OTHER Starship Captains - Symbolism, Foreshadowing & Plot Devices

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Captain Tracy, Nov 8, 2011.

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  1. Captain Tracy

    Captain Tracy Commander Red Shirt

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    I always took a special liking to the episodes in which we met OTHER captains from other ships, as well as Fleet Officers and saw other Starships.

    How much better if in the 3rd season, the writers had used more Captains and Fleet officers to expand the Star Trek Lexicon, while examining the human condition; and 'fleshing out' more about Starfleet in general, rather than feeding us some of the scripts they did.

    Here is my take on how the TOS Star Trek writers used other Star Fleet Officers as Symbols and Plot Devices:

    Comment please!


    Commodore Robert Wesley - USS LEXINGTON - 'The Ultimate Computer'. You have to love this guy, he plays a 'straight-arrow Kirk' as good as any of Shatners' early performances. He is the embodiment of 'all the good' qualities in what we envision would be the basic requirement for all standard Captains entrusted with a Starship: Competent, Alert, Decisive, Humane, Insightful, ect.

    In a way, he is almost 'too Kirk-like', and in point-of-fact, the whole trick of the plot DEPENDS on this fact of his Kirk-likeness, ensuring that his character, and therefore his actions, are predicable-being driven by his virtues-and therefore he does not, when tested, FRY the Enterprise and it's crew,.. along with Daystrom and the M-5 computer.

    Commodore Matt Decker - USS CONSTELLATION - 'The Doomsday Machine'

    Wow, talk about the embodiment of "Humanistic Error, Guilt and Arrogance",... yet, everyone feels sorry for Decker,.. he is NOT a 'villain' in most peoples eyes - which I could never understand, especially when we HATE him so when he takes command of the Enterprise from Spock.

    Though the exchange is a CLASSIC.

    From a writers point of view Decker is handled like a master plays a grand piano - his entire psychology is laid out for us in his actions and lines; he is beyond a fully developed 3D character, as he plays so many symbolic roles, it is no surprise that he is so popular,.. he is so REAL.

    I think Decker MAY have set the stage for using captains as foreshadowing if Kirk should make the wrong decision - Do what Captain Not-So-Smart does, and you and your crew will end up dead,.. Dead,... DEAD!!!

    Decker also garners a huge and variated emotional response,.. you feel sorry for him, you empathize with him, you resent him, you wanna beat him up in the turbo-lift, and then you just feel sorry for the fool, and finally dis-miss him as a Schmuck.

    However, in the end, Commodore Decker is still a Di@k, and I would hate to have to work for a guy like this! LOL!

    Commodore
    'Indecision' STOCKER - USS ENTERPRISE (Temp) - 'The Deadly Years'

    Okay, for years I always hated Stocker (almost as much as Commodore Stone in Court Martial), not just a symbol of blind bureaucratic B.S. coupled with inexperience and command impotence and incompetence, but more over as a guy who is fully aware he doesn't know any better, and yet, just because he as some "butter between his braids", he takes control of the ship!! "Ah,.. yeah,... uh,.. I can do this too,... ah,.. I got stripes right here,.. see Starfleet gave me these,.. so gimme the Big Chair".

    For a long time I just dismissed STOCKER as a better played and rationalized version of the Kelvans, who take over the Enterprise by pushing on their magic Belly-Buttons,.. however then I discovered that STOCKER is a REAL CHARACTER, a I've actually worked for this guy,... many times. Sheesh!

    Captain Ronald Tracy -
    USS EXETER - 'The Omega Glory'

    Okay, GREAT looking Captain,.. tall, imposing, grey hair denoting distinguished experience,... so how did Ron Tracy get past the StarFleet Academy Psych-Eval??????

    I mean think about it,... what does it say about StarFleet's critical thinking if they will entrust a 500 Million credit, fully armed Starship to a guy, who at the first sign of 'pot luck' becomes a scheming Flim-Flam man version of Ponce de-Leon for profit with an itchy trigger-finger,.... seriously, wouldn't Ron Tracy been called out of "Alien Encounters 101" and withdrawn from StarFleet Academy on day three of his freshman year ???

    Great symbol of failed character, though I think they should have set the bar for Tracy to fail MUCH higher, and cut down on the whole "Kolms and Yangs" thing. Better to have done the character exploration as the story here, and left the anti-war/ Vietnam/ war profiteer thing out all together.

    Captain 'Dead with Broken Neck' JOHN DOE - USS DEFIANT - 'The Tholian Web'.

    Perfection in Foreshadowing! The guy obviously made THE deadly error, and now, he and his crew of 430 is dead,... Dead,... DEAD!!!

    You have to love the fact that not only is this guy dead, he is bald to boot!!! Did you ever notice on TV how the 'Bald Guy' is automatically the screw-up (unless your Telly Savalas or Patrick Stewart),...

    Bald Guy: Hey John,... My _____ is broken, and I get no respect!

    John, with Hair: You should have a ______ by Ronco. and your ______ will look as good as mine, and if you lose that unsightly belly fat,... you'll get the girls!

    Bald Guy: Awww Shucks,.. how do I order!

    I digress, LOL!! Anyway,.. The Defiant Captain (who's name we never learn) serves the simple and perfect plot function of foreshadowing the story and elevating the "Impending Doom/ Cost of Failure" thing so perfectly,.. and it is this aspect of Trek story-telling that I would have loved to have seen more of,... as I could have done without the 3rd season trip to Minara II to meet the mysterious and empathic mute woman named "Gem".
     
  2. Karl Shoottheglass

    Karl Shoottheglass Commodore Commodore

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    Just a theory......
    Perhaps Ron Tracey was promoted up top when Starfleet Command saw the OMEGA GLORY rushes, then noticed that moment for moment, he completely trounced Kirk's patented fighting moves. And clearly enjoyed doing it.

    However, I think are being too hard on poor Commodore Decker. Aside from some overacting and teeth-gnashing in the shuttle, William Windom treated us to perhaps the finest guest star performance on the classic run. And definitely the stubbliest.

    All right, he endangered the ENTERPRISE in act three. But Kirk only resents that because he's not doing the endangering. Decker was assisting the CONSTELLATION. This is called teamwork. For James T. ''Obsession'' not to realize this is quite the Crite hypo.

    Veering off!!!!!
     
  3. 7thsealord

    7thsealord Captain Captain

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    Noting that Tracy also had his entire crew suddenly and unexpectedly die horribly on him.

    The shock of this disaster, the inevitable grief and guilt, fear about his own death, surprise salvation (with a side-order of potential immortality), whatever issues he might have had anyhow AND friendly folks that only HE can protect from a seemingly violent and intractable foe - all this together (plus some months alone with nothing BUT all this to brood about) could cause major changes to a person's outlook.

    I don't excuse the guy, but better people have completely gone off the rails for a lot less cause.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2011
  4. AtoZ

    AtoZ Commander Red Shirt

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    In a word, brilliant.

    Your breakdown was as much spot-on as it is humorous. :rofl:

    Thank you.
     
  5. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Commodore Stocker

    I figure that he, either, never commander a Starship at any point during his career, maybe he was in engineering or supply. Or, he commanded smaller ships. Partol vessels in the safe inner potions of the Federation.
     
  6. Captain Tracy

    Captain Tracy Commander Red Shirt

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    Thanks AtoZ!, and Great comments guys.

    FOXHOT & 7THSEALORD your comments on Character Motivation are really excellent, however that particular subject gets to be a real 'sticky-wicket', with the sketchy motivations and non-sequitur actions, attitudes, and emotions of characters that usually occurs in TOS - I am guessing here - is not because the writer doesn't know how to handle his characters, but I guess it occurs due to the constraints of the format, budget, and how much story they have to tell in 48 pages of script (or what ever the page count is), the Network bosses, and the censors.

    It is a GREAT POINT 7THSEALORD,... Many 'hard-as-rock' Officers have 'Gone Native' under less stressful conditions.

    Wasn't that the whole premise of the movie 'APOCALYPSE NOW'?

    And I guess that sort of proves the case about what you are are saying about Captain Ron Tracy.

    It is sad 'The Omega Glory' WASTED so many pages on a story which SHOULD have been one of TOS's finest; and actually showed us Tracy's decent, failure, and corruption and developed the drama around Kirk - being the symbol of 'correctness in Authority' - pitted against HIMSELF, and thereby testing Kirk's convictions and character, as he empathizes and identifies with Tracy's situation and condition, and the Prime Directive (don't mess with the planet more as you get your man), KIRK having to resist being drawn into the whole Kolms/Yangs situation, avoid the disease/contamination aspect - and then having to arrest Tracy (keep the GREAT fist-fight in!) and then help defend Tracy at his Court-Martial,... now THERE IS THE STORY,... sort of an 'Errand Of Mercy' meets 'Court Martial'.

    As I said, I think the fault is in the constraints of the medium of TV,...BUT, had they left out the whole 'Fountain of Youth' bit, AND 'The Pledge of Allegiance', and used those pages to portray what I described above, we would not have had the flimsy character motivations and de-railed third act.

    And that is why I say in TOS you just have to side-step the whole character motivation thing in some cases, but you should not have to.

    Anyway, back to symbols and plot devices,... other interesting Federation folks we meet are:

    Galactic High-Commissioner Ferris - 'The Galileo Seven'

    VERY interesting character here! This is the personification of absolute AUTHORITY; an invasive authority you resent, but you have to respect. He is an un-movable force with a just cause with logical motivation,... and you are not going to intimidate or push THIS guy around,... your butt is most definitely going to Markus III at the appointed witching-hour; your friends and 'Space Normal Speed' be damned, you know it, and I know it; this guy takes no B.S. and might just 'thump you' if you give him any 'guff'.

    Again, Ferris is perfection in symbolism.

    Ambassador Robert Fox
    - 'A Taste of Armageddon'

    Okay, here we have a watered-down version of Ferris, and he plays more just like a typical self-serving, misguided bureaucrat acting under the guise of 'the common good',... yet we know it is all about him and his trophies, so right away, you have to dislike this guy LOL!

    So, unlike Ferris, this is authority you do not respect, but are FORCED to obey; which is different than what Ferris personifies,... and if you ever attended a thing called 'High School', you knew these guys as your Principal LOL!!!

    Nilz Barris - 'The Trouble with Tribbles'

    What a mess this guy is LOL!!! I suppose, as a teenager, Nilz Barris had his underwear flown from the playground flagpole everyday at lunchtime, had his books glued together, and was stuffed into gym lockers; and upon graduation, was voted in the yearbook as 'Most Likely To Receive A Wedgie'.

    So here is a guy you cannot respect, even the Powers-That-Be which back him up, do so reflexively, with an unspoken underpinning of being annoyed by this worm themselves.

    You know, if we, as a society, just dropped the pretense of law, guys like Nilz Barris would end up being repeatedly shot out of a photon torpedo tube launcher by a group of rowdy Red Shirts every time they could grab him on the lower decks.

    Irritation personified LOL! and he is such a wimp, when you do have to cater to his mission and his histrionic non-sense you do so with sarcasm and total disdain,.. like getting gum on your shoe.

    I can't even classify Nilz Barris, beyond the perfect wimpy pain-in-the-ass LOL!
     
  7. Captain Tracy

    Captain Tracy Commander Red Shirt

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    Correct you are T'Girl, Stocker never had a Field Assignment, or commanded any vessel. To quote Kirk on Stocker: "a chair-bound pencil pusher".

    His area of expertise was, I believe, in Administration, and was being transferred to Starbase 10 to take command of that galactic-sized floating office.

    And therein lay the heart of the discussion on Stocker, being that in life often wholly unqualified authority 'takes the wheel', if you will, just because they have the rank over someone like you and I - who may actually be more qualified to at least try to cope with a situation more adroitly - and these people have this power in life over us, they exercise it, and deep-down they know in their hearts the do not qualify,.. but that doesn't stop them from sitting in the big chair, as it were.
     
  8. Uxi

    Uxi Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Commentary on the Captains is pretty much spot on (my reseverations WRT Tracy already addressed) and hilarious.

    But I'm in tears about the bureaucrats, especially Barris. Bravo! :D
     
  9. Captain Tracy

    Captain Tracy Commander Red Shirt

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    Thanks Uxi, it gives me a great sense of comfort to know I am not the only one laughing,.. that would be scary LOL!

    Seriously though, in point-of-fact, Nilz Barris really doesn't symbolize anything in the classic sense of the word, he is really just used as a gimmick with which to vex Kirk,... a prefect 'Vexer' he is too,... a great foil, but he is really just a Device, as opposed to a Symbol.

    I wonder what David Gerrold's take would be on his own creation of Barris in terms of form and function?
     
  10. DakotaSmith

    DakotaSmith Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Don't forget Space Command Representative Lindstrom and starship Captains Krasnovsky and Chandra.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Yes, I realize we know nothing about these three, because all they did was sit on the court. However, to me, something about these guys' faces screams that there they had some decent adventures. I'm old, but Krasnovsky's moustache in particular says to me, "I was Errol Flynn when I was younger."

    Turns out that like Admiral Komack, Captain Chandra has a counterpart in the 2009 movie.

    Not to mention that Komack just looks like a bad-ass:

    [​IMG]

    Dakota Smith
     
  11. Uxi

    Uxi Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    True, true.

    Some of the individual emblems were cool. Makes me half regret TWOK (or TMP) cheaping out and going with the Enterprise emblem for all of Starfleet.

    Then I remember that goofy one with the hand and the rainbows and am almost thankful. :D
     
  12. DakotaSmith

    DakotaSmith Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    You're remembering this one, I think:

    [​IMG]

    Yeeahhhh. Not one of my favorites, either.

    Starfleet Command, however, was cool:

    [​IMG]

    Dakota Smith
     
  13. Captain Tracy

    Captain Tracy Commander Red Shirt

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    Hi Dakota, yes we cannot forget the other StarFleet officers, though they just sat there as you say, but here is a bit of a puzzler:

    During the episode of 'Court Martial', we have, as you pointed out, Krasnovsky and Chandra, being present as Starship Captains standing on the Court Martial proceedings, which is a duty ALL MILITARY OFFICERS must perform,... We also know that the 'U.S.S. INTREPID' was in dock for repairs at the time Kirk & crew arrived at the Starbase,... as Commodore Stone orders her repair crew to put the ENTERPRISE on priority,... we also know from 'The Immunity Syndrome' that her crew is mostly Vulcan,... so then could either Krasnovsky or Chandra the captain of the U.S.S. Intrepid?

    Would it be reasonable to think there is a Vulcan Starship captain would be hanging about in a Starbase lounge, even if he was not asked to sit on Kirk's court martial while the trial of the 23rd century is taking place?
     
  14. DakotaSmith

    DakotaSmith Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well, from the chart on Commodore Stone's wall, there were a number of ships in for repair. A court-martial apparently requires three ship Captains (as specified for Spock's court-martial in "The Menagerie."

    Given the number of ships listed on Stone's wall, there were probably a plethora of available Captains. I think it logical to assume that an all-Vulcan ship had a Vulcan captain, so it may be that (s)he wasn't asked.

    Maybe they went by time-in-grade, with the most senior Captains serving on the Court. Given their age, that's a possibility.

    Short answer: lots of ships on the chart, lots of Captains to draw court-martial duty from. The captain of the Intrepid simply wasn't tapped for some reason.

    Dakota Smith
     
  15. 7thsealord

    7thsealord Captain Captain

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    Good point. I can think of three main explanations:

    1) Selection of the CM board was based on seniority, with the 'Intrepid' captain junior to the others.

    2) The 'Intrepid' captain was ruled as invalid for board selection - perhaps due to some prior association with the accused. Yes, a 'logical' Vulcan would supposedly not show bias or favouritism, but regulations are regulations.

    3) The 'Intrepid' captain was simply unavailable. Might be a major trial, but that doesn't mean everything else happening on the Star Base or in that sector can be shut down or will wait.
     
  16. Captain Tracy

    Captain Tracy Commander Red Shirt

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    Great points Dakota,... I too often wondered if an all Vulcan ship would, pardon the pun, LOGICALLY have a Vulcan captain,... and yet,... we learn in 'Amok Time', that Spock is the most famous Vulcan in Starfleet,...

    Now, that would make one think that IF a Vulcan were a Starship captain, he would be more exhaulted than Mr. Spock,... so if you follow that, and take into account the above, then we are back to Krasnovsky and Chandra,...?

    Also I recall what you mean about there being a list in STONE'S office,.. but to have 3 of 12 Starships at one Starbase at the same time is a bit of a stretch, when you consider the size of the galaxy the FED patrols, let alone considering even more Starships and more Captains running about this same Starbase at the same time,... must have been a one hell of an Ion Storm out there!!!! LOL!

    Puzzling, you see! LOL!
     
  17. 7thsealord

    7thsealord Captain Captain

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    The Vulcan captain may not have been as famous as Spock. Then again, not like TOS mentions that many famous anyones in Star Fleet. Might have just had a lot more seniority than Spock - with a 200-plus year lifespan, expect that Vulcans can put in a LOT of career time.

    Regarding the ships at the Star Base, there may have been something "big" happening or impending in that particular sector (and unmentioned in the CM episode). Wargames? Fears about a hostile incursion? That would explain three starships being in the same patch.

    Also, not to get into political correctness, but who says the Vulcan captain had to be a "he"? Fairly sure that the gender of the 'Intrepid' CO is not mentioned or implied anyplace in TOS.
     
  18. DakotaSmith

    DakotaSmith Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well, to be honest, I ultimately decided that Spock was the most famous Vulcan in Starfleet -- but for a variety of reasons:

    Firstly, he was the son of the planet's Ambassador to the Federation. Theoretically, the Ambassador to the Federation would be the voice of Vulcan at the Federation Council. Whatever interstellar laws were to be made would happen with Sarek of Vulcan speaking on the planet's behalf. The post would naturally be a very powerful and highly-visible one.

    And then Sarek of Vulcan goes out a knocks up some Earth girl.

    That alone would be a scandal pretty hard for any politician to deal with (Cain, Clinton, Hart, anyone?), but amazingly Sarek wasn't pitched out on his ear. His Vulcan-looking kid is being raised traditionally Vulcan. He's accepted into the most esteemed institution of higher learning on the planet.

    And then Spock declines the offer and joins Starfleet.

    Again, I'm amazed that a politician could weather such a scandal. I suspect it would be like finding out Vice-President Cheney's daughter is gay. Which she is, so obviously such things can be weathered ...

    Actually, the parallel to Mary Cheney is probably apropos. Is Mary Cheney the most accomplished lesbian out there? Nope. Is she particularly noteworthy for anything other than being a conservative Vice-President's lesbian daughter? Nope.

    But anyone who finds out that Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter never, ever forgets it. ;)

    In any case, I suspect that it's Spock's backstory that makes him famous in the same way that Mary Cheney has some level of fame.

    Actually, with that analogy, it puts a lot more subtext under T'Pring's statement that she did not wish to be the consort of a "legend":

    The legend of the half-breed offspring of the Ambassador to the Federation and some cheap Earth girl; who then inexplicably threw away everything; and probably because he's driven by his passions to get some of what his father got.

    Some legend. :wtf:

    Are there other famous Vulcans in Starfleet? Probably -- but not the way Spock is famous.

    Dakota Smith
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
  19. DakotaSmith

    DakotaSmith Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well, to be fair, it's vague as to what the actual requirements are for a court-martial of a Starship captain. What we know is this:

    To court-martial Spock required three officer of "command rank." Of the three present, Commodore Mendez, Fleet Captain Pike, and Captain Kirk were of "command rank."

    I always assumed from context that "command rank" meant of grade Captain or above. Spock was at that time stated to be a Lieutenant Commander (though he wore full Commander's braid). Apparently a Lieutenant Commander (or brevet Commander, or whatever the heck he might have been other than a scriptwriter/costuming error) rates a court-martial with three officers grade Captain or above.

    What we saw in Kirk's court-martial was four officers: a Commodore, two Starship captains, and a Space Command Representative (no grade given).

    Now, given the age of the two captains, it's a fair bet they were also of grade Captain or above. It becomes confusing in Naval parlance because an officer of almost any grade can be captain of his/her ship. Lieutenant (Junior Grade) John F. Kennedy was captain of PT109.

    But these guys are older. I think it's safe to assume we're seeing a Captain or Fleet Captain -- though Commodore isn't an impossibility as we've seen one commanding a Starship.

    But if we call them both Captains in grade as well as title:

    We've got Stone, C.O. of the base; Lindstrom, unknown grade, a Space Command Representative; and two Captains.

    Now, it's stated they're Starship Captains, and in 1966, a Starship meant a ship exactly like the Enterprise. So from appearances, we can say there were two other Constitution-class ships at the base. The Intrepid is there, too, in the background. Then there's the Enterprise herself.

    That's four Constitution-class ships at the base. Of a fleet of twelve, that's fully one-third of them. Wow.

    The only way you can really resolve it is to use the broader definition of "Starship" as it came to be used in the 1970s: virtually any FTL ship ever seen in Star Trek.

    With that definition, there's no reason that our Captains must be captains of ships like the Enterprise. For that matter, perhaps one of them is a Fleet Captain jockeying a desk at the base.

    With the broad definition of "Starship," we're back to two Constitution-class ships at the base: the Enterprise and the Intrepid. The former was a totally unexpected visit due to the ion storm.

    Dakota Smith
     
  20. Uxi

    Uxi Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    If you buy into the apocrypha like Spock's World, they were also descended from Surak's line and effectively a leading family of Vulcan (if you also buy into the idea that T'Pau was a member of their family).

    That would imply it was accidental instead of deliberate. Perhaps a sign of these... troubled times today, instead of assuming it followed what would have probably been a controversial marriage, but as Sarek said in the Abrams Trek, 'it would have been logical' as Ambassador to heavily Earth-influenced Federation

    Funny, I must be one of the few who remembers when Cheney was thought of as a moderate when he was in Congress. ;)
     
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