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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 August 5 2014, 04:20 AM   #1
Terran_Empire
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Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

While chewing through season 2 I seem to find myself repeatedly frustrated with the ease with which the landing parties, usually headed by Kirk, submit to or are otherwise disarmed and subdued by "primitive locals".

In "A piece of the Action" I literally lost count at how many times Kirk and co. would get held up, disarmed, only to escape and have the process repeat over and over. Kirk seemed content to merely rolls his eyes at the 2-3 Tommy guns being prodded into his body. He could have been killed at any point and was allowed multiple chances at escape due mainly to the stupidity of his captors.

I know Starfleet is an extension of the supposed utopia that the Federation stands to be with all the flowery peacefulness and sagacious pacifism but one has to wonder...is it worth risking the lives of an exceptional officer and crew, a state of the art ship, all the money and time it takes to for construction/training, only to assure that force is only used when and if absolutely necessary?

To be honest, anytime any real force is used by Kirk or his subordinates..it is only after they have long been at the mercy of some alien captor or enemy for the majority of the episode's screen time. If it weren't for the equally reposed and leisurely antagonists, Kirk and friends might well be killed off in just about every episode. It just seems like the phasers are handed over more than they are used....

Now i'm not in any way advocating that Kirk sends down the cast of Aliens as a landing party to each and every planet but the fact that self-defense in the face of mortal danger/threats seems to be taken with a air of reluctance and apprehension...to me it breaks immersion more than any green lizard body-suit.

Is the paperwork really that bad? That much so that it's better to offer yourself and your crew up to be bound and gagged on a routine basis?
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Old August 5 2014, 05:35 AM   #2
LMFAOschwarz
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

As a kid, my brother rightly pointed out that on landing parties, if they need their weapons, they get taken away, and if they don't need them, they don't get taken away.

It does make one wonder why Starfleet arms their crews with such dazzling weapons. Wouldn't something beam-less and subtle be more appropriate to use around primitive societies, ones that they are supposedly not to taint with ideas? So, they have weapons which they need, but must not use for fear of societal contamination. It's a set-up for failure in a sense, almost Shakespearean in its irony!

In a handful episodes, the landing party will dress as indigenous natives. Why this was not standard procedure is beyond me. Besides, it would have been fun to see the guys in different outfits more often.
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Old August 5 2014, 09:04 AM   #3
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

I don't see what good putting up a fight would do. The mission would be a failure in such a case - stunning the Capellans or Iotians or Ardanans at first sight would make them outright enemies, rather than sovereign negotiation partners who can choose to back down from their position of hostility at any point without losing face.

It's not as if our heroes really are in mortal danger from folks who choose to disarm them. It's folks who shoot at them they should worry about!

Indeed, I think it would be a good idea for them to carry "dress arms" just for the purpose of being taken away and making the opponent feel more comfortable. What they should retain is those nifty subcutaneous transporter beacons, and probably some well-hidden communicators as well...

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Old August 5 2014, 09:57 AM   #4
C.E. Evans
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

Terran_Empire wrote: View Post
I know Starfleet is an extension of the supposed utopia that the Federation stands to be with all the flowery peacefulness and sagacious pacifism...
  • About a century of hostilities with the Klingons
  • Federation-Cardassian Border Wars
  • Regional conflicts with various alien races like the Tzenkethi, the Tholians, and the Talarians
  • The Borg
  • The Dominion War
For something that stands for flowery peacefulness and sagacious pacifism, the Federation sure tends to fight a lot.

...but one has to wonder...is it worth risking the lives of an exceptional officer and crew, a state of the art ship, all the money and time it takes to for construction/training, only to assure that force is only used when and if absolutely necessary?
If the policy results in more friends than adversaries, then yes, resorting to force only when all other options have failed is not only necessary but crucial at times. With some notable exceptions, many times our heroes have been able to prevent a hostile situation from escalation and even defuse it because they demonstrated restraint.

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Old August 5 2014, 10:32 AM   #5
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

As Timo points out once you start down a route with what could be percieved as a violent action it can become more difficult to say we come in peace. And mis-understanding can happen such as in "Arena", that mis-understanding could potentially have led to a war.
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Old August 5 2014, 11:05 AM   #6
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

Pacifism is a mental illness where one believes violence of any sort is unjustified under any circumstances—which C.E. Evans has shown is obviously not Starfleet (but it may be Ambassador Fox). And Timo put Starfleet's rationale most succinctly.

Bringing "A Piece of the Action" into the argument was just silly—the episode is a comedy.

Besides, the studio's bean counters would jump all over Roddenberry about the use of phasers, unless it was absolutely necessary.
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Old August 5 2014, 01:10 PM   #7
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

Happy to see some good responses here.

I don't know, maybe i'm digging too deep into a 1960s sci-fi show...but from what i've seen the "misunderstandings" happen whether Kirk shows his teeth or not. And funnily enough when Kirk does decide to use serious force at the onset of a threat....it always happens to be some super advanced being or power that is all but impervious to human weapons anyway.

There should at least be some consistency with the rules of engagement.

Can I reference B5 here? I realize it's a totally different setting and dynamic but the Earth Alliance, while usually appearing to be peaceful mediators and counselors, do not take even so much as a threat lightly and have no qualms obliterating hostiles or individuals who refuse to adhere to regulations.

Maybe that just comes with that show's "real grit" universe as opposed to the "noble bright" that TOS is bathed in but consider that the peaceful recklessness of Kirk (not only the lack of self defense but managing to repeatedly putting himself and his crew at the mercy of others) just doesn't seem realistic human behaviour.

If we were some vastly superior race who could maintain control of any situation without physical weapons and were immune to conventional weaponry or any real danger from those we were visiting then sure, get taken prisoner as much as you like....but in TOS humans are still flesh and bone, fragile and save for the "much" used beam weapons, defenseless. Sometimes Kirk wants to be taken captive...but not all the time and that's what gets me.
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Old August 5 2014, 02:37 PM   #8
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

When looking at the technical aspect of it, there was a reason why there were three types of phasers created for landing parties/away teams.

The Type I hand phaser, the smallest weapon issued to StarFleet team members, is meant to be a last resort weapon, offering concealability in situations where it is inappropriate to display weapons...usually, situations that are generally considered to be benign....initially. Having these tiny, yet powerful concealed weapons would afford the landing party/away team a chance for escape if the species/factions they are dealing with cannot be reasoned with. However, this is generally only suitable in dealing with species that have never dealt with StarFleet before. The major powers in the Alpha Quadrant are well aware that StarFleet possesses these weapons.

The Type II phaser pistol was meant for situations when a show of force was considered necessary, to discourage an enemy or potential hostile faction from taking action against the landing party/away team.

And then there's the Type III phaser rifle...which in Kirk's time was never kept aboard a starship's armories. In the time of Picard, the type III's were kept aboard starships apparently after the Borg threat became much more prominent. Type III's are clearly issued when military action is a projected possibility, or worse, imminent.

Again, I'm only covering the tech issues...not necessarily the philosophical ones.
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Old August 5 2014, 02:49 PM   #9
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

The rules of engagement are as follows:

What would be the most engaging story to tell.


Our heroes mowing down the opposition with phasers is not very engaging.

Using wits, guile and the occasional fisticuffs is engaging.



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Old August 5 2014, 09:28 PM   #10
LMFAOschwarz
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

Nerys Myk wrote: View Post
Using wits, guile and the occasional fisticuffs is engaging.
It is. But it does sometimes create odd situations. For example, I like The Apple a lot more than many others seem to, but even I can't explain just why Kirk punched Akuta. As I recall, he was fleeing at the time. Sure, the punch seemed to calm him down and they started to talk, but Kirk couldn't have known that would happen.
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Old August 5 2014, 09:39 PM   #11
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

Well to be fair. Kirk was running out of red shirts. He didn't want to lose yet another yeomen.
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Old August 5 2014, 11:06 PM   #12
Terran_Empire
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

Nerys Myk wrote: View Post
The rules of engagement are as follows:

What would be the most engaging story to tell.


Our heroes mowing down the opposition with phasers is not very engaging.

Using wits, guile and the occasional fisticuffs is engaging.



I suppose i'll submit to the plot. Also got to love those instant on-demand knock-out punches Kirk administers to women(The Gamesters of Triskelion).

If Kirk can put people to sleep that easily and consistently then to hell with the phasers, Jim can just box his way out of trouble.
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Old August 5 2014, 11:32 PM   #13
Geoff Peterson
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

Between Kirk's punches, Spock's neck pinch and McCoy's hypo no one was safe.
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Old August 6 2014, 01:27 AM   #14
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

I do remember marveling as a kid at just how often Kirk and company had their gear confiscated immidiately. Sometimes I wonder why they made so many props given how infrequently they seemed to get used sometimes. I mean, just how many episodes start act 1 with the landing party disarmed or about to be disarmed?
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Old August 6 2014, 02:17 AM   #15
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Re: Starfleet Rules of Engagement (who'd work under these conditions?)

"A Piece of the Action" isn't really a good example to start the thread with. It's obviously being played for laughs from start to finish.
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