what if Kirk called the Metrons out on their hypocrisy?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by ixfd64, Sep 21, 2013.

  1. ixfd64

    ixfd64 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    In "Arena," the Metrons declare the Enterprise and the Gorn ship "savages" and force them to fight to the death. Kirk goes along with it because he has little other choice.

    But suppose Kirk called the Metrons out by saying something along the following: "You say we are 'savages' because we have a right to defend ourselves [from what Kirk saw as a threat], yet you make us fight for your entertainment. That's something only the ancient cultures did. What makes you better than them?"

    How do you think the Metrons would have responded?

    I personally think the Metrons would agree with what Kirk says, but that they have to proceed because it is the "law of the land." However, I could also imagine them comparing the trespassers to the Metrons' equivalent of cockroaches and deciding to eliminate them as pests.

    What does everyone else think?
     
  2. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk The Real Me Premium Member

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    They would have scolded him for talking back to his betters.
     
  3. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I have this germ of an idea of two warring factions travelling to Metron space, and one of these 'mental people' try the same trick, only to have some psychic nullifier deployed, and the being captured by the two factions who actually had joined forces. It would make for a funny moment.
     
  4. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It's Machiavellian, pure and simple. Everyone seems to overlook the line, "Therefore, you will not be destroyed." After the fight, the winner was to be destroyed by the Metrons. (Let them fight it out so that we can learn who is most dangerous, then eliminate them.)

    The Metrons could have wiped out both parties anyway. The "hypocrisy" of the Metrons was probably socio-political commentary. Remember that this is STAR TREK. How is this interference any different than the number of times Kirk violated the Prime Directive, all with the best of intentions because he knew what was right for another people?

    Then there's my favorite line from "Conscience of the King" where Kirk asks Lenore, "Who do I have to be?" I'm not a moral relativist. I believe in leaving others alone, but I also believe in self-defense. Those offering rationalizations for their actions (like the Metrons) must feel their actions are questionable.
     
  5. Gojira

    Gojira Commodore Commodore

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    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!!

    :eek:
     
  6. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk The Real Me Premium Member

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    Without them we'd miss some Kirk speechifying on how we won't kill today.
     
  7. Gojira

    Gojira Commodore Commodore

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    That is true!!
     
  8. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Nope.

     
  9. JT Perfecthair

    JT Perfecthair Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    What about if the Metrons didn't care and Kirk destroys the Gorn ship? Later it turns out to have been gallantly defending Gorn space against an (accidental) Federation invasion. Then the Feds look like both the heavy and the fool at the same time. Or they catch up and the Gorns beat the Enterprise, becoming more encouraged by the victories in space and at Cestus?

    Both options would likely have been worse than what happened when the Metrons interfered. Its refreshing to see a plot where a larger power got involved in a fight between 2 "lesser" groups and actually helped both sides out.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Metryq must be remembering the James Blish novelization of the episode, in which the Metron admits at the end that they lied, that it was the winner -- and therefore the greater threat -- that they planned to destroy. Which may have been part of the original scene but was cut, or may have been added by Blish.

    To the original poster, I don't think the Metrons were making them fight for their own entertainment. Rather, they were trying to limit and contain the violence. These two boatloads of primitives had barged into their territory to wage war on each other, and the Metrons went, "Okay, you guys want to fight? Then let's do it in an orderly fashion and limit the damage."

    Also, it was clearly a test, of the sort that advanced aliens in Trek are so enamored of. They basically put two lab rats in a maze and observed their behavior. So it wasn't for their entertainment, but for their edification about two violent, primitive species that had intruded into their space and might pose a hazard.
     
  11. Anwar

    Anwar Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  12. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    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.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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.



    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.
     
  14. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Since I have it, here's what de Forest Research had to say about the issue in an October 14, 1966 memo:

    (The memo goes on with a two-page synopsis of the original Brown story, but since the original is available, I have omitted it).
     
  15. TheTribble

    TheTribble Cadet Newbie

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    Excellent Point!
     
  16. Irishman

    Irishman Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    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.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^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?
     
  18. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    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:

    So the Metrons intended to destroy the winner, but Kirk piqued their interest.
     
  19. Anwar

    Anwar Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^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.