Tag Archive for: Kirk

At Star Trek’s military service Star Fleet Command, there’s a strict code of conduct. Officers have to play nice with others, no matter how many ridges or spots or off-putting facial features other Federation of Planets species may have. In other words: fairness to all, no matter the discomfort it may cause you.

And there is also a hard-and-fast rule that transcends all else: the Prime Directive. It dictates that no one can interfere with the internal affairs of other species. And that seems to go double for any aliens who haven’t attained the same level of technological advancement as the Federation.

In the original series, Captain Kirk violated the Prime Directive on numerous occasions, with dubious rationale.

  • In A Taste of Armageddon, Eminiar VII was fighting a war with its neighboring planet. The 500-year-old conflict was fought like a computer game, with no collateral damage. But those marked for dead voluntarily disintegrated. Kirk sabotaged the disintegration stations — thus inviting a real war. Maybe now they’ll end the conflict, he reasoned … or hoped.

 

  • In A Private Little War, Kirk armed the primitive Hill People with deadly rifles. But as he pointed out, the Klingons started it first by arming the townspeople. All seven-year-olds concurred.

 

  • On Sigma Iotia II, the population had adopted a 1920s-style gangster culture that they’d learned from an earlier ship’s visit. In A Piece of the Action, Kirk et al combated the severe cultural contamination by dressing up as gangsters too and “leaning on” the inhabitants to shape up.

 

There are other examples, but Kirk never really paid a price for his conduct — other than to be labeled the worst kind of cowboy diplomat. Perhaps because of Kirk’s example, subsequent captains viewed the Prime Directive as more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast rule.

In The Next Generation, Captain Picard found the PD understandably inconvenient when he rescued ensign Wesley Crusher from a death sentence while visiting a new world. Wesley had committed a capital crime by falling into a bed of flowers.

In Voyager, Captain Janeway violated Federation policy by allying herself with the Borg to defeat Species 8472. Still, the Federation was tens of thousands of light-years away — so out of sight, out of mind.

Archer’s adventures in Enterprise mostly occurred before the formation of the Federation, so he gets a pass for ignorance of its subsequent code of conduct.

Sisko’s misconduct in Deep Space Nine, however, goes way, way off the scale of bad behavior when he puts the entire Alpha quadrant at risk with a deceitful scheme.

  • For those bad at geography, the Alpha quadrant is our home — along with the Cardassians, Klingons, Romulans, and all of our favorite Federation aliens.

Realizing the value of this real estate, the Dominion — a race of shapeshifters — decides to move in. And they don’t intend to be accommodating co-inhabitants.  They breed genetically-engineered soldiers who live to fight and take territory. They’re called the the Jem’Hadar, and they’re quite effective.

The Dominion is also good at subterfuge. They peeled away the Cardassians from the Klingon-Federation alliance, and they signed a nonaggression treaty with the Romulans. The alliance was getting boxed in.

Worsening weekly casualty reports strained morale, and things went from bad to worse after a Federation member world, Betazed, fell unexpectedly. Time for a new ally, reasoned Sisko.

In the excellent Deep Space Nine episode In the Pale Moonlight, Captain Sisko devised a scheme with the morally ambiguous Garak. They would falsify evidence to convince the Romulans that the Dominion were planning to attack them. Had the plan been exposed, Sisko risked the Romulans actively joining the Dominion’s side of the war, dooming any chance for the Federation and Klingons. Bye, bye, Alpha Quadrant if so, thanks to Sisko’s monumentally questionable conduct.

But after a few false starts, the Romulans unknowingly bought into the lie and joined the alliance, turning the tide of the war.

In this case, the ends arguably justified the means.

 

The End

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The hero uses his encyclopedic knowledge of Classic Trek as freelance intelligence operative.

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Do you know where the title of this piece comes from? No, it wasn’t Star Trek. It was first uttered by Sir John Dalberg-Acton, a European Baronet from 1837 to 1869. But in my opinion, it was never uttered more powerfully than in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode Where No Man Has Gone Before.

In that show, the starship Enterprise attempts to penetrate an energy barrier at the edge of our galaxy, in order to discover the fate of a previous expedition. They failed, and were lucky to extract themselves from the barrier without blowing up. With the ship badly damaged, they decide to limp to an automated facility on the uninhabited planet Delta Vega and attempt repairs. As a result of their contact with the energy barrier, Captain Kirk’s friend Gary Mitchell (he of the glowing eyes) seems to have developed telekinetic abilities. And they’re growing every day.

An ever-more-powerful Gary eventually decides that the ship and its crew aren’t worth his caring. Before he can take over, however, Kirk and Spock manhandle him down to the planet’s surface. There, they imprison him as they cannibalize the station to fix the ship’s warp drive.

But it wouldn’t be a show if everything went smoothly; Gary escapes. He takes a female psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, with him after he converts her into a godlike being as well.

Recognizing a threat to the whole of humanity, Kirk follows Mitchell with a phaser rifle — like that’s going to kill him!

During their confrontation, which Kirk is losing, he turns to Dehner and asks: Do you like what you see? Absolute power corrupting absolutely.” Pause there.

Let’s think about this for a minute. If you were suddenly given godlike powers, how would you behave? Would you respect the same things? Would you respect human life, for instance?

My guess is that it would depend on your individual makeup.

 

I created a character, Cord Devlin, who also comes by near-absolute power in Ghosts of Forgotten Empires. He’s an intelligence freelancer, and his handlers at the CIA wonder if he can be trusted. Like Gary Mitchell, they know he faces a similar moral dilemma. Will he be corrupted? Will he lose respect for humanity? They deploy him anyway, because they don’t have any other way to counter an enemy that’s also armed with unearthly powers.

In addition to Cord’s suspect loyalty, he also has an inexplicable preoccupation with Star Trek. It does, however, provide him with a moral compass and typically restrains him from causing undue destruction. But would some personally-held ideal of human behavior be enough to restrict his darker impulses? The stakes are high, given his newfound abilities to annihilate.

 

Kirk defeats the corrupted Gary by using his phaser rifle to dislodge several tons of rock from above. The rocks fall on Gary while he’s conveniently standing in a grave he meant for Kirk. Problem solved, and humanity is safe from Kirk’s former friend.

So does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Who can know, judging by the experiences of a couple of fictional characters? But it’s a worthy thought experiment.

 

Do you know anyone who is typically virtuous? How do you think they’d behave, given absolute power?

 

The End

For a limited time, visitors to my new website will get a free download of Ghosts of Forgotten Empires. The main character, Cord Devlin, uses his fanboy knowledge of the show to help U.S. Intelligence deal with otherworldly threats.

Ghosts of Forgotten Empires Vol l

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