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Lieutenant’s Log

Earth Date: 29th April, 2019

Congratulate me! I’m now a Lieutenant.

If I could take any kind of technology out of Star Trek to have for myself, I’d definitely take the replicator. Most other technologies, warp drive aside, are pretty possible for humans to eventually develop, according to Michio Kaku. In both his series, Scifi Science, and his book, Physics of the Impossible, he talks about the possibilities of making many Star Trek technologies, including the transporter whose technology the replicator relies on, but nothing of the possibility of creating a replicator itself. Teleportation alone is only being done currently on a microscopic scale with atoms, so it’s unlikely we’ll establish the technology to take that capability even further until perhaps the time it is created in the Star Trek universe. Because of this uncertainty of its possibility, this is the most tempting technology to take. (This was the tie-breaker for me between the replicator and the holodeck; the latter is just a highly advanced video game, and one Michio Kaku speculated in his show, Scifi Science, is closer to our realm of possibility.)

Apart from the replicator’s apparent impossibility in our time, another reason I am tempted to bring back the replicator is its applications. It can do a wide range of things, from providing essentials to those suffering in areas affected by drought or famine, to providing recreational products not easily available to some people. The flipside to this technology, such as providing dangerous objects like weapons or alcohol, could also be circumvented by simply deleting these patterns from the buffer.

As for how the Star Trek universe would be affected by the loss of this technology, I think there would be minimal damage. As it didn’t exist in Kirk’s day, the TOS era and earlier wouldn’t be affected at all. From TNG onwards, though, there is an affect that we would start to see. A holonovel without replicator costumes might pose an inconvenience. But there’s nothing saying they couldn’t carry a tailor on board, like the function Garak holds aboard DS9. And the deliverance of food would look pretty much how it did in Kirk’s day.

The functionality on DS9 would look a little different, too. Little would change in the way Garak runs his business, but the Replimat would have to be replaced by a restaurant that caters to different tastes like the Replimat does. Probably not as easy feat, but possible.

But replicators had the additional use of supporting allies, as Starfleet reportedly gave replicators to Cardassia and Bajor. This can be somewhat of a controversial point, as Starfleet can be argued to have supported Cardassia in such a capacity more than Bajor. In fact, unrelated to this, they have even at times supported Cardassia more than their own people, by giving them land that has been already settled by humans. But that’s a rant for another day.

Also, the events of season 7 episode, “Field of Fire,” would not likely have been possible. This would at least guarantee the life of two people. But the replicator is also important in view of providing swift medical care, and being without one might lead to others suffering and/or dying as a result. After losing his leg in season 7 episode, “The Siege of AR-558,” Nog is able to get it replaced at Starbase 371, and faces recovery in, “It’s Only A Paper Moon”, and this too may be due to replicators. In this light, replicators start to look pretty crucial.

Replicators start to look even more important in Voyager. In the very first episode, “The Caretaker,” we see them take a vital role in Voyager’s dealings with the Kazon. It is because of the presence of the replicators that allows Voyager to make a deal with Neelix, and thus the Kazon, to trade water for information. On the other hand, the Kazon wouldn’t have gone to such lengths to gain the technology, and Voyager might have had water on board anyway, provided that Starfleet has already survived years without replicators and thus would’ve planned ahead for their journey. Starfleet would be at a decided disadvantage without this technology.

More broadly speaking, it is probably in large part due to the replicators that Voyager was able to stay fed, and speculatively, how they may have been able to keep shuttles in supply, and build the Delta flyer, by replicating spare parts.

So, in the end, replicators are a very versatile, and sometimes crucial, piece of Star Trek technology. Without it, we might have more casualties, including a not-quite-recovered Nog; we might have a less provided for Starfleet, and their allies; Voyager might not have gotten far enough to rescue their people, let alone survived for years in the Delta Quadrant; then again, they might not have had to abandon themselves in the first place. But there are pros and cons to losing it, and certainly they could likely survive without it.

#StarTrekCourse @SmithsonianX

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Ensign’s Log, Supplemental

Earth Date: 25th April, 2019

I know I’ve talked a lot about how well Discovery represents women, but the truth is that before it, my favourite characters of Star Trek were all men, and topping my list is Elim Garak.

Despite the fact that are plenty of awesome female characters in pre-Discovery Trek, I feel the most relatable ones were always given to men. Reginald Barclay, Julian Bashir, S’chn T’gai Spock, Data… and of course Garak, were always the characters I was most drawn to, usually for different reasons per character.

All five of these men had, to me, something I identified in. In Barclay, sheer social terror; in Julian, a love for the alien; in Spock, his logic, self-control, and his difficulty in reaching out; in Data, his confusion about others, and his unceasing effort to strive for humanity; and Garak, who by this point has so many points that draw me to him…

I suppose I’ve always been drawn to dark and mysterious characters; they’ve always been endlessly fascinating to me. An example outside of Trek that I’ve been drawn to is Snape, from Harry Potter. Garak, like Snape, has many different facets that make him up. He is a habitual liar and tells us so, he is cynical yet idealistically loyal to Cardassia, he is capable of acting both selfish and selfless depending on what’s on the line…

A regular habit he has, the window most commonly used to give us insight into who he is and how he thinks, is of his conversations (what some in fandom have claimed as flirt-fighting) with Bashir. These conversations are fascinating character studies, and for fans of literature like myself, there is an endless well to pick from in terms of what books they could discuss as frames of topics to be argued over.

We learn much about Garak throughout his run on Star Trek. We learn that despite his belief in the Cardassian state and all of its evil, self-justifying rhetoric, he regrets what he was forced to do in serving that state. Even while he defends the state, and the things he did, and talks about Federation “dogma”, even while he remains someone who does terrible things, he starts to put his particular talents in the service of Starfleet, even amongst the anguish he feels for the ruin of his people he is causing.

When his history is later inevitably brought to the fore, we discover that his father was Enabran Tain, and he used to shut him up in a closet whenever he disobeyed, or failed to walk the path Tain had set for him ― a metaphor for homophobia if I ever heard one. There’s even a beautiful song about it that I became obsessed with when I heard it. This, too, was a discovery Bashir was in the room for. This sort of history taught me at least a lot about his character, and allowed me to appreciate more who he is and why. This hiding that he does also felt very familiar to me.

But he’s not just hiding who he is from the world, he is being forced into the service of a fascist government who insist love for Cardassia includes service to this brutal, amoral government, as well as endless sacrifices in its name. Anything to keep Cardassia, and by extension its government, alive.

In a previous Star Log, I mentioned an idea I had for the inspiration for the Bajoran-Cardassian conflict: the US military occupation of the Phillipines. This isn’t, of course, the only way one could characterise this conflict. But it’s clear that whichever way you take your Cardassians, their society has its own dogma, its own injustices, that in themselves can’t be excused.

If we take Cardassians as the worst aspects of the American military, it opens up a dialogue on the dark nature of American operations: propaganda, a belief in their own superiority, a colonial attitude towards outsiders. Everything, in other words, our race have left behind in the Star Trek universe, and everything we have a responsibility to abandon. But whatever your interpretation, I think it’s also important to recognise that darkness in ourselves and address it, before we can rise above it.

Garak is a character who shows us this darkness, in way he’s forced into this way of life, and the way he believes in Cardassia despite everything it has done and everything it asks of him. We see it in the way he has to fight against sentiment, in the way he’d do anything to live up to Tain’s expectations, even close off his heart and mind to the world and become the state’s puppet. And even this isn’t enough. Yet, he listens to Tain, believes everything he was taught, so ultimately he believes he didn’t go far enough in shutting himself down.

In “By Inferno’s Light,” he tells Bashir this. ‘Let this be a lesson to you, Doctor. Perhaps the most valuable one I can teach you: Sentiment is the greatest weakness of all.’ Bashir counters this with, ‘If that’s true, it’s a lesson I’d rather not learn.’ This gives Garak pause. And at this moment, I believe, both of these readings are at play in the subtext: there is a homoerotic tension between them, and there is an unspoken question of the truth he’s been taught by his fascistic society.

There are times I can’t help but identify with Garak: the hiding, the shame, the conformity to a world difficult to fight against. Of course, he’s far more an extreme example than me, and sometimes he has blind spots when it comes to Cardassia. But by the time you reach the extended universe of A Stitch in Time and Enigma Tales, you get a Garak redeemed to a certain extent, and working to reform Cardassia in the aftermath of the Dominion War.

I have often found myself putting myself in his place in a number of scenarios and wondering how I would’ve handled certain situations he finds himself in which required this lying and scheming. In many of them, he has required this skill set to survive, so I can’t truly hold too much against him. He’s not, after all, as naive as Bashir; he knows how the game is played. Sometimes he is a bit self-serving ― and sometimes Cardassia-serving. But as Kira once said, ‘Everyone has their reasons; that’s what’s so frightening.’ Though she was talking about Dukat that time, and Garak and Dukat are most often at odds, I think it applies as much to him as Dukat.

Garak’s motivations, at least as far as serving Cardassia goes, is something that drove me towards Cardassia and Cardassians, myself. Although they had done some atrocious things, and that should not be defended, there’s something in the darkness of humanity in Cardassians which fascinated me. To truly know him, then, I would have to know everything about Cardassia as I could.

There are more fan-made sources on this than canonical, and I appreciate this work on expanding the Star Trek universe just as if it were canon. One blog that fills out the Cardassian language can be found on tumblr, and is a fascinating source for anyone who wants more on Cardassia than canon can provide. There is even a link several posts down to whole unofficial information books on Cardassia available online. Pairing this with canonical information can give a fuller picture on who the Cardassians are, and how they became that way.

When it comes to morality, Garak is very much a Cardassian in many respects. Garak’s an Oscar Wilde type, and like Wilde, he rejects the whole idea of morality. In Wilde’s case, this rejection was due to his society’s upholding of morality, and their belief that homosexuality was immoral; in Garak’s case, it’s because his society values morality less than results, and unlike Wilde, he has spent his life trying to conform to that ideal. Like Wilde, however, he is an intellectual, and a lover of art and the aesthetic. And, in some interpretations of his character (and according to Andrew Robinson himself, who once allegedly told a fan Garak was pansexual), he is also queer.

[below: an excerpt from Two Loves by Lord Alfred Douglas, well-known for having been used against Oscar Wilde in his 1895 trials, told through DS9 stills.]

His relationship with Bashir is closer to a Holmes/Watson dynamic than a Wilde/Bosey one, though. Bashir is the Watson, always asking questions, always in awe of Garak, and Garak is the observer, the spy, the mystery solver. Their interactions are intriguing, full of mystique, gay subtext, a subtle nod to queer icons of the past (some interpretations of Holmes and Watson, too, is that they were queer).

Ultimately, Garak is someone who has some relatable aspects to him, but who is ultimately an endlessly fascinating character to explore, and I love him with all his flaws (though sometimes I disapprove of his Cardassian beliefs). Especially in the recent era of purity culture, where anyone who does anything “problematic” is “cancelled” or berated mercilessly online even if they grow past it, loving a character like Garak really reminds us that sometimes, people are more than what they’ve done. Sometimes, what they stand for can go to dark places, but that doesn’t make who they are have any less value than anyone else.
#StarTrekCourse @SmithsonianX


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Ensign’s Log

Earth Date: 21st April, 2019

This is my first entry as a newly-minted Ensign.

The definition of canon can vary from person to person, and not everyone likes to adhere to it. For those who like to venture outside of canon, there is a freedom in it that is not possible within the strict universe of canon. There is also the possibility of exploring topics that haven’t been covered in canon, or of speaking about it in new ways.

In as far as canonical texts go, Star Trek: Discovery is one which jumps off from previously established canon. For instance, in the design of the Klingons, although this has been changed before. But it also explores new concepts such as the spore drive, which was not covered in any other Star Trek series, and certainly not in the period this series is set in. It was also the first Star Trek series to feature a gay couple who also happens to speak openly about being gay. All of these changes, though, may be due to the fact that this series is separate to the ones controlled by Rick Berman.

There is also the question of whether Star Trek novelisations, such as Section 31: Control, Enigma Tales, or A Stitch in Time count as canon. There are those who say they aren’t, but Section 31: Control is at least vaguely connected to Discovery in that the USS Discovery was briefly referenced in that book, and then the series Discovery began to explore Section 31 and Control in its second season.

The role of Section 31 in Discovery is another matter. In the novel Section 31: Control, and for that matter in DS9, Section 31 is an organisation within Starfleet that is not recognised by Starfleet, but which is nevertheless authorised to carry out certain acts in its name. It is not widely known about. Yet Discovery jumps off from canon by giving Section 31 easy identification, allowing others in Starfleet to know and recognise them.

If Star Trek is a megatext in which the details are kept relatively consistent (there are at least some discrepancies in canon), and if canon is defined as those consistent details, then are inconsistent details within a canon text part of canon? For that matter, are fan texts that stay completely true to canon texts canon?

If we define canon by what the original producers of a text say it is, the details within a canon text are canon whether they maintain consistency or not, and fan texts are not canonical because they haven’t been authorised by those creators. In this case, it is a matter of who owns an intellectual property controls its canon. However fans justify or reject certain details of canon, it doesn’t negate the canon status of these texts.

But the original creators cannot choose how fans interact with a text, nor how they interpret canon. They can only try to use their authority to make them see canon their way. However, not all fans are swayed by simple authority.

Some fan writers may write their own fiction adhering to or rejecting this canon; yet others may argue online that certain texts are or aren’t canon, and mentally re-construct canon based on those ideas. Regardless of authority, canon, in any narrative, has always been fluid, going back to variations of myth and legends up to modern, corporately-owned narratives. There is death of the author ― the idea that once texts are released to the public, they become those public’s texts. So the definition of canon, then, becomes what we, as a whole, agree to as canon.

So now we come to the benefits of adhering to canon. Firstly, to have your text labelled as canon, if you are one of these producers of canon. Secondly, so that your text may be more accepted by consumers of a text, whether you are producing a canonical text or not. Thirdly, to give your text guidelines to how stuff works, so that you can make that text more rounded, accurate, and so that it makes sense. Finally, one might also use canon to affirm established norms within the text, if such norms benefit you as a writer.

It reminds me of something I read once, a paper from 1988 in which Henry Jenkins discussed the difference in gender with the way fans participate in fandom. Because media have favoured men going back to the start of Star Trek, this resulted in men and women being socialised to react to texts differently. To quote from that 1988 paper, “Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten: Fan Writing as Textual Poaching”:

Although this paper was written 41 years ago, it certainly still seems relevant, in that a majority of fan writers are still women, and a majority of lore essayists and experts are still men. Certainly there are those who don’t adhere to this norm. But I felt it was necessary to point out, as this gendered divide isn’t necessarily restricted to reactions to a text in fandom, but reaches across to creators of a text as well.

Although women have been involved in Trek since the beginning, and were in fact instrumental to its success, it has largely remained a male text in that it’s written and produced by men, and often has centred men in its narrative. For example, most captains have been men, not only in Starfleet, but in most alien organisations as well.

In terms of male producers controlling the narrative, let’s talk about Rick Berman’s role in Star Trek. He certainly was a figure who could be said to have upheld beliefs often held by straight white men. For instance, it was Rick Berman that kept (explicitly) gay couples out of Star Trek until recently; a man who used his privilege to maintain the structure of the original series and keep Star Trek from continuing to push the boundaries, like that original series did with its at least racially diverse cast.

In this way, Rick Berman’s series of Star Trek, which stretched from TNG to ENT, technically adhered to the letter of canon, but not the spirit, at least in this one aspect.

Another example of how he maintained a male narrative of Star Trek was by killing off female characters when they left: Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) quit because she felt her character was being ignored to the point of being window dressing, and Terry Farrell left because Berman kept bullying her over the amount of work he wanted her to continue doing after her contract was up. By getting rid of these characters by killing them off each time, he does a disrespect to these characters by not allowing them to exist at all in a world he created, one in which he repressed truly female narratives and gay representation.

That is why so many female fans, who are not given credit or a voice in other arenas, turn to fandom to write back against such narratives. They keep these women alive through fan fiction, or they write explicitly queer relationships denied by these more mainstream narratives. It is also why some male fans don’t question these narratives but maintain them in fandom.

This isn’t to say that these series which Berman was involved in weren’t good in their own right; they explored many interesting concepts, and they often did this well, such as in “Measure of a Man” from TNG, or “Our Man, Bashir” from DS9. And it isn’t as though they didn’t give female characters their due, as such characters as Kira Nerys, Jadzia Dax, and Captain Janeway could attest to. But it should also be understood that the limitations of canon are such that they can restrict the perspectives of certain kinds of characters, even in Star Trek.

In Discovery, there are many wonderful female characters, who are varied wildly, from Tilly to Michael to Georgiou. The narrative takes a woman as a main protagonist, shows another in a command position, and shows another to be strong because of, not in spite of, her deep feelings. And we have a canonical gay couple. Discovery is simultaneously proof that canon can be freeing, and represents those fan writings that have long fought against male narrative as the dominant and most justified type of narrative available.

#StarTrekCourse @SmithsonianX


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Chief Warrant Officer’s Log, Supplemental

Earth Date: 18th April, 2019

I have been asked to rank, from most to least, which pilots of each live action Star Trek series have best addressed the societal issues from when they were produced, while taking advantage of the media of television. I intend to do this, but first I want to go through each one chronologically and discuss how each pilot does this.

First, we have The Original Series, which took place from 1966 until 1969. This series had two pilots, so let’s look first at “The Cage.”

This episode revolved around everything not being what it seemed. I had the idea that perhaps this stemmed from the idea that at the time the episode was released, society and social norms were not as benevolent as said society would have us believe, but instead were holding us captive. And you could either accept the illusion or, like Pike, fight against it to find the truth.

What that truth is, however, depends on your interpretation. Certainly one could find their own biases of what was wrong with society reflected in the episode. But surely what wasn’t reflected was the Cold War, manifested at the time in the Vietnam War. That would not be reflected until “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.

In “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” we have the Enterprise crew as we later came to know it, outfitted with crewmen from different races and nationalities. We had, notably, a Russian in Chekov, as well as a Japanese crewman and a black communications officer. In other words, Star Trek suddenly represented a future in which these petty wars with each other was put in the past, and the human race is unified and working together.

This is important, especially given the wars going on when the episode was released, as it gives hope for such a future. As for the content of the episode, it centres around corruption, the dangers of being seduced by it, and how best we should respond to it. The antagonist is one who gains special abilities, and those abilities change him. This was an old friend of Kirk’s, but in light of how he changes, Kirk finds himself fighting against him. Perhaps this represents how soldiers in the Vietnam War didn’t come back the same, or perhaps it represents the government who allowed it to happen, but either way, it seems a more relevant reflection of the times than “The Cage”.

Next, we have The Next Generation, and “Encounter at Farpoint”. This first aired in 1987, two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and this wall is certainly represented by Q; he tries to block the Enterprise from advancing further, as he claims, humans are nothing more than a barbaric species constantly at war. This was certainly relevant at a time when tensions of nuclear annihilation were ever-present. So then, it becomes Picard’s responsibility to prove Q wrong, and where does Q choose as his courtroom but a post-atomic dystopia, a reflection of human history of that universe.

However, Star Trek being what it is, Picard claims that humans have changed, become better, and asks for a chance to prove it. Q takes him up on the offer and allows him to advance. In the adventure ahead, Picard almost proves himself wrong and attacks the creature only trying to save his mate. But ultimately he proves the opposite, and frees them both. So, like “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” an apt reflection of the times.

After that, we get to Deep Space 9, and “Emissary.” Now, here’s where it gets interesting. On November 24, 1992, US forces left the Phillipines, and then on January 3rd, 1993, “Emissary” was released. I believe that the Cardassians are meant to represent the US forces, and the Bajorans meant to represent the Filipinos. It certainly makes sense: the US forces were forced to leave the bases they had there, such as the Subic Bay naval base and Clark Air Base, and this was at least in part due to rebel coups, but also due to governmental decisions; also, the name order that Filipinos go by formally is surname first, given name last, and this is also the Bajoran naming order. Given all this, it seems to be a pilot representing perhaps a less prescient issue in the minds of the public, but a no less current one.

The Cardassians in this episode, then, represent a segment of US military history that is best left relegated to the past, and Starfleet is the more benevolent future. It shows Starfleet aligning themselves with the Bajorans, although not sharing their religious beliefs, which it turns out has some legitimacy proved by the wormhole and the aliens within it. Even more than this, though, it shows the new commander of the station interacting meaningfully with these aliens, making peace, sharing knowledge, and ultimately becoming their emissary. This shows a Starfleet connection to local religion and gives that religion importance. Ultimately, that connection even creates an ally in what is to come.

Next, we have Voyager‘s pilot, “Caretaker.” This, too, requires some background: on March 4, 1994, four people were convicted related to bombing the World Trade Centre, years before 9/11 happened. Then, “Caretaker” was released the following year on January 16. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Maquis are meant to represent the terrorists and Starfleet the establishment. And make no mistake, the Maquis we’re introduced to in the opening sequence are non-white, so that certainly makes a statement.

However, they aren’t the enemies. In “Caretaker,” these terrorists join forces with Starfleet to fight for a common goal; such is a very Star Trek feature. The Caretaker in question is one who takes care of the Ocampa, fatherly and almost God-like, but he is dying, and must ensure his ‘children’ survive his coming death. To me, he represents the state of the government in the 90s, trying to shield the masses from the dangers outside their safe bubble, but ultimately doomed to fail eventually. We are the Ocampa, the shielded masses, and the Kazon are the enemies outside waiting to get in. Certainly a relevant commentary to the time period.

After that, is “Broken Bow,” the Star Trek: Enterprise pilot. This was released later the same month that 9/11 happened. This is a pilot that takes us back to the beginning, and closer to our time than any Star Trek before it. We are first introduced to the series through a memory of a young Jonathan Archer, which tells us that the Vulcans have been holding back the humans from space exploration. This seems reminiscent of the Caretaker from the Voyager pilot, but as this pilot continues, we see that Star Trek: Enterprise is actually the opposite of Voyager: rather than going too far into space, this crew have gone not far enough; rather than, like the Ocampa, being mostly contented with being shielded, Archer and the other humans want to break out. This seems to be in line with the period this show was released: everything changed after 9/11, and people were no longer able to be content with the world as it had been. Something had to change.

Also introduced in this episode was the temporal cold war. On the surface this seems like an irrelevant plot, but the series was released ten years from the end of the cold war, and the beginning of a new one: the war in Afghanistan, the so-called War on Terror. With rhetoric like this, is it any wonder the Star Trek of this period was about breaking away from terror?

Finally, you come to the most recent pilot, “The Vulcan Hello” from Star Trek: Discovery. This was released in 2017, one year after the election in which Donald Trump became the American president. This event led to the rise of hate groups that included neo-Nazis, and triggered a comeback of rhetoric to ‘punch Nazis’ which originated in the second World War. “The Vulcan Hello” deals with a similar rhetoric when Michael Burnham decides that the best way to deal with Klingons, and to prevent war with them, is to strike first. But much like modern counter-rhetoric that claims Nazi propaganda is nothing but a ‘difference in opinion’ rather than a destructive force, Burnham is stopped from this action.

Like Enterprise before it, Discovery sets its series in the early days of Star Trek in order to tackle the issues it means to address. This is likely due to the impression that we have progressed backwards from the optimistic future we’ve been working towards, that the first Star Trek promised, so this earlier era of Star Trek is the one we must return to. In this episode, it is established that Klingons have not been seen for 100 years (i.e. since Enterprise), and this credibly aligns to the Nazis, who first came to power a little under 100 years ago. In addition, the episode informs us that Starfleet only makes fleeting contact with the Klingons, which reflects real-world history of having avoided giving the Nazis power until recently. But in recent times, there’s been a shift in power to the prejudiced and the hateful. Discovery‘s pilot addressed this through the Klingon leader’s speech opposed to peace that opened the episode, as well as Burnham’s desperate acts to counter them.

So, here are my rankings:

1. “The Vulcan Hello”

2. “Encounter at Farpoint”

3. “Where No Man Has Gone Before”

4. “Caretaker”

5. “The Cage”

6. “Broken Bow”

7. “Emissary”

As for why my rankings are like this, it isn’t to do with series bias; DS9 is in fact my favourite series, because it handles the issues brought up so well, and because of the nuance written into it. This is based on nothing more than how well it ties into real events, and how prescient in the minds of the audience these issues seem to be.
#StarTrekCourse @SmithsonianX


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Chief Warrant Officer’s Log

Earth Date: 14th of April, 2019

This is my first entry, following my promotion from Cadet to Chief Warrant Officer.

Star Trek: The Original Series has long been made light of for the regular deaths of red shirts, and perhaps this trope was borne out of the medium of network television. After all, it was this medium that pushed for wide appeal to audiences; the network executives pushed for a series heavy in action and adventure, and one side effect of that demand must have been raising the stakes by killing off minor crewmen.

The audiences those executives had in mind needed to be engaged by content that kept them glued to the screen, children and parents alike. Anything less than this, and they might be tempted to switch channels, something which execs fought against. This was why the first pilot, “The Cage” was ‘too cerebral’: a plot such as this, psychological in concept and visually lacking in consequences ― Number One’s blast through the doors, for example ― until the reveal at the end, would not have swayed many audiences to stay tuned to see that revelation.

But in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the plot was given an antagonist to fight against, who like the aliens in “The Cage” had superior powers, but which allowed Kirk and his crew to struggle against said antagonist according to their characters.

As such, the show was constrained to only showing this kind of simplistic protagonist/antagonist struggle, in an action/adventure style storyline. Following “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” was “Man Trap,” a story about a creature who survives by consuming salt, who in its desperation to survive, drains salt from Kirk’s crew, killing them in the process. This creature may just as easily have continued to survive, had Kirk just provided the salt tablets which both man and wife (creature) requested. But as soon as members of his crew started dying, Kirk led a crusade against the creature until it was eventually killed. Had this action/adventure story not been required, it might not have been necessary to become so aggressive in the face of such a threat, and the moral implications of such action could’ve been explored. As if inspired by Spock’s role in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” “The Man Trap” was a story about killing first, to protect the crew, and is a trend that continued later on into the series. All of this to serve as an adventure.

But Star Trek is, first and foremost, a series that was optimistic about the future. It tells of a utopian world where humanity has ended war amongst itself and has set out together to see the stars. Although not perfect, the crew of the Enterprise seek to explore alien civilisations and, where possible, make peace with them. Even though the characters are protective of each other, sometimes to the exception of others, they were ultimately peaceful, and that was something allowed on network television.

Even though there were some trade-offs ― “The Cage” featured an all-white main crew with a woman in a high position, and this was traded with a racially diverse main crew with a woman in a more conventional, yet still important, role ― they were still able to ultimately tell the story they wanted to tell, even in a world prejudiced against some minorities that were shown in the series. The series was able to expose such minorities in equal positions to a wide audience, and thus push the boundaries of what could be shown to, and ultimately accepted by, general audiences.
#StarTrekCourse @SmithsonianX