Little wonder we stumble in life.

Leave a comment

Captain’s Log

Earth Date: 13 June, 2019

“Congratulations, Captain.” Why thank you very much. I’m so proud to wear these four pips on my collar, and looking back, I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

The fact is that, officially, I’ve finished my commissioned starlogs. But I wanted to take the time to look back on the list of most relevant pilots to their time and make a judgement on whether my opinion has changed. I also want to look at ranking which episodes are most relevant today as a comparison.

So to start off, here are my original rankings, for most relevant to society at the time they were released:

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”

The truth is, when I put “Emissary” at the bottom of the list, I was thinking pretty narrow-mindedly about the inspiration for the Cardassian-Bajoran conflict. My interpretation, that of the real life American-Filipino conflict, was just one point of reference that could’ve been used in the creation of these alien races. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict was also current at the time, it just wasn’t the most current. So in retrospect, I’d rather put “Emissary” higher up the list.

“Caretaker,” on the other hand, seemed less important, so I lowered it down on the list. The reason is that I don’t think the Voyager pilot was quite as effective as other pilots are at communicating its issues of the day. Yes, it represented the period well enough. But to me, the episode isn’t as compelling, nor it’s message as strong. I don’t know how audiences at the time received it, though.

I did think of moving “The Vulcan Hello” from the top of the list; I think that may have been somewhat biased, given that Discovery is the first series of Star Trek I’ve gotten to watch while it’s released, and I also understand the current events happening at its time of release, since I’m living through it as an adult. Nevertheless, I still believe it and “Encounter At Farpoint” belong near the top.

So here’s my updated list:

1. “The Vulcan Hello”
2. “Encounter at Farpoint”
3. “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
4. “The Cage”
5. “Emissary”
6. “Caretaker”
7. “Broken Bow”

But I’ve also been thinking lately about how these series can be read today, or at least how I read them.

My observations regarding “The Vulcan Hello” stands, so let’s look at “Encounter At Farpoint”. Originally, I compared Q’s wall to the Berlin wall. But if you were to think of today, the most obvious reference would seem to be Trump’s proposed wall. Trump, and other groups who would choose to separate themselves from those they continue to be dangerous outsiders, might be reflected in Q, who is determined to prove that humans are dangerous still. But in the end, they prove themselves as empathetic enough to allow a pair of aliens to be happy together, in direct opposition to what Q tries to lead them to. I think this is pretty demonstrative of how hate groups try to demonise other groups.

In “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” we see a man gain special powers, lose himself, and be corrupted by his newfound powers. ‘Absolute power corrupting absolutely,’ as Kirk says, and in the real world, we see it often. In the case of the man corrupted, we see him corrupted after he gains these powers; I imagine most corrupt people today gained their power through wealth, and were corrupted by it, although others still must’ve grown up in that world. Our corrupted character is the former. What’s more, he planned to use his powers to use a planet ― reminiscent of powerful men fleeing the destruction they wrought on Earth to settle elsewhere in the galaxy. This still holds relevance today.

“The Cage” is much like I originally said it was; after all, even if what’s permissible in our society has changed, our norms remain the same. So let’s now look at “Emissary”. Well, it features religious terrorists, so no gold star to anyone who guesses what that parallels to in this case. Far from its likely earliest parallel to the Filipinos, most people nowadays would likely think of Muslim terrorists. Starfleet in contrast is the American government exerting power over the terrorists and the Muslim community. But the Commander they send happens to be one who connects to their Prophets, who happens to be their emissary. He is sympathetic to them, and open-minded to their beliefs, unlike the rest of his organisation. This is a message of co-existence between America and the Muslim community, a majority of whom in reality believe in peace rather than terrorism anyway.

In Islam, it is said by its followers to be a religion of peace; the Bajoran faith also seems to reflect that. But unlike Islam, many Bajorans seem to have a terrorist background, due to the Cardassian invasion. This is more similar to the Jews who fought back during the holocaust. Although this is something which would seem less of a modern issue, we still feel the echoes of it today, especially with the rise of neo-Nazis and other white terrorists in the world. In this case, the Bajorans could be seen as victims and Cardassians as terrorists supported by the government and other official authorities, which has also been seen in the modern era. In short, “Emissary” seems to have many interpretations and be very relevant to modern times. Perhaps that’s why its popularity is rising again.

Next, we have “Caretaker,” which seems to have less relevance in modern times, or so it may seem with the caretaker shielding the ocampa from the harsh realities of the outside world and keeping them co-dependant. These days, governments seem to be rolling back protections, prosecuting people, and otherwise carrying out injustices on ordinary people. But that bubble the ocampa might well represent what I call the American bubble; in other words, the American people are being subjected to a kind of jingoistic propaganda that few other countries are, giving one message and filtering out all others. They don’t know about others on the outside, and they don’t care. They are taught there is only one right of being, speaking, thinking, and that is their way. To bring it back to the caretaker, all other outsiders ― the Kazon, the Federation, the Maquis ― they’re there to be used, not to be equals.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but there is a kind of American narrative that it is only America that contributes to the rest of the world, because America is greater than the rest of the world. Not only is that not true, but America actually contributes significantly to climate change, which brings up my next point. The caretaker is watching over the ocampa because they actually destroyed their planet’s climate, making this a climate change story. Unlike the current governments, though, the caretaker is actually taking responsibility and trying to care for this species he’s damned. So the fact that Janeway chooses to finish what he started says something about how far humans have come since our current dilemma, and is a credit to us that we have learned to care for each other.

Finally, we have “Broken Bow”. This is a series that takes a look back to before the original series to see where Starfleet’s journey into space started, but it’s also a series that looks into the future; we find out in the episode that the antagonists are getting instructions from the distant future. These antagonists, the Sulaban, have also used genetic modification to “evolve” their species ahead of schedule. This provides a parallel to the humans, who are trying to advance their exploration into space despite the Vulcans’ attempts to hold them back due to fears they’re “not ready”. What all this seems to point to is our tendency to call ourselves evolved, in the context of our civility. We are more advanced than we were at this point of time, or that.

The problem with calling ourselves more evolved, or more advanced, than others is that it leads to xenophobia, and an overly large sense of self-importance. The Sulaban, in their evolution, have apparently also become involved in a ‘temporal cold war’, which only seems to prove this. The humans, on the other hand, are peaceful but eager explorers who at least have been spared the Sulaban’s arrogance by the Vulcan’s restraint on them. However, that restraint also encouraged an impatience, and perhaps even a recklessness. The human urge for progress is strong, and could only be held back by the Vulcans for so long. Yet they aren’t yet as desperate for it as the Sulaban, as it turns out. Ultimately, the lesson seems to be that progressing too fast, like the Sulaban, is dangerous. Gaining too much in too short a time leads to violence, like the way that men who are given too much power in real life often use it to attack others, from violence against women to laws stripping away certain groups from freedom and protection.

So after all this, what are my rankings for pilots most relevant today? Well, take a look.

1. “The Vulcan Hello”
2. “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
3. “Encounter at Farpoint”
4. “Emissary”
5. “The Cage”
6. “Caretaker”
7. “Broken Bow”

I have raised Emissary up on the list because I feel that the modern American discourse has lost its nuance, and Emissary as well as DS9 in general brings it back, and talks about terrorism in particular in a nuanced way, which is very needed in the current climate. It also talks about unjust governments through the Cardassian Occupation and later the Dominion occupation.

Encounter at Farpoint, retains its relevance somewhat because we still face at least a metaphorical barrier, and there are still malevolent figures blocking us from advancing. However, the barriers to advancement from those in power are now less of a problem than corruption of those in power itself. It seems to be everywhere, from incels and exclusionists online to figures of authority protecting neo-Nazis and supporting abusers of power in government.

However things may have changed over the years, they haven’t changed so much that any of these pilots have lost relevance completely. There’s just been a shift in the prevalence of different issues. Star Trek remains a piece of media that reflects our realities back at us, and reimagines them in a way that still gives us hope in how it may all turn out. Each of these pilots demonstrate that.