Roddenberry's Worst Ideas

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by ZapBrannigan, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. MrArcas

    MrArcas Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Hm. Just felt like this one needed response. First, I don't think Roddenberry ever saw Starfleet as not being military. They are clearly burdened with the job of Federation defense/security when needed, they have ranks, the take their orders from a centralized fleet command. It's all pretty military. But what they aren't is an analog to most modern (say, U.S.) defense organizations. Defense is part of their role, but not necessarily their primary duty. That's summed up in the start of ever show: to explore strange new worlds, to see out new life and new civilizations.

    So Starfleet is NASA combined with the Navy combined with the Merchant Marine... and maybe a few other things as well. But their primary job is not "blasting bad guys", though they'll do it if required.

    As Roddenberry created Trek and Starfleet, it seems odd to say he's off base in defining its character? It's kinda like saying that Lucas was wrong in making Han Solo a smuggler, or something? It's his futuristic, aspirational vision so there's no real "right and wrong" to be had there.

    I'm just sayin' ;)
     
  2. Nightdiamond

    Nightdiamond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I noticed the first few seasons of TNG and TOS had a heavier dose of utopia descriptions.

    I don't think these ideas are worse or bad ideas, but a question of how realistic or rational the ideas are.

    According to TOS, future humans don't get angry at insults anymore at all. They don't fear words.

    The Neutral Zone (TNG), claims 24th century humans don't fear death, they're much more evolved than that.

    Then you have the no need or want in the 24th century--humans had 'grown out their infancy'.

    That sounds like humans are living in a virtual Eden getting all their needs provided for free.

    And Starfleet is not the military- it is an exploration vessel that carries families and children, but will take care of military duties if necessary--with the children on board.

    Is it realistic or utopian, or both?
     
  3. EliyahuQeoni

    EliyahuQeoni Commodore Commodore

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    Are you sure about that? Scotty started a bar-room brawl over a Klingon insulting the Enterprise in Trouble With Tribbles...
     
  4. Third Nacelle

    Third Nacelle Captain Captain

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    I don't think of it as a utopia. A utopia by its very definition is stagnant and boring. I think Roddenberry's vision was of humanity working to constantly improving itself - striving toward perfection, even if perfection itself is unreachable.

    And yes, the Federation does seem like an Eden by modern standards, but think of when it takes place. A lot of people seem to forget that Star Trek's setting is not 20 years in the future, not 50 years in the future, it's THREE CENTURIES in the future. A lot changes in 300 (or 400) years.

    Most of our lives are like an Eden compared to life three hundred years ago. Our world is not perfect, but we have more freedoms and opportunities than ever, and we are (slowly) working toward equality. In many respects we in real life are living out Roddenberry's vision.
     
  5. Foxhot

    Foxhot Commodore Commodore

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    Nightdiamond's likely thinking of that SAVAGE CURTAIN moment when Abraham Lincoln refers to Uhura as a charming Negress. Here's my slightly tweaked version below.

    LINCOLN: Forgive me my dear. I realize my choice of words may be poor in these circumstances.

    UHURA: But why should I be offended, sir? We've learned over time we have nothing to fear from words.....

    KIRK: That's right. Mankind has evolved beyond such fear and ignorance. And that's why we have @#$%^&s on the bridge as well as &*$%#s.

    UHURA and SULU: You son of a $$%^&*!!!!!
     
  6. Nightdiamond

    Nightdiamond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Don't know about Scotty, but in one episode, after fake Lincoln unintentionally uses an offensive name for Uhura, she says she's not offended at all, and makes a statement that in their century, they've learned not to fear words.

    It just seemed to suggest that the average 23d century human cant be offended by words and insults anymore.

    I agree too, that people have improved over time and have dumped at least some self destructive behaviors.

    According to Trek, all humans have no prejudices, are unselfish, pacifist, and accepting.

    What I find fascinating is that Trek is basically saying that 100% of humanity acts and thinks this way.

    What could realistically cause a change like that to happen?
     
  7. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    WWIII plus first contact. The former opens up the ideological space, people are hungry for a new kind of society after the old one collapsed. The latter implies an alien gaze on all of humankind. Humans see themselves reflected in this gaze and perceive themselves more than before as one species. They might also feel shame which makes them wanna improve.
     
  8. Third Nacelle

    Third Nacelle Captain Captain

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    According to Trek? Or according to the offhand remarks of a character in Trek?

    I would say most, but not all characters in Star Trek do seem less selfish, more pacifist, and in general more accepting than most modern people, but the bad qualities haven't disappeared entirely. There's still prejudice around (just look at the attitudes toward the Ferengi), selfishness (Harcourt Mudd, Cyrano Jones, Vash), and plenty of people willing to go to war.
     
  9. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Likely they're not offended by three-hundred year old insults...
     
  10. yousirname

    yousirname Commander Red Shirt

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    Her statement can be interpreted to mean that she recognises Lincoln's intent was not to insult, and so she isn't offended by the mere word itself, since she knows the intent behind it wasn't hurtful.
     
  11. SpHeRe31459

    SpHeRe31459 Captain Captain

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    I was just watching the Writer's Room special feature on the TNG Season 3 Blu-ray set and Ron D. Moore talks about that very issue and butting heads with Gene Roddenberry about this in his episode "The Bonding". Moore says that he was called in to Gene's office (at a time when Gene's health was starting to deteriorate and he wasn't normally taking meetings) and was basically lectured that even a young boy like Jeremy who just lost his mother wouldn't have any issues with it and he'd be fine and readily accept his loss.

    That idea that an 8-year old boy would "just accept" that his mom is dead is actually pretty naïve about the human condition. People would still be bonded to their parents by the mere fact they are raised by them, so he would still miss his mother and need to surrounded by people who care about him and helped to grieve, etc. He may not fear death (which I will grant Gene), but people still have close social ties to others, which means they will still need to take time to miss them and move forward.

    Also sometime in the writer's reunion feature they point out the irony of having a councilor onboard when according to Gene humans coped with everything in stride and didn't have any real wants, major fears, or hang-ups.

    I love most of Gene Roddenberry's philosophy, but the more I hear about the problems behind the scenes in the early days of TNG, the more it seems Gene was getting lost in his own hype. He was getting away from what he originally posited in TOS and even the more temperate versions of his semi-utopian ideas that he had going into TNG. And the fact that he reportedly felt the need to do a re-write on almost every script in the first season of TNG to make sure it injected this newer preachy and judgmental version of his philosophies made it worse.
     
  12. CaptainStoner

    CaptainStoner Knuckle-dragging TNZ Denizen Admiral

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    Indeed, a more enlightened humanity, which strives to better itself, is not even remotely a bad idea.

    The word "utopia" is a stumbling point, best moved past. But I will also throw into the mix that much research indicates that even today, money is not much of a motivator, once past the stage of providing basic needs.
    If we have a future where the worst poverty is eliminated worldwide, freedom and enlightenment actually does increase, the birth rate begins to stabilize...umm yeah, these are good ideas.
     
  13. SpHeRe31459

    SpHeRe31459 Captain Captain

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    Oh for sure, I don't think the part of Roddenberry's philosophy you mentioned is in question here, is it (it's a huge thread so maybe it is)?

    I think it's the way it got handled in practice in TNG and later that's the problem. The semi-illogical extension that if the problems you mentioned are eliminated then suddenly everyone is okay with everything at all times and it gives them the right to preach about it is one of the biggest issues for me. People would still have interpersonal problems, personalities still may clash, etc. and Gene apparently had come to think that such issues would just simply not exist.
     
  14. CaptainStoner

    CaptainStoner Knuckle-dragging TNZ Denizen Admiral

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    never found TNG preachy. The thing you're talking about exists in spades in TOS also.
    I also never found TNG artificially harmonious. They seem to argue different points frequently.
    Maybe its Riker and Troi that freaks people out? IDK. Riker was a definitely a "90's guy" though he hatched in the 80's.
    I also think that the vibe on Kirk and Picard's ships aren't anywhere near as far apart as all this supposed interpersonal conflict on TOS would suggest.
    Not saying GR was infallible, he was off obviously on the 6 year old not grieving, but yeah, I am curious as to why some people interpret TNG as preachy, and others don't.
     
  15. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Riker fought with his father, Picard smashed his ships and disagreed with virtually every Admiral he met, Wesley is told to not touch the bridge panel or tell the truth ... I don't see an absence of disagreements. Perhaps characters in TNG handle them better than people on average today or McCoy's manners created the impression that TOS was more about people clashing but they are certainly not robots who never have problems with themselves or others.
     
  16. SpHeRe31459

    SpHeRe31459 Captain Captain

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    Oh it's not all of TNG, not at all. Season 2 and onwards is generally just fine. I love TNG, but it's Season 1 (where Gene had the most day-to-day direct influence on the production BTW) that's the problem really.

    Season 1 of TNG is infamously full of monologs about how shitty 20th century humans were (i.e. the audience is currently) and how great the 24th century people are now. And then how much a given planet's race is like the 20th century humans, and thusly how great the 24th century humans are in comparison.
     
  17. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    The season is not infamously full, it is just one episode. And it is not monologues but dialogues:

    PICARD: That's what this is all about. A lot has changed in the past three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We've eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We have grown out of our infancy.
    RALPH: You've got it all wrong. It's never been about possessions. It's about power.
    PICARD: Power to do what?
    RALPH: To control your life, your destiny.
    PICARD: That kind of control is an illusion.

    RALPH: Then what will happen to us? There's no trace of my money. My office is gone. What will I do? How will I live?
    PICARD: This is the twenty fourth century. Material needs no longer exist.
    RALPH: Then what's the challenge?
    PICARD: The challenge, Mister Offenhouse, is to improve yourself. To enrich yourself. Enjoy it.


    Enjoy it, now that's preachy. :rolleyes:

    Offenhouse is a pathetic little creature for whom money is mainly a means for power. Given his behaviour in this episode you can easily imagine how he does or tries to boss around people during work. I take the 24th century human beings who do something constructive with their lives over some cretin who doesn't give a shit about his work as long as it pays well and thus empowers him.
     
  18. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Offenhouse is the only one who gets what's up with the Romulans, and has to point it out to Picard. :lol:

    There's a good deal of pontificating in TNG, yeah.
     
  19. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Right in front of you and you missed it. For Offenhouse money is a means of controlling his own life and destiny.

    RALPH: That may be all right for you, but I am not willing to allow my fate to be decided by others.

    Far from being pathetic, Offenhouse philosophy is to be respected and emulated. He's a man who is unwilling to be simply carried along by will of others, or events that he has the ability to control. This is the reason that he found a way to place himself in a position to provide Picard with essential information.

    RALPH: They haven't got a clue. They're hoping you know, but they're too arrogant to ask.
    PICARD: ... it's a correct assessment.


    Without Offenhouse's presence on the bridge, the confrontation with the Romulan ship easily could have resulted in a battle, or a war.

    The question is, is what Roddenberry considered to be enlightened in fact "better." Or is it a advancement in the wrong direction?

    One example would be a society that fully expects a child to be indifferent to the death of their parent.

    Personally, I would say that this is a society that is "progressing" in a wrong direction. Just because you label a society as progressive, doesn't mean that it's progress is in a positive or beneficial direction.

    That sound more like Humans are being treated like children, being provided for. The opposite of grown out their infancy, they would be returning to it.

    Uhura might not have been offened because Negress was not used as a pejorative in her culture.

    In Brazil "the N-word" is used fairly commonly and is neutral, because it isn't used as a pejorative, it's simply used the way an American would use the word black.

    You want to see Uhura react to words, watch her face when Mister Adventure suggest she getting old and is in the downward segment of her career.

    But this is a assumption on your (and others) part, not directly supported by anything on the show. Who actual grew up with a replicator in their home ... Keiko. And there no indication that replicator use is cost-free, so what post-scarcity environment?

    Not what I meant by a societial change. If a significant portion of your society, the portion that has previously volunteered their efforts says "Okay, the whole volunteering thing was cool for a while, but if you want my efforts (skills, training, education, experience) then I want financial compensation." Off world money is fine, if that's all you got to offer. Because I can take my abilities elsewhere.

    I'm one of the best doctors (engineers, educators, thinkers, etc.) on this planet and it is a joke that I have the same lifestyle as someone who dropped out of school when they were sixteen to sit on a beach, surf and screw.

    What are you going to do? Grab some "self-improvement artist" off the street to work the antimatter reactor that powers the entire west coast? There's a good idea.

    Maybe this gal wants to move her family into a penthouse on top of one of those tall towers in San Fransisco (not everyone gets those), and a nice sailing yacht for the social season (Scotty had to buy his), and a private Vulcan tutor for her children (and out of that government school).

    She and those like her are busting their asses, while others sit on theirs. Why shouldn't they be recognized for their efforts? But wait you say, she has been indoctrinated[ since childhood to think a certain way, problem there is Human beings don't alway respond to being told how they should think. The volunteer your abilities for no compensation thing only work as long as the people in your society who are doing the actual work go along with it. If they can shop their skills elsewhere in the Federation, another Member world, then you have to think about how difficult it will be to replace them, and how long it will take.

    Haven't been watching the news out of Greece for a while, have you?

    :)
     
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  20. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    I find it interesting to see that lack of knowledge about economics (Greece is not in deep shit because of the welfare state) and adoration of a business man like Offenhouse go hand in hand.

    About the two ways of life clashing, Picard advocates knowledge instead of power, fulfillment, letting go and enjoying his life instead of being control-hungry, anally-fixated and feeling empty and helpless without his job and money. It is fairly obvious which way of life is better.
    About your point concerning "being your own man", well, I don't disagree about the principle. But Offenhouse is not a confident man, he was hysterical, unwilling to listen, accept the new circumstances and adapt to them. The musical dude on the other hand had no problem to be true to himself and adapt to this new life at the same time.


    You can hardly be the best doctor if you are motivated by envy or money. That makes you wanna get as many patients as possible through during one day which implies bad quality care. But hey, it also implies this Ferrari you want so desperately.

    We never saw any of the five doctors on the shows enjoying a luxurious lifestyle. They are the equivalent of doctors going to third world countries today, they don't it because of the money but because they love their job and actually wanna help those who most need them.
    Same with the engineers. Scotty reads tech manuals during his break, the guy is a total workaholic. He loves his job and not some yacht or whatever.


    As we already discussed work incentives previously his thread, Offenhouse is just another example of a person who does not work purely for the sake of consumption. So make up your mind, either Offenbouse is your hero and people work for other reasons than consumption or he is not your hero and we are back to Econ 101, labour supply as a consumption-leisure trade-off and the yacht-craving doctors. So in order to provide an internally consistent argument you have to make up your mind.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2013