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Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old November 8 2011, 06:42 AM   #1
Captain Tracy
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OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

I always took a special liking to the episodes in which we met OTHER captains from other ships, as well as Fleet Officers and saw other Starships.

How much better if in the 3rd season, the writers had used more Captains and Fleet officers to expand the Star Trek Lexicon, while examining the human condition; and 'fleshing out' more about Starfleet in general, rather than feeding us some of the scripts they did.

Here is my take on how the TOS Star Trek writers used other Star Fleet Officers as Symbols and Plot Devices:

Comment please!


Commodore Robert Wesley - USS LEXINGTON - 'The Ultimate Computer'. You have to love this guy, he plays a 'straight-arrow Kirk' as good as any of Shatners' early performances. He is the embodiment of 'all the good' qualities in what we envision would be the basic requirement for all standard Captains entrusted with a Starship: Competent, Alert, Decisive, Humane, Insightful, ect.

In a way, he is almost 'too Kirk-like', and in point-of-fact, the whole trick of the plot DEPENDS on this fact of his Kirk-likeness, ensuring that his character, and therefore his actions, are predicable-being driven by his virtues-and therefore he does not, when tested, FRY the Enterprise and it's crew,.. along with Daystrom and the M-5 computer.

Commodore Matt Decker - USS CONSTELLATION - 'The Doomsday Machine'

Wow, talk about the embodiment of "Humanistic Error, Guilt and Arrogance",... yet, everyone feels sorry for Decker,.. he is NOT a 'villain' in most peoples eyes - which I could never understand, especially when we HATE him so when he takes command of the Enterprise from Spock.

Though the exchange is a CLASSIC.

From a writers point of view Decker is handled like a master plays a grand piano - his entire psychology is laid out for us in his actions and lines; he is beyond a fully developed 3D character, as he plays so many symbolic roles, it is no surprise that he is so popular,.. he is so REAL.

I think Decker MAY have set the stage for using captains as foreshadowing if Kirk should make the wrong decision - Do what Captain Not-So-Smart does, and you and your crew will end up dead,.. Dead,... DEAD!!!

Decker also garners a huge and variated emotional response,.. you feel sorry for him, you empathize with him, you resent him, you wanna beat him up in the turbo-lift, and then you just feel sorry for the fool, and finally dis-miss him as a Schmuck.

However, in the end, Commodore Decker is still a Di@k, and I would hate to have to work for a guy like this! LOL!

Commodore
'Indecision' STOCKER - USS ENTERPRISE (Temp) - 'The Deadly Years'

Okay, for years I always hated Stocker (almost as much as Commodore Stone in Court Martial), not just a symbol of blind bureaucratic B.S. coupled with inexperience and command impotence and incompetence, but more over as a guy who is fully aware he doesn't know any better, and yet, just because he as some "butter between his braids", he takes control of the ship!! "Ah,.. yeah,... uh,.. I can do this too,... ah,.. I got stripes right here,.. see Starfleet gave me these,.. so gimme the Big Chair".

For a long time I just dismissed STOCKER as a better played and rationalized version of the Kelvans, who take over the Enterprise by pushing on their magic Belly-Buttons,.. however then I discovered that STOCKER is a REAL CHARACTER, a I've actually worked for this guy,... many times. Sheesh!

Captain Ronald Tracy -
USS EXETER - 'The Omega Glory'

Okay, GREAT looking Captain,.. tall, imposing, grey hair denoting distinguished experience,... so how did Ron Tracy get past the StarFleet Academy Psych-Eval??????

I mean think about it,... what does it say about StarFleet's critical thinking if they will entrust a 500 Million credit, fully armed Starship to a guy, who at the first sign of 'pot luck' becomes a scheming Flim-Flam man version of Ponce de-Leon for profit with an itchy trigger-finger,.... seriously, wouldn't Ron Tracy been called out of "Alien Encounters 101" and withdrawn from StarFleet Academy on day three of his freshman year ???

Great symbol of failed character, though I think they should have set the bar for Tracy to fail MUCH higher, and cut down on the whole "Kolms and Yangs" thing. Better to have done the character exploration as the story here, and left the anti-war/ Vietnam/ war profiteer thing out all together.

Captain 'Dead with Broken Neck' JOHN DOE - USS DEFIANT - 'The Tholian Web'.

Perfection in Foreshadowing! The guy obviously made THE deadly error, and now, he and his crew of 430 is dead,... Dead,... DEAD!!!

You have to love the fact that not only is this guy dead, he is bald to boot!!! Did you ever notice on TV how the 'Bald Guy' is automatically the screw-up (unless your Telly Savalas or Patrick Stewart),...

Bald Guy: Hey John,... My _____ is broken, and I get no respect!

John, with Hair: You should have a ______ by Ronco. and your ______ will look as good as mine, and if you lose that unsightly belly fat,... you'll get the girls!

Bald Guy: Awww Shucks,.. how do I order!

I digress, LOL!! Anyway,.. The Defiant Captain (who's name we never learn) serves the simple and perfect plot function of foreshadowing the story and elevating the "Impending Doom/ Cost of Failure" thing so perfectly,.. and it is this aspect of Trek story-telling that I would have loved to have seen more of,... as I could have done without the 3rd season trip to Minara II to meet the mysterious and empathic mute woman named "Gem".
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Old November 8 2011, 11:56 AM   #2
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Just a theory......
Perhaps Ron Tracey was promoted up top when Starfleet Command saw the OMEGA GLORY rushes, then noticed that moment for moment, he completely trounced Kirk's patented fighting moves. And clearly enjoyed doing it.

However, I think are being too hard on poor Commodore Decker. Aside from some overacting and teeth-gnashing in the shuttle, William Windom treated us to perhaps the finest guest star performance on the classic run. And definitely the stubbliest.

All right, he endangered the ENTERPRISE in act three. But Kirk only resents that because he's not doing the endangering. Decker was assisting the CONSTELLATION. This is called teamwork. For James T. ''Obsession'' not to realize this is quite the Crite hypo.

Veering off!!!!!
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Old November 8 2011, 03:10 PM   #3
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Captain Tracy wrote: View Post

Captain Ronald Tracy -
USS EXETER - 'The Omega Glory'

Okay, GREAT looking Captain,.. tall, imposing, grey hair denoting distinguished experience,... so how did Ron Tracy get past the StarFleet Academy Psych-Eval??????

I mean think about it,... what does it say about StarFleet's critical thinking if they will entrust a 500 Million credit, fully armed Starship to a guy, who at the first sign of 'pot luck' becomes a scheming Flim-Flam man version of Ponce de-Leon for profit with an itchy trigger-finger,.... seriously, wouldn't Ron Tracy been called out of "Alien Encounters 101" and withdrawn from StarFleet Academy on day three of his freshman year ???
Noting that Tracy also had his entire crew suddenly and unexpectedly die horribly on him.

The shock of this disaster, the inevitable grief and guilt, fear about his own death, surprise salvation (with a side-order of potential immortality), whatever issues he might have had anyhow AND friendly folks that only HE can protect from a seemingly violent and intractable foe - all this together (plus some months alone with nothing BUT all this to brood about) could cause major changes to a person's outlook.

I don't excuse the guy, but better people have completely gone off the rails for a lot less cause.

Last edited by 7thsealord; November 8 2011 at 03:28 PM.
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Old November 8 2011, 06:25 PM   #4
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Captain Tracy wrote: View Post
I always took a special liking to the episodes in which we met OTHER captains from other ships, as well as Fleet Officers and saw other Starships.

How much better if in the 3rd season, the writers had used more Captains and Fleet officers to expand the Star Trek Lexicon, while examining the human condition; and 'fleshing out' more about Starfleet in general, rather than feeding us some of the scripts they did.

Here is my take on how the TOS Star Trek writers used other Star Fleet Officers as Symbols and Plot Devices:

Comment please!


Commodore Robert Wesley - USS LEXINGTON - 'The Ultimate Computer'. You have to love this guy, he plays a 'straight-arrow Kirk' as good as any of Shatners' early performances. He is the embodiment of 'all the good' qualities in what we envision would be the basic requirement for all standard Captains entrusted with a Starship: Competent, Alert, Decisive, Humane, Insightful, ect.

In a way, he is almost 'too Kirk-like', and in point-of-fact, the whole trick of the plot DEPENDS on this fact of his Kirk-likeness, ensuring that his character, and therefore his actions, are predicable-being driven by his virtues-and therefore he does not, when tested, FRY the Enterprise and it's crew,.. along with Daystrom and the M-5 computer.

Commodore Matt Decker - USS CONSTELLATION - 'The Doomsday Machine'

Wow, talk about the embodiment of "Humanistic Error, Guilt and Arrogance",... yet, everyone feels sorry for Decker,.. he is NOT a 'villain' in most peoples eyes - which I could never understand, especially when we HATE him so when he takes command of the Enterprise from Spock.

Though the exchange is a CLASSIC.

From a writers point of view Decker is handled like a master plays a grand piano - his entire psychology is laid out for us in his actions and lines; he is beyond a fully developed 3D character, as he plays so many symbolic roles, it is no surprise that he is so popular,.. he is so REAL.

I think Decker MAY have set the stage for using captains as foreshadowing if Kirk should make the wrong decision - Do what Captain Not-So-Smart does, and you and your crew will end up dead,.. Dead,... DEAD!!!

Decker also garners a huge and variated emotional response,.. you feel sorry for him, you empathize with him, you resent him, you wanna beat him up in the turbo-lift, and then you just feel sorry for the fool, and finally dis-miss him as a Schmuck.

However, in the end, Commodore Decker is still a Di@k, and I would hate to have to work for a guy like this! LOL!

Commodore
'Indecision' STOCKER - USS ENTERPRISE (Temp) - 'The Deadly Years'

Okay, for years I always hated Stocker (almost as much as Commodore Stone in Court Martial), not just a symbol of blind bureaucratic B.S. coupled with inexperience and command impotence and incompetence, but more over as a guy who is fully aware he doesn't know any better, and yet, just because he as some "butter between his braids", he takes control of the ship!! "Ah,.. yeah,... uh,.. I can do this too,... ah,.. I got stripes right here,.. see Starfleet gave me these,.. so gimme the Big Chair".

For a long time I just dismissed STOCKER as a better played and rationalized version of the Kelvans, who take over the Enterprise by pushing on their magic Belly-Buttons,.. however then I discovered that STOCKER is a REAL CHARACTER, a I've actually worked for this guy,... many times. Sheesh!

Captain Ronald Tracy -
USS EXETER - 'The Omega Glory'

Okay, GREAT looking Captain,.. tall, imposing, grey hair denoting distinguished experience,... so how did Ron Tracy get past the StarFleet Academy Psych-Eval??????

I mean think about it,... what does it say about StarFleet's critical thinking if they will entrust a 500 Million credit, fully armed Starship to a guy, who at the first sign of 'pot luck' becomes a scheming Flim-Flam man version of Ponce de-Leon for profit with an itchy trigger-finger,.... seriously, wouldn't Ron Tracy been called out of "Alien Encounters 101" and withdrawn from StarFleet Academy on day three of his freshman year ???

Great symbol of failed character, though I think they should have set the bar for Tracy to fail MUCH higher, and cut down on the whole "Kolms and Yangs" thing. Better to have done the character exploration as the story here, and left the anti-war/ Vietnam/ war profiteer thing out all together.

Captain 'Dead with Broken Neck' JOHN DOE - USS DEFIANT - 'The Tholian Web'.

Perfection in Foreshadowing! The guy obviously made THE deadly error, and now, he and his crew of 430 is dead,... Dead,... DEAD!!!

You have to love the fact that not only is this guy dead, he is bald to boot!!! Did you ever notice on TV how the 'Bald Guy' is automatically the screw-up (unless your Telly Savalas or Patrick Stewart),...

Bald Guy: Hey John,... My _____ is broken, and I get no respect!

John, with Hair: You should have a ______ by Ronco. and your ______ will look as good as mine, and if you lose that unsightly belly fat,... you'll get the girls!

Bald Guy: Awww Shucks,.. how do I order!

I digress, LOL!! Anyway,.. The Defiant Captain (who's name we never learn) serves the simple and perfect plot function of foreshadowing the story and elevating the "Impending Doom/ Cost of Failure" thing so perfectly,.. and it is this aspect of Trek story-telling that I would have loved to have seen more of,... as I could have done without the 3rd season trip to Minara II to meet the mysterious and empathic mute woman named "Gem".
In a word, brilliant.

Your breakdown was as much spot-on as it is humorous.

Thank you.
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Old November 8 2011, 07:17 PM   #5
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Commodore Stocker

I figure that he, either, never commander a Starship at any point during his career, maybe he was in engineering or supply. Or, he commanded smaller ships. Partol vessels in the safe inner potions of the Federation.
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Old November 8 2011, 09:15 PM   #6
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Thanks AtoZ!, and Great comments guys.

FOXHOT & 7THSEALORD your comments on Character Motivation are really excellent, however that particular subject gets to be a real 'sticky-wicket', with the sketchy motivations and non-sequitur actions, attitudes, and emotions of characters that usually occurs in TOS - I am guessing here - is not because the writer doesn't know how to handle his characters, but I guess it occurs due to the constraints of the format, budget, and how much story they have to tell in 48 pages of script (or what ever the page count is), the Network bosses, and the censors.

It is a GREAT POINT 7THSEALORD,... Many 'hard-as-rock' Officers have 'Gone Native' under less stressful conditions.

Wasn't that the whole premise of the movie 'APOCALYPSE NOW'?

And I guess that sort of proves the case about what you are are saying about Captain Ron Tracy.

It is sad 'The Omega Glory' WASTED so many pages on a story which SHOULD have been one of TOS's finest; and actually showed us Tracy's decent, failure, and corruption and developed the drama around Kirk - being the symbol of 'correctness in Authority' - pitted against HIMSELF, and thereby testing Kirk's convictions and character, as he empathizes and identifies with Tracy's situation and condition, and the Prime Directive (don't mess with the planet more as you get your man), KIRK having to resist being drawn into the whole Kolms/Yangs situation, avoid the disease/contamination aspect - and then having to arrest Tracy (keep the GREAT fist-fight in!) and then help defend Tracy at his Court-Martial,... now THERE IS THE STORY,... sort of an 'Errand Of Mercy' meets 'Court Martial'.

As I said, I think the fault is in the constraints of the medium of TV,...BUT, had they left out the whole 'Fountain of Youth' bit, AND 'The Pledge of Allegiance', and used those pages to portray what I described above, we would not have had the flimsy character motivations and de-railed third act.

And that is why I say in TOS you just have to side-step the whole character motivation thing in some cases, but you should not have to.

Anyway, back to symbols and plot devices,... other interesting Federation folks we meet are:

Galactic High-Commissioner Ferris - 'The Galileo Seven'

VERY interesting character here! This is the personification of absolute AUTHORITY; an invasive authority you resent, but you have to respect. He is an un-movable force with a just cause with logical motivation,... and you are not going to intimidate or push THIS guy around,... your butt is most definitely going to Markus III at the appointed witching-hour; your friends and 'Space Normal Speed' be damned, you know it, and I know it; this guy takes no B.S. and might just 'thump you' if you give him any 'guff'.

Again, Ferris is perfection in symbolism.

Ambassador Robert Fox
- 'A Taste of Armageddon'

Okay, here we have a watered-down version of Ferris, and he plays more just like a typical self-serving, misguided bureaucrat acting under the guise of 'the common good',... yet we know it is all about him and his trophies, so right away, you have to dislike this guy LOL!

So, unlike Ferris, this is authority you do not respect, but are FORCED to obey; which is different than what Ferris personifies,... and if you ever attended a thing called 'High School', you knew these guys as your Principal LOL!!!

Nilz Barris - 'The Trouble with Tribbles'

What a mess this guy is LOL!!! I suppose, as a teenager, Nilz Barris had his underwear flown from the playground flagpole everyday at lunchtime, had his books glued together, and was stuffed into gym lockers; and upon graduation, was voted in the yearbook as 'Most Likely To Receive A Wedgie'.

So here is a guy you cannot respect, even the Powers-That-Be which back him up, do so reflexively, with an unspoken underpinning of being annoyed by this worm themselves.

You know, if we, as a society, just dropped the pretense of law, guys like Nilz Barris would end up being repeatedly shot out of a photon torpedo tube launcher by a group of rowdy Red Shirts every time they could grab him on the lower decks.

Irritation personified LOL! and he is such a wimp, when you do have to cater to his mission and his histrionic non-sense you do so with sarcasm and total disdain,.. like getting gum on your shoe.

I can't even classify Nilz Barris, beyond the perfect wimpy pain-in-the-ass LOL!
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Old November 8 2011, 09:46 PM   #7
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

T'Girl wrote: View Post
Commodore Stocker

I figure that he, either, never commander a Starship at any point during his career, maybe he was in engineering or supply. Or, he commanded smaller ships. Partol vessels in the safe inner potions of the Federation.
Correct you are T'Girl, Stocker never had a Field Assignment, or commanded any vessel. To quote Kirk on Stocker: "a chair-bound pencil pusher".

His area of expertise was, I believe, in Administration, and was being transferred to Starbase 10 to take command of that galactic-sized floating office.

And therein lay the heart of the discussion on Stocker, being that in life often wholly unqualified authority 'takes the wheel', if you will, just because they have the rank over someone like you and I - who may actually be more qualified to at least try to cope with a situation more adroitly - and these people have this power in life over us, they exercise it, and deep-down they know in their hearts the do not qualify,.. but that doesn't stop them from sitting in the big chair, as it were.
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Old November 8 2011, 11:38 PM   #8
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Commentary on the Captains is pretty much spot on (my reseverations WRT Tracy already addressed) and hilarious.

But I'm in tears about the bureaucrats, especially Barris. Bravo!
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Old November 9 2011, 02:14 AM   #9
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Thanks Uxi, it gives me a great sense of comfort to know I am not the only one laughing,.. that would be scary LOL!

Seriously though, in point-of-fact, Nilz Barris really doesn't symbolize anything in the classic sense of the word, he is really just used as a gimmick with which to vex Kirk,... a prefect 'Vexer' he is too,... a great foil, but he is really just a Device, as opposed to a Symbol.

I wonder what David Gerrold's take would be on his own creation of Barris in terms of form and function?
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Old November 9 2011, 02:44 AM   #10
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Don't forget Space Command Representative Lindstrom and starship Captains Krasnovsky and Chandra.



Yes, I realize we know nothing about these three, because all they did was sit on the court. However, to me, something about these guys' faces screams that there they had some decent adventures. I'm old, but Krasnovsky's moustache in particular says to me, "I was Errol Flynn when I was younger."

Turns out that like Admiral Komack, Captain Chandra has a counterpart in the 2009 movie.

Not to mention that Komack just looks like a bad-ass:



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Old November 9 2011, 03:19 AM   #11
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

DakotaSmith wrote: View Post
Not to mention that Komack just looks like a bad-ass:


True, true.

Some of the individual emblems were cool. Makes me half regret TWOK (or TMP) cheaping out and going with the Enterprise emblem for all of Starfleet.

Then I remember that goofy one with the hand and the rainbows and am almost thankful.
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Old November 9 2011, 03:25 AM   #12
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Uxi wrote: View Post
Some of the individual emblems were cool. Makes me half regret TWOK (or TMP) cheaping out and going with the Enterprise emblem for all of Starfleet.

Then I remember that goofy one with the hand and the rainbows and am almost thankful.
You're remembering this one, I think:



Yeeahhhh. Not one of my favorites, either.

Starfleet Command, however, was cool:



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Old November 9 2011, 04:26 AM   #13
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Hi Dakota, yes we cannot forget the other StarFleet officers, though they just sat there as you say, but here is a bit of a puzzler:

During the episode of 'Court Martial', we have, as you pointed out, Krasnovsky and Chandra, being present as Starship Captains standing on the Court Martial proceedings, which is a duty ALL MILITARY OFFICERS must perform,... We also know that the 'U.S.S. INTREPID' was in dock for repairs at the time Kirk & crew arrived at the Starbase,... as Commodore Stone orders her repair crew to put the ENTERPRISE on priority,... we also know from 'The Immunity Syndrome' that her crew is mostly Vulcan,... so then could either Krasnovsky or Chandra the captain of the U.S.S. Intrepid?

Would it be reasonable to think there is a Vulcan Starship captain would be hanging about in a Starbase lounge, even if he was not asked to sit on Kirk's court martial while the trial of the 23rd century is taking place?
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Old November 9 2011, 04:32 AM   #14
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Captain Tracy wrote: View Post
Would it be reasonable to think there is a Vulcan Starship captain would be hanging about in a Starbase lounge, even if he was not asked to sit on Kirk's court martial while the trial of the 23rd century is taking place?
Well, from the chart on Commodore Stone's wall, there were a number of ships in for repair. A court-martial apparently requires three ship Captains (as specified for Spock's court-martial in "The Menagerie."

Given the number of ships listed on Stone's wall, there were probably a plethora of available Captains. I think it logical to assume that an all-Vulcan ship had a Vulcan captain, so it may be that (s)he wasn't asked.

Maybe they went by time-in-grade, with the most senior Captains serving on the Court. Given their age, that's a possibility.

Short answer: lots of ships on the chart, lots of Captains to draw court-martial duty from. The captain of the Intrepid simply wasn't tapped for some reason.

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Old November 9 2011, 04:40 AM   #15
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Re: OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Captain Tracy wrote: View Post
During the episode of 'Court Martial', we have, as you pointed out, Krasnovsky and Chandra, being present as Starship Captains standing on the Court Martial proceedings, which is a duty ALL MILITARY OFFICERS must perform,... We also know that the 'U.S.S. INTREPID' was in dock for repairs at the time Kirk & crew arrived at the Starbase,... as Commodore Stone orders her repair crew to put the ENTERPRISE on priority,... we also know from 'The Immunity Syndrome' that her crew is mostly Vulcan,... so then could either Krasnovsky or Chandra the captain of the U.S.S. Intrepid?

Would it be reasonable to think there is a Vulcan Starship captain would be hanging about in a Starbase lounge, even if he was not asked to sit on Kirk's court martial while the trial of the 23rd century is taking place?
Good point. I can think of three main explanations:

1) Selection of the CM board was based on seniority, with the 'Intrepid' captain junior to the others.

2) The 'Intrepid' captain was ruled as invalid for board selection - perhaps due to some prior association with the accused. Yes, a 'logical' Vulcan would supposedly not show bias or favouritism, but regulations are regulations.

3) The 'Intrepid' captain was simply unavailable. Might be a major trial, but that doesn't mean everything else happening on the Star Base or in that sector can be shut down or will wait.
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