I know I already pointed to one of his videos recently as a quicky Saturday Night Showcase, but once again Chuck of SFDebris explored an interesting aspect, this time on morality and Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future as presented in Star Trek. In two separate videos!
In the cross-hairs is the Deep Space Nine episode “In The Pale Moonlight“, which not only gave us this internet meme:
…but also has Ben Sisko doing something that many fans feel violates not only Starfleet principles but Gene Roddenberry’s vision. While a strong believer in maintaining the creator’s vision, as I would want anyone working on something I created to do, Chuck makes a good case about that vision versus the human race as it exists in the real world.
Also we have “Dear Doctor“, the most controversial episode of Enterprise, where Phlox is convinced one species must die to allow another to evolve. This goes into a discussion of the Prime Directive and the strengths and weaknesses of it and it’s depiction in the franchise.
Now granted the darker themes of DS9, especially in the later years, kind of turned me off, but not because I thought they were bad. After all, Babylon 5, while more of an intergalactic UN than a waystation guarding an anomaly, explored similar themes and I rather enjoyed it. However, this is not what I watch a Star Trek episode for. Star Trek to me is a series about exploration and hopefully learning something about yourself or the characters. War stories are not what I’m here for, while I do enjoy some versions of the Gundam franchise and other shows that explore the nature of war. It’s just a matter of what I’m in the mood for on a given day.
So when they started the Dominion War storyline I took a leave from the show, returning in the last season or so when it went back to being what I watch Star Trek for. These may well be good stories, they’re just not what I’m looking to watch in this franchise.
The real reason I’m pointing to this review, however, is the portion where he talks about how people can’t seem to argue without trying to invalidate the other side as being some form of extremist while they themselves are acting like an extremist. “My word is law and you’re evil for not agreeing”, and let’s be honest with ourselves. Conservative, liberal, insert religious/spiritual perspective here, everyone side of the debate has members which do this and it’s not right. Disagreement doesn’t equal evil or in some cases wrong, just a difference of opinion. However, I’m not sure I’m doing him any justice so please see the episode review (for context) and the follow-up video on Sisko’s actions, Roddenberry’s vision, and human nature in general.
As for the Prime Directive (because I think Chuck says it all when it comes to Phlox’s being a scumbag of the lowest order), the biggest problem isn’t how the characters apply it but how the WRITER does. In the case of “Dear Doctor” I think the writer is trying to make the case for evolution or rather “survival of the fittest”, a concept that I finally incredibly stupid. Who decides who is fit and who isn’t and what situation? In the case of the episode “Pen Pals” I think you had a decent exploration of the Prime Directive even though they could easily save the planet without being found out. (Which they proceed to do.) As far as Janeway, the Prime Directive comes into play only when the writers THINK they can make Janeway look good or because Kes has to join the crew. It’s what’s convenient for the writers.
Now that I think about it, in both “Pen Pals” and “Dear Doctor”, they were specifically asked for help (a little girl and AN ENTIRE CIVILIZATION respectively), which means the Prime Directive allows them to help. Although frankly I think the writers know as little about the Prime Directive as Marvel writers knew about the Superhero Registration Act.