The morality of Arena

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Neopeius, Jul 7, 2022.

  1. Neopeius

    Neopeius Admiral Admiral

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    At first blush, it might appear that the Gorns overreacted a tad at our colony on Cestus III. After all, couldn't they have just talked to us instead of massacring us?

    And then I thought about it from the Native American perspective. If they knew the future, really the only move to make when the first Europeans showed up was to kill every damned one of them and make sure none ever got home (which, incidentally, is what Kirk planned to do with the Gorn--not talk, but punish).

    Something to ponder.
     
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  2. Maurice

    Maurice FACT TREKKING across the universe... Premium Member

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    In fact, in his first pass Coon had Kirk telling the Metrons if they released both ships he'd have to continue his mission to make sure the Gorn ship never got home, at which point the Metron just made the Gorn ship cease to exist.
     
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  3. Neopeius

    Neopeius Admiral Admiral

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    Oh wow, that would have defeated the purpose.

    Of our crowd, I enjoyed this episode the most. The first half is brilliant, especially as a sequel to "Balance of Terror" (no agonizing about the decision this time--Kirk knows what to do...but does he?) and the second half is, well, not perfectly effective, but pretty good, and certainly memorable.

    But this second time around, I really found myself sympathizing with the Gorns. Especially if you go with the idea that the Gorns and Romulans were neighbors (something that was part of the Star Fleet Battles universe), and the Romulans had already made incursions on Gorn space. Humans and Romulans probably are indistinguishable to the Gorns (though maybe not -- even the Horta could tell Spock for his pointy ears...) so as soon as Romula-types showed up, the response was obvious.

    And again, if the Wampanoag knew what was coming, they might have slaughtered the Mayflower crew rather than help them. Without prior knowledge, that would seem ruthless. With prior knowledge, it seems prudent.
     
  4. Nerroth

    Nerroth Commodore Commodore

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    For what it's worth, the way the Star Fleet Universe tells it, the incident at Cestus III involved two brash, young captains who fired first and faced embarrassing questions later. But it didn't help that, by this point in time, the Gorns were 0 for 2 in terms of successful First Contacts.

    The first First Contact for the Gorns was with a bird-like species known as the Paravians. It turned out that the Paravians were in fact descended from a population of Gorns that had been transplanted to their home world thousands of years earlier. (Actually, the regular SFU Gorns had been transplanted to their three "home worlds" at around the same time; no-one knows on which planet the Gorns had originally evolved prior to this.) The problem was that, not only did the Paravians not remember ever having been Gorns, the Gorn fossils they had uncovered on Paravia were interpreted in their culture as being demons or devils. Prior to First Contact, it never occurred to them that they were staring at the remains of their own ancestors. Thus, when the truth was revealed, it didn't take much for things to spiral to the point where the Paravians declared an all-out war of extermination against the Gorn "demons".

    Things weren't much better with the Romulans. From the Romulan perspective, the Gorns would make for a valuable source of slave labour, once the Empire conquers their Confederation. Naturally, the Gorns take exception to this point of view - but despite holding a technological lead over the Romulans for close to a century, a fateful event at the Paravian home star system led the Gorns to hold back from settling accounts with the Romulans when they had the chance.

    Four Gorn-Romulan wars and innumerable cross-border "Privateer" raids later, when a brash, young Gorn captain detected the presence of "Romulans" (or rather, Vulcans) at an unsanctioned colony on Cestus III, his response was to destroy the colony. In response, the brash, young Star Fleet captain who soon reached the scene ordered his ship to open fire - though the resulting starship duel was somewhat inconclusive. (There were no Metrons involved, as they are not a part of the SFU.) By the time the diplomats showed up to talk things out, both sides realized that the whole thing had been an unfortunate misunderstanding; the Feds agreed to stay on their side of the new Fed-Gorn border, while the Gorns paid reparations for the loss of life at Cestus III and court-martialed the brash, young Gorn captain for his use of excessive force.

    -----

    It is worth noting that, even if Europeans had been out of the picture by the time the Americas (or Australia) were encountered by anyone from Eurasia and/or Africa - as speculated upon in books like Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt - even the best of intentions would not have prevented the spread of smallpox and other devastating "Old World" diseases. Unless contact was somehow delayed to the point where Eurasian and/or African societies had developed an understanding of epidemiology, as well as a series of vaccines (or more careful medical screening procedures for those sent on outbound voyages) and the forethought to offer them in anything approaching a "neutral" manner.

    Which is not to downplay the sheer malevolence unleashed by Europeans across North and South America during the age of trans-oceanic expansion. But given how differently concurrent European attempts at colonization in Asia played out by comparison - where the "germs" portion of "guns, germs, and steel" was either a non-factor, or indeed worked against those from more temperate climates - there would, alas, likely have been too many potential points of trans-Atlantic (and/or trans-Pacific) contact, plus too many trade and migration routes criss-crossing the Americas themselves, to avoid some measure of demographic collapse... regardless of the arrivals' intentions.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2022
  5. Neopeius

    Neopeius Admiral Admiral

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    One wonders if a few extra centuries might have enabled the Americans to pull a Meiji rather than face virtual extinction, though. I know I've seen what-ifs where the disease is less deadly (sometimes involving more active Vikings) or it is just as deadly, but it runs through the population before Europeans can take advantage of it.

    Why aren't the Metrons in the SFU? I'd also suggest that Kirk was the opposite of a brash young Captain -- he was simply applying the lessons he learned in "Balance of Terror" where he was anything but brash (downright indecisive). He was just applying the lessons to the wrong situation. :)
     
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  6. Nerroth

    Nerroth Commodore Commodore

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    The primary source document for the SFU is the Star Fleet Technical Manual. Or rather, the material in the SFU is reportedly sourced from the same "Air Force data tapes" from which the Technical Manual itself claims to be.

    So far as on-screen source material goes, anything offered by the post-1979 Franchise is off the table for the SFU. But even then, only certain pre-1979 data points are in play, due to the somewhat arcane licensing agreements in place.

    Speaking of the Second Fed-Romulan War, the "cover story" for Captain's Log #43 shows what happened to a second Federation cruiser, that was ambushed along a different part of the Neutral Zone to where the events dramatized for tri-video took place. But the way the SFU tells it, the real problem for the Romulans was their lack of tactical warp technology; even had a full-scale war broken out, they would have been at a decisive tactical, operational, and strategic disadvantage - just as they had been in three of the four Romulan-Gorn wars.

    It would not be until the Treaty of Smarba was signed with the Klingon Empire, which saw "modern" warp technology (along with the first "Kestrel" series ships) placed into Romulan hands, before the Romulans once again became something more than an annoyance to the Federation or Gorns. Ironically, the Klingons themselves had been poised to conquer the Romulans during the Early Years, until the arrival of the Tholians forestalled that planned invasion.
     
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  7. JMS

    JMS Ensign Red Shirt

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    What always bothered me about the Metrons (and other iterations) is the way they dealt with the situation. They could have just as easily stopped the pursuit and helped the two species find a better way to deal with the problem. They complain about how violent these "lesser" species are, but then solve the problem through ... violence! I don't think those Metrons are as highly evolved as they think they are ...
     
  8. Phaser Two

    Phaser Two Commodore Premium Member

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    Whoa!!! Talk about a much-needed rewrite! I wonder if the original source material (a story by Frederic Brown, was it? I can't check right now) had that highly unfortunate twist as well in some form . . . ?

    Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeellllllll that's well-put, but one TEENSY nitpick is that actually, the Horta couldn't tell, or at least Spock didn't think so - Spock claims that "I didn't have the heart to tell her that only I have - -" and then is interrupted by Kirk, implying that the Horta actually didn't single Spock out for his allegedly adorable ears and as far as she knew, everyone had them. Maybe she needed to be closer to tell, and she got by far the closest to Spock, at least for a prolonged period, longer than it took to corrode 50 colonists?

    However, I love your point anyway, and it still works - there's no reason why Cestus III couldn't have had some Vulcans stationed or living there, so maybe the Gorn attacked what they thought were Romulans or Romulan spies among another species (the humans) or something. Given the widely varying capabilities of the Enterprise's sensors over 79 episodes, who knows what the Gorn's scans could, did, or didn't show.

    This is fascinating. Sorry, but is Star Fleet Universe the same thing as Starfleet Battles? If not, what is the former?
     
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  9. Neopeius

    Neopeius Admiral Admiral

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    Yup. You can see the differences in Erica's portion of our article.

    Good point. I was going off memory, which is fickle. :)

    SFU is the (official) SFB universe. :)

    That is true. Or maybe they never would have let anyone actually die. Perhaps the whole thing was a test (like "Corbomite"). Certainly, the Metron at the end wanted to make absolutely sure Kirk wasn't going to backslide.

    One thing I loved about the episode is it involves not one, but two transgressions into sovereign space. "Empty Land" indeed.
     
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  10. Shawnster

    Shawnster Commodore Commodore

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    Which is funny. I could have sworn the Gorn said Cestus III was their breeding ground, but nope! The episode only says the humans invaded their territory.
     
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  11. Nerroth

    Nerroth Commodore Commodore

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    More specifically, the SFU refers both to the collection of games published by the folks over at ADB (to include Star Fleet Battles, Federation Commander, and the Prime Directive RPG books), as well as the setting through which they operate.

    If it helps, rather than risk derailing this thread any further (a least, for those who would rather it stick to the on-screen Franchise), there is an ongoing thread elsewhere on the BBS which might be worth taking a look at.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2022
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  12. Tango

    Tango Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Our only experience of the Gorn in TOS left me thinking they were interesting. Their cunning set-up at Cestus 3 (which must have taken some time to arrange) suggest cleverness and patience. They even managed to prevent a distress signal from the Federation outpost. They seemed smarter than the Klingons (whom in original airdate order we had not yet seen).

    Being that smart, their flight away from the Enterprise suggests they were leading the Enterprise into an ambush, but not necessarily within Gorn space. Since Starfleet was apparently unaware of the Gorn's existence, I wouldn't risk tipping off the enemy more information about the location of my worlds than I had to. Fortunately for the Enterprise the Metrons intervened before they could find out exactly what the Gorn had planned.

    One puzzle is why the Gorn apparently made no effort to make clear their claim on the Cestus system to the Federation in advance. The Federation established a base there without coming across any indication the Gorn even existed. Apparently no warning satellite or transmitter, no outpost of their own, not even a flag planted somewhere. Sure, planetary systems are big but still if you wanted everyone to know it was yours, why not let them know? Perhaps the Gorn had directly warned other space-faring races they knew about but hadn't been aware of the Federation until after the outpost had already been built. At that point their aggressiveness and territorial nature apparently took over from diplomacy. Perhaps diplomacy was not one of their strong suites.
     
  13. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    We only have the Gorns’ claiming Cestus III was in their space. Nothing seen in the episode actually legitimizes that claim.
     
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  14. Neopeius

    Neopeius Admiral Admiral

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    True, but certainly Spock, Kirk, and McCoy accepted the Gorn's words at face value.
     
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  15. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Spock and McCoy merely pondered the possibility the Gorns’ claim was true. They didn’t automatically accept it as fact.
     
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  16. Maurice

    Maurice FACT TREKKING across the universe... Premium Member

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    Speaking of which, Erica wrote:

    This episode was obviously inspired by Frederick Brown’s 1944 story, “Arena.”​

    You don't say, Erica.
    Arena_332.jpeg

    :D

    One of the commenters wrote:

    Denny Lien
    I’ve heard a rumor that author of the original story was not actually inspired by knowledge of Brown’s novelette, but that once the script was accepted and in production someone pointed out the close parallels to the Brown story, causing the company to hastily buy up the rights to it to keep on the safe side. Possibly that rumor is itself just a rumor, though.​

    Does Denny have an "in" at De Forest Research or Desilu business affairs?
     
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  17. Neopeius

    Neopeius Admiral Admiral

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    Amazing that you were able to snap a shot of that credit as it flashed by! :)

    Apparently. :) He's not one of ours...
     
  18. mb22

    mb22 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    From Inside Star Trek:

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Maurice

    Maurice FACT TREKKING across the universe... Premium Member

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    Dead link.

    But if it's about the accuracy of Coon's kleptonesia, that's well established. But that wasn't something a viewer in Jan. 67 would have heard about.
     
  20. mb22

    mb22 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This is the text:

    HERB: Plain and simply, we were running out of scripts. Several writers hadn't delivered as promised, and suddenly, there were only two choices of action avail-able to us: either shut down the shooting company or somehow find another script. Gene Roddenberry was away and Gene Coon was busy rewriting other writers' scripts, but none of those would be ready in time. So Coon decided to take some direct action. He asked Bob if he could leave the studio a little earlier that Friday afternoon to go home, lock himself in a room, and not emerge until Monday morning with a new script. RJ was thrilled. "If you can do that, go home early every weekend." So just before 6:00 Friday, Coon drove his Toyota Land Cruiser off the lot and did not return until midmorning Monday—with a new script in hand. Now, I was thrilled. The script was quickly put into mimeo and copies were rushed to NBC for network approval and Kellam DeForest's office for factual research and legal approvals. But suddenly, the thrill was gone. Coon, an ardent reader of science fiction since he was a child, in his haste to create a story, had inadvertently based part of his script on a short story that had been written by Fredric Brown. Kellam's assistant Joan Pearce, who reviewed, analyzed, and wrote the research reports on all Star Trek scripts, recognized the story. She remembers that when she advised Coon of the problem, his reaction was a horrified "Oh my God!" Joan has absolutely no doubt he was unaware he had "lifted" the material. But Coon had transgressed, and there was no way we could shoot the script without buying a plagiarism lawsuit. Gene Coon and I met with Bernie Weitzman and Ed Perlstein and formulated a plan. Business Affairs would call Brown, tell him Star Trek would like to buy his story, and offer a fair price. Brown was thrilled to have one of his stories on Star Trek and accepted the deal. We never did tell him that the script had already been written.
     
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