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

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Old February 22 2013, 03:40 AM   #1
ZapBrannigan
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No Fear of Death?

Kirk and most of the regulars on TOS were pretty brave when death was in the offing. Sometimes a little too brave, from a realism standpoint.

In "The Empath," Kirk, Spock, and McCoy literally fight over who gets to die for the others, and there's never a hint of hesitancy about it.

In "Court-Martial," Finney says to Kirk, "I wouldn't kill you, Captain; your own death would mean too little to you!" Really?

Real servicemen die for their buddies, but it happens in the heat of battle. The classic case is the guy who throws himself on a grenade, and that really does happen sometimes. But on STAR TREK, these guys contemplatively plan to die in 20 minutes without batting an eye.

I think in real life, the most likely explanation for an attitude like Kirk's (practically saying "I must be the one to die, and let's get on with it!") is that he's devoutly religious. But that's not the aired explanation for it, and Roddenberry would never go along with it.

In "Mirror, Mirror," when one guy has to stay behind and probably be tortured in the Booth for it, Scotty says "I'll stay, Captain." Shatner should have said "Great, thanks!" and run up into the Transporter chamber. What an outtake that would have made. And it would reveal that such offers are not always 100 percent sincere. We expect to be refused.
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Old February 22 2013, 04:27 AM   #2
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Re: No Fear of Death?

Just because a person is willing to sacrifice their life to save others, doesn't mean that person doesn't fear death.

We all fear death. Every sentient being that ever lived, and ever will live, fears death. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar. But there are those who, even though they are afraid to die, can put aside that fear in order to give their life to save others. Kirk is one of those people. So is Scotty. So are most of the regular characters we've seen.

As for Finney: he wants to make Kirk suffer, not die. The way to do that is to kill someone, or some thing, that is close to Kirk, so that Kirk would be forced to watch as that death occurs. That's worse than death, in a way.
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Old February 22 2013, 12:58 PM   #3
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Re: No Fear of Death?

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
Just because a person is willing to sacrifice their life to save others, doesn't mean that person doesn't fear death.
Agreed. At least, most creatures seem to have a drive for self-preservation, wherever that comes from. However...

We all fear death. Every sentient being that ever lived, and ever will live, fears death.
This is an unfounded generalization—unless you mean "rational" where you said "sentient." I'm not religious, and I don't fear death. The transition to that state might be unpleasant, but one might argue that is just semantics. Continuing life can be more unpleasant in some circumstances.

What I fear is that I might be snuffed uselessly, say by some pinhead who crossed the line because he absolutely had to respond to that text right now.
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Old February 22 2013, 03:22 PM   #4
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Re: No Fear of Death?

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
We all fear death. Every sentient being that ever lived, and ever will live, fears death. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar.
Why, because you fear death? Lots of people face death without fear. The depressed, those with serious illnesses, fricking terrorists who consider suicide bombings to be the highest honor before God, etc. To some, life is worse. I know folks with huge religious leanings who look forward to going to Heaven. They have no reason to fear a state where they go live pain free with God and their loved ones (that's the point of heaven, yes?). My mother, who died of cancer, went without any fear whatsoever (you never met her, if you did you'd know). She was a tough old broad and once she knew her quality of life was compromised, she wanted no part of it. She willingly stoped treatment and two weeks later died in her sleep. No regrets and no fear.

The manner of death? Sure that's what I fear. I am mostly concerned about how I die and how much it will hurt (will I die in a fire, a fall, trapped in a cave, buried alive, a nasty car accident, a dreadful disease). But death itself? Nope. I had a very close call 20 years ago and all I wished for was it to be painless. I wasn't a bit worried about my life ending, it was out of my hands. Granted, I'm happy I dodged a bullet (figuratively), but that's not the point. Not wanting to die and being afraid to die are two different things. However, if you think I'm lying, there's nothing I can do about that.
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Old February 22 2013, 04:39 PM   #5
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Re: No Fear of Death?

Fearing death doesn't mean being afraid of death. It's good to have a healthy respect, or fear of certain things. As I understood what Mr. Laser Beams meant, nobody wants to die and, unless we're suffering from some overwhelming physical or mental incapacity, we all do our best to preserve our lives. Nobody wants to die.

On the other hand, what the OP is missing is that these are HEROES. Heroes act HEROICALLY. In the face of danger, our beloved heroes will glad risk and sacrifice their lives if it means the preservation of others. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one."

Those brave men that fought the hijackers on Flight 93 on Sept. 11 didn't want to die. Yet they heroically gave their lives so that the evil plans of madmen would be thwarted. Policemen and firefighters do everything they can to protect their lives in the face of danger, yet they gladly and willingly sacrifice their lives if it means saving innocents from harm.

In all the above cited Star Trek episodes, we see friends who would gladly give their lives in exchange for the salvation of their friends.

"No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends."
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Old February 22 2013, 06:36 PM   #6
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Re: No Fear of Death?

Shawnster wrote: View Post
Fearing death doesn't mean being afraid of death.
Please look up the definitions of fear and afraid, then reconsider this statement.

Policemen and firefighters do everything they can to protect their lives in the face of danger, yet they gladly and willingly sacrifice their lives if it means saving innocents from harm.
Another broad generalization that is demonstrably false. There is even legal precedent. Those accepted into the ranks of police and firefighting services span the full spectrum of humanity. And their reasons for choosing such careers are not uniformly altruistic. Granted, many such people have died for the sake of others—whether or not that was their intention. There are also many heroes who live to tell their tale (or not).

I'd be willing to bet that most heroes dive into action because they are unwilling to sit by and let the enemy or fate make bad things happen. They are not planning to "gladly and willingly sacrifice their lives." Gen. Patton said it best: "The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his."
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Old February 23 2013, 12:06 AM   #7
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Re: No Fear of Death?

"Only fools have no fear." - Lieutenant Worf, "Coming of Age".

There's nothing wrong with having a healthy fear of death, it's perfectly natural. It's how you react to the fear that counts.
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Old February 23 2013, 12:31 AM   #8
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Re: No Fear of Death?

It's been stated above, I agree...
It's not a lack of fear of death. I'd say it's a matter of having greater love of their friends. That's understandable.

Plus, as Star Fleet officers they have greater training in life-and-death matters, along with oaths to give their lives and all that.

Just to mess things up, I'll also toss in Kirk's line in TFF:
"I'm afraid of nothing."
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Old February 23 2013, 01:11 AM   #9
A beaker full of death
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Re: No Fear of Death?

Let's not forget that the command crew of a starship are likely to be bolder, more selfless, yes, more heroic than the average schlub. And these characters gave us people to emulate. I've stuck my neck out more than a few times for others; Star Trek and Superman may have had something to do with that.

SchwEnt wrote: View Post

Just to mess things up, I'll also toss in Kirk's line in TFF:
"I'm afraid of nothing."
Weakest line of the movie. I'm amazed at how Shatner got so much of the other characters right - I never expected that - but his Kirk came off as petty. I prefer to look at the line in context, as if to say he fears nothing within his own psyche.
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Old February 23 2013, 01:30 AM   #10
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Re: No Fear of Death?

^^^ Yeah, bad line for Kirk. Only moments ago he spoke of his pain and needing his pain, then that line.

If I must defend it, I'd say that after all his incredible adventures I guess Kirk has faced down every type of fear there is. After all that, maybe he is afraid of nothing any more.
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Old February 23 2013, 01:56 AM   #11
heavy lids
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Re: No Fear of Death?

SchwEnt wrote: View Post
I'd say that after all his incredible adventures I guess Kirk has faced down every type of fear there is. After all that, maybe he is afraid of nothing any more.
If STD's still existed in the 23rd century, Kirk would be very afraid.
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Old February 23 2013, 02:24 AM   #12
Metryq
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Re: No Fear of Death?

SchwEnt wrote: View Post
If I must defend it, I'd say that after all his incredible adventures I guess Kirk has faced down every type of fear there is.
Actually, Kirk never feared rejection because, as he quipped to Spock in "Conscience of the King"—"I'm the captain." (He picked up Lenore just 140 seconds after she entered the party. He's even faster when he cranks the space wolf up to 11.)


Then Gillian dissed him at the end of ST4. The look of surprise on his face was priceless. Hey, even Fonzie lost his cool once.
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Old February 23 2013, 02:35 AM   #13
A beaker full of death
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Re: No Fear of Death?

Metryq wrote: View Post
Then Gillian dissed him at the end of ST4. The look of surprise on his face was priceless.
I'll never forget Jimmy Doohan chortling over that when he visited my college.
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Old February 23 2013, 02:56 AM   #14
Gary7
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Re: No Fear of Death?

SchwEnt wrote: View Post
It's been stated above, I agree...
It's not a lack of fear of death. I'd say it's a matter of having greater love of their friends. That's understandable.

Plus, as Star Fleet officers they have greater training in life-and-death matters, along with oaths to give their lives and all that.
Well put. That's how I see it as well. True that you can have less fear when you've lived a full life and have not much unfinished business, but it's still hard to be completely fearless. Their dedication to each other is on a level far beyond what you find in human society these days. As someone else pointed out, self sacrifice in the battle scenario tends to be done with very little time to contemplate it.
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Old February 23 2013, 07:06 AM   #15
ZapBrannigan
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Re: No Fear of Death?

A beaker full of death wrote: View Post
Let's not forget that the command crew of a starship are likely to be bolder, more selfless, yes, more heroic than the average schlub. And these characters gave us people to emulate. I've stuck my neck out more than a few times for others; Star Trek and Superman may have had something to do with that.

But doing that, especially as rashly as Kirk does, can come at a terrible cost-- if you're not a fictional character and a regular.

One thing that's usually left out of the equation is the family members a hero would leave behind. In "The Empath," to take an example, McCoy is practically saying that it is better for his own relatives to lose a loved one than for Spock's family to suffer a similar loss.

This is credible dramatic behavior, in that we don't scoff and leave the room, but it's hard to explain from the standpoint of natural selection.

It turns out some scientists are actually wrestling with this problem:

http://discovermagazine.com/2011/jan-feb/03

If "The Empath" is viewed through this lens, then the concept of group selection (as opposed to individual selection or kin selection) seems to explain all the self-sacrifice going on.
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