" to report for disintegration. Kirk destroys their computer (an abrogation of the treaty signed between the two planets) so that they will finally realize that the carnage, brutality, and horrific death of war makes it something to be avoided. David Gerrold compares the counting of casualties and requiring those people to submit to disintegration to the statistics coming out of Vietnam on troop strenth and body counts of the enemy (often believed to be greately underestimated) (Gerrold 156). War, when reduced to mere numbers, becomes painless and unobjectionable. Star Trek's moral here is to object to that reformulation of war. Indeed, the leaders of the planet finally agree and open talks with their enemy to put an end to their war once and for all.

Plainly, Star Trek does attempt to address war and peace issues, largely along the lines of present day earth's East/West conflict. However, it could have made much stronger statements, but it chose not to for various reasons. Americans themselves were beginning to be unsure about the morality of their country's actions. It is quite possible that this is why Star Trek refuses to take a stronger stance regarding warfare.

*Original article published here. Permission granted for academic purposes. Please visit J. William Synder's website here.
Comments at the TrekBBS

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Remembering Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force

Now, for something completely different...

Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force was one of the best Trek games of the last decade, especially in terms of multiplayer FPS action. It is telling that, while Bethesda's Star Trek: Legacy multiplayer community is now dead after 6 months of release, you can still find loyal EF players on servers, and the game is 7 years old!

We invite all Trekkies to join us for the nostalgic rebirth of this older game. Although the graphics show their age, the original Elite Force is still a wild romp, and it is well worth re-installing, if you have it on a shelf somewhere. Trekdom, with its emphasis on Trek history and nostalgia may soon host a server. For the meantime, we'll see you in "gladiator."

It's dirt cheap to buy. Or, if you'd like to download the multiplayer side of the game for free, it's now available at beer garden. We recommend re-installing or grabbing a used copy off Ebay.

So join us as we relaunch our LCARS Holomatch, set phasers to frag, and kick Tribble-ass. You'll have a great time.


Clip of the Day



Trekdom's Star Trek Chat Room

We now have a Star Trek chat room. Please check it out by clicking the picture or bookmarking it here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Trekdom's Star Trek Message Board and Star Trek Forums

From time to time, we use the blog to highlight other features of the website. If you haven't already, please visit our Star Trek message board and chat with other fans, review our articles, talk about politics, or whatever.
Click the picture and cyber with Trekkies! Or, click here.

Racism and Improving Race Relations in the Star Trek Universe

Part 2 of "Star Trek: A Phenomenon and Social Statement on the 1960s," by J. William Synder, Jr.

One area where Star Trek made considerable progress and incorporation into its substance was its regard towards minorities. Of course, by the late 1960's. the Civil Rights Movement in the United States was in full swing and much progress had been made in that area. By the time the first episode of the series aired in 1966, Congress had passed numerous Civil Rights Acts, the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and constitutional amendments outlawing the poll tax and extending the right to vote in Presidential elections to the residents of the District of Columbia, where the majority of the population is Black. Thus, Star Trek was ripe for emphasis on the equality of all people regardless of race. Still, because of the population in the South that watched the show, and other factors, elements of racism and racial inequality still appear in the series. Lastly, Star Trek has one episode that appears to make a clear statement regarding America's Civil Rights Movement.

To begin with, the crew of the Enterprise was racially mixed. "The ship had to be interracial because it represented all of mankind. How can the human race ever hope to achieve friendship with alien races if it can't even make friends with itself?" (Gerrold 152). The series has two regular characters that represent American minorities rapidly gaining status in American society, Lt. Sulu and Lt. Uhura (previously discussed in her role as a woman).

Mr. Sulu, played by George Takei, is the helmsman of the USS Enterprise. He first appeared in the second pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before" as "physicist" Sulu where the character had very few lines that were not indicative of the "adventure-loving, vital individual into which he would develop" (Compendium 18). He is described in the episode "Errand of Mercy" (airdate 3/23/67) as a "capable combat officer" by Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock as Sulu is left commanding the Enterprise in battle against a formidable Klingon attack force. He is also a bit of an adventurist and a swashbuckler as is evident by his chivalrous swordplay in "The Naked Time" (airdate 9/29/66). To have a Japanese-American in such an authority position was indeed a big step forward. Though hostile feelings in America towards Japanese-Americans due to World War II had cooled off significantly, some concern existed as to whether a Japanese-American character would cost the series viewers in Indonesia (Stine 160). Still, George Takei, like the other minority actors for Star Trek, fought and lobbied hard for his character. He was never happy with the lines and actions the writers had for his character and Takei pushed so hard for his character that producers and writers learned to watch out when he came around (Interview 63). Gene Roddenberry never viewed Sulu as a "token Asian", even at a time when it seemed everyone was against him for insisting on a major role for his minority character (72). Lt. Sulu thus became an indispensible member of the Enterprise crew. It is difficult to imagine anyone else at the helm of the USS Enterprise that could perform the duties of helmsman as well as Sulu.

The other minority regular on Star Trek was, of course, Lt. Uhura, communications officer of the Enterprise. Again, it must be stressed that it was a bold step on the part of Star Trek to have a Black character in such an important position on a television show during the 1960's. Uhura, whose name means "freedom" (Compendium 28) was a Black-African princess from East Africa who was fluent in Swahili, not an American Black woman, and this added a certain mystique to her character. Just as Sulu was never intended to be a "token-Asian" for the benefit of certain viewers in the audience, Uhura never intended to be a "token Black", and both Ms. Nichols and Gene Roddenberry sought to make sure of that (Interview 72). Unfortunately, pressure from network censors and writers often reduced her to simple lines like, "Hailing frequencies open, Captain" or "Captain, what is it?" However, of the major groundbreaking steps involving Lt. Uhura that Star Trek made in television history was television's first interracial kiss (widely acknowledged as such in the literature). The controversial kiss occurred during the episode "Plato's Stepchildren" (airdate 11/22/68) where Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Nurse Chapel, and Lt. Uhura are held captive by admirers of Earth's ancient Greek society who are also endowed with telekinetic powers. The script called for either Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock, under control of his alien captors, to kiss Lt. Uhura. According to Fred Freiberger, producer of the episode, the show was caught in a bind- if they had Spock kiss her, the critics would say the show was too scared to have a White man kiss a Black woman, and if they had Kirk with Uhura in the scene with no kiss, then they would have gotten the same reaction. He and his colleagues made the decision to "...have Kirk do it, and go as far as [they could] in terms of censorship and all the rest of it" (Interview 164). The kiss between Uhura and Kirk did make it on the air, and it apparently turned a lot of heads, but Ms. Nichols felt that the kiss was not all it was cracked up to be. She remarked once that Kirk was forced to kiss Uhura and, moreover, he was trying to fight against the pressure. Fan male after the episode was critical of the kiss, saying basically that if Captain Kirk had a beautiful woman in his arms, he would not be reluctant to kiss her (Gerrold 80). As is apparent, Star Trek did attempt to make bold steps with its minority regulars, but the steps fell far short of their intended effect.

Star Trek does have a strong vein of racism running through it, but this racism is not directed towards the minority regulars (that would have caused major problems). Instead, this racism was directed towards Mr. Spock (portrayed by Leonard Nimoy), the half-Human half-Vulcan first officer and science officer of the Enterprise. Spock is the only one of his people aboard the Enterprise. His pointed ears, green blood and devotion to pure logic set him apart from the rest of the crew. As a Vulcan, a fictional race of beings, scathing comments regarding his ethnicity (and especially his pointed ears) could have been made with virtual impunity while similar comments directed toward recognised minority groups would have been greatly frowned upon. The relationship between Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy makes this point clear. During practically every episode, McCoy badgers Spock about everything from his pointed ears to his green blood. During the episode "Bread and Circuses" (airdate 3/15/68), Spock saved McCoy's life during a gladiator battle. McCoy later tries to humbly thank Spock for saving him, but he was put off by Spock's concentration on finding a way out of their jail cell and resorts to going back to his typical scathing remarks regarding Spock's physical characteristics (I forget the actual line, but it goes something like this: "I'm trying to thank you for saving my life, you pointy-eared Vulcan!!"). McCoy is not the only one to attack Spock's ethnicity. During the episode "The Omega Glory" (airdate 3/1/68), Captain Ronald Tracey of the USS Exeter points to Spock's pointed ears and tries to convince his captors the Yangs that Spock is Satan, an endeavour that fails. And finally, in "Balance of Terror" (airdate 12/15/66), "Lieutenant Stiles, a barely-concealed racist and reactionary who lost several ancestors in [the human's first war with the Romulan Star Empire], accuses Spock of being a Romulan sympathiser simply because Vulcans and Romulans have pointed ears. (In the end, Spock risks his life to save Stiles and the bigot is instantly chastened and reformed.)" (Worland 112). Attitudes like this towards Spock were tolerated because Nimoy was a White and his character a Vulcan, not a Black or a Hispanic or an Asian. Roddenberry had originally wanted to cast a Black man in Spock's role (Interview 8), but it seems rather doubtful if the same remarks could have been made about Spock were he played by a Black.

Lastly, one episode of Star Trek is a clear statement on racism and its inherent disutility. "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" (airdate 1/10/69) is about two half-white half-black beings from the planet Charon who bring their senseless racial struggle to the Enterprise. Lokai is the first to come aboard the Enterprise - he arrives in a stolen shuttlecraft asking for asylum. His pursuer, Bele, soon afterwards arrives on the Enterprise asking to take Lokai back to their home planet to stand trial for political crimes. Bele explains to Captain Kirk at one point his reason for wanting to take Lokai back to Charon. Apparently Lokai and others like him are considered inferior because they are black on the right side of their bodies while Bele's people are white on that side (the difference is not apparent to Kirk and the rest of the crew until Bele points it out, and the way it is pointed out makes it look silly and arbitrary). He attempts to justify his people's treatment of Lokai by saying they are well treated and well cared for by his people, but because of their inherent inequality, they are not able to take care of themselves and require paternal guidence from the "superior" members of their society. Later in the episode, Lokai gives a lecture to members of the bridge crew on racism and persecution - the bridge crew emphasising that racism and persecution existed at one time but was a thing of the past in their society. Bele eventually hijacks the Enterprise to Charon when his extradition request is denied by the Federation, but when the Enterprise reaches Lokai's and Bele's home planet, they find the entire population dead from a major war. Instead of putting aside their diferences, the two blame each other for the war and they end up beaming themselves back down to the planet to continue their senseless race war. The episode ends with Captain Kirk not acknowledging that either of them was right or wrong, but "all that mattered to them was their hate". The parallels between this episode and the Civil Rights struggle in America are uncanny. In the United States, in addition to people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who were advocating peaceful change and Senator Stromm Thurmond of South Carolina who was advocating the status quo, extremist groups based on hatred and anger existed on the playing field. Malcom X, a radical Black activist, advocated a violent uprising by Blacks against Whites (in essence, "Kill Whitey!). There was also the Black Panthers, a militant Black organization that was prepared to seemingly start another civil war with all the weaponry it managed to procure. On the other side of the spectrum, there were the Ku Klux Klan and other White hate groups. What all these individuals and groups have in common is a fierce, uncontrollable hatred of those opposed to them, much like Bele and Lokai in this episode. The message to them is simple: hatred and violence will bring about everyone's destruction. Indeed, it was peaceful change that eventually brought about the major reforms in civil rights in this country, not the violent uprisings or suppressions that the extremist groups advocated.

Thus, Star Trek appears to have made many contributions to the improvement in race relations in America. Minority characters in clearly important positions emphasising the equality of minorities were combined with a "safety-valve" in the form of Mr. Spock to act as an outlet for racist attitudes. And of course, one episode does get to make a direct comment on race relations in America. More than likely it is Star Trek's quality of remoteness of time and location that gives it the ability to do this without overtly appearing to be a social commentary.

*original article published here. Permission granted for academic purposes. Visit J. William Snyder's homepage

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

"I Never Read It": Star Trek and The Representation of African-American Women

by David Greven, Ph.D
Assistant Professor of English, Connecticut College

Lily (Alfre Woodard) in Star Trek: First Contact is an African-American woman freedom fighter in the ravaged Earth of the twenty second century, on the verge of the titular first contact meeting with the Vulcans that dramatically changes, in the Trekverse, the course of human history. Jean-Luc Picard’s Enterprise is only present at Lily’s Earth because they have followed a Borg sphere on its journey backwards in time, in an effort to retrocolonize the Earth, so resistant to Borg assimilation in the 24th century. First Contact is Picard’s Ahab film, in which, in his maddened, vengeful determination to destroy the Borg, who have infiltrated Enterprise, he resembles Melville’s tormented and terrible anti-hero in his hunt for the mythic White Whale. (The Moby Dick references are nothing new for Trek—they also saturate Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.)

At one point—after Picard has denounced the fierily masculinist (and often hysterical) Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) as a “coward”—and ordered the Enterprise crew to fight the Borg hand-to-hand if they have to—anything to avoid blowing up the ship—Lily storms into Picard’s ready room. She lights into him, attacking him for essentially ordering the crew to commit suicide by fighting hopeless battles with the Borg, when if Picard simply blew up the ship, they could all at least survive. “I forgot,” Lily says, “Captain Ahab always has to get his whale.” “What?” Picard angrily responds. “You do have books in the 24th century?” Lily challenges him. After Picard demands she leave, Lily shrieks, “Blow up the damn ship, Jean-Luc!” Thunderously, Picard bellows, “No! Noooooo!” With that, he bashes his glass display of model ships throughout the centuries, which loudly shatters. He says,
They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we
fall back. Not this time. The line must be drawn here—this far, and no further.
And I will make them pay for what they’ve done!
Interestingly, Picard speaks in the language of postcolonial discourse, accusing the Borg of cultural invasion and colonization by assimilation—charges that have on occasion been leveled at Trek’s premise itself. But his vividly infuriated speech falls on resigned ears. “See you around, Ahab,” says Lily. At this reminder that he verges on Ahablike tyranny, Picard iterates one of the most famous passages from Moby Dick:
He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate
felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a
mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.
Picard now realizes what he has been becoming—a tyrant. He owes this revelation to Lily, the triumphant close-reader of classic literature who can—to the elation of humanists everywhere—marshal the moral power of great literature to stop wars, prevent strife, illuminate human psychology, force Picard to recognize his own potential evil. But Picard’s extraordinary revelation produces another one. About the canonical classic she liberally referenced, Lily reveals, “Actually, I never read it.” She has quoted from Moby Dick but never read it.

Trek is a mythos that staunchly prides itself—to a fault—on its intertextual and avowed connections with the Western literary/aesthetic tradition. Given Trek’s old-fashioned liberal humanist belief in the importance of great literature, it is highly ideologically suspect to have a black woman character simultaneously deploy the Western canon’s cultural power and disavow her own familiarity with it. For Lily to announce that she has never read the text is for Trek to deny the intellectual, thinking life of African-Americans and women in one fell swoop.

I don’t write this to make a pro-canonical-reading point (though that’s implicit) but to call attention to the way in which this moment strips Lily—the black woman—of an intellectual power she has claimed for herself as it bestows not only this intellectual power but also the entire Western tradition upon Picard—wrenching it loose from Lily—in the process. Picard emerges as the rational, learned white male who is the proper, reasonable custodian of Dead White Male literature—who can effectively quote from it and glean its insights. Lily becomes the conduit for Picard’s access of Western cultural power, even as she is disenfranchised from it. What could have been one of the great moments in Trek—Picard’s angry speech is pretty darned awesome—remains a pitiable instance of myopic, naively racist Trek thinking at best. The black woman facilitates white male power, a process uncritically replicated throughout Trek history. Star Trek: First Contact harkens back to the Classic Trek episode “The Changeling,” in which a crazed robot erases Uhura’s brain, leaving her a tabula rasa. Nurse Chapel has to teach her how to be a functioning adult again, from scratch, even teaching her Swahili. By taking away the power of knowledge from the black woman and entrusting it to the white woman, here, the episode is not commenting on the shared history of the oppression of women across color lines—and the shared struggle over civil rights issues—so much as it is rendering a strong, capable professional black woman an infantilized figure in need of benevolent white guidance. A similar maneuver occurs in Star Trek: First Contact—after having been challenged by Lily, Picard emerges as the knowledgeable one who has to instruct Lily in the ways of the humanist tradition. I'm much more forgiving of Classic Trek than I am of Star Trek: First Contact in terms of these representations, but Trek has yet to give us a truly strong, resilient African-American woman character whose strength and resiliency are supported by the larger series and do not emerge from the power and appeal of an actor’s portrayal.

*David Greven has authored many articles on film and television. For more, see Action Chicks and Reading Sex and the City, as well as his book, Men Beyond Desire: Manhood, Sex, and Violation

Sexism and Feminism in the Star Trek Universe

Sexism and Feminism in the Star Trek Universe

Part 1 of "Star Trek: A Phenomenon and Social Statement of the 1960s"
by J. William Synder, Jr.

It was during the late 1960's that the contemporary feminist movement began. Major progress in women's rights in America was still years off, but the movement was gaining strength in the face of backward and reactionary ideas. Star Trek was almost destined to collide with the movement for women's rights in some way or another. Star Trek's attitude towards women was intended to be progressive from the very beginning. However, circumstances would not permit this progressive attitude of women as full equals to their male counterparts to achieve its proper position. Instead, the series seemed to embody the 1960's status quo as far as relations between the sexes and the role of women was concerned. Star Trek had the opportunity to have a woman play a character in a clear authority position but it instead backed off, preferring to use regular female characters that either came just short of what was originally envisioned or reaffirmed the traditional roles for women. According to Karen Blair, the rest of the female characters that appear in Star Trek are shallow, femme-objets that are disposed of at the end of each episode (292-3).

In the earliest conception of the series and during the first pilot, the script called for a character by the name of "Number One," the female first officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise. A strong, cool, almost emotionless character, she was intended to have experience and knowledge of ships' operations superior to that of the Captain (Compendium 9). Number One (she was never given a proper name) did make it out of the notebook and into the first pilot for the series, "The Cage", produced in 1964. Portrayed by Majel Barrett, she comes across as an extremely competent, authoritative officer committed to duty. When Captain Pike is forming up an away team to investigate the crash of the S.S. Columbia on Talos IV, Pike purposefully leaves her behind, not because she is a woman, but because he feels her to be the ship's most experienced officer, and she would be needed most on the ship should anything happen to the away team. When the pilot was shown to NBC executives, who in turn approved more work to produce the series, they ordered that Number One be cut from the format. According to a behind-the-scenes look at Star Trek hosted by Leonard Nimoy that was produced a few years back, their rationale was that the audience would not be able to identify with a woman in such a powerful authority position on board a starship (Nimoy). Unfortunately, the sexism of the 1960's was preventing the establishment of a progressive character because of traditional attitudes. Along with Number One went her costume design that differed very little from the costumes for the male characters. Throughout the rest of the series after the two pilots (The second pilot, the one finally accepted by NBC, was titled "Where No Man Has Gone Before"), all the female members of the crew were dressed in short, skimpy skirts instead of the trousers that Number One and other female characters wore during the pilots. (Although her character was cut, Ms. Barrett returned to the series to play Nurse Christine Chapel, a character more in line with what the network executives had in mind.)

With the demise of Number One, Star Trek's portrayal of women was to be, at best, ambivalent- wavering between an implicit belief in women as equals but an unwillingness to exemplify, in a tangible way, what was being professed. In general, "the Enterprise's female crew...are a generally placid lot, passively observing the action or servicing the male endeavour" (Greenberg 63). The characters of Lt. Uhura and Yeoman Janice Rand speak to this ambivalence well. Lt. Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, is the highest ranking female officer to serve aboard the USS Enterprise during the three years that the series ran on network telvision. Lt. Uhura serves as communications officer and as fourth in command of the Enterprise (Gerrold 141). To have a woman in such a prominent position on board a starship with her responsibility is truly amazing for a television show in the 1960's (Editor 37). She is almost never portrayed as a stereotypical woman incapable of accomplishing anything without male assistance. As a strong, fierce character, she can take care of herself quite well. In the episode "Mirror, Mirror", Uhura's task is to divert the attention of parallel-Sulu from his helmsman's post so that Engineer Scott can divert power to the transporter room necessary to send her, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Lt. Cmdr. Scott back to their own universe. Taking advantage of parallel-Sulu's desire for her, she moves in to "divert" his attention with a seemingly sexual advance, only to violently slap him back once the indicator light on the helmsman's position warning of the power shift has gone out. She then defends herself quite nicely against the angry parallel-Sulu with a knife. Nichelle Nichols had much to do with portraying her character and fighting for her character's status. Ms. Nichols, during an interview with David Gerrold, mentioned that in the script for one episode, Lt. Uhura was to assume the helmsman's position because all the senior officers were on a planet, but the script was rewritten to exclude that action by the Lieutenant. Nichols "pitched a bitch" over being written out. "When you're out in space, in a dangerous situation. you're not going to have some female that goes, 'Ooooh, Captain, save me, save me!'" (81). Ms. Nichols was bound and determined to secure a prominent place for Lt. Uhura and the rest of the women aboard the Enterprise. (Much also can be said about Uhura as a Black in a prominent position aboard a starship, but this will be discussed later.)

Unfortunately, another prominent female character on board the Enterprise was not as progressive as Lt. Uhura. Yeoman Janice Rand, portrayed by Grace Lee Whitney, comes to exemplify the ultimate "dumb blonde" and damsel in distress in a skimpy outfit that could possibly exist in a male dominated environment. Her main duties aboard the Enterprise entail having Captain Kirk sign orders, bring him coffee, and a host of other duties typical of a secretary for a male chauvinist pig. Yeoman Rand gets especially bad treatment in the episode "The Corbomite Maneuver" (airdate 11/10/66), as she appears as a "glorified maid" who enters the bridge to bring the Captain hot coffee and to make sure that he takes his pills (Compendium 32). The episode also includes a rather snide remark by Captain Kirk about what he was going to do to the individual who assigned him a "female yeoman". The series did back off of the overt sexism directed towards Yeoman Rand, but nevertheless she remained a sex object for the male members of the crew to gaze over. During the episode "Miri", Yeoman Rand remarks in a delirious state that she had always tried to get Captain Kirk to look at her legs. She now openly asks him to look at her legs, which are now discoloured due to the disease caused by the Life Prolongation Experiment attempted by the native adults of the planet several hundred years earlier. She is also captured by the children and held until Captain Kirk comes to rescue her. Eventually, the character was written out because of Ms. Whitney's bouts with alcohol and diet pill addiction (Interview 88). Ironically, Ms. Whitney not only loved the outfit the show gave her to wear, but also the roles the show had for her - she thought that "[when] we put legs into the format I think that helped sell the series" (Interview 87). While other actresses, particularly Nichelle Nichols, were pushing for larger, more important roles, Ms. Whitney helped to perpetuate classic sexism and sex roles during the series through her portrayal of Yeoman Rand, and the writers, producers, and network executives seemed more than happy to oblige her.

As far as other female roles in Star Trek are concerned, Karen Blair proposes in her article "Sex and Star Trek" that female roles in the series have sought to "affirm traditional male fantasies in a most direct and unenlightened way" (292). Blair maintains that the female characters, especially those created for specific episodes, fall into Simone de Beauvoir's concept of femme-objet, an objective view of women in a male-dominated world. Her focus is on three episodes, "Requiem for Methuselah" (airdate 2/14/69), "Wink of an Eye" (airdate 11/29/68), and "The Mark of Gideon" (airdate 1/17/69), and the female guest stars that are presented and then "disposed of" at the conclusion of the episode. In "Requiem..", the Enterprise has come to a planet inhabited by a mysterious Mr Flint and his android "daughter" Rayna in search of medicine for a plague that has broken out on board ship. The beautiful Rayna is extremely intelligent but appears to lack human emotions. Flint enlists the aid of Captain Kirk in getting Rayna to develop her feelings, only what actually happens during her emotional awakening is that a conflict between her love for Flint and her love for Kirk results in her death. According to Blair, Rayna is a "femme-objet par excellence," an android cast in the male image of what is female created by Flint to keep him company. "The supposed moral is that one can't program or control love, but a feminist perspective demands that one ask what kind of love, for what kind of person, living what kind of life" (293). In the episode "Wink..", the Enterprise is responding to a distress call from a planet claiming that only a tiny portion of their race still exists. The aliens are, in fact, living in an accelerated state enabling them to beam up with the away team and take over the Enterprise without anyone noticing. The men of the planet are sterile and the women are, therefore, left with no other option than to secure men from spaceships that happen to respond to the distress call. Deela chooses Captain Kirk to be her mate, but Kirk does not oblige her wish to take him back to the planet. She gets little if any sympathy for her endeavour. In "..Mark..", the female character Odona has volunteered to spend time with Captain Kirk so that she might acquire the various deadly diseases Kirk has been exposed to during his lifetime. She does this so that she would act as a carrier of deadly disease that would start to cure her planet of its dreadful overpopulation problem. Odona ends up receiving the viewer's approval. "Odona, the germ bank, is applauded; Kirk, the sperm bank, is unthinkable" (293). In short, Blair feels that Star Trek fails to provide female viewers with any female characters that serve as "viable role-models" in a male-dominated ideological environment (292-294).

Clearly, Star Trek gives rather short shrift to women at almost every turn. It turned down the opportunity to break new ground in the area of women's rights and opted for a largely passive and secondary role for its female characters. This is reflective of America during the late 1960's where the feminist movement was starting to gain momentum but failed to exert the force that it came to during the early 1970's.

*Original article published here. Permission granted for academic purposes. Visit the homepage J. William Synder Jr.

[Trekdom editorial insert: According to Bob Justman and Herb Solow's Inside Star Trek, network executives told Roddenberry to lose Number One because of Majel Barrett's acting. Also, Grace Lee Whitney disputes the claims that onset inebriation caused her dismissal. See our review of her book.]

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mirror, Mirror: How Star Trek Won the Cold War

by Jared B.

After Captain Kirk demonstrates Starfleet ethics by not taking needed dilithium crystals by force, a transporter malfunction leaves him and his away team (Uhura, McCoy, and Scotty) in an alternate reality. There, he discovers that this mirror universe reflects the imperialistic opposite of known Federation culture.

No longer is the Enterprise a ship of exploration and discovery. Instead, it is a warship, intent on plundering neighboring worlds, exploiting resources, and conquering the less advanced at gunpoint. No longer is the Federation a peaceful coalition of sovereign planets. Instead, Starfleet polices and expands the "Empire."

No prime directive hinders conquest in this mirror reality. Rather, the purpose of the Empire is domination.

In this militaristic future, the crew of the Enterprise has ceased to be a meritocracy of order, discipline, and self-sacrifice. Male officers advance in ranks by assassinating superior officers, while women climb the ranks through sex and subterfuge. Trust among crewmembers is nearly absent, while violence and death are everyday occurrences. Crewmen who make mistakes or fail to kill superior officers are subjected to "agony booths" and "agonizers." Additionally, with the aid of a secret device, the captain vaporizes his enemies from the comfort of his quarters.

This is not the Enterprise we know. But, what is it really? What were the writers trying to say?

In this author's opinion, the message of "Mirror, Mirror" is unambiguous: We see the Communist version of the Federation, meaning that this alternate reality matched American perceptions of the Red Menace in the late sixties.

It was totalitarian, imperialistic, and savage. The writers saw no contradiction in mixing Fascist salutes with "Eastern barbarism," exhibited in fighting, clothing, and hairstyles. Many Cold Warriors at the time grouped fascism and communism together as "totalitarian" evils, both arising from the same dangerous and violent types of ideology and authoritarianism. And, in "Mirror, Mirror" we see the everyday realities of that evil, with its corresponding bloodshed, political purges, inhumane torture techniques, and "survival of the fittest" environment.

Left unchecked, the Empire, similar to the Klingon sphere, would cover the universe in a blanket of oppression and slavery. Like its Stalinist version in the 20th century, it cares not for the sovereignty of satellite states and conquered territories. Unlike the United States of the 20th century and Kirk's familiar Federation of the 23rd century, this Red Menace disposes of notions about human rights and unalienable freedoms. The only rule is the rule of force and violence. Independent thought or self-determination are corrected with agonizers, knives, and phasers.

Everyone is a potential enemy of the state and traitor of the Motherland (or should we say Fatherland?).

Opposing this alternative reality is the United States, the universe that Kirk eventually returns to (after convincing mirror Spock to become a freedom fighter and revolutionary). There, Kirk regains his role as a benevolent guardian of the Third World, spreading freedom, democracy, and the rights of self-determination to less advanced peoples. There, he is no longer helpless against the evil empires of the galaxy bent on totalitarian expansion. He can defend the South Vietnamese in their "private little war." He can read the constitution, spreading the power of the West's "Omega Glory." He can destroy the oppressive super-computers that control peoples' minds.

The double-speak and propaganda of Landru, The Oracle, Stalin, and Hitler are no match for Kirk's message of freedom, hope, and liberty.

This is the relevance of "Mirror, Mirror," and it's a message that later Trek writers ignored. Understandably, the Cold War had passed, and the images so familiar to a 1960s audience no longer resonated with later viewers.

Yet, more than many other episodes, "Mirror, Mirror" was a product of its context, and it reflected a worldview shared by many Americans during the 1960s and beyond. It was a message of hope amidst red scares, the threat of nuclear war, and the dangers of isolationism. Undoubtedly, it voiced support for U.S. victory in the Cold War, just as other episodes voiced support for U.S. intervention in Vietnam.

Today, we can criticize the contradictions of this message, and we can point to examples of U.S. foreign policy which differed from these propagandized goals. Yet, to do so misses the point of why Trek resonated with so many people. It projected a future when the United States stood victorious over the totalitarian empires of the past. Try as they did, these evil empires failed to extinguish our innate love of freedom, liberty, and individuality. No matter what tools they used at their disposal, from the gulags and gas chambers to the agonizer booths and reclamation chambers, we will never succumb to slavery and domination.

Instead, we will evolve.


Monday, August 6, 2007

History of the Dominion War, part 4

Part 4 of one youtuber's hour-long compilation of the Dominion War. Very cool.


Cold War Images and the Enemies of Star Trek

by Aaron Angel

The Cold War began with the birth of Communism and was strengthened by the Red Scare of the 1920s. The Second World War, with the Soviet-Nazi Pact of 1939, showed the American people the basic nature of Joseph Stalin. The Tehran Summit of 1943 was the beginning of an era of distrust and an attitude of anti- Communism that has had repercussions to the present and may continue to cause problems for years to come.[1] After the War, a national feeling of distrust for anything Communist led to the second Red Scare and the age of McCarthyism.

Many Americans during the Cold War Era saw the Soviets, often known simply as "the Russians," as a major threat to the "American way". They saw a Communist threat to the government, a threat that was just being made known to them, a subversion of the people by the "Godless Communists." The common person was now on alert to his neighbors, each of which could be a commie.

During this trying time of McCarthyism and fear of Communism, religion was an important part of the everyday life of many Americans. Many believed that the Soviets' rejection of religion was a true signal of their barbarism and evil nature. This only helped to build a feeling of intolerance and fear in the hearts of Americans for the Soviets.

While it was known that the Soviets had practiced Christianity in the past, the Chinese idea of religion was different from anything most Americans had ever seen. They had no solid idea of a supreme deity and were therefore placed in the framework of atheists. This did not cause as much of a problem for the Americans, as the Soviets were the most obvious threat while the Chinese played a smaller role in the Cold War Era.

Another reason for the Cold War was the presence of Soviet troops in European countries, encouraging the spread of Communism and enforcing that ideology with weapons, as they did in the Hungarian uprising of 1956.[2] This show of brutal force did little to ease tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and did much to irritate the problems more.

To understand how Star Trek ties into the imagery of the Cold War and the politics of the time, one must know a little about the powers of the genre and their place in the fiction of the era. These powers include the United Federation of Planets (also simply called The Federation), the Romulan Star Empire, and the Klingon Empire.

The United Federation of Planets, the largest known galactic government, includes Earth, Vulcan and many other worlds as members. Its headquarters are in San Francisco on Earth, placed there due to Earth's initiation of the idea. The Federation is a democratic/representative type of government similar in structure to the United Nations. Each member of the Federation sends a delegate to the Federation council and each has an active voice in the proceedings. Bordered by the Romulan Star Empire, the Klingon Empire and enclosed within the Ferengi Sphere of Influence (their trading area), the Federation area of space covers a large portion of the galactic arm.

The Federation Council is the legislative and judicial branch of the Federation government. Each planet represented here is considered an equal member as any other, though there are some offices and committees that have permanent members and chairs. Each planetary delegate is entitled to one vote per issue, no matter the size of the planet or the amount of influence it wields in the Federation.

Starfleet, the military and exploratory arm of the Federation, is a military type of organization, though not purely military in structure. They have an academy on Earth, and encourage the use of peace as a way of meeting new races and exploring the universe. Starfleet has a large following among theexplorers of the Federation, in that Starfleet has, discovered many of the homeworlds of the members of the Federation and has brought peace to much of the galaxy.

Mostly, the allies of the Federation are members of the organization, although some consider themselves neutral in standing. These members are most often on the fringes of the Federation and have ties to either the Klingon or Romulan governments as well.

Currently, the Federation is at peace with the Klingons and gives them aid as needed since the explosion of the moon of Praxis is still causing problems in the area of food growth and economic stability.[3] The Romulans are quiet, although on the rise in activity. The peace treaty made with them is still in effect, and war has not been called, but they make Starfleet nervous with their ventures into Federation space.

The Romulan Star Empire lies between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets. This position is a tenuous one, and has caused much hardship on the people of the Empire in the times that the Klingons and the Federation were at war.

The governmental structure of the Romulan Star Empire is a tri-cameral system, with nearly equal power divided among the following branches: the Praetorite, the Senate, and the Tal Shi'ar. Each of these has a specific duty in the Empire and each serves as a check and balance on the others to insure that no one else has more power than the others think they should have. This setup is similar to the Chinese form of government, insuring that no one office or person becomes too powerful and upsets the delicate balance of power.

The hereditary Praetorite is the judicial branch of the Empire. They write and enforce the laws and control the Star Navy, the military arm of the Empire. While the office is lifelong, people have been removed from office for non compliance with the Empire and other various crimes. Such people usually do not live very long after removal from office, if at all. The Senate is in charge of legislating the laws of the Empire and making sure that the people pay their taxes. This office is also hereditary and carries a lifelong term. These offices correlate to the lifelong offices of the Chinese government, though they are not generally hereditary.

The Tal Shi'ar, the intelligence gathering arm of the Empire, is a very thorough organization, considered the best in the galaxy. They are ruthless in their loyalty to the Empire and have ways of finding out information that would impress most of the known galactic governments. This branch of government is generally given free rein in their work, as the citizens of the Empire do not wish to be arrested for trumped up charges of treason for their interference. Similarly, the Chinese intelligence corps is known for its torture methods and is a feared tormentor.

The Romulan Star Empire is an aggressive enemy of the United Federation of Planets. Their first contact was when a Starfleet exploration vessel entered their system, setting off a perimeter alarm of satellites.[4] This frightened the peoples of the twin planets, evoking memories of the pirates that had originally caused them to break away from their mother-world of Vulcan. This ship named the planets Romulus and Remus, after the two Roman children raised by wolves.[5]

The second encounter was no better, and by that time the Romulans had re-established space travel, and launched a full-scale attack on the invaders. This led to an all-out war. The Romulans soon discovered the technology of warp drives from destroyed Starfleet ships and adapting that technology for their own ships.

This war ended when the United Federation of Planets took the advice of the Vulcan Ambassador, Sarek, to end the war and "close the door on them", meaning for the Federation to leave them alone and ignore them.[6] The treaty to end the war was the only one in Federation history to be completed solely by data transmission, and the Federation never got a glimpse of a live R omulan, only dead and vacuum-damaged ones. This peace treaty, named The Treaty of Alpha Trianguli,[7] established the Romulan Neutral Zone, and has remained intact since the signing. While there were breaches in the Zone, none of them were sufficient to lead to a war between the Romulan Star Empire and the United Federation of Planets.

Currently, Ambassador Spock is addressing a movement in the Empire to return to the Vulcan philosophy and way of life. This movement was set back by a Senator Pardek and his actions with the Praetorite, but continues to be an underground revolution. While the initial response to this is unclear, the Federation hopes to contact this movement again in the future.[8]

In the past seventy years, the Romulan Empire and the Klingon Empire have had two major wars, with the Klingons winning the first.[9] This war led to the development of an economic dependence on the Klingons for weapons and ships and led to an economic depression in the Romulan Empire. This action led to a very strong dislike for Klingons and their goods, since it is commonly said that the lowest bidder gets the market in Klingons arms deals.[10] Whether this idea is true is up to the reader, but evidence proves that Klingon weapons and ships are prone to disaster.

This war between the Klingons and Romulans closely resembles the problems between the Soviets and the Chinese following the death of Stalin. By 1963, the two countries were exchanging insults across their shared border and engaging in competition for Communist leadership on the planet. This split replaced the original Soviet face for Communism and added the Chinese ideology.[11]

The second war between the Romulans and the Klingons ended in the Romulan's favor, ending the economic dependence on Klingon technology and leading to a seventy-year isolationist period where the Empire tried to recuperate from the loses entailed during the two wars. Currently the two Empires are at an uneasy peace, as the Klingons are now an ally of the Federation, due to the destruction of Praxis's moon and the peace treaty of Khitomer that followed.[12] The Romulan Empire and the Federation are also at an uneasy period of peace, although it is unknown how long this truce will last.

The Klingon Empire, with its long tradition of warfare, has traditionally resolved its problems in battle and dealt with all their enemies in the same way: submit or perish. This policy was adapted against the United Federation of Planets but was unable to resolve in the way the Klingons had expected. A delegation of one person was sent to the Klingon homeworld in an effort to spread peace between the two governments, but this ended in failure when the Ambassador was removed from office while in transit and was told to return to Earth. This was before the first of the Federation Babel Conferences. [13] Later, the Klingon Empire and the Federation would establish a border and a 'neutral zone' of sorts so that each side could develop and grow in size.

The government of the Empire is based on a High Council, which rules with an iron fist. This council is in charge of all aspects of the government, including the military and the Imperial Intelligence. The council members are headed by the Emperor, though his position is more honorary than most believe. The members of the council are elected from the most prominent families in the Empire, and the term is lifelong.

The Imperial Intelligence branch of the Empire is in charge of gathering intelligence for the Empire and assuring that each member remains loyal. Each ship has a central room aboard that is the center for the I.I. Agent aboard, where all conversations and actions monitored and recorded for later review. If an action or conversation appears to be against the Empire or detrimental in any way, that person is reprimanded and does not become a repeat offender under threat of death. This extreme amount of surveillance was also true in the Soviet Union, with the KGB monitoring every action made anywhere, even in its own offices. The KGB, easily identified with the Imperial Intelligence of the Klingon Empire, had hidden and secret agents in every branch of the Soviet government and on every ship, plane, or space capsule operated by Soviet personnel.

The history and culture of the Empire consist of resolving problems through combat, it is no surprise that the military arm of the government is given as large a portion of the moneys as they are. The traditional way to advance in rank is to kill your most immediate superior and keep from being killed in the process.

The Klingon Empire and the Soviet Union are similar in governmental structure and military nature. Both governments are based on a hierarchical system that keeps the strongest person, whether his strength comes from political cunning or actual physical might, at the top of the government and in charge of the government. This person had to remain strong, as fools and weak leaders do not last long.[14] This strong-leader type of system is readily apparent in the Soviet Union, especially during the years that Stalin was in charge. The founder of the Klingon Empire's warrior society, Kahless, was responsible for bringing the Klingon culture together.[15] He and Stalin can be seen as mirror images of each other, as both were ruthless and Stalin, to be sure, used cruel tactics to insure his rise in power within the Communist Party,[16] tactics that can be seen as the norm for the Klingon Empire.

During the Cold War, much of the moneys of the Soviet Union went into the military, in areas of weapons development and production,[17] as well as the keeping of a large standing army for use in its outlying provinces and areas of control in the Eastern Bloc countries as necessary. This compares to the Klingon Empire, with its militaristic society and desire or need to show great amounts of militaristic strength. Both governments were drained of economic resources during the drawn-out war / non-war, as can be seen by the current Russian economic situation and as shown in the sixth Star Trek film, in which the Klingon Empire has to ask for help from the Federation due to an explosion of a weapons plant on the moon of Praxis.[18] This is an obvious parallel to the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear facility in 1986.

The episodes of the classic Star Trek series sometimes mirrored the actions and events of our own world. Each episode that had either the Klingons or Romulans in it led to a conflict, much like any real-world meeting with either the Chinese or the Soviets. A few of these correlations are blatant, while the majority are more subtle in scope. nuclear devices in the two countries.

Another correlation is the episode entitled "A Private Little War," in which the Klingons have given weapons technology to one faction on a planet and Starfleet upgrades the other faction to keep both sides at a status quo, where they had been for years.[19] This type of cultural contamination relates to various places on the globe where the Soviets attempted to aid governments in their attempts to become Communist nations.

While there are a few direct correlations of Cold War actions, there is one episode that directly mocks the Cold War itself, "The Omega Glory." This episode takes place on a world that parallels Earth with its imagery and ideals, most especially the United States. There are references to Comms and Yanks and the Enterprise crew realizes that a world war that did not happen here happened there, with dire consequences. This war, avoided on Earth, used biological means to destroy the enemy, nearly destroying all human life on the planet in the process.[20]

The Chinese, like their science-fiction counter parts the Romulans, are seen as a secretive and xenophobic people, strange in their ways and non welcoming to outsiders.[21] The Romulans base their actions on a system of honor unique to the Eastern world. They, both the Romulans and the Chinese, also see themselves as superior to all other cultures, seeing these other cultures as barbaric and unworthy of more than the merest of response. These similarities make the ties between the two cultures, one real and one fictitious, easily seen.

Our first view of the Romulan culture, while limited, was in the classic episode The Enterprise Incident. They were shown to be in p ossession of a new type of technology, a cloaking device that hid their ships from detection. This showed them to be an unknown factor in the galactic political structure and a worthy enemy for Star Fleet.[22] This new enemy, while rarely seen, proved to be a worthy addition to the genre of Star Trek.

The Sino-Soviet Alliance of 1949, which allied the Soviets and the Chinese in defense against Japan and any of her allies [23] can be compared to the alliance between the Romulans and the Klingons. Both the Klingons and the Soviets extended military aid the other power (the Romulans and the Chinese) which was to be repaid in full, and both treaties were ended prematurely, the Sino-Soviet treaty with the death of Stalin on 1953 and the Klingon-Romulan treaty in a war.[24] The first showing of the Klingon-Romulan military pact was in the episode The Enterprise Incident, which showed a Klingon ship manned by a Romulan crew. Each treaty also bound the weaker government to the stronger in an unwanted and, at times, uncomfortable way. The Sino-Soviet pact was structured so that China had to pay for all aid received and this led to a distaste for Soviet-style Communism, especially after the de-Stalinization of the Soviet society and a perceived weakness to the West.[25] Later, after Stalin's death, the Chinese and the Soviets became bitter enemies, each fighting to become the world leader in the Communist sphere, much like the Klingons and Romulans after the cessation of the treaty became enemies and had little official contact.

The Klingon-Romulan treaty forced the Romulans to buy Klingon ships and equipment, or face the possibility of war. This treaty, backed by the military strength of the Klingon Empire, forced the Romulans to buy Klingon military goods and ships, and forced the Romulans to give the Klingons the cloaking device. While Klingon goods were powerful in battle, they had a tendency to be shoddy, as well as expensive to buy and maintain. This economic strain on the Romulan Empire caused hard feelings to develop between two already strained governments.(26]

The Chinese and the Romulans have secrecy and xenophobia in common, as well as a nonequal alliance with an ally that becomes a hated enemy. Each rises above unfair treatment to become a powerful opponent to their enemies. This is normal for oppressed people, and holds true for societies as well.

In conclusion, Star Trek enemies and the actual enemies of the Cold War era share many similarities. The Klingons, antagonistic and warlike, truly portray the American image of the Soviet Union. The parallel is strongly reinforced by the continual threat they, the Klingons, were to the Federation. The recurring encroachment into Federation territory and their multiple attempts to undermine the lifestyles of Federation planets solidly parallels the Soviet attempts to replace capitalism in small countries around the globe.

While the parallelism between the Romulans and the Chinese is not as strong as the Klingon-Soviet correlation, each is seen as 'the other enemy'. They are not as continual or dangerous a threat as the major foe, but they are still a force with which to be reckoned.

The Star Trek series parallels aspects of the Cold War in a manner that not only educates its viewers but shows a certain humor about the era. Star Trek also helped the children and adults of the late 1960s, and beyond, understand the Cold Way by bringing it into a format devoted to entertainment and education, television.


1. Fred Inglis, *The Cruel Peace: Everyday Life and the Cold War*. (New York: BasicBooks, 1991), p. xviii
2. Ibid., pp.134-135.
3. *Star Trek VI* Produced by Ralph Winter and Steve-Charles Jaffe, 1991.
4. Diane Duane, *The Romulan Way*. (New York: Pocket Books, 1987), p. 165.
5. Ibid, pp. 190-191.
6. Ibid, pp. 194-195.
7. Ibid, pp. 195.
8. *Unification (Parts I and II)* Produced by Rick Berman, 1991.
9. Duane, *The Romulan Way*, p. 196.
10. Ibid, p. 197.
11. W. Scott Morton, *China: Its History and Culture* (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1980), p. 212.
12. *Star Trek VI*
13. John M. Ford, *The Final Reflection* (Boston: Gregg Press, 1985), p. 238.
14. Inglis, *The Cruel Peace*, p. 130
15. Hal Schuster and Wendy Rathbone, *Trek: The Unauthorized A-Z*. (New York, New York: HarperPrism, 1994) p. 233.
16. Inglis, *The Cruel Peace*, p. 35-36.
17. Ibid, p. 34.
18. *Star Trek VI*
19. Okuda and Okuda, *Star Trek Chronology*, pp. 56-57.
20. *The Omega Glory* Produced by Gene Roddenberry, 1967.
21. Whitfield, *The Culture of the Cold War*, pp. 160-162.
22. *The _Enterprise_ Incident* Produced by Gene Roddenberry, 1968.
23. Morton, *China: Its History and Culture*, pp. 211-212.
24. Ibid, p. 212.
25. Ibid, p. 212.
26. Diane Duane, *My Enemy, My Ally*. (New York: Pocket Books, 1984.), p. 38.

*The original article was first published here.