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June 23, 2004

The Fascist Ideology of Star Trek

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Dr. Kelley L. Ross offers some most satisfying criticism of speculative fiction's greatest sacred cow.

Too much of Star Trek has always reflected trendy leftist political sentiments. It was appropriate that John Lennon's "Imagine" should have been sung at the 30th Anniversary television special: Capitalism and religion get little more respect from Star Trek than they do from Lennon. Profit simply cannot be mentioned without a sneer.

And then... Mike Campbell comments.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at June 23, 2004 08:44 AM

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Comments

Yup, it fits very well.
I used to love Star Trek. A utopian future, with lots of cool tech; who could ask for anything more? As time went on, lots of things about the show started nagging at me- The Federation's sanctimony and pretension, especially. I think the turning point was some episode in DS 9 involving the Maquis rebels: Captain Sisko destoyed an entire planet just to deny the Maquis a base. And there was no condemnation of this action in the show, not even a smidgen of remorse. I lost my liking for Star Trek after that. When I recently found Mike Wong's lighthearted "Federation (Star Trek) vs. The Empire (Star Wars)" website, I was cheering for the Empire!:) An excellent site, BTW. Wong skewers the scientific, moral, and social pieties of the Star Trek universe: www.stardestroyer.net. Worth a look.

Posted by: Jim at June 23, 2004 09:22 AM

I _LIKED_ DS9 more as it got less utopian. It increasingly showed a more accurate portrayal of human character as the arc actually showed some sort of conflict instead of the sleep-inducing blather of TNG or VOY.

If anything, it wasn't _politically_ accurate. That Ben Sisko was willing to render an entire planet uninhabitable to humans (not destroy) is totally inconceivable today. It's several orders of magnitude worse than Abu Ghraib, after all.

But yah, getting the Ferengi to go all soft and liberal at the end of the series really turned me off.

If anything, DS9 proves the genius of Babylon 5, since it was a total rip of that. Now THAT was an all-American sci-fi series.

Posted by: Kelvin at June 23, 2004 10:13 AM

Oh a postscript: no matter how bad Trek is, to compare it to the kiddie tale of Star Wars is an insult to real sci-fi productions everywhere.

Posted by: Kelvin at June 23, 2004 10:16 AM

The music played over the funeral scene in "The Message" was the most emotive I have ever seen on television. If only we had five seasons of Firefly to draw inspiration from.

Posted by: Flea at June 23, 2004 01:00 PM

I never gave the politics of TOS much thought until NG came out while I was in college. It was immediately apparent that the Good Ship Enterprise was now just a flying UN... with all the implied PoMo Tranzi baggage.

Reading the article you linked to, I was reminded of a similar quote (from whom I cannot recall): "Without money, who do they get to clean out the reactor tubes on the ship every five years? Are YOU gonna volunteer for that?" Now, it's obvious where they get the 'tube cleaners: anyone who ever believed in anything but the State.

Posted by: Clayton Barnett at June 23, 2004 02:03 PM

*SPOILER*

Any Voyager fan would be able to tell you: the UFP uses SLAVE LABOR to clean reactor tubes. Well.... ...I suppose it's not that black and white. Let me explain.

As it turns out, the holographic doctor's counterparts in the Alpha Quadrant were relatively quickly supplanted (hint of it was the Andy Dick cameo).

What to do with this now useless computer program? Ahh, clean out dirty plamsa manifolds and so forth.

So an entire group of sentient beings are forcibly used to do the dirty work.

Now, I would imagine that these holograms are not programmed to consider not doing their jobs, although they did retain their difficult personalities.

The issue of non-biological sentience is often an issue in Trek (Data, the Doctor, etc.). The most notable tackling of the issue was, coincidentally, another Voyager episode, where a group of renegade holograms escape from their original role (prey for a hunter species) into a sort of photonic liberation front. At one point the holograms destroyed an entire ship to free two holograms with the combined sentience of a brick.

So whether these holographic janitors are slaves is debatable, but one can make an argument for it.

Posted by: Kelvin at June 23, 2004 03:04 PM

I agree with the discussion thus far, but I should point out one defense of the lack of financial activity in the Federation: I've heard it explained that their matter creation doohickies (the things that dispense their TV dinners) make economics irrelevant because they effectively alow unlimited material wealth for all. That still is not very realistic, but at least it's a little more than just hand waving.

Posted by: Varenius at June 23, 2004 04:30 PM

Varenius:

It's still not MUCH more than hand-waving. Somebody's got to do the dirty work of actually mining, or refining (whatever) the material that goes into the matter-replicating doohickies in the first place. Or do the scut work of supervising the machinery involved, anyway. Energy has still got to be spent in the process of matter-replicating.
I could buy increased automation, miniaturization, and whatnot. I can't buy a magic machine that creates something out of nothing (which, when you think about it, a moneyless economy would have to rely on). That's my take, for what it's worth.

Posted by: Jim at June 23, 2004 04:39 PM

I just want to know how an economy where people can work if they feel like it and sit around eating donuts from the replicator can still manage to produce people who look good in spandex.

Posted by: Flea at June 23, 2004 04:49 PM

Jim, absolutely correct. Energy for the replicators is the main issue. The show makes it sound like I could just run my replicator as much as I pleased no matter how much energy it gobbled up. (And since they supposedly directly convert energy into matter, given E=mc^2 that could be a LOT of energy! Though if the process could be reversed, the demand could be reduced through matter recycling.) The obvious solution would be rationing out periodic allotments of energy to each person, but then you are essentially creating money all over again...

Posted by: Varenius at June 23, 2004 05:08 PM

Flea: They just ask the transporter technician to reconstitute them at their destination minus the extra fat! :-)

Posted by: Varenius at June 23, 2004 05:11 PM

That reminds me: Why does Geordi use those artificial vision goggles? He should just have his eyeballs replaced with new organic ones while being transported.

Posted by: Varenius at June 23, 2004 05:14 PM

And wouldn't you effectively die every time you get transported?

["Hey, back to work, you! Don't you know you have to finish your diss--" Oops, sorry Flea, I almost said That Word again.]

Posted by: Varenius at June 23, 2004 05:19 PM

If this was the future I could get some AI to finish editing my dissertation for me. Or I could get a job serving drinks on Risa.

The transporter death issue is one that bothers me. You would not get me in one of those things.

Posted by: Flea at June 23, 2004 05:37 PM

And then, of course, there's the infamous fact that Star Trek characters evidently do not urinate or defecate.

Posted by: Kelvin at June 23, 2004 05:43 PM

And oh, postscripting the planetary obliteration issue: the great Lileks evidently just bleated about it a week ago.

http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0604/061704.html

Hat tip to http://dispatches.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Kelvin at June 23, 2004 05:45 PM

Regarding the characters' bodily excretions: Perhaps their uniforms contain tiny reverse-replicators around the appropriate orifices that convert waste products into energy to power the communicator and heating/cooling functions of the suits. Voila -- no more toilets needed!

Posted by: Varenius at June 23, 2004 06:22 PM

Eeeuuuww! That means they never grew out of diapers.

Posted by: Fred Boness at June 24, 2004 12:45 AM

Overheard at Starfleet Academy:

"Is that an energy converter in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?"

Geordi uses the goggles 'cuz it's politically correct to show handicapped people functioning no differently. Not being sarcastic on this.

Posted by: Kelvin at June 24, 2004 10:48 AM