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

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Old September 22 2013, 03:02 PM   #16
Irishman
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

Christopher wrote: View Post
Anwar wrote: View Post
What bugs me the most about "Arena" was that the story suggested that maybe Kirk and Co were in the wrong.

I mean really, the Gorn attacked the outpost, slaughtered EVERYONE there including defenseless colonists even though they had surrendered.

Then they lured the Enterprise there with a false message so they could kill them too.

I'm sorry, but that isn't exactly the most proportionate response to folks encroaching on your boundaries when you're not sure these folks even KNEW you existed in the first place. Kirk would've been fully in his rights and duties as a Starship Captain destroying the Gorn.
But the point is that it's not a zero-sum game where one side is entirely right and the other is entirely wrong. One side being wrong does not mean the opposite side was therefore right. As is so often the case in real-world conflicts, both sides were in the wrong. Yes, the Gorn reaction was excessive by human standards, but they had a legitimate claim to the territory that the Federation settled. It was a tragic misunderstanding that got out of hand, and the important question is not who deserves the blame, but how the conflict can be ended so more people don't have to die.

That's what's good about the episode -- the fact that it deflates the simplistic us-vs.-them view that drives so many wars and instead acknowledges that both sides can be in the wrong.



CommishSleer wrote: View Post
Wasn't the original script based on another science fiction story about a war between Earth and another group of aliens? I read it more than 20 years ago so I can't remember the details. I thought in that story the 'testers' took someone of each ship and had them duke it out. Then the "tester" guys just wiped out the losers planet.
The story can easily be found as a free ebook online, for instance here:

http://manybooks.net/titles/brownfother08Arena.html

Your recollection is basically correct.

Well, except that the Trek episode wasn't intentionally based on Brown's story. Gene Coon wrote it, and then the research department pointed out its resemblance to Brown's story, and Coon remembered that he'd read it in the past, so he couldn't rule out being unconsciously influenced by it. So the producers contacted Brown and bought the rights to the story.
But if they wanted to make it an episode about the ambiguity of that situation, they could have done that. They could have kept the situation as depicted in the first five minutes, then spent 10-15 minutes of the Enterprise travelling at high warp to the scene, and getting reports of escalations of the situation (nearly coming to all-out-war, that would have driven home the point that things were getting really bad, and that both sides were to blame), and then our heroes come in to save the day.

As it was, it felt like a trap set by the Gorn to blow up another Federation ship. Why? What would they have done if the SF had sent a whole battle group to the scene? What was their plan B? They had no way of measuring the human response to their aggression.
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Old September 22 2013, 03:09 PM   #17
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

^If their motives and choices were entirely comprehensible in human terms, they wouldn't be aliens. That, too, was part of the point. Sometimes coexisting with another culture requires broadening your standards of what constitutes a morally forgivable act. How else did the Federation learn, later on, to become allies with the Klingons?
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Old September 22 2013, 03:21 PM   #18
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

Christopher wrote: View Post
Metryq must be remembering the James Blish novelization of the episode
No, since I never read the Blish novelization. The Metrons must have "lied" when they first stated the conditions of the combat, otherwise the two captains may not have fought. They might have tried to join forces against the Metrons, as futile as that might be. The lines from the episode:

METRON: You surprise me, Captain.

KIRK: How?

METRON: By sparing your helpless enemy who surely would have destroyed you. You demonstrated the advanced trait of mercy, something we hardly expected. We feel there may be hope for your kind. Therefore, you will not be destroyed. It would not be civilised.
So the Metrons intended to destroy the winner, but Kirk piqued their interest.
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Old September 22 2013, 04:58 PM   #19
Anwar
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

Christopher wrote: View Post
^If their motives and choices were entirely comprehensible in human terms, they wouldn't be aliens. That, too, was part of the point. Sometimes coexisting with another culture requires broadening your standards of what constitutes a morally forgivable act. How else did the Federation learn, later on, to become allies with the Klingons?
But that their may not be totally comprehensible from our POV isn't something brought up, McCoy and Spock act all understanding and stuff when they overhear what the Gorn Captain says to Kirk and suddenly forget all about how overly aggressive the Gorn were in the first place.

There'd be more ambiguity if they bothered arguing with the Gorn about their disproportionate behavior and then learning this sort of thing may be due to cultural differences.

As it is, they act like they're in the wrong as much as the Gorn even when their own actions still make them out to be less in the wrong, and they don't defend themselves.
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Old September 22 2013, 06:31 PM   #20
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

^But that's all for the diplomats to hash out afterward. The key here was about doubt -- about Kirk recognizing that his side might have unintentionally precipitated the conflict, that the situation is more complex than it seemed, and that therefore he's willing to back down. It's like in a court of law -- you don't punish someone if you have reasonable doubt as to their guilt. You don't need absolute proof of their innocence; the burden of proof is that you err on the side of mercy unless you're certain of the suspect's guilt, because inflicting punishment on another being is a grave and terrible thing, and you don't want to risk inflicting it wrongly.

So it wasn't wrong that Kirk still had doubts, that the situation wasn't clearly resolved. Because ultimately it wasn't about the Gorn's actions. It was about the responsibility we take for our own actions, about whether we can have the wisdom and restraint to doubt ourselves and restrain ourselves from crossing lines we can't go back from. Peace is a risk, yes, but that's why it takes great courage to choose peace.
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Old September 22 2013, 09:33 PM   #21
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

And the Metrons were wise enough to reward Kirk for thoughful behaviour. In our adversary system of justice, you get punished if you confess--but that is a topic for another time.
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Old September 22 2013, 10:51 PM   #22
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

Gojira wrote: View Post
I love TOS, but it is full of themes where the Humans are considered barbaric and war-like and yet these advanced "peaceful civilizations" want to destroy them for that.

Oh the irony!!

What do you do with a rabid dog running lose in the neighborhood? Or a crazed, diseased wild animal ripping apart livestock and hikers? You "humanely" kill the diseased animal. Oh, sure, some think that's barbaric in this day and age, but back in the 50s, 60s and even today (in some peoples minds) it's not cruel, evil or ironic to use a small amount of violence in order to stop an even greater threat to life and limb.

From the Metron's standpoint the humans and Gorns are nothing more than animals; rabid dogs, diseased bears or even infesting insects that deserved extermination before they ruined the entire neighborhood.
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Old September 22 2013, 11:52 PM   #23
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

Shawnster wrote: View Post
From the Metron's standpoint the humans and Gorns are nothing more than animals; rabid dogs, diseased bears or even infesting insects that deserved extermination before they ruined the entire neighborhood.
That sounds like Arthur Clarke's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, where life is abundant:

In their explorations, they encountered life in many forms, and watched the workings of evolution on a thousand worlds. They saw how often the first faint sparks of intelligence flickered and died in the cosmic night.

And because, in all the galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere. They became farmers in the fields of stars; they sowed, and sometimes they reaped.

And sometimes, dispassionately, they had to weed.
CHILDHOOD'S END, which actually came first, is very similar:

"During the first half of the twentieth century, a few of your scientists began to investigate these matters. They did not know it,but they were tampering with the lock of Pandora's box. The forces they might have unleashed transcended any perils that the atom could have brought. For the physicists could only have ruined the Earth: the paraphysicists could have spread havoc to the stars.

"That could not be allowed. I cannot explain the full nature of the threat you represented. It would not have been a threat to us, and therefore we do not comprehend it. Let us say that you might have become a telepathic cancer, a malignant mentality which in its inevitable dissolution would have poisoned other and greater minds."

—from Karellen's final address to Humanity
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Old September 23 2013, 04:30 AM   #24
Anwar
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

Shawnster wrote: View Post
Gojira wrote: View Post
I love TOS, but it is full of themes where the Humans are considered barbaric and war-like and yet these advanced "peaceful civilizations" want to destroy them for that.

Oh the irony!!

What do you do with a rabid dog running lose in the neighborhood? Or a crazed, diseased wild animal ripping apart livestock and hikers? You "humanely" kill the diseased animal. Oh, sure, some think that's barbaric in this day and age, but back in the 50s, 60s and even today (in some peoples minds) it's not cruel, evil or ironic to use a small amount of violence in order to stop an even greater threat to life and limb.

From the Metron's standpoint the humans and Gorns are nothing more than animals; rabid dogs, diseased bears or even infesting insects that deserved extermination before they ruined the entire neighborhood.
The Feds and Gorn were no threat whatsoever to the Metrons and there was nothing they could do that the Metrons couldn't be easily undone.

You see some stray dogs having a fight (which is just how nature works), do you kill them or do you just get them off your property so they don't bother you anymore?

It's not like the Feds and Gorn were going around randomly trashing planets or anything.
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Old September 23 2013, 02:21 PM   #25
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

When dealing with alien cultures, asking "what would you do in that situation?" is a flawed approach. The choices we make are shaped by our own cultural background and assumptions. People from different cultures, especially alien ones, could have very different values and priorities.
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Old September 23 2013, 05:25 PM   #26
Anwar
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

But the Metrons ultimately didn't have any cultural differences from us, at least we didn't see any. They even spared both because they recognized Kirk's act of Mercy and consideration which are things humans believe in as well.
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Old September 23 2013, 05:28 PM   #27
JT Perfecthair
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

I wonder if the Metron observers went "oh shit, now what" as soon as Kirk made his moral stand.
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Old September 23 2013, 06:22 PM   #28
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

Anwar wrote: View Post
But the Metrons ultimately didn't have any cultural differences from us, at least we didn't see any. They even spared both because they recognized Kirk's act of Mercy and consideration which are things humans believe in as well.
What? Just because they had one or two similarities, you're assuming they had no differences? That doesn't even make sense.
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Old September 24 2013, 04:26 AM   #29
Anwar
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

If they wanted to show they had differences...well, they should've shown them having differences. As it is, all we actually saw was them acting just like really arrogant humans.
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Old September 24 2013, 04:35 AM   #30
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Re: what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

Anwar wrote: View Post
If they wanted to show they had differences...well, they should've shown them having differences.
But that's my point -- they did. They showed the Metrons dealing with an intrusion into their territory by abducting the respective ship captains and forcing them into a one-on-one contest, which is obviously not the way we would respond. Come on, that's axiomatic here. The topic that's been under discussion for days is why they would respond in what seems to us like a bizarre way, and whether that response makes sense at all. So the fact that their reaction was alien is not under dispute here. It doesn't make sense in our terms, and what I'm saying is that the reason it doesn't make sense in human terms is right there in front of us, namely that they aren't humans. It makes no sense to expect them to act like humans. The default expectation should be that they wouldn't.
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