Sunday, October 13, 2013

Star Trek And It's Great Message Episodes

            One of the primary reasons I've continually returned to watching Star Trek over the years is its adherence to delivering vital sociopolitical messages and commentary in an entertaining and futurist setting. This has in fact been stated both implicitly and overtly in most of my blog postings here. In 1995 William Shatner described this aspect of Star Trek merely as a method for drawing in the audience. Considering the cultural zeitgeist of that era,I'd tend to disagree. Which is why here I am going to be showcasing one individual Star Trek episode,from each spin off that to me best demonstrated Gene Roddenberry's message and vision.
                        ENTERPRISE-"CHOSEN REALM" (JANUARY 24'TH,2004)
       When NX-01 is searching for a weapon a race called the Xindi plan to use to destroy Earth, they encounter a group of religious zealots who,after Captain Archer and his crew help repair their damaged ship,attempt to take over Enterprise to fight their leader's holy war regarding their mythologizing of the Xindi spheres. After retaking Enterprise,the crew return them to their home world where they find a horrible sight-the end result of their war. A level of religious fanaticism of a type that can (and in this case did) destroy a society is showcased here-one of the this controversial series' stronger episodes,personally. 
     Captain Kirk and the Enterprise are assigned with a Federation Ambassador to open up a space port on a planet that,as it turns out, is using computers to fight a politically correct version of war with its inhabited planetary neighbor-colonized by some of their own people ironically. When their leader insists the Enterprise crew have been declared a casualty of their cyber warfare,he tricks the Ambassador to beam down-to report to suicide chambers par the agreements for their conflict. Kirk is put in the position of using force to destroy their battle computers in order to show them the physical consequence of war. This anticipates strong the "war as entertainment" scenario that humans are still facing today in this powerful and original anti war story.
      Investigating the treasonous actions of a Klingon medical exchange officer trading secret information to the Romulans,Captain Picard brings in Admiral Norah Satie in to investigate the matter further. After her evidence shines a light on the Klingon's actions,she begins fingering a half Romulan med tech on the Enterprise even after his innocence in discovered. Observing the witch hunt occurring around him,Picard is able to suss out the Admiral's true intentions by evoking her father whom she hero worships. In this story,acted to pieces by Patrick Stewart and Jean Simmons as Admiral Satie,this story thoroughly explores a scenario not unlike a 24th century McCarthyism in which Captain Picard utters perhaps Trek's most cynical line: that there will always be someone such as Admiral Satie who spreads fear in the name of righteousness.
               DEEP SPACE NINE: "DUET" (JUNE 13TH,1993)
        When a Kobheerian freighter arrives at DS9,Kira is disturbed that the Cardassian passenger being dropped off by the freighter is afflicted with a disease that could've only been the result of an accident at a labor camp that Kira helped liberate. While interrogating the Cardassian,an investigation by Dax reveals that she is actually interrogating the sadistic Gull Darhe'el who was responsible for atrocities against the Bajorans at the labor camp. It is later revealed that this man was actually his file clerk who'd had cosmetic surgery in order to pose as Darhe'el in order to make a political statement about Cardassian improprieties to the Bajorans. Upon letting him go,he is killed by an angry his own admission simply because he's Cardassian. This dragic drama is a wonderfully executed "bottle episode" similar to "The Drumhead"-only a 'Schindler's List' style scenerio mainly between two characters. A superb look into a misdirection that,for a change,could actually lead to a peaceful resolution to past misdeeds.

                  VOYAGER-"JETREL" (MAY 15'TH,2013)
        A freighter from the Haakonian order,a species who had annexed Neelix's home world of Talax after a war,approaches Voyager searching for Neelix. The man in question is Ma'Bor Jetrel-a scientist who developed a weapon of mass destruction that destroyed the Talaxian moon Rinax and all of its inhabitants-save Neelix. Jetrel presents himself as trying to treat Talaxians with an illness resulting from the weapon-an illness he insists Neelix has. Jetrel's actual plan involves using biomatter and Voyager's transporters to re-animate those killed by his weapon. In reality Jetrel himself has the disease,not Neelix and is trying to undo his mistake before he passes on. Though his experiment fails,he and Neelix come to a amicable resolution upon Jetrel's death. This episode is an excellent example of Star Trek's "hey,its happening on another planet" idea of projecting implicit social messages. The story of Neelix and Jetrel could easily be between any citizen of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945 and those involved in the first two atomic missions. Neelix's guilt about him being a war resister,feeling he betrayed his own family to death,adds extra wait to this story as well

*In addition there are many honorable mentions. Episodes of this same orientation I simply could not list in this manner. Here they are in order of accompanying series:
"The Apple" (TOS)
"Let This Be Your Last Battlefield" (TOS)
"Justice" (TNG)
"The Measure Of A Man" (TNG)
"The High Ground" (TNG)
"The Masterpiece Society" (TNG)
"The Quality of Life (TNG)
"Journey's End" (TNG)
"Paradise" (DS9"
"Past Tense Parts 1 & 2" (DS9)
"Bar Association" (DS9)
"Doctor Bashir,I Presume?" (DS9)
"Far Beyond The Stars" (DS9)
"Covenant" (DS9)
"Death Wish" (Voyager)
"Remember" (Voyager)
"Living Witness" (Voyager)
"Memorial" (Voyager)
"Author,Author" (Voyager)

      Here we have 25 excellent examples of,what within the Star Trek universe is best symbolized by the Vulcan symbol IDIC,which you see in an artists rendering above. Of course it stands for infinite diversity in infinite combinations. Through its highly topical story telling Star Trek has always been able to put a perspective on many different issues humanity still cannot face in real life. There are some who many argue Star Trek's absence from television is partly due to the fact that non sci-fi programming is now free to make more explicit social commentary. Since its clear that televisions adaptability to topical storytelling on real life issues still not as concrete as it may seem, Star Trek's message and presentation of the future is all the more important.

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