The Star Trek saga is probably the definitive multi-media phenomenon of our time. It spans five television series and eight motion pictures, it is a multi-billion Dollar business for publishers and toy producers, it has a loyal fan community that counts by the millions all around the globe.
Such a phenomenon attracts scientific examination. Among others, sociologists, philosophers and physicists have examined almost every aspect of Star Trek. It seems that linguists have somehow been left out.
The questions I asked myself then were: In more than thirty years, would the language used on the series not change somehow? How is the „vision“ of Star Trek represented in the course of the years? Does it change?
In order to give these questions their due attention, I decided to use a selection of approximately twenty episodes of both the original series of Star Trek (TOS) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) as my primary sources, with special empha- sis on the series’ prime ideological spokesmen, the starship captains Kirk and Picard. Additionally, I have also used material from the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscov- ered Country.
This paper could not have been realized without the gracious assistance of Roswitha Fischer and Clarissa Djie, who provided valuable literature and video mate- rial. Thank you.
April 27, 1997 RM
1 The Star Trek Universe: A Brief Introduction
Despite its current status as a multi-media phenomenon, Star Trek was by no means destined to become a cult show. The first pilot episode, „The Cage“ (1964), was rejected by network censors for being too demanding for the ordinary TV audience. Executive producer Gene Roddenberry made several changes which would make the concept acceptable to NBC, and eventually the series sold after approval was given to a second pilot. The series premiered on September 8, 1966 and critics almost immedi- ately tore it to pieces. The demands of the network executives hung over the set like the sword of Damocles. Moreover, the series was in constant threat of cancellation due to continually bad ratings.1 Though two fan-organized letter campaigns saved TOS in 1966 and 1967, the series was cancelled after three seasons, in 1969. After that, reruns of the show were shown in syndication. A huge, active and very vocal fan cul- ture flourished, and by the mid-1970s, its plea for any sort of sequel reached Para- mount, the production company. A short-lived animated series was aired in 1973-74, followed by Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and seven equally successful mov- ies, the most recent being Star Trek: First Contact (1996).
While Star Trek (I will use this term henceforward for the entire phenomenon) was living again on the big screen, Gene Roddenberry tried to „capture lightning in a bottle again.“2. He produced Star Trek: The Next Generation, featuring a new Enter- prise and a new crew. It proved to be a great success during its seven year run (1987- 94). Currently, there are two spin-off series of TNG in production: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (since 1993) and Star Trek: Voyager (since 1995).
1.2 The Making of a Usable Future
Space - the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. With this prologue, each one of the TOS episodes is opened, except the two pilots. It summarizes the dramatic and ideological foundations on which not only TOS but also TNG are based. It uses the well-known concept of the frontier to signify that in the future, another movement of civilization is occurring; only this time, spaceward the empire would take its way. The prologue also implies that the adventures of the Enter- prise will be told from the human perspective: Only from this point of view, worlds can be perceived as „strange“, and civilizations as „new“. Gene Rodden- berry’s vision of the future takes up much of the spirit of the Kennedy presidency: „Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.“3 The Earth is unified. All racial, sexual or religious discrimination has vanished. Disease, poverty and hunger have been eradicated. The Earth of the 23rd and 24th centuries is a comfortable and peaceful place. It happens to be the power centre of the galaxy, as well. Earth is a founding member and the principal power of the United Federation of Planets, a kind of United Nations in space. Many institutions of this organization have their seat on Earth. In general, the Star Trek universe is a homely, knowable, somewhat simplistic place. Aliens are usually humanoid in form, and in most cases, they even speak English.
The starfleet is the crucial branch of the Federation. Its purpose is not always clear. Sometimes it serves as a tool of intergalactic diplomacy and peaceful explora- tion. In other cases, it uses its advanced weapons systems against the Federation’s enemies: The Klingons or the Romulans in TOS, the Ferengi and Borg in TNG.
The Federation has one paramount law: The Prime Directive of non- interference with other world’s affairs and „natural“ course of development. This law is the quintessential part of the entire Star Trek philosophy. Many episodes in both series deal with the keeping and breaking of this Prime Directive and with the given justifications.
1.3 The Protagonists
1.3.1 Captain James T. Kirk
James Tiberius Kirk, a dashing, gallant, brave, yet „roguish, mercurial, fingeron-the-phaser space cowboy“4 is in his mid-thirties during the original series of Star Trek. Born in Iowa, he can look back on an illustrious and unusually quick career in the fleet. He is always in the centre of events and very often gets involved in a hands-on fight on alien worlds, when he beams down with his men.
On the Enterprise, Kirk is close friends with his first officer Mr. Spock, a scientist from the planet Vulcan, and the ship’s surgeon Dr. McCoy, a Southerner. Regarding his affairs with women, The Star Trek Encyclopedia notes dryly: „Kirk was notably unsuccessful in maintaining a long-term relationship.“5
1.3.2 Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jean-Luc Picard, a Frenchman from La Barre, is in his mid-fifties as he re- sumes command of the new starship Enterprise (which is about 80 years after Kirk held that same position). He represents „a veteran’s seasoning and cool politically cor- rect views of authority.“6 Due to security reasons, he usually remains on the bridge and leaves the task of leading an away team to his first officer. Picard is a Renaissance man, his various interests include not only science, but also archaeology, theatre and classical music. He is also an intergalactic homme de lettres, having a vivid interest in literature, above all Shakespeare. Though considered to be a very private man, he is close with his chief medical officer, Dr. Beverly Crusher, and the ship’s bartender Guinan, a woman of mysterious alien descent. Picard has never married and has no children.
2 Language Change in Star Trek
2.1 General Observations
The language of Star Trek has changed on two levels in the two decades be- tween TOS and TNG. First, there is the level of technical vocabulary which suggests the progress that has taken place between the generations. This vocabulary has be- come very elaborate in TNG and is at times difficult to follow. Fans have christened it „techno-babble“. Other terms have changed for no apparent reason; for example, while Kirk orders a „landing party“ down to a planet, Picard assembles an „away team.“ Instead of Kirk’s „Energize!“, we now hear Picard saying „Engage!“ These changes or additions may appear superficial, but fans do notice them and are quick to protest in case a writer confuses them.7
On the second level, the changes go deeper and touch the series’ ideological basis. These alterations will be discussed in the remaining chapters. Basically, TNG uses for its prologue the same words as TOS. There is one exception: Instead of „boldly going where no man has gone before“, the Enterprise roams space „where no one has gone before“ (emphases added) in the 1987 version. I was not able to trace an explanation for this, though it seems obvious that the discussion about political correct- ness in the real world of the late 1980s has fostered the switch to a neutral formulation. Neither was any explanation given in the fantasy world of TNG, which is only too clear because per definitionem, people are simply not discriminated against in the future. Some sort of explanation that is true to the style of the saga was delivered in 1991 in the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. This coarse parable about „the Berlin wall coming down in space“8 bridges the logic gap between TOS and TNG in bringing peace between the Federation and its arch-enemies, the Klingons. At one point in the movie, Kirk is hosting a formal dinner in honour of the Klingon chancellor, his daughter Azetbur, and their aides. There is a lot of embarrassed silence and polite conversation at the table, but also dialogues like this:
CHEKHOV: We do believe all planets have a sovereign claim to inalienable human rights.
AZETBUR: ‘Inalien...’ if you could only hear yourselves. ‘Human rights.’ Why the very name is racist. The Federation is no more than a Homo-Sapiens-only club.
Chekhov’s somewhat clumsy choice of words (including a garbled quotation from the United States declaration of independence) may be hardly appropriate for the setting, but it serves a good purpose in pointing out the latent ethnocentrism of the Federation. The political correctness needed to resolve the situation is provided by Kirk himself at the very end of the film.
This is the final cruise of the starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity we will commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun, and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man... where no one has gone before.
The scene is remarkable because it is political correctness in progress; an appreciation of the power of language in the social process. The cold warrior of the 1960s speaks, and while he is speaking, he corrects himself to a neutral formulation. In this context, neutral in terms of race, not of gender.
2.2 „We Want the Girl!“
In TOS, there are several episodes (e.g. „Is There in Truth No Beauty?“, „The Lights of Zetar“, „Charlie X“, „Court Martial“) in which Captain Kirk describes adult female officers of his crew as „girls.“ This is particularly obvious in „The Lights of Zetar“, where scientist Lt. Mira Romaine is called a „girl“ by virtually every man on the ship, including the evil alien entities that possess her body („We want the girl!“). In „Mudd’s Women“, the Enterprise encounters a group of beautiful women who are about to be transported to a remote mining colony, „wifening“ the lonesome settlers there. Kirk’s comment: „The only charges are against Mr. Mudd: Illegal operation of a vessel.“ In another episode („The Conscience of the King“), he explains: „Worlds may change, galaxies disintegrate, but a woman always remains a woman.“9
Kirk’s comments on professional women are even more interesting. In „Spock’s Brain“, he sets foot on a planet run by women:
KIRK: I wish to talk to those in charge!
KARA: In charge?
KIRK: Yes, the organizers, the managers. The leaders of your people!
KARA: I am leader. There is no other.
KIRK: That’s impossible! Who dealt the machines?10
In „The Corbomite Manoeuver“, Kirk expresses his uneasiness having a female yeoman around: „If I get my hands on the headquarters’ genius that assigned me a female yeoman...“ Later he - or his „evil“, uninhibited half - confesses to her: „You’re too beautiful to ignore. Too much woman“ („The Enemy Within“). In „Turnabout Intruder“, Kirk encounters an old flame of his, Dr. Janice Lester:
LESTER: Your world of starship captains doesn’t admit women. And it isn’t fair.
KIRK: No, it isn’t fair. And you punished and tortured me because of it.
LESTER: I loved you. We could have roamed among the stars.
KIRK: We had killed each other.
LESTER: It would have been better.
Lester constantly talks about the „indignity of being a woman“, but manages to switch minds with Kirk in order to take over the Enterprise. Finally, as Lester is left as a men- tal vegetable, Kirk muses: „I didn’t want to destroy her. [...] Her life could have been as rich as anyone’s, if only... if only...“ Obviously, Kirk does not believe that space is a place for women, as well.
Picard faces a similar problem in TNG ’s „Lessons.“ He falls in love with a scientist of his crew and has to decide which way to go, as his affection begins to have an influence on his command decisions:
PICARD: [...] I knew I could never again put your life in jeopardy.
DARREN: If I stayed here, you may have to.
PICARD: You could always resign your commission to stay here with me.
DARREN: And you could resign yours and come to a starbase with me. Pause.
I’ll apply for a transfer.
PICARD: But we could still see each other. People do. We could arrange shore leave together. And - for the future... who knows...
DARREN: Of course...
Of course, they have to kiss goodbye. Neither is willing to resign duty for a love inter- est, but the decision is made in an undramatic and mature way. Picard does not really expect that Nella Darren gives up her assignment and submits to the traditional roles of wife and mother, even if she decides to leave the ship. In his other relationships with women, Picard is equally rational and formal. With him, chauvinist faux pas are highly improbable, but the absence of verbal traces does not mean there is no sexism on TNG.11
2.3 The Alien Other
With the Federation, TOS presents a galactic community in which humankind joins other races for mutual benefit. Nevertheless, Kirk’s attitude to alien beings is often highly ambiguous, sometimes on the verge of racism. That does not spare his friend and first officer Mr. Spock, who is frequently teased for his logical demeanour: „Would you for once try to have a heart“ he tells him in „Where No Man Has Gone Before“. In another case („Is There In Truth No Beauty?“), Kirk encounters an alien ambassador who is forced to travel hidden in a box, because people would go insane if they looked at him without protection. Kirk writes in his log:
While the thoughts of the Medusans are the most sublime in the galaxy, their physical appearance is exactly the opposite. They have evolved into a race of beings [...] formed so utterly hideous that the sight of a Medusan brings total madness to any human who sees one.
He describes the strange creature in „Devil in the Dark“ as a „monster“, and makes clear (in „The Corbomite Manoeuver“) that life does not equal life: „There are lives at stake, by our standards alien life, but lives nevertheless.“ But in „Balance of Terror“, he also makes clear that xenophobia will not be tolerated aboard his ship: „Leave any bigotry in your quarters, there’s no room for it on the bridge.“
Picard is not entirely free of racial bias. In „Suddenly Human“, the Enterprise encounters a young man, who has been raised by extraterrestrials in their own tradi- tion. Picard claims that „his true heritage is human“ but can not succeed in the effort to send the boy to Earth, a place to which he has no connection whatsoever. The issue of ethnic and cultural „roots“ versus the urge to adapt to a dominant culture is a recurring problem for several of the extraterrestrials on TNG, especially for Lt. Worf, the Klin- gon security officer aboard the Enterprise. Leah R. Vande Berg describes this „limi- nal“ status of Worf as a „colonialist-narrative of enculturation.“12 Each time Worf shows signs of indecisiveness, Picard reminds him: „You are a starfleet officer, lie u- tenant!“ (e. g. „Encounter at Farpoint“). In contrast, signs of successful integration are praised („Redemption, Part I“):
[...] I felt that what was unique about you was your humanity: Compassion, generosity, fairness. You took the best qualities of humanity and made them part of you. The result was a man who I was proud to call one of my officers.
Presentations of Klingonness that go beyond folklorist performances (sword dances, martial arts, and so forth) are definitely not welcome. In another instance, Picard does not seem to be content with the „result“ he himself has helped to create (also „Re- demption, Part I“):
WORF: [...] Patience is sometimes a more effective weapon than the sword.
PICARD: Patience is a human virtue, one that I’m glad to see you’ve taken to heart. But doesn’t this situation require a more Klingon response?
Rather than enculturation or civilization, Picard obviously expects of his subordinates to „switch“ identities, depending on situation.
2.4 A Matter of Style
Even the style of command has changed over the years. Kirk is a figure of authority. If he needs advice, he usually snaps: „Opinion!“ or „Analysis!“ or just „Mr. Spock!“ Unwelcome comments by crewmembers are replied to with „I did not invite speculation!“ („A Private Little War“) or „I keep that in mind [...] when this becomes a democracy“ („The Corbomite Manoeuver“). Kirk is often unpredictable. He says: „My orders are subject to my interpretation“ („The Ultimate Computer“) but also „I also have the option to disregard [...] orders if I consider them hazardous“ („The Ap- ple“).
Picard has an aura of authority, too, but he uses it in a more co-operative way. He asks for „Opinions, please!“ and adds a polite „Thank you for your advice“ („The Last Outpost“). If, for some reason, he is at a loss, he says: „I’m willing to entertain suggestions“ („The Nth Degree“). He asks: „Would you mind telling me what hap- pened?“ („Heart of Glory“), but keeps his crew well informed, too: „Maximum - you’re entitled to know - means that we’re pushing our engines well beyond safety limits“ („Encounter at Farpoint“). Uninvited comments are met with „Let’s not indulge in speculation, can we confine our discussion to the facts?“ („The Wounded“). His ra- tionality is beyond doubt: „Doctor, I’ll be the judge of what is reasonable!“ („The High Ground“). But he is also sure that „There are times [...] when men of good conscience can not blindly follow orders“ („The Offspring“).
2.5 Politics and Diplomacy
In Star Trek, spaceships are also tools of interstellar diplomacy. They trans- port ambassadors and often serve as moving conference centres. Kirk is not always happy with this role: „I’m a soldier, not a diplomat“ he declares in „Errand of Mercy“, but also „We’re an instrument of civilization“ („Journey to Babel“), bringing Federation laws to new planets. When establishing contact with unknown races, Kirk remains cautious: „We wish you no harm. [...] Perhaps it understands another kind of language.
Condition red alert. Prepare for phaser firing“ („The Lights of Zetar“). It is clear that „Our missions are peaceful“ („The Squire of Gothos“), but „the questions still remains: Can we engage them with the reasonable possibility of victory?“ („Balance of Ter- ror“).
This carefulness is particularly important when approaching the Klingons. In „Errand of Mercy“, the planet Organia is occupied by them: „Another Armenia, Bel- gium... [...] The weak innocents... they always seem to be located on the natural inva- sion routes.“ The Organians must be warned, and time is of the essence: „The trigger’s been pulled. We have to get there before the hammer falls.“ But unfortunately, the natives are not willing to take action against the invaders. Kirk urges them:
With the Federation, you have a choice. You have none with the Klingons. The Klingons are a military dictatorship. War is their way of life. Life under the Klingon rule would be unpleasant. [...] Gentlemen, I have seen what the Klin- gons do to planets like yours. They are organized into vast slave labour camps. No freedoms whatsoever. Your goods will be confiscated. Hostages taken and killed. Your leaders confined. You’d be far better off on a penal planet. Infi- nitely better off.
The Organians are stubborn, and so Kirk has to continue:
Gentlemen, I must get you to reconsider. We can be of immense help to you. In addition to military aid, we can send you specialists, technicians. We can show you how to feed a thousand people where one was fed before. We can help you build schools, educate the young in the latest technological and scie n- tific skills. Your public facilities are almost non-existent. We can help you remake your world. End disease, hunger, hardship.
What comes into mind almost immediately is the „Us vs. Them“ motif in many of the science-fiction movies of the 1950s. True to this tradition, the Klingons of TOS serve as a surrogate for the Sowjets of the cold war era; Kirk paints a picture of them in the gloomiest colours imaginable, while the Federation (the United States) appears to be a paradise in comparison. It is not the only instance of Kirk using this „promotional“ style to persuade the natives of a planet (more in chapter 2.6).
Picard has an exactly opposite approach: „Starfleet is not a military organization. Its purpose is exploration“ („Peak Performance“). When establishing first contact, he is careful in his choice of words. In „Encounter at Farpoint“, he greets Q with a courteous: „Would you mind identifying yourself?“ instead of ordering phaser fire. In „Darmok“, he addresses his alien counterpart:
Captain, would you be prepared to consider the creation of a mutual non- aggression pact between our two peoples, possibly leading to a trade agree- ment and cultural interchange? Does this sound like a reasonable course of ac- tion to you?
Even in unpleasant situations, Picard is not the one who counts words („The Enemy“):
Commander, both our ships are ready to fight. We have two extremely powerful and destructive arsenals at our command. Our next actions will have serious repercussions.
It seems that Picard is eager to avoid unnecessary verbal threatening gestures when addressing alien dignitaries (or even intruders). He also seems to avoid a „promotional“ style in his language, the presentation of human values and achievements.
2.6 „In for a Penny, in for a Pound“
The captains’ room for manoeuvre in making a decision is limited by the Prime Directive, the iron rule of the Federation. This law prohibits any interference in a world’s internal affairs and „natural“ course of development. Kirk: „A star captain’s most solemn oath is that he will give his life, even his entire crew, rather than violate the Prime Directive“ („The Omega Glory“). Not surprisingly, Kirk frequently violates this law following his own beliefs of what is natural and what is not.
In „The Return of the Archons“, the Enterprise encounters a planet whose population is controlled by Landru, a being who, as later turns out, is a computer with the programming running amok.
KIRK: Mr. Spock - the plug must be pulled!
KIRK: Landru must die.
SPOCK: Captain, our Prime Directive of non-interference...
KIRK: That refers only to a living, growing culture. Do you think this one is?
Kirk seeks for allies among the natives and steps to the task of shutting off the com- puter. Even after some of them shy away from their own courage, Kirk tells them: „It’s too late!“ Kirk literally talks the computer into destruction by persuading it that it did not fulfil his duties properly. Landru is left in ruins, and Kirk tells the shattered in- habitants: „Well, we’ve won, you’re on your own now, I hope you’re up to it“, advising them to look „for another job.“ After all, everything was done to „help restore the planet’s culture to a human form.“
Essentially the same happens in „The Apple.“ Here, the happy-go-lucky na- tives live in a paradise controlled by Vaal, another computer. Their only duty is to serve Vaal and to provide it with ore from time to time. Again, Spock is the one warning Kirk:
SPOCK: I am concerned, Captain. This may not be an ideal society, but it is a viable one.
KIRK: Bones [i. e. DR. MCCOY] is right. These people aren’t living, they’re existing. They don’t create, they don’t produce, they don’t even think. They exist to service a machine.
SPOCK: If we do what it seems we must, in my opinion we’ll be in direct violation of the non-interference directive.
KIRK: These are people! They should have the opportunity of choice. We owe it to them to interfere.
SPOCK: Starfleet command may think otherwise.
KIRK: I’ll take my chances.
The natives are kept from feeding Vaal, and, with the help of some phaser fire from the Enterprise, the creature collapses. But, again, the natives, bereft of their object of worship, are sceptical. Kirk then delivers a remarkable speech promoting Federation values:
You’ll learn to care for yourselves. With our help. And there’s no trick to put even fruit on trees, you might even enjoy it. You’ll learn to build for yourselves, think for yourselves, work for yourselves, and what you create is yours. That’s what we call freedom. You’ll like it, a lot. And you’ll learn something about men and women, the way they’re supposed to be. Caring for each other, being happy with each other, being good to each other. That’s what we call love. You’ll like that, too, a lot. You and your children.
Only Spock has still his doubts, whereas everyone else seems to be happy to have another society brought back on the „natural course of evolution.“
Another peculiar but very realistic version of that attempt can be seen in „A Private Little War“, universally noted as Star Trek ’ s commentary on Vietnam. Here, Kirk and company visit a rather primitive planet where one group of the population, the „hill people“, has been furnished with flintlocks by the Klingons, who wish to remain in the background. The other group, the „villagers“, who already had contact with the Federation, fight a hopeless cause with primitive weapons. Kirk, who befriended the villagers’ leader Tyree during a mission years before, declares: „I have elected to vio- late orders“ and decides to interfere once more, this time against the lively protest of Dr. McCoy.
MCCOY: Do I have to say it? It’s not bad enough there’s already on serpent in Eden teaching one side of that gunpowder. You gonna make sure they all know about it.
KIRK: Exactly... Each side receives the same knowledge in the same type of firearm.
MCCOY: Have you gone out of your mind? Yes - maybe you have! Tyree’s wife, she said there was something in that root, she said now you can refuse her nothing!
MCCOY: Is it a coincidence, this is exactly what she wants?
KIRK: Is it? She wants superior weapons, this is the one thing neither side can have. Bones - Bones, the normal development of this planet was a status quo between the hill people and the villagers. The Klingons changed that with the flintlocks. If this planet is to develop in the way it should we must equalize both sides again.
MCCOY: Jim, that means you’re condemning this whole planet to a war that never ends, it could go on for year after year, massacre after bloody massacre!
KIRK: Yelling. All right, Doctor! All right, all right, say I’m wrong, say I’m drugged, say the woman drugged me. What is your sober, sensible solution to all this?
MCCOY: I don’t have a solution. But furnishing them fire arms is certainly not the answer.
KIRK: Bones, do you remember the 20th century brush wars on the Asian continent? Two giant powers involved, much like the Klingons and ourselves. Neither side felt that they could pull out?
MCCOY: Yes, I remember. It went on bloody year after bloody year!
KIRK: And what would you have suggested? That one side arm its friends with overpowering weapons? Mankind would never have lived to travel space if they had. No. The only solution is what happened back then: Balance of power.
MCCOY: And if the Klingons give their side even more?
KIRK: Then we arm our side with exactly that much more. The balance of power - the trickiest, most difficult, dirtiest game of them all, but the only one that preserves both sides. [...] War isn’t a good life, but it’s life.
These are, in all respects, maybe the most fascinating lines Kirk ever had to deliver. They are quintessential cold war philosophy. They are a justification of the American conduct in Vietnam - eerily enough, this episode aired just two days after the Tet offensive was launched (January 31, 1968). There is a certain bitterness in Kirk’s words that reveals not only the shattered dreams of a whole generation in the 1960s, but also the disintegration of the humanist Star Trek philosophy itself. „Well, you got what you wanted“, says Dr. McCoy at the end, and Kirk answers like just too many men have answered before: „Not what I wanted, Bones. What had to be.“
TNG brings new meaning to the Prime Directive and, moreover, Picard applies it more strictly, thanks to his straight personality, though there are sometimes tempta- tions for him. A major temptation for any starship captain is to be worshipped as a deity after arriving on some primitive planet. That exactly happens in „Who Watches the Watchers?“ Anthropologists have studied a family of Mintakans, a simple but bright folk, from a „camouflage observation point“ - thus avoiding contact and interference. Unfortunately, the protective energy field fails, and one injured scientist is taken away by the natives. Picard is shocked and orders that any „further contamination must be prevented.“ But matters get worse: A Mintakan male takes a peep into the unprotected surveillance laboratory and falls off a rock in shock. Dr. Crusher beams him aboard the Enterprise to treat his injuries. Things get complicated when the Mintakan, not completely knocked out by sedatives, gets a glance of Picard. He is beamed back to the surface and not long afterwards, word of a new god - „The Picard“ - spreads in the community. Picard is horrified and summons his scientists.
„Dr. Barron, your report describes how rational these people are. Millennia ago they abandoned their belief in the supernatural. New you’re asking me to sabotage this achievement, to send them back into the dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear? No! We will find some way to undo the damage we’ve caused.“
He presents himself as a human being and lets himself even get shot with an arrow to prove his mortality. In the end, they part as friends, Picard giving them the advice: „You must progress in your own way.“ Picard has restored and encouraged the Mintakans rationalist tendencies; a rationality that is very close to his own.
That rationalist attitude is replaced with compassion in „Pen Pals“. Here, Lie u- tenant Commander Data, the ship’s android operations manager, receives calls for help from a little girl living on a planet torn apart by its seismic activities. He proposes a rescue plan for the planet, but Picard prohibits further contact with reference to the Prime Directive:
What we do today may profoundly effect the future. If we could see every possible outcome... [...] You see, the Prime Directive has many different functions, not the least of which is to protect us. To prevent us from allowing our emotions to overwhelm our judgement. (Emphasis added)
But Data quite skilfully manages to transform the girl’s „whisper from the dark“ into a plea nobody could ignore and turns the captain around: „In for a penny, in for a pound, is that what you say, Mr. Data?“ They help the girl and save the planet, but erase her memories of the incident, as well. Interesting here is Picard’s statement of the self- protecting function of the Prime Directive. The fear of being an object of endless commitments to underdeveloped civilizations is an interesting justification of that law, surely a reflection of the changed American foreign policy after Vietnam.
The consequences of non-intervention, on the other side, are not always happy ones. In „Symbiosis“, the Enterprise encounters two races who share in a symbiotic relationship: The complete population of Ornara suffers from a mysterious illness that can only be cured with a drug produced on the neighbouring world Brekka. While ob- serving an eruption of sun-flares (Picard: „We will be pushing the shields to the limit, but we are getting a splendid view of the phenomenon!“), the Enterprise catches up an emergency call from an Ornaran transport ship. The ship explodes, but its cargo - tons of the cure - and four of its passengers can be saved. Two of them being Ornarans, two Brekkians. They quarrel over the cargo, because the Ornaran payment for it was lost in the disaster. Picard politely but resolutely points out that „this question must be settled by whatever legal machinery exists between your two societies.“ Things get complicated when Dr. Crusher finds out that the cure is actually a narcotic and that the Brekkians have kept the Ornarans addicted for centuries - long after any real need for treatment had vanished - to gain good profits.
CRUSHER: What are you going to do?
PICARD: Based on what we know so far, there’s nothing I can do.
CRUSHER: You don’t think drug addiction and exploitation is sufficient cause to do something?
PICARD: This situation has existed for a very long time. These two societies are... intertwined in a symbiotic relationship.
CRUSHER: With one society profiting at the expense of the other.
PICARD: That’s how you see it.
Crusher opposes that view and offers a solution.
PICARD: Why? Because it offends against our sensibilities? It is not our mission to impose Federation or Earth values on any others in the galaxy.
The Brekkians are aware that Picard knows their secret and are curious how he will proceed. Will he tell the Ornarans that they are not ill anymore?
No. I’m bound by the rules of the United Federation of Planets, which ordered me not to interfere with other cultures. If I would have told them any of this I would violate the Prime Directive.
One last problem has to be resolved: Picard has promised the Ornarans to provide them with material to repair their shagged out spaceships. Picard meets the aliens in the transporter room.
PICARD: The coils stay here.
ORNARAN 1: What about our freighters?
PICARD: You want to repair them, you’ll have to learn to do it yourself.
ORNARAN 2: We can’t!
ORNARAN1: If you don’t help us, our ships will soon be inoperable.
PICARD: Quite possibly.
BREKKIAN 1: If you withhold those coils, you’ll be disrupting the stability of both our planets.
BREKKIAN 2: And interfering with the trade agreement that has lasted for generations! What of your Prime Directive?
PICARD: In this situation, the Prime Directive prohibits me from helping you.
BREKKIAN 1: That’s absurd!
PICARD: You did not think so when it worked in your favour.
ORNARAN 1: You want our world to suffer?
PICARD: No, no, I don’t want that.
ORNARAN 2: Without the freighters, there will be no more shipments of Felicium [i. e. the drug]. We will die...
CRUSHER: Trust yourselves! There are... other options.
Crusher is still sympathetic to the Ornaran’s cause. She later talks to the Captain in the turbo lift:
CRUSHER: When the Felicium runs out, the Ornarans will suffer horrible withdrawal pains.
PICARD: No doubt. But they will pass.
CRUSHER: That seems so cruel. We could have made their burden easier.
PICARD: Could we have? Perhaps in the short term. To what end? [...] Beverly, the Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, and a very correct one. History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that intervention may be, the results are invariably disastrous.
CRUSHER: It’s hard to be philosophical when faced with suffering.
PICARD: Believe me, Beverly. There was only one decision.
CRUSHER: I just hope it was the right one.
PICARD: And we will never know...
Has the language of Star Trek changed from the 1960s to the 1990s? Has its „vision“ of the future changed along with it? I think it is arguable to answer both questions with yes. The reasons:
- POLITICAL CORRECTNESS. The world of Star Trek is one of universal emancipation. In terms of language, this did not include all social groups in the beginning. While TOS contains no instances of language discriminating against African Americans, it does so with women.13 Consequently, TNG has removed from its language traces of sexism and racism in an act of speech cosmetics. Other groups who might be claiming politically correct language, notably gays or lesbians, physically challenged people or religious minorities, appear neither in TOS nor in TNG. They are non-existent in the Star Trek universe.
-TRADITIONAL ROLES. TOS is still projecting traditional male/female roles into the future. Women serve in space only temporarily until they get married; they do not command starships. There are female captains in TNG, but most women still seem to be serving in traditionally female professions: Doctors, nurses, teachers, counsellors.
-ETHNOCENTRISM. Star Trek narrates its stories from the viewpoint of humanity, in order to facilitate viewer identification. Most aliens are human- oid in form, as well. There is some language of disgust and ridicule concerning the physical features of some aliens. In TNG, there is a shift from the physical to the psychical; the „Klingon Way“ is mentioned frequently. However, deviations from the standardized Federation rules of behaviour are not encouraged. Aliens are required to „switch“ identities to the human-dominated mainstream culture, otherwise they could be dominated mainstream culture, otherwise they could be considered as a threat. Membership in the Federation is perceived as some sort of gratific a- tion; the prospect to joining it is sometimes used as a political weapon.
-COMMAND STYLE. While Kirk seems to decide everything alone in an authoritarian style that finds its expression in snapped, clipped commands, Picard uses a co-operative method. He sprinkles in polite phrases that serve no other purpose than to ease the tensions on a long starship journey.
-POLITICS. In a manner closely connected to his style of command, Kirk openly promotes the causes of the Federation, pushing all considerations re- ferring to the Prime Directive aside. He engages in „cowboy diplomacy“, always on the verge of a violent confrontation with his various alien coun- terparts, frequently disobeying orders from his superiors. Pic ard is more cautious. His pompous, very diplomatic style is impressing in Shakespear- ean manifold and sheer number of words; he knows about the power of language and likes to use it. In terms of politics, the Prime Directive is the key element. The respect or disregard for it basically reflects the changed role of the United States in the world. First, a not-so-strictly applied rule, of- ten violated in order to „help“ underdeveloped civilizations to catch up to the Federation way. Then, a post-Vietnam philosophy of self-protection that leaves other peoples in the dark, allegedly for their own good.
Star Trek always seems to be swinging with the Zeitgeist. That is one reason for its overwhelming success, but also for its flaws. It explains why a good deal of TOS now looks terribly old-fashioned to us: Rather than presenting a stunning vision of the world in 300 years, it depicts an idealized version of the 1960s present and it ad- dresses the problems then pressing society. TNG essentially does the same in the 1980s: Star Trek ’ s „vision“ is changed accordingly, adapting to the mainstream culture. Both series are conservative utopias which try to describe the future with the language of the past. Indeed, an unfortunate enterprise.
Videography (Primary Sources)
Star Trek. NBC, 1966-69. Prod. Gene L. Coon (first season), John Meredith Lucas (second season), Fred Freiberger (third season). Exec. prod. Gene Roddenberry. With William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), and DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard McCoy).
„Charlie X.“ Writ. Dorothy C. Fontana. Dir. Lawrence Dobkin. September 15, 1966.
„Where No Man Has Gone Before.“ Writ. Samuel A. Peeples. Dir. James Goldstone. September 22, 1966.
„The Enemy Within.“ Writ. Richard Matheson. Dir. Leo Penn. October 6, 1966.
„Mudd’s Women.“ Writ. Stephen Kandel. Dir. Harvey Hart. October 13, 1966.
„Dagger of the Mind.“ Writ. Shimon Wincelberg. Dir. Vincent McEveety. November 3, 1966.
„The Corbomite Maneuver.“ Writ. Jerry Sohl. Dir. Joseph Sargent. November 10, 1966.
„The Conscience of the King.“ Writ. Barry Trivers. Dir. Gerd Oswald. December 8, 1966.
„Balance of Terror.“ Writ. Paul Schneider. Dir. Vincent McEveety. December 13, 1966.
„The Squire of Gothos.“ Writ. Paul Schneider. Dir. Don McDougall. January 12, 1967.
„Court Martial.“ Writ. Don M. Mankiewicz and Stephen Carabatsos. Dir. Marc Daniels. February 2, 1967.
„The Return of the Archons.“ Writ. Boris Sobelman. Dir. Joseph Pevney. February 9, 1967.
„A Taste of Armageddon.“ Writ. Robert Hamner and Gene L. Coon. Dir. Joseph Pevney. February 23, 1967.
„The Devil in the Dark.“ Writ. Gene L. Coon. Dir. Joseph Pevney. March 9, 1967.
„Errand of Mercy.“ Writ. Gene L. Coon. Dir. John Newland. March 23, 1967.
„Who Mourns For Adonais?“ Writ. Gilbert Ralston and Gene L. Coon. Dir. Marc Daniels. September 22, 1967.
„The Apple.“ Writ. Max Ehrlich and Gene L. Coon. Dir. Joseph Pevney. October 13, 1967.
„Journey to Babel.“ Writ. D. C. Fontana. Dir. Joseph Pevney. November 17, 1967.
„Friday’s Child.“ Writ. D. C. Fontana. Dir. Joseph Pevney. December 1, 1967.
„A Private Little War.“ Writ. Gene Roddenberry. Dir. Marc Daniels. February 2, 1968.
„The Omega Glory.“ Writ. Gene Roddenberry. Dir. Vincent McEveety. March 1, 1968.
„Spock’s Brain.“ Writ. Lee Cronin. Dir. Marc Daniels. September 20, 1968.
„Is There in Truth No Beauty?“ Writ. Jean Lisette Aroeste. Dir. Ralph Senensky. October 18, 1968.
„The Lights of Zetar.“ Writ. Jeremy Tarcher and Shari Lewis. Dir. Herb Kenwith. January 31, 1969.
„Turnabout Intruder.“ Writ. Arthur Singer. Dir. Herb Wallerstein. June 3, 1969.
Star Trek: The Next Generation. Syndicated, 1987-94. Prod. Maurice Hurley, Robert H. Justman, Rick Berman (first season), Burton Armus, John Mason, Mike Gray, Robert L. McCollough (second season), Ira Steven Behr (third season), David Livingston, Lee Sheldon (fourth and fifth season), Jeri Taylor (fourth season), Peter Lauritson (sixth and seventh season). Exec. prod. Gene Roddenberry, Maurice Hurley, Rick Berman, Michael Piller. With Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard), Jona- than Frakes (Cmdr. William T. Riker), and LeVar Burton (Lt. Cmdr. Geordi LaForge).
„Encounter at Farpoint.“ Writ. D. C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry. Dir. Corey Allen. September 26, 1987.
„The Last Outpost.“ Writ. Herbert Wright. Dir. Richard Colla. October 17, 1987.
„Home Soil.“ Writ. Robert Sabaroff. Dir. Corey Allen. February 20, 1988.
„Heart of Glory.“ Writ. Maurice Hurley. Dir. Rob Bowman. March 19, 1988.
„Symbiosis.“ Writ. Robert Lewin, Richard Manning and Hans Beimler. Dir. Bob Lewin. April 16, 1988.
„The Child.“ Writ. Jaron Summer, Jon Povill and Maurice Hurley. Dir. Rob Bowman. November 19, 1988.
„The Measure of a Man.“ Writ. Melinda Snodgrass. Dir. Robert Scheerer. November 11, 1988.
„Pen Pals.“ Writ. Melinda Snodgrass. Dir. Winrich Kolbe. April 29, 1989.
„Q Who?“ Writ. Maurice Hurley. Dir. Rob Bowman. May 6, 1989.
„Peak Performance.“ Writ. David Kemper. Dir. Robert Scheerer. July 8, 1989.
„Who Watches the Watchers?“ Writ. Richard Manning and Hans Beimler. Dir. Robert Wiemer. October 14, 1989.
„The Enemy.“ Writ. David Kemper and Michael Piller. Dir. David Carson. November 4, 1989.
„The Hunted.“ Writ. Robin Bernheim. Dir. Cliff Bole. January 6, 1990.
„The High Ground.“ Writ. Melinda Snodgrass. Dir. Gabrielle Beaumont. January 27, 1990.
„The Offspring.“ Writ. Rene Echevarria. Dir. Jonathan Frakes. March 10, 1990.
„Suddenly Human.“ Writ. John Whelpley and Jeri Taylor. Dir. Gabrielle Beaumont. October 15, 1990.
„The Wounded.“ Writ. Jeri Taylor. Dir. Chip Chalmers. January 28, 1991.
„First Contact.“ Writ. David Russell Bailey, David Bischoff, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller. Dir. Cliff Bole. February 18, 1991.
„The Nth Degree.“ Writ. Joe Menosky. Dir. Robert Legato. April 1, 1991.
„Redemption, Part I.“ Writ. Ronald D. Moore. Dir. Cliff Bole. June 17, 1991.
„Redemption, Part II.“ Writ. Ronald. D. Moore. Dir. David Carson. September 23, 1991.
„Darmok.“ Writ. Joe Menosky. Dir. Winrich Kolbe. September 30, 1991.
„Lessons.“ Writ. Ronald Wilkerson and Jean Louise Matthias. April 5, 1993.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Paramount Pictures, 1991. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Writ. Nicholas Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn after a story by Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner, and Mark Rosenthal. Prod. Ralph Winter, Steven-Charles Jaffe. Exec. prod. Leonard Nimoy. With William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), and DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard McCoy).
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1 Several of the principle actors have written of these early years in their autobiographies. For example: William Shatner, Star Trek Memories (New York: Harper Collins, 1993).
2 Leonard Nimoy, I Am Spock (New York: Hyperion, 1995) 324.
3 John F. Kennedy, Inauguration Address, Washington, January 20, 1961. Davis Newton Lott, The Presidents Speak (New York: Henry Holt, 1994) 314.
4 Rick Marin, „Comparing the Captains: Kirk vs. Picard,“TV Guide: Star Trek Collector ’ s Edi tion (1994) 115
5 Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda and Debbie Mirek, The Star Trek Encyclopedia (New York: Pocket Books, 1994) 155.
6 Rick Marin, 115.
7 „[I]magine reading along, happily immersed in the Trek universe, only to have Kirk say to Sulu: ‘Engage.’ If you’re a Classic Trekker, it hits you like a cold shower.“ Joan Hinson, „20th Century Odyssey,“ in: James Van Hise, Trek: The Printed Adventures (Las Vegas: Pioneer Books, 1993) 11.
8 Leonard Nimoy, 315.
9 That rather reflects Gene Roddenberry’s own ideas about emancipation. „You see, it’s not a matter of superiority or inferiority. It’s a kind of difference.“ Qtd. in Yvonne Fern, Gene Rod- denberry: The Last Conversation (Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994) 202.
10 Later in that episode, Kara delivers a revealing line: „Brain and Brain! What is Brain?“
11 Tom Lalli, „Same Sexism, Different Generation,“The Best of Trek No. 15 (New York: Roc, 1990).
12 Leah R. Vande Berg, „Liminality,“ in: Taylor Harrison et al., Enterprise Zones: Critical Positions on Star Trek “ (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996) 65.
13 „[...] Star Trek was produced before the height of the feminist movement (but after the height of the Civil Rights movement, which helps to explain why blacks fared somewhat better on the show than women).“ Tom Lalli, 40.