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

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Old March 12 2014, 02:58 PM   #1
Warped9
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Points of "...Armageddon"

"A Taste Of Armageddon" is one of my favourite episodes. And while listening to one of the Mission Log podcasts discussing the episode a number of points were raised that I found interesting. And, no, none of them have anything to do with the Prime Directive (which has been discussed to death).

- How could Eminiar and Vendikar actually agree to a computer war where actual people would willingly just walk into a disintegration booth? Were these booths always at hand or were other methods used before their invention?

- If Eminiar and Vendikar could agree to not actually bombing each other for five hundred years why couldn't they just agree to stop killing innocent civilians?

- At least a million people a year were being put to death (this seemed to be on just Eminiar but it could have been the collective death toll for both planets). What we don't see or hear of is even a hint of rebellion or at least objection by anyone. Come on, there had to have been some. So were those people dragged kicking and screaming to their deaths? It certainly doesn't track that the Valiant's crew just caved quietly.

- Why the existence of General Order 24? Under what conditions could the Federation and Starfleet anticipate the necessity to completely decimate an inhabited planet? When they say the Enterprise can destroy Eminiar 7 they don't necessarily have to kill everyone on the planet. They just have to destroy all the primary infrastructure such as power generating facilities and effectively returning the planet to the Stone Age. They don't actually have to kill that many in the attack, but countless would die in the subsequent aftermath.


Any thoughts?
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Old March 12 2014, 03:25 PM   #2
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Re: Points of "...Armageddon"

When two planets go to war against each other, the potential for horror is basically limitless. Stalin or Genghis on their worst Monday hangover sessions could not have imagined such horror, let alone figured out how to make it happen; interplanetary technology necessarily means the fighters have every last piece of Hell on Earth (Eminiar, Vendikar, whatever) available to them.

I don't think it too implausible that people who had to live through that, rather than the walk-in-the-park wars we have had here on Earth so far, would consider anything better than interplanetary warfare, including constant executions or other such seemingly inhumane measures.

OTOH, if this nice and sterile way of fighting the war is acceptable to both sides, this suggests that neither side has actual goals of war any more - neither side strives for a victory or indeed for an outcome. And that means that the war goes on because it is considered beneficial an sich. That is lamentably familiar from good old Earth: having a war ongoing for whatever reason or without any reason at all is great news for certain types of rulers, perverts or profiteers. And it nicely creates the chaos necessary for those types to remain in power!

As for GO 24, assuming it's an order to glass a planet rather than an order to bluff with said action, I'd say it has few applications in combat, but plenty of civilian applications. Effective containment of a threat calls for eternal and perfect quarantine, or then for elimination of the threat altogether - and glassing a planet may be the only way to contain certain diseases. Or certain types of evil intellect, that is, intellects that are fundamentally incompatible with the survival of the rest of the galaxy, or at least of mankind. It isn't difficult to imagine creatures who appear downright civilized in most respects but cannot survive without doing constant and serious harm to humans and cannot be persuaded to stop surviving except with armageddon-level phaser bombardment.

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Old March 12 2014, 03:33 PM   #3
T'Girl
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Re: Points of "...Armageddon"

Warped9 wrote: View Post
- At least a million people a year were being put to death (this seemed to be on just Eminiar but it could have been the collective death toll for both planets). What we don't see or hear of is even a hint of rebellion or at least objection by anyone. Come on, there had to have been some. So were those people dragged kicking and screaming to their deaths? It certainly doesn't track that the Valiant's crew just caved quietly.
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Old March 12 2014, 04:03 PM   #4
Warped9
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Re: Points of "...Armageddon"

Timo wrote: View Post
As for GO 24, assuming it's an order to glass a planet rather than an order to bluff with said action, I'd say it has few applications in combat, but plenty of civilian applications. Effective containment of a threat calls for eternal and perfect quarantine, or then for elimination of the threat altogether - and glassing a planet may be the only way to contain certain diseases. Or certain types of evil intellect, that is, intellects that are fundamentally incompatible with the survival of the rest of the galaxy, or at least of mankind. It isn't difficult to imagine creatures who appear downright civilized in most respects but cannot survive without doing constant and serious harm to humans and cannot be persuaded to stop surviving except with armageddon-level phaser bombardment.

Timo Saloniemi
I'm reminded of the alternate ending of "Operation: Annihilate" in James Blish's adaptation. There they track back to the parasites' planet of origin and indeed do lay waste to the planet. There they track back to the parasites' planet of origin and indeed do lay waste to the planet.


"A Taste Of Armageddon" is often held up as an anti-war story, but it could be seen as broader than that. It's an anti-conformity story. Throughout history (and even today) people say we continue to do something because we've always done it. But often enough some things need to be questioned as to why are we continuing to do this.

There really are a lot of things going on in this episode.

T'Girl wrote: View Post
Warped9 wrote: View Post
- At least a million people a year were being put to death (this seemed to be on just Eminiar but it could have been the collective death toll for both planets). What we don't see or hear of is even a hint of rebellion or at least objection by anyone. Come on, there had to have been some. So were those people dragged kicking and screaming to their deaths? It certainly doesn't track that the Valiant's crew just caved quietly.
Sandmen.



Yes, I'm thinking it could well be something like that.
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Last edited by Warped9; March 12 2014 at 04:19 PM.
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Old March 12 2014, 05:57 PM   #5
BillJ
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Re: Points of "...Armageddon"

Warped9 wrote: View Post

- At least a million people a year were being put to death (this seemed to be on just Eminiar but it could have been the collective death toll for both planets). What we don't see or hear of is even a hint of rebellion or at least objection by anyone. Come on, there had to have been some. So were those people dragged kicking and screaming to their deaths? It certainly doesn't track that the Valiant's crew just caved quietly.
I'm not so sure about there being no rebellion. They say in the episode that they are short their number by several thousand and the Enterprise crew would only make up 430 of that number.

A Taste of Armageddon wrote:
SAR: Councilman, I received a message from Vendikar. Our time is nearly up. Our quota is short by several thousand. They accuse us of reneging on the treaty.
Also one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek.
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Old March 12 2014, 06:15 PM   #6
T'Girl
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Re: Points of "...Armageddon"

BillJ wrote: View Post
They say in the episode that they are short their number by several thousand and the Enterprise crew would only make up 430 of that number.
Up until now I thought they were short because Kirk was destroying death machines and people had to report to a certain machine to perform their civic duty.

But on the other hand, Kirk might have shown the populace that it was possible to refuse, in fact when a aid to Anon Seven said that more machines had been destroyed, that might not have been Kirk's doing.

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Old March 12 2014, 07:44 PM   #7
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Re: Points of "...Armageddon"

Warped9 wrote: View Post
- Why the existence of General Order 24? Under what conditions could the Federation and Starfleet anticipate the necessity to completely decimate an inhabited planet? When they say the Enterprise can destroy Eminiar 7 they don't necessarily have to kill everyone on the planet. They just have to destroy all the primary infrastructure such as power generating facilities and effectively returning the planet to the Stone Age. They don't actually have to kill that many in the attack, but countless would die in the subsequent aftermath.
The primary goal is to scare an opponent, not to be effectively used. It's like the nuclear weapons since the end of WW2. This episode has definitely a Dr Strangelove tone.
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Old March 13 2014, 07:50 AM   #8
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Re: Points of "...Armageddon"

Timo wrote: View Post
OTOH, if this nice and sterile way of fighting the war is acceptable to both sides, this suggests that neither side has actual goals of war any more - neither side strives for a victory or indeed for an outcome. And that means that the war goes on because it is considered beneficial an sich.
(Also, hi again, Timo. Been ages.)

Beneficial is probably too strong a word for it. The war would continue just because everyone got used to it, and changing things would run the risk of doing something unfamiliar and frightening. It's the naturalistic fallacy, but then, that's one of humanity's popular fallacies.

(This is also why the story hasn't got any place for war resistors. The point of the story is showing a society in which the assertion ``this is for our own good'' has been taken up completely enough that it's been forgotten that people can choose to do otherwise, and should think critically about what they want, whether they're achieving what they want, and whether they're doing anything sane towards achieving anything.)
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Old March 13 2014, 09:18 AM   #9
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Re: Points of "...Armageddon"

Dialogue seems to suggest the Eminians are too brainwashed to think of refusing to kill themselves.

SPOCK: Computers, Captain. They fight their war with computers. Totally.

ANAN: Yes, of course.

KIRK: Computers don't kill a half million people.

ANAN: Deaths have been registered. Of course they have twenty four hours to report.

KIRK: To report?

ANAN: To our disintegration machines. You must understand, Captain, we have been at war for five hundred years. Under ordinary conditions, no civilisation could withstand that. But we have reached a solution.

SPOCK: Then the attack by Vendikar was theoretical.

ANAN: Oh, no, quite real. An attack is mathematically launched. I lost my wife in the last attack. Our civilisation lives. The people die, but our culture goes on.

KIRK: You mean to tell me your people just walk into a disintegration machine when they're told to?

ANAN: We have a high consciousness of duty, Captain.
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Old March 13 2014, 09:53 AM   #10
Timo
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Re: Points of "...Armageddon"

I guess the interesting times have already passed as regards this suicide thing. There would have been a generation or three after the "dirty" war who would see the horrible but crystal-clear reason behind volunteering. But if the respective species only have humanlike lifespans, then 500 years would involve lots of generations for whom the "real" war was too distant a memory to compare against. They would indeed be killing themselves out of habit. And the era when things got really interesting would have been the one between the third generation and the fifth...

Incidentally, I've just barely started on Iain Banks' Surface Detail, which also deals with warfare of this type, but with a nuance: soldiers in the virtual war are immortal and limitlessly reloadable, civilians are in no danger of getting involved, and life goes on pretty much as usual (indeed, no live people are involved in the war, as the virtual soldiers have apparently originally been picked from among people already dead). The real deaths here wait at the conclusion: the losing side will suffer actual carnage after hauling up the white flag, as per the treaty that the two sides signed in order to take their previous "dirty" war to this abstract and as such harmless level.

The underlying concept is still much the same: war as a thing is so bad that any steps taken to make it more palatable are welcome ones, including those that do not markedly diminish the death toll. The second option, of not having war in the first place, is again dismissed partly because this first option exists.

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Old March 13 2014, 05:48 PM   #11
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Re: Points of "...Armageddon"

T'Girl wrote: View Post
Warped9 wrote: View Post
- At least a million people a year were being put to death (this seemed to be on just Eminiar but it could have been the collective death toll for both planets). What we don't see or hear of is even a hint of rebellion or at least objection by anyone. Come on, there had to have been some. So were those people dragged kicking and screaming to their deaths? It certainly doesn't track that the Valiant's crew just caved quietly.
Sandmen.
Someone needs to photoshop Michael York in his Sandman uniform into the Eminian War Room. Or maybe hustling people into a disintegration chamber.
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Old March 14 2014, 04:37 PM   #12
Doomsday
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Re: Points of "...Armageddon"

Warped9 wrote: View Post
- Why the existence of General Order 24? Under what conditions could the Federation and Starfleet anticipate the necessity to completely decimate an inhabited planet? When they say the Enterprise can destroy Eminiar 7 they don't necessarily have to kill everyone on the planet. They just have to destroy all the primary infrastructure such as power generating facilities and effectively returning the planet to the Stone Age. They don't actually have to kill that many in the attack, but countless would die in the subsequent aftermath.


Any thoughts?
I have always thought that this was a bluff...not a real order...just some kind of code-word that Kirk would use in situations like this as a threat.

I cannot imagine that Kirk, or any starship captain, would have the uniliateral authority under starfleet regs or Federation law, to exterminate an entire world for any reason, especially not a non-member world (I only make that caveat, because it is conceivable that part of becoming a Federation member would be agreeing to be under this order, but even that is hard to believe in the Star Trek universe).

So I think this was an empty threat, or at least one where if forced to take action, would have done something much less, like just destroying power stations, etc.

On another note, it's interesting that this threat is essentially the same one from The Day the Earth Stood Still (though for a different reason). Maybe Starfleet learned it from Klaatu?
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