"Pen Pals" a Forgotten Gem?

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by Vger23, Jun 3, 2023.

  1. Barbara C.

    Barbara C. Ensign Red Shirt

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    that is fine, Michael. It was admittedly also venting my frustration. Remember the old Glamor Shots from the 1980s and 90s? My mom held my try out for the softball team hostage to one (mother-daughter discount was too much to pass up, apparently..)
     
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  2. Michael

    Michael Good Bad Influence Moderator

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    Haha, yeah, I do remember those. They always seemed to have this blue-ish marbled backdrop and everyone wore a sweater with some garish cartoon character on it. Funnily enough, I feel like among young people nowadays these are making a comeback as an unironic aesthetic.
     
  3. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It was originally designed to prevent interference in the development of pre-warp cultures. However, that opens up a lot of questions, and this episode is one that dealt with those questions. I don't think it was ever intended to mean "do no harm".
     
  4. Barbara C.

    Barbara C. Ensign Red Shirt

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    Yeah. "Leave 'em to die" isn't exactly a good look for the Feds.
     
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  5. Qonundrum

    Qonundrum Vice Admiral Admiral

    Too contrary compared to TOS, but it led to a great debate that, for me, did far more positivity regarding the Pulaski/Data feud than some of the "fan favorites".
     
  6. Barbara C.

    Barbara C. Ensign Red Shirt

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    ISTM looking back that Malcolm McDowell was correct in his belief that Soran is far more flexible to perform because he looks like a normal human. Nikki without all that orange stuff and stupid prosthetics would have been more effective too.
     
  7. Quantum21

    Quantum21 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Arguing for the PD for a moment.

    I get the rationale for it. Tampering or changing the course of civilizations even for the good is heady stuff. What gives them the right?

    In a philosophical way, how do they know saving a planet will not lead to something worse later on? How do they have enough information about what's going on in the past to judge one thing over the other.

    It's complicated stuff.

    My inclination is to not interfere, but as Picard argued before not all laws should be absolute. There has to be some wiggle room.

    Proceed with caution.
     
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  8. Michael

    Michael Good Bad Influence Moderator

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    Is it, though? “How do they know saving a planet will not lead to something worse later on?” — What do you mean, “something worse”? What could be worse than their utter demise? What you probably mean is “How do they know the people they would save wouldn’t later do something bad?” And the answer to that is, well, they just don’t know that. What they do however know is that doing nothing will mean their extinction. So what Picard and the Prime Directive ask to do is basically weigh mere speculation on the one side against the inevitable certainty of death on the other. And for my money that’s not complicated at all.

    Let’s transfer the whole situation to another, perhaps clearer and less complicated situation: You see a stranger hanging from a cliff that you could easily help and save. Picard reasons that you better shouldn’t save them, because you don’t know if that person then might go on and kill someone. Would you argue that logic checks out? Or would you just go ahead and save that person hanging from a cliff, because – obviously – saving someone from certain death is always the right and moral thing to do?
     
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  9. Quantum21

    Quantum21 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It's a little different than saving someone on a cliff. We're talking planet histories, mathematical dynamics that could lead to multiple conclusions. Yes it's sounds cold and calculating, but when you get to that level of development I think there has to be that consideration. Could an AI weigh the possibilities? Do you call on Temporal investigations?

    I'm not saying it should totally hamstring decision-making but immediate gratification to save people can't be the only variable weighed.

    What of you save a planet that'll crash into its neighbor? Killing later species. What if you save a planet and their leader become a religious fanatic and leads a holy war? What about simple basic rules of societal development?

    I can see an excuse for doing something without a planet's knowledge but again, how far should that go? Who has a right to decide?

    On a case-by-case basis I could see some validity but it opens a can of worms to not have the PD in place.
     
  10. Michael

    Michael Good Bad Influence Moderator

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    Yes, all kind of bad things could happen if they saved them. But all of that is and can only be speculation. Their death is not, it’s inevitable. So again, I think it doesn't make sense to weigh these two things against each other. And I would argue a moral society has the obligation to help someone who’s about to die but can be saved.

    I say, even if they somehow knew with absolute certainty that a planet they can save and is about to be destroyed will later be their ardent enemy, they have the moral obligation to save them if they can. In my view that’s the responsibility that comes with being in possession of their advanced technological possibilities.

    What about them? Not sure if that’s what you’re trying to say, but planet-wide destruction and extinction can never be considered “societal development”. However bad you end up influencing their “natural development” while saving them, surely it could never ever be worse that their, you know, death.
     
  11. Quantum21

    Quantum21 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Should we always save everybody? I think that's also logistically impossible. Universe's policemen?

    Saving pre-warp civilization with their knowledge of the saving intact. That's part of what I'm taking about. It changes that society. Saving above all else can't be the rule, it has to be the exception.
     
  12. Michael

    Michael Good Bad Influence Moderator

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    I thought it was pretty clear that we’re talking about situations where they can save a planet. I wasn't trying to argue they somehow have to go out of their way to search for each and every chance to save everybody always.

    Let it change the society, I say. What change to their society could possibly be worse than the destruction of their planet and all of their deaths? That’s not a change of their society, it’s the end of that society. No more change of any sort ever. I’m curious what change to their society could overall result in a net worse situation than their extinction. It’s an honest question.
     
  13. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Why the exception? Why is it more acceptable to allow cultures to die when it is within their knowledge and capabilities to act?
     
  14. Barbara C.

    Barbara C. Ensign Red Shirt

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    Good points, both of you.

    I don't have much time in the real world for "our goal must always be peace!" utopianism embodied and sometimes foolishly perpetuated by Star Trek.

    To use the main WWII example: Dresden was a major communications and transport centre and contained over 100 military factories, notably the Zeiss optical works and the raid on Dresden was part of a co-ordinated series of raids on cities in eastern Germany designed to dislocate transport and communications in the zone in front of the Red Army, which was preparing to cross the Oder River.

    The raids were intended to assist the Soviet forces, a fact never mentioned in later “peace movement” propaganda.

    What should also be mentioned that in its death throes, the Nazi killing machine did not stop for a moment.

    Probably 20,000 people were being liquidated each day, every day. I have no tears for the Nazis and their supporters in Dresden.

    There was no indication that the Germans were on the point of surrender in February 1945, and they were still killing people even as they went down to defeat.
     
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  15. Quantum21

    Quantum21 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I think it's more effective when the aliens look alien. It's demonstrates a natural bias that's been overcome, because we know thats not the case here on Earth and on thus BBS sometimes too.
     
  16. Quantum21

    Quantum21 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    For the reasons I've already mentioned. Advanced species should stay impartial to some degree. History shows we're terrible at helping lesser cultures. Also logistics. It's not feasible to help all these planets, but mainly because doing something on such a scale can have other consequences. A organization like Starfleet would have to seriously crunch numbers to allow this on a regular basis. A blanket law with exceptions would work better.

    In Pen Pals, we could say a naive, well-meaning android breaks protocol and sets a PD conflict in motion. So you have a situation to be dealt with. Picard orders an end to communication but it accelerates. I feel under those circumstances, and the solution provided, I would accept a positive resolution for Data.

    Some pluses for this episode include the debate, not unlike what we're talking about here. There's Pulaski's mind-wipe solution, it works to preserve the PD, though it may raise some other ethical questions.

    But I like the episode because it raises those questions.
     
  17. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I don't. I think this should be like ethics and establish a decision making rubric.
     
  18. Barbara C.

    Barbara C. Ensign Red Shirt

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  19. Moviefan2k4

    Moviefan2k4 Captain Red Shirt

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    I really like "Pen Pals" - its a vastly underrated story. The plot is so simple, and yet its driven forward so expertly by the remarkable performances of Brent Spiner and a very young Nikki Cox...long before she became known as a sex symbol for the TV show "Unhappily Ever After". The episode's story, having Data blatantly violate the Prime Directive to save his friend Sarjenka (Cox), was so pure and innocent. I didn't remember a lot of it from the first time around, because I was so young myself. But seeing it again many years later on DVD, I was moved by the emotion of it, especially when Dr. Pulaski removes Sarjenka's memories of Data. That almost brought me to tears.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2024
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  20. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It's an easy mistake to make. In Who Watches the Watchers?, Picard specifically references the technique, and Crusher huffily informs him that she's well aware of Pulaski's technique.
     
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