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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > Star Trek - Original Series

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

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Old March 7 2013, 12:30 AM   #1
Terran_Empire
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Federation is inhumanly benevolent

Throughout TOS and later Star Trek series we see the Federation portrayed as a very powerful and respected intergalactic government that while is very capable of coercing many smaller and weaker civilizations into complying with their interests, they repeatedly refuse to use such means unless it is absolutely warranted or unless they themselves are already in the line of fire.

So of course these stories are set many hundreds of years from now and supposedly surround a more mature, more civilized humankind, but let's not kid ourselves here. If the Federation and Starfleet are largely or exclusively comprised of non-augmented human beings that are genetically no more advanced than we are now...how viable is the gracious benevolence of such an organization?

The most "civilized and humane" societies today continue to employ threats, back-room dealings, assassination and torture among other things in order to secure their interests and they commit such acts against other humans. Considering that we so far on a whole have no qualms in coercing our fellow humans by whatever force we deem appropriate, why would we take such lengthy measures to ensure the fair treatment of aliens who often greet us with acts of aggression?

I am not saying that a polar opposite like the Terran Empire would be any more realistic. They are simply too malicious for their own good. I will refer to the portrayal of a future human world government in Babylon 5 as something far more plausible. While they are interested in peace, they do not go out of their way to help or protect weaker species. They act as moderators but only reluctantly and only so far as their own butts would get caught in the crossfire, and they are far from sympathetic when their own economic and political positions are endangered. Sounds a lot like the great guys we elect nowadays. In comparison the Federation is Superman/Jesus incarnate spread over hundreds of starships and colonies.

Now I love TOS and Trek as a whole but whenever I see Kirk frustrated and strained, trying to negotiate with some backwater, violent and savage aliens over resources even after he has been tricked, captured, disarmed, and beaten when he could simply take what they needed without all the risk....my belief is suspended indefinitely.
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Last edited by Terran_Empire; March 7 2013 at 01:30 AM.
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Old March 7 2013, 12:32 AM   #2
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

Funny, my "belief is suspended indefinitely" whenever I see the Enterprise travel somewhere faster than light, send people down to a planet using a teleporter and then have them encounter creatures virtually indistinguishable from human beings living in societies which are simplistic parallels of human cultures.

Also, the trousers.
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Old March 7 2013, 12:40 AM   #3
Terran_Empire
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

My Name Is Legion wrote: View Post
Funny, my "belief is suspended indefinitely" whenever I see the Enterprise travel somewhere faster than light, send people down to a planet using a teleporter and then have them encounter creatures virtually indistinguishable from human beings living in societies which are simplistic parallels of human cultures.

Also, the trousers.
All of those things, including the trousers, are props and tools used to create the setting required for the situation or story at hand. They do not have to deal with the morals and principles that the characters demonstrate. You can go along with silly looking space ships and toy guns but it's hard to go along with unrealistically good intentions.
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Old March 7 2013, 12:44 AM   #4
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

Six of one, half a dozen of the other. They were 1960s TV heroes.
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Old March 7 2013, 01:05 AM   #5
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

people being nice is harder to believe than teleporting warp-trousers? fucked up, man.
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Old March 7 2013, 01:07 AM   #6
Terran_Empire
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

My Name Is Legion wrote: View Post
Six of one, half a dozen of the other. They were 1960s TV heroes.

Well that doesn't have anything to do with why the Federation was so good natured. Kirk and his crew acted they way they did because of Starfleet protocols first and foremost.

They could have made Kirk a rogue more or less, a Captain would would bend the rules in order to be outworldly fair and do justice to the peoples he came across, while having the Federation give him more pragmatic orders and guidelines that he chooses to overextend. That way you have your 1960s hero but in an environment where his heroism carries even more weight.
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Old March 7 2013, 01:10 AM   #7
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

junxon wrote: View Post
people being nice is harder to believe than teleporting warp-trousers? fucked up, man.
"people being nice"? Is that what you go out of my OP? I'm not taking about people being nice, i'm talking about a massive intergalactic ruling organization being implausibly well-intentioned.
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Old March 7 2013, 01:11 AM   #8
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

Terran_Empire wrote: View Post
The most "civilized and humane" societies today continue to employ threats, back-room dealings, assassination and torture among other things in order to secure their interests and they commit such acts against other humans. Considering that we so far on a whole have no qualms in coercing our fellow humans by whatever force we deem appropriate, why would we take such lengthy measures to ensure the fair treatment of aliens who often greet us with acts of aggression?
We have not gone through World War III, nor first contact.

The premise in Star Trek is that those events fundamentally altered our perceptions and values. They were transformative.

And that of course is where the hope comes from (IMHO).
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Old March 7 2013, 01:14 AM   #9
Terran_Empire
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

1001001 wrote: View Post
Terran_Empire wrote: View Post
The most "civilized and humane" societies today continue to employ threats, back-room dealings, assassination and torture among other things in order to secure their interests and they commit such acts against other humans. Considering that we so far on a whole have no qualms in coercing our fellow humans by whatever force we deem appropriate, why would we take such lengthy measures to ensure the fair treatment of aliens who often greet us with acts of aggression?
We have not gone through World War III, nor first contact.

The premise in Star Trek is that those events fundamentally altered our perceptions and values. They were transformative.

And that of course is where the hope comes from (IMHO).
That is a very good point, I guess i'm just the eternal skeptic when I think those events would worsen our compassion, not foster it.
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Old March 7 2013, 01:16 AM   #10
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

Last time this came up on the board that I recall, a few of us batted about the idea that WWIII changed human proclivities, skewing it towards benevolence, relative to our contemporary tendencies.

Argue whether it's plausible or realistic all you want, but it seems to me that Star Trek has always incorporated something like the premise that humanity emerged from the ashes of WWIII a more enlightened species, as if some lesson were taken to heart.

(ETA: Ninja'd by 1001001.)

From an out-of-universe perspective, that widespread benevolence could be just a natural consequence of the basic premise that the future is going to be better than the present. That basic premise, in general, was clearly something that Roddenberry et al. leveraged to make Star Trek appealing. It's worth noting that it was leveraged most successfully when the idealism was checked, or at least challenged, by dramatic necessity and pragmatism.

Additionally, as if to counterbalance any skepticism the audience had, DS9 contributed Section 31, to demonstrate that covert campaigns were still in vogue. No doubt that was part of the appeal of DS9. But arguably, approaching the universe with even more nuances and fewer simplifications was less successful than the relatively sweeping idealism of TOS and TNG.

In short, the appeal of the franchise seems to depend upon striking a balance between idealism and pragmatism. When that balance has been tipped one way or the other, the shows have lost appeal.
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Old March 7 2013, 01:17 AM   #11
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

or the vulcans secretly doped up earths water supply to make everyone more positive after archers crazy antics
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Old March 7 2013, 01:28 AM   #12
Terran_Empire
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
Last time this came up on the board that I recall, a few of us batted about the idea that WWIII changed human proclivities, skewing it towards benevolence, relative to our contemporary tendencies.

Argue whether it's plausible or realistic all you want, but it seems to me that Star Trek has always incorporated something like the premise that humanity emerged from the ashes of WWIII a more enlightened species, as if some lesson were taken to heart.

(ETA: Ninja'd by 1001001.)

From an out-of-universe perspective, that widespread benevolence could be just a natural consequence of the basic premise that the future is going to be better than the present. That basic premise, in general, was clearly something that Roddenberry et al. leveraged to make Star Trek appealing. It's worth noting that it was leveraged most successfully when the idealism was checked, or at least challenged, by dramatic necessity and pragmatism.

Additionally, as if to counterbalance any skepticism the audience had, DS9 contributed Section 31, to demonstrate that covert campaigns were still in vogue. No doubt that was part of the appeal of DS9. But arguably, approaching the universe with even more nuances and fewer simplifications was less successful than the relatively sweeping idealism of TOS and TNG.

In short, the appeal of the franchise seems to depend upon striking a balance between idealism and pragmatism. When that balance has been tipped one way or the other, the shows have lost appeal.
I can see your argument and those points regarding DS9 are interesting, to be honest I haven't got into that show yet but something tells me i'll like it.

But you are right, despite what I have mentioned about the Federation's portrayal, the stories do maintain that balance more or less. That is one of the reasons why TOS is still very watchable in 2013 and many other 1960s programs are not.
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Old March 7 2013, 02:10 AM   #13
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

Terran_Empire wrote: View Post
Now I love TOS and Trek as a whole but whenever I see Kirk frustrated and strained, trying to negotiate with some backwater, violent and savage aliens over resources even after he has been tricked, captured, disarmed, and beaten when he could simply take what they needed without all the risk....my belief is suspended indefinitely.
If you think TOS would be improved by Kirk simply taking whatever he wants, whenever and wherever he wants -- then you not only do not understand "Star Trek," you don't understand dramatic storytelling.

For one thing, each episode would be three minutes long: Kirk wants, Kirk takes. The end.

For another, our heroes would be detestable.

I also object in the strongest possible terms to your judgement of even fictitious societies. You apparently never took frehsman anthropology. The term "savage" in academic studies went out with the Model T. Well, at least the Edsel.

Or -- to put it into current terms -- should we exterminate every "backwater" South American tribe that happens to sit upon resources that we crave? What gives us the right?

You have an extraordinarily imperialist view.
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Old March 7 2013, 02:31 AM   #14
Riker's Libido
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

junxon wrote: View Post
people being nice is harder to believe than teleporting warp-trousers? fucked up, man.
This sums up my thoughts.
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Old March 7 2013, 03:45 AM   #15
Terran_Empire
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Re: Federation is inhumanly benevolent

Before racing off to be confrontational, I suggest you actually read and make sure you understand what you have read before responding. It makes you look...a bit silly and petty otherwise.

If you think TOS would be improved by Kirk simply taking whatever he wants, whenever and wherever he wants -- then you not only do not understand "Star Trek," you don't understand dramatic storytelling.
Well I guess you don't understand written english, because I have never made any such claim.

I also object in the strongest possible terms to your judgement of even fictitious societies. You apparently never took frehsman anthropology. The term "savage" in academic studies went out with the Model T. Well, at least the Edsel.
Are you okay? Savage is a term used casually to refer to something wild, primitive and/or brutal.

Or -- to put it into current terms -- should we exterminate every "backwater" South American tribe that happens to sit upon resources that we crave? What gives us the right?
It's not a matter of "should we?", it's the issue of "will we?". I do not think you fully understood my OP.

You have an extraordinarily imperialist view.
In the words of our esteemed Lt.Cmdr.Spock, quite an illogical conclusion. Just because someone thinks such a benevolent future is unrealistic in no way means they themselves advocate violence, hatred, or imperialism.
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