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Conservative Values in Star Trek (In Spite of Itself)
Liberal propaganda can be found all throughout Trek, from the one-world government of Earth to the save the wales plot of Star Trek IV and even in the depictions of the capitalist Ferengi, first as evil greedy villains and then as dim-witted comic relief, not to be taken seriously. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, was a very staunch Democrat and had planned to use the fantastic nature of science fiction as a smoke screen with which to discuss prominent social issues, most of which were forbidden on television at the time, and he was quite successful in this endeavor, infusing Star Trek with a very left-leaning bias that exists still even in recent iterations of Star Trek. However, in spite of itself and its creators and writers, very conservative values have crept up in Star Trek. Let's take a few moments to explore a few of them.
City on the Edge of Forever (TOS, Season 1)
City on the Edge of Forever was the second to the last episode of the original Star Trek's first season and is regarded by most fans, and William Shatner himself, to be one of the best episodes of the original series. It was written by science fiction legend Harlan Ellison (although the final version was so different from his original story that he tried to have his name removed from the episode). It also has the distinction of being the first episode of the original series I ever saw, although I had already been a fan of The Next Generation and the animated Trek, which was being rerun on Nickelodeon in the late 80's. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock travel back in time to 1930 Earth in search of Dr. McCoy who has been driven mad by an overdose of a volatile drug, having done something to change the timeline so that there is no more Enterprise or even a Federation. While in the past, Kirk meets and falls in love with a social worker named Edith Keeler who preaches messages of peace and protest of what was not yet World War II. While her words sounded nice and smart, they were naïve and wrong. You see, Edith Keeler is the focal point in the timeline. She was supposed to die in a tragic accident, but McCoy saved her and her words of peace eventually made it to the ear of the President, who, even after Pearl Harbor, refused to get the US involved in "Europe's war", providing opportunity for Hitler to conquer the world. Hmm, could this have been the point where the timeline becomes the Mirror Universe? It is especially interesting to note this episode in its original social context. While the US involvement in Vietnam was gaining exposure and hippies were beginning to line the streets to protest what was, by them, seen as an American move toward imperialism, Star Trek wasn't afraid to stand up and say the same thing my old Drill Sergeant used to pound into our brains during bayonet training, "Si vis pacem, para bellum" ("If you want peace, prepare for war"). I love peace. I consider myself a pacifist, even. But you can't force others to have the same peaceful ideas as we do and if we value our freedoms, the only way to protect them from Nazis or Soviets or radical Muslim terrorists or anyone who wants to destroy our way of life is to be prepared to fight these people with everything we've got. Peace is a nice idea, but when you give up everything to gain peace, that's called weakness and even in 1967 Star Trek knew that.
Past Tense, Parts 1 and 2 (DS9, Season 3)
A few years ago the fine folks at Paramount were releasing four to five disc specialty sets of Star Trek episodes with similar themes or a common enemy called Fan Collectives (the first one released featured the Borg). One of the last sets released was the Captain's Log which featured three episodes from each of the five series (one picked by that show's captain and two picked by fans). The episode picked by Patrick Stewart was the 2-parter "Chain of Command" and Patrick Stewart, because of that show's theme of torture is evil, said it is an episode that should be played every day in America. Well, Jean-Luc, if that's the case in the Bush era then here in the Obama era this episode should be played in America every day.
In another time travel episode, Commander Sisko, Dax and Dr. Bashir are sent back to the year 2024 in a transporter accident. Pay attention, kiddies, because this is the Obama vision of the future right here. Found by authorities without proper identification, Sisko and Bashir are sent to a Sanctuary District, a place where the poor are supposed to have free housing, food and medical treatment. The problem is, the food is barely enough to survive, the housing is condemnable and the medical treatment is shoddy at best. Outside there are still plenty of rich, but even good hard-working middle class Americans still end up in the sanctuary districts eventually, usually due to layoffs or some other simple to overcome obstacle, with promises of work that never materializes. If you think it's the government's responsibility to provide you with a job and a home and medical care and food and an automobile, make sure you pay extra attention to these two episodes because this is what it will look like. The sanctuary districts depicted in this story are the fulfillment to what those on the left refer to as "social justice", but even Star Trek realizes that there is very little justice involved.
In the Pale Moonlight (DS9, Season 6)
War is a nasty business, and to win sometimes the "good guys" must resort to distasteful measures. If Captain Sisko didn't know this before the events of this episode, he certainly came to understand. When the episode opens, the war with the Dominion is not going well for the Federation. Casualty lists are getting longer and more and more of our heroes' friends are showing up on them. The only way to change the course of the war to better favor the Alpha Quadrant powers is to try to bring the Romulans, who have remained neutral thus far, into the war on the side of the Federation/Klingon alliance. Sisko resorts to some very shady measures to ensure the Romulans join the war including lying, fraud, bribing men to cover up the crimes of other men and, ultimately, becoming an accessory in two murders, including the assassination of a Romulan Senator, which was made to look like a Dominion act. Sisko, when all is said and done, looks deep inside himself and every dispicable thing he's done and realizes, finally, that he can live with it. While I don't agree that what the US government has done in the way of advanced interrogation can really be considered "torture" in the classical sense (no fingers are broken, no one is beaten, etc.), I do agree that there are some unsavory elements involved. But we're at war. A war every bit as barbaric and with as much to lose as the war with the Dominion. I am willing to turn a blind eye to unsavory actions, as long as they're necessary to protect my liberties and the American way of life. I'm reminded of an episode of the series Boston Legal (starring William Shatner) in which several cops are taken to court to defend themselves against charges of police brutality for breaking a man's arm while trying to get information on where a pedophile is keeping a kidnapped child. In those circumstances, and I fully realize this is fiction but go with me, I would fully support the actions of those police officers, just as I supported Sisko's actions back in the 90's and as I supported Bush's actions involving advanced interrogation. Sometimes the ends do indeed justify the means, and whether it is protecting the Federation from the Dominion, preventing further millions of deaths in future terrorist attacks or finding a kidnapped child alive and unhurt, sometimes moral concessions need to be made and it is truly a brave leader who is willing to risk everything to make those decisions. So, Mr. Stewart, while you're watching Chain of Command and prosecuting Mr. Bush for Guantamo Bay, try to take a look at this episode too and remember, the American people are not the Cardassians.
A Private Little War (TOS, Season 2)
In an almost direct parallel to what was going on in Southeast Asia, Captain Kirk is faced with the moral dilemma when the Klingons begin arming one side of a primitive culture with advanced weapons, giving them the power to conquer their world. Kirk takes it upon himself to arm the other side with weapons and technology exactly equal to what the Klingons are supplying. McCoy accuses Kirk of violating the Prime Directive, but Kirk argues that they are following the Prime Directive by keeping the world in balance. This is a direct parallel to Vietnam, and even Korea too. The USSR supplied the communist north in both countries with advanced Soviet weapons and the US felt obligated, and rightly so, with keeping that balance by supplying the southern countries with weapons and troops equal to what the Soviets were giving the north.
Enterprise (Seasons 1-4)
OK, rather than single out any particular episodes, most of which would probably be within the third season Xindi story arc, I have instead decided to focus a little bit on the entire series, which was politically rather interesting when you take the time to take it apart and examine the components. The characters of Archer and Trip are very conservative characters. Archer is a throwback to the Kirk archetype, and as such is a patriotic noble warrior, in the mold of Horatio Hornblower. Archer wanted only to do right by his world and his father, who had designed the Warp 5 engine which was what made it possible for humans to journey beyond the confines of our solar system. Likewise, Trip is Robin to his Captain's Batman. It was never stated, but I believe Trip was supposed to be Archer's Executive Officer before T'Pol got assigned to Enterprise. Trip is very loyal to his Captain, and the two seem to genuinely share the same values. To these two men, there is nothing more important that God, duty and country, as well as spreading their values of freedom and equality to other races and species across the cosmos. And this gets them in trouble from time to time, leading to the creation of the Prime Directive, but the efforts are noble and conservative. On the flip side, T'Pol and the Vulcans represent the liberal, constantly reminding the humans how barbaric, stupid, backwards, archaic and unready they are. The politics of Enterprise was interesting because, rather than seem to preach one side or the other, the writers of Enterprise chose to just allow the characters to be true to their natures and this allows the audience to identify with whoever they would naturally identify with and leaves no one with the feeling that they were preached to.
These are just a few examples and, although Star Trek is not, as a whole, by any means conservative there are a few more examples to be found. You might also notice that there are no TNG or Voyager examples listed here. Those are, at least from what I've noticed, the most liberal of the franchise and I wasn't able to find ANY conservative values in either of those shows, really. If anyone else knows of any, by all means bring them up in the comments section below the article.