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Old July 9 2013, 05:52 AM   #91
Christopher
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

GalaxyX wrote: View Post
The right thing to do was say "Ok, you know who and what we are, so now we have a moral obligation to at least send some Starfleet personnel to guide you on all the modern science we have, and to help you develop the technologies on your planet". This way, they would have probably been ready to join the Federation in a few decades.
Holy crap, that's very, very far from the right thing to do! The whole reason there needs to be a Prime Directive is that forcing that kind of rapid change on a culture is bound to be destructive. That kind of "We have a moral obligation to raise them to our level" mentality is what led the British Empire to inflict profound cultural subjugation and abuse on India, Africa, and other parts of the world, causing traumas that have resulted in ongoing turmoil and strife to this day.

The fundamental mistake is assuming that it's your decision. It's not. It's their life, their society. The PD is about having the sense and humility to recognize that it's their choice what to do about it, that they're more qualified to make that choice than you are. If they want more contact, if they're given the freedom to govern how the contact happens and how much they adopt from other cultures, then they can advance successfully and in a healthy way, as long as it's at the pace they choose. But deciding that just because you're more technically advanced, that entitles you to force other cultures to become what you think they should be? History shows that that mentality is a great evil and brings nothing but harm.


Outside of the Trek universe, it was clear the "Prime Directive" was simply there to save money, since the Federation never had to get involved in anything, the shows never had to spend the money to show something that onscreen they could avoid doing.
No, the PD was there because the show was made in the 1960s, when the harmful consequences of Western colonialism and imperialism were rearing their heads in many parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia; and the makers of the show were intelligent and aware enough to recognize how destructive well-intentioned cultural imperialism could be and how a responsible society needed a check against it.
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Old July 9 2013, 07:35 PM   #92
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

Christopher wrote: View Post
The science in the episode is very weak -- evolution doesn't have any predetermined outcome -- but then, that's par for the course with Trek's approach to biology.
"Dear Doctor" is one of the only five or six episodes of ENT I've ever actually watched from beginning to end. Out of that handful of episodes, this, I guess you could say, was my favorite... but I couldn't help think by the end of the episode how much better it could have been had a real SF author tackled it.

...and it deserves recognition as one of Star Trek's finest hours.
I think that's pushing it.
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Old July 9 2013, 10:57 PM   #93
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

I might have relocated the Valakians at the very least and cured them. Evolution goes on and no one gets hurt.
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Old July 10 2013, 12:38 AM   #94
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

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I might have relocated the Valakians at the very least and cured them. Evolution goes on and no one gets hurt.
There were a couple billion of them, I don't think that would be practical.

I think Dear Doctor is one of the most embarrassing episodes the franchise ever produced. And that really says something when the franchise has produced the likes of Spock's Brain, Code of Honor, Babel and Threshold.
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Old July 10 2013, 08:30 AM   #95
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

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Dear God, I hate! hate hate hate the Prime Directive!!!
Congratulations, you have a real career shot at State Department.
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Old July 10 2013, 08:33 AM   #96
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

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GalaxyX wrote: View Post
Dear God, I hate! hate hate hate the Prime Directive!!!
Congratulations, you have a real career shot at State Department.
Could be he hates the fact that the policy of the Prime Directive is to send a note saying "you're screwed" in the case of a natural disaster or disease.

Even our State Department doesn't usually let people die like that... unless they're the ones doing it.
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Old July 10 2013, 08:37 AM   #97
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

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Could be he hates the fact that the policy of the Prime Directive is to send a note saying "you're screwed" in the case of a natural disaster or disease.
Sure it could. I despise the PD for that same reason.

But the PD is a good idea in general... Just not very well thought through.
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Old July 10 2013, 04:08 PM   #98
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

The problem is that there are two totally different visions of the Prime Directive representing opposing philosophies. The original PD as seen in TOS was a rejection of colonialism, a recognition of the idea that just having superior technology does not make the Federation more qualified to understand another culture's needs than the culture itself, and that if you attempt to impose solutions on a culture from without, you'll inevitably do more harm than good. It's about humility, recognizing the danger of good intentions and the right of other cultures to make their own choices and learn from their own mistakes, rather than fall victim to yours.

But the 24th-century PD seen in "Pen Pals" and "Homeward" is just the opposite. It's lost sight of that humility and turned into "Those primitive cultures are too fragile to understand our knowledge, so we smarter beings are entitled to decide their fate for them even if it destroys them." It's fallen right back into the arrogance of assuming that less advanced societies have no agency, that we have the right to make their choices for them without giving them a say. The only difference is that we're deciding not to intervene under any circumstances rather than deciding to force our ways upon them. But in both cases, it's motivated by the same arrogance, the same belief in our superior right to decide on their behalf.
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Old July 10 2013, 08:29 PM   #99
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

Holy crap, that's very, very far from the right thing to do! The whole reason there needs to be a Prime Directive is that forcing that kind of rapid change on a culture is bound to be destructive. That kind of "We have a moral obligation to raise them to our level" mentality is what led the British Empire to inflict profound cultural subjugation and abuse on India, Africa, and other parts of the world, causing traumas that have resulted in ongoing turmoil and strife to this day.
Well I go under the assumption that the Federation is an organization that is moral and just, and not greedy and corrupt like real life empires like the British Empire. In the case of the British Empire subjugating India, it was done to steal resources under the premise that they were "enlightening" the local population. The same thing that the USA is doing in places like Iraq.
I make the assumption that the Federation is not such an organization, and that Federation assistance of a primitive race might genuinely be helpful to them.
The fundamental mistake is assuming that it's your decision. It's not. It's their life, their society. The PD is about having the sense and humility to recognize that it's their choice what to do about it, that they're more qualified to make that choice than you are. If they want more contact, if they're given the freedom to govern how the contact happens and how much they adopt from other cultures, then they can advance successfully and in a healthy way, as long as it's at the pace they choose.
In the case of Who Watches the Watchers, the Mintakans were already at a pretty socially advanced level. Their technology might only have been at the level of prehistoric tribes, but their social way of life was actually more like the renaissance period of Earth. They themselves requested assistance (they said "but there's so much you could teach us!") but Picard shot them down saying that this too, would be interference. Sure it would be, but would it have been wrong? Those people were clearly ready to handle the knowledge. I could see them in a few decades starting to slowly integrate into the Federation.
No, the PD was there because the show was made in the 1960s, when the harmful consequences of Western colonialism and imperialism were rearing their heads in many parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia; and the makers of the show were intelligent and aware enough to recognize how destructive well-intentioned cultural imperialism could be and how a responsible society needed a check against it.
Then they misunderstood the reasons governments do this. Usually it's simply because they want resources from a 3rd world regime, and come to plunder the land under the guise that they want to help.
As for the show's budget, with my comment, I refer to 24th century Trek specifically. TOS never had qualms about breaking the PD when Kirk felt it was appropriate (because common sense dictated it was the correct action, which is why we cheered him on). Picard on the other hand simply uses it to never get his hands dirty (and therefore saving production costs since there is nothing to do). How convenient.
Could be he hates the fact that the policy of the Prime Directive is to send a note saying "you're screwed" in the case of a natural disaster or disease.
Yes, this is exactly it!!!! if the Federation has the means to save a primitive culture who is dying out or somewhat in danger of something, isn't it the right thing to help them survive?
Reminds me of the movie "When the Earth Stood Still" where a sort of "Federation" sends a representative giving humanity an ultimatum regarding its nuclear technology. That is considered a classic masterpiece pretty much unanimously. If it had been Star Trek's Federation, no one would have ever been sent at all.
Sure it could. I despise the PD for that same reason.
But the PD is a good idea in general... Just not very well thought through.
I think the PD needs to have more leeway in letting Star Fleet captains make decisions based on common sense. I think it's implied that usually when a captain breaks the PD, if he can make a good case as to why, most of the time the Federation forgives the act.
Picard in particular is extremely rigid on it though. Everytime he's broken it is because he's basically had his arm twisted to do so.
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Old July 11 2013, 12:28 AM   #100
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

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Well I go under the assumption that the Federation is an organization that is moral and just, and not greedy and corrupt like real life empires like the British Empire. In the case of the British Empire subjugating India, it was done to steal resources under the premise that they were "enlightening" the local population.
No. Maybe to some extent, that was a factor, but to a large extent, a lot of British subjects sincerely believed that they were there to improve the way of life of the people they colonized. They assumed their cultural values were more "advanced" and more "correct," and that the natives would inevitably be happier once they assimilated.

The only reason Gandhi's campaign of passive resistance worked was because the rank and file of British subjects believed they were doing the right thing, that they were the good guys. By resisting without violence, by employing civil disobedience and accepting the consequences when they broke the law in protest, Gandhi and his followers proved that they were not unruly savages needing to be civilized, but that they were already reasonable, moral beings. And thus, when they were oppressed by the British Raj -- or subjected to brutality like the massacre at Jallianwalla Bagh -- the British people were forced to recognize that they had become the bad guys, that their good intentions had gone horribly astray, and that it had to stop.

See, this is the danger of assuming that you are just and moral and wise. As long as you accept that without question, you can rationalize anything you do, and dismiss any opposition as misguided. The Prime Directive isn't really about the other culture -- it's about your own culture. It's about having the humility and self-awareness to recognize that you don't have all the answers, and that even a well-intentioned effort to make another civilization's lives better according to your definitions of "better" can go horribly wrong.


I make the assumption that the Federation is not such an organization, and that Federation assistance of a primitive race might genuinely be helpful to them.
But considering them "primitive" at all is itself judgmental, condescending, and dangerous. It carries the built-in assumption that you're better and smarter than they are and thus more qualified to make decisions.


In the case of Who Watches the Watchers, the Mintakans were already at a pretty socially advanced level. Their technology might only have been at the level of prehistoric tribes, but their social way of life was actually more like the renaissance period of Earth. They themselves requested assistance (they said "but there's so much you could teach us!") but Picard shot them down saying that this too, would be interference. Sure it would be, but would it have been wrong? Those people were clearly ready to handle the knowledge. I could see them in a few decades starting to slowly integrate into the Federation.
But we can't assume that's the right or the only path for them. Just because something is your way, that doesn't make it the best way.

And no, they didn't "request assistance." That's more of that condescending, White Man's Burden thinking, the reflexive interpretation of other cultures as needy and dependent on your superior benevolence. What they did was to seek knowledge. They wanted to learn more about the universe. But sometimes the worst thing you can do for someone seeking to learn is to just hand them the answers. Then they won't develop, or retain, the skills to learn those answers for themselves. And who's to say they won't find new answers that never occurred to us? Again, just because something is our way doesn't make it the only possible right way.


Reminds me of the movie "When the Earth Stood Still" where a sort of "Federation" sends a representative giving humanity an ultimatum regarding its nuclear technology. That is considered a classic masterpiece pretty much unanimously. If it had been Star Trek's Federation, no one would have ever been sent at all.
Nor should they have been. The society Klaatu belonged to was horribly dystopian if you think about it. Everyone lives in mortal terror of the robot masters who will annihilate them if they lift a finger in violence? That's not a peaceful, enlightened society, that's galactic slavery.

And really, Klaatu is very much an embodiment of colonial-era assumptions and attitudes, the wise, stern, paternalistic figure who comes into a more backward society and gives them the soft-sell for converting to his ways while letting them know that they'll be forced to conform if they don't voluntarily embrace the "right" way of doing things. In light of modern, post-colonial thinking, it's a rather problematical film conceptually, though it's still one of the greats.


I think the PD needs to have more leeway in letting Star Fleet captains make decisions based on common sense. I think it's implied that usually when a captain breaks the PD, if he can make a good case as to why, most of the time the Federation forgives the act.
Now, that I'll agree with. An absolute "never interfere" rule isn't wisdom, it's just using rigid legalism as a substitute for judgment. The point of the PD is to teach us humility, to help us recognize our own limitations and fallibility so that we don't blindly impose on another society in the name of what we assume is right. But as long as we have that self-awareness, we can nonetheless recognize circumstances where it can be valuable to offer our help, within limits.
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Old July 11 2013, 12:43 AM   #101
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

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Now, that I'll agree with. An absolute "never interfere" rule isn't wisdom, it's just using rigid legalism as a substitute for judgment. The point of the PD is to teach us humility, to help us recognize our own limitations and fallibility so that we don't blindly impose on another society in the name of what we assume is right. But as long as we have that self-awareness, we can nonetheless recognize circumstances where it can be valuable to offer our help, within limits.
This is definitely true. I never doubted at all the PD was well intentioned. There is definite harm that can occur when a technologically advanced society intervenes with a less so one. Our own history of colonialism is tribute to that. It was there to protect them from us pretty much.

But just because there are some times that we shouldn't intervene, that doesn't mean we should never intervene. I like the line Paris gave in one episode, "They're all going to die, what can be worse than that?" To which Janeway had no reply but to pull rank. Not intervening when a disease or natural disaster is going to wipe out a whole race, when the Federation could help, makes them in part responsible when they don't. The whole "moral" premise of Pen Pals, Homeward, really made me mad. Letting whole races die just because of a technicality and then calling it the ethical choice? That just baffles me.
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Old July 11 2013, 01:00 PM   #102
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

The episode takes Evolution to the level of a religion, and to say let nature take its course is just another way to say its God's Will the Valakians die. Phlox had no business working on a cure, then, whatever happened to the Menk if he's going to be consistent. As for the Menk and Valakians living together, they'd been managing it up to that point. Who's he to decide they can't do so in the future, since by withholding the cure that is what he has done. It is everything reprehensible about the Prime Directive from TNG on in Trek.
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Old July 11 2013, 03:32 PM   #103
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

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The episode takes Evolution to the level of a religion, and to say let nature take its course is just another way to say its God's Will the Valakians die.
Pretty much, yeah.
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Old July 11 2013, 08:03 PM   #104
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

Riker used the term "cosmic plan" to describe why they should let a whole planet of people die in Pen Pals.
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Old July 17 2013, 07:45 PM   #105
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

And no, they didn't "request assistance." That's more of that condescending, White Man's Burden thinking, the reflexive interpretation of other cultures as needy and dependent on your superior benevolence. What they did was to seek knowledge. They wanted to learn more about the universe. But sometimes the worst thing you can do for someone seeking to learn is to just hand them the answers. Then they won't develop, or retain, the skills to learn those answers for themselves. And who's to say they won't find new answers that never occurred to us? Again, just because something is our way doesn't make it the only possible right way.
Using myself as an example, I've taught people how to play the Piano.

I've had students that start from scratch completely, and pick up the lessons really quickly, that I find myself getting into more advanced concepts with them really quickly. I had a kid who was playing simple chord progressions in about a month's time, and within 3 months he was a really good beginner.

Other students have taken much longer to understand basic concept, and I have to really bring it down to basic steps for them.

Anyway, the bottom line is that there's knowledge that is pretty much absolute. The table of the elements for one. Unless someone comes up with a radically different new theory on the atomic weight and composition of elements that makes even more sense than what we know now, then I think it's safe to assume that our current knowledge is pretty accurate, and would not change on another planet.

This type of foundational knowledge could have been provided to them and I don't believe it would cause any serious repercussions.

Their leader already knows of incredible materials of construction, to build vehicles that can fly far above her world. While they probably knew their world was round, it's unlikely anyone could have imagined what it looked like from that high up. Now at least one person knows. This person also knows of incredible technology that can make you disappear and reappear in another location. And a bunch of people know that it is possible to make things invisible and create fake camouflage, like a realistic looking mountain edge.

At that point I don't see how just leaving makes things any better.

The episode takes Evolution to the level of a religion, and to say let nature take its course is just another way to say its God's Will the Valakians die. Phlox had no business working on a cure, then, whatever happened to the Menk if he's going to be consistent. As for the Menk and Valakians living together, they'd been managing it up to that point. Who's he to decide they can't do so in the future, since by withholding the cure that is what he has done. It is everything reprehensible about the Prime Directive from TNG on in Trek.
Enterprise was pretty schizophrenic on the whole "interfering with other cultures" idea. It wanted to tell us it was right, while looking like it was wrong.

TOS told us it was wrong while looking like it was right.

TNG just flat out said wrong, with no leeway.
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