Poll A Question of Guilt - Trek Style

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Enterprise' started by Oddish, Sep 10, 2020.

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Who was most responsible for Charles' death?

  1. Charles

    2 vote(s)
    20.0%
  2. Cmdr. Tucker

    7 vote(s)
    70.0%
  3. Capt. Archer

    1 vote(s)
    10.0%
  4. Capt. Drennik

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. The Engineer & his wife

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Oddish

    Oddish Fleet Captain Red Shirt

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    AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have seen multiple exercises like this over the years. I did one in grade school, didn't really get it. I found another one in a quiz book, and remember being frustrated that there was no answer (so I missed the point once again). And there's another one in "Silent Hill: Shattered Memories". The characters are different in each, but the underlying theme is the same: things happen, someone dies, and we have to decide whose fault it was.


    It is sometime in the late 2390's, and you are a cadet at Starfleet Academy. You are attending a class in Philosophy and Ethics when your instructor folds down her computer screen and tells you to put down your padds. She explains that she is going to give the class a mental exercise, There is no right or wrong answer, but you will be expected to defend your response. Hearing no questions, the instructor begins to speak:


    One day in 2153, the original warp-five starship Enterprise was studying a hypergiant star when they met up with another ship, crewed by the Vissians. As longtime members of the Federation, the Vissians are well known to us now. However, Captain Archer and his people were meeting them for the first time. It was first contact, but not like it happens today, with years of monitoring and surface reconnisance. This was direct interaction between two peoples who hadn't even known the other existed mere hours before. Despite this potential difficulty, the initial contact between the two crews was quite friendly. However, it was not to last.


    As many of you probably know, the Vissians require three sexes for procreation: a male, a female, and a rare third sex called the cogenitor. Because there were far fewer cogenitors than males or females, they were required to travel from family to family, to aid in reproduction. Unfortunately, the Vissian culture of the time did not treat cogenitors well, denying them the basic freedoms that men and women took for granted. They were not educated, or allowed to learn to read, or even given names. The Vissian chief engineer and his wife treated the cogenitor living with them as little better than a slave.


    Commander Tucker, the chief engineer on Enterprise, outraged at what he saw as abusive treatment, made the decision that he would teach the cogenitor how to read. To that end, he sneaked into her quarters, lying to both his own people and the Vissians about where he was going. However, he was successful: the cogenitor learned to read very quickly, and soon realized the wonder of the universe she lived in for the first time. Soon afterward, she made her way aboard the Enterprise and formally requested asylum on board. Though female in appearance, she gave herself the name Charles, which was Commander Tucker's first name.


    For this exercise, it is important that you understand that the Prime Directive did not exist as of yet. Also, Captain Archer was required by Starfleet policies and human customs of the time to consider Charles's request carefully. To that end, he had an informal discussion with the Vissians regarding the matter. He was appalled by the chief engineer and his wife's statements; it was clear that they regarded the cogenitor as little better than livestock, with no inherent value save its ability to aid in conception. They reminded Captain Archer that the Vissian treatment of cogenitors was an aspect of their culture, and that it wasn't Archer's place to interfere. It was plain that they had no intention of treating or regarding Charles as a person with rights of her own.


    The Vissian captain, Drennik, while he made it clear that he felt that Charles should be returned, was much more reasonable. Though his ship was technologically superior to the Enterprise, and it had a formidable weapons array, he did not threaten Archer or the Enterprise in any way. Rather, he asked that Archer consider the Vissians' side of the issue. For the sake of this exercise, we will assume that if Archer had granted Charles asylum, Drennik would not have resorted to violence to take her back.


    In the end, Archer decided that he had no choice but to reject Charles's request for asylum, and she was returned to the Vissian ship against her will. A short time later, realizing that she was doomed to a bleak and miserable existence, the cogenitor committed suicide.



    The classroom is dead silent. Cadets exchange glances but no one speaks. Your instructor lets everyone ruminate for a bit, then continues:


    Consider the following carefully:


    Captain Archer spoke with the chief engineer and his wife. Their attitude toward Charles was obvious, it it was plain that their opinion (and their treatment of the cogenitor) was not going to change. Undoubtedly, Archer was fully aware of the existence that he was condemning Charles to, and he chose to return her anyway.


    Commander Tucker upset a very delicate status quo by teaching the cogenitor to read. Had he not done so, she would never have realized how stunted and limited her life was. As good as his intentions were, his actions set the series of events into motion.


    Captain Drennik also requested that Archer to return Charles to her ship, appealing to the friendship that the two had developed over the course of first contact. Further, he was ultimately responsible for everything that happened aboard his vessel.


    The chief engineer and his wife, treated as one for our purposes, were the ones most directly responsible for the repression and ill-treatment that Charles was desperate to escape. It was undoubtedly reinstituted with a vengeance when she was returned.


    And Charles the cogenitor, in the end, was an intelligent and sentient being. Though the exact mechanics of her death are not known to us, we shall assume that she knew exactly what she was doing.


    So the question we ask of you is... who, among these five participants, was the most responsible for the death of Charles, the Vissian cogenitor?



    Your instructor falls silent. The ball is in your court. What do you say?
     
  2. Tenacity

    Tenacity Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    More information on Charles death would be needed by the students in the class to form a opinion.

    Tenatively, given that the OP implied that Charles willingly ended it's own life, Charles would be the responsible party.
     
  3. Oddish

    Oddish Fleet Captain Red Shirt

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    Some assumptions must be made, for the sake of the exercise. Assume that whether it involved weapons, chemicals, or ship systems (such as walking out an airlock), Charles the cogenitor knowingly terminated her own life.
     
  4. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Tomorrow Never Knows Premium Member

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    A time traveling Janeway.
     
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  5. Oddish

    Oddish Fleet Captain Red Shirt

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    YES! That's how it should have ended. A time traveling Janeway would have locked her phasers on Drennik's ship, uttered some ugly threats in her best bad-a** icy "don't mess with me or you'll regret it" tone, beamed Charles aboard Voyager, and jetted off at Warp 9.3
     
  6. Tenacity

    Tenacity Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Her, his or it?
     
  7. Oddish

    Oddish Fleet Captain Red Shirt

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    Your instructor gives you a look that could strip the paint from the hull of a Klingon Bird of Prey. "Is that relevant to this discussion, Cadet Tenacity?"
     
  8. Tenacity

    Tenacity Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^ Of course, and also simply a matter of politeness.
     
  9. Oddish

    Oddish Fleet Captain Red Shirt

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    Fair enough. Trip saw Charles as a person and used the pronoun "her". The engineer and his wife saw Charles as livestock and used the pronoun "it". That's my motivation for using "her". You may use what you deem appropriate.

    Trip's taking a beating in the poll, looks like.
     
  10. Tim Thomason

    Tim Thomason Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    When unsure, these days, the best pronoun to use is a singular their. But Charles never really adopts a pronoun in the episode, and is referred to initially as "it" (Thanks, T'Pol), and then as "her" (by Trip, then Phlox, Archer and T'Pol later).
     
  11. Ríu ríu chíu

    Ríu ríu chíu Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It's Trip's fault.

    Were it not for his meddling, Charles would not have committed suicide. It's as simple as that. :shrug:

    It's not the Vissians' fault; their treatment of Charles is simply not Trip's concern. He is not a Vissian, therefore he has no right to meddle in their affairs.

    Obviously, cogenitors have been a part of Vissian society for centuries, perhaps even millennia. They weren't committing suicide en masse because it simply never OCCURRED to them to do so. Until Trip came along, cogenitors - Charles included - knew their place.

    (yes, yes, I know, Charles was not treated particularly well - but that's by HUMAN standards. It's not our place to question the Vissians' treatment of their own.)

    Trip, not anyone else, was the one who upset the balance, by attempting to impose his notions of human morality on an alien species.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
  12. Oddish

    Oddish Fleet Captain Red Shirt

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    "Knew their place"... some of the ugliest words in human history. Along with "the greater good", and "I was only following orders."

    Not saying you're wrong. There IS no wrong. Just a comment...
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
  13. Ríu ríu chíu

    Ríu ríu chíu Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Those phrases can be dangerous, yes. But they can, on occasion, be true. (The first two, anyway.)

    In this case, they definitely are. The Vissians had a system in place that worked. Is there any evidence of widespread discontent among cogenitors before Trip came along? No, there is not. As was pointed out in the episode, cogenitors are extremely rare in Vissian society. So you can't exactly expect them to be pampered and fawned over, can you? Coddle them too much and they might start getting ideas - that they might not WANT to do their job. Why should the Vissians permit that?

    (Now don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating flat-out abuse. But there's no evidence that Charles suffered anything like that. I'm just saying...cut down on the distractions, as it were.)

    The greater good, in this case, is nothing less than the future generations of the entire Vissian species. And that's why Trip's meddling was especially dangerous: it jeopardized the survival of all Vissians. The greater good MUST be considered.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
  14. somebuddyx

    somebuddyx Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Everybody and nobody.
     
  15. Oddish

    Oddish Fleet Captain Red Shirt

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    They weren't that rare. They were 3 percent of the population, which means that each 16 reproducing couples must share one cogenitor.

    Trip definitely takes the worst of it (which is fine, no wrong answers here), but let's compare him to the other parties.

    * Trip's intentions were totally benevolent. He had no idea that his teaching the cogenitor to read would cause any harm. Archer knew that sending them back (it's too minor to quibble over) would cause harm. His misgivings made that clear.

    * Trip affirmed Charles' humanity (Vissianity?)... the engineer and his wife rejected it. It was that rejection that prompted the cogenitor's death.

    * Charles was capable of intelligent thought and independent action. Can another be blamed for a decision they made?
     
  16. Ríu ríu chíu

    Ríu ríu chíu Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    That's his problem.

    You know what they say about the road to hell being paved with...

    Which he had no business doing, because Charles wasn't human.

    Were it not for Trip, there would have been nothing to reject, and therefore, Charles would not have died.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
  17. Oddish

    Oddish Fleet Captain Red Shirt

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    Well said. While I have my own opinion on who's guiltiest, everyone is partially responsible.
     
  18. FederationHistorian

    FederationHistorian Commander Red Shirt

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    Well, this doesn’t even consider role the ship’s doctor played as well. Phlox could have strongly opposed brain scans of the congenitor, although he didn’t really try to. While he did try to discourage Trip, Phlox did not seem to have much interest in the congenitor or its wellbeing, whatsoever.

    Archer clearly considered what the Vissians told him, and went against Earth traditions of granting asylum, even though it was an Earth ship and he represented Earth, not just Starfleet.

    Archer could have demoted Trip to set an example, but chose not to. And Archer is as responsible for his crew as Drennik is for his. Even Reed gave Archer a warning weeks before the incident that Archer was a little lax as a commander.

    Trip should not have seen surrogacy as a strange thing, since its something that has occurred on Earth. He should just attributed Vissian treatment of cogenitors as a part of their culture. But he was careful in his treatment of Charles, and did not encourage her to end her life at all. He wanted her to better herself, an important Earth philosophy that exists in Archer's time.

    There is also the fact that we did not see Charles die, and we are taking the Vissians word for it in regards to the manner of how she died. Its entirely possible she was killed and Archer wasn't told, and Drennik may or may not have been told either. Vissian culture was not explored thoroughly during this first contact. How they viewed Charles – as an it – was clearly different rom how Archer saw Charles – as a she – and so how congenitors are treated in Vissian society comes into play when deciding who is guilty. We have no idea if Vissians have a reason – even if it isn’t a good one – for treating congenitors the way they do. Charles seemed to learn quite quickly. Maybe Vissians are frightened about such progress and see it as justification for maltreatment of cogenitors. Or maybe congenitors on the Vissian homeworld, once educated, default to ending their lives and its their mistreatment is actually a messed form of protection.

    Without more information, equal blame can be placed Trip, Archer, Phlox, as well as the Vissians for not further explaining their culture better. Charles is the only one that is blameless, since she did not ask for her situation.
     
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  19. Tim Thomason

    Tim Thomason Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    So, society is to blame. Vissian society.
     
  20. Oddish

    Oddish Fleet Captain Red Shirt

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    The situation was best exemplified by the early scene, where everyone was together in the lounge eating an ice cream sundae. The sundaes were free, there was no reason not to give the cogenitor one as well. She needed food just like they did. They just... didn't. Because to them, she wasn't a person, not the way they were.

    Because Charles intelligent, sentient, and adult, I put her at #1. But the engineer and his wife were easily #2 for me.