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May 08, 2009

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James S

The Onion spoof is spot on. Did you see Newsweek? Star Trek isn't preachy enough:

"The latest film version… largely jettisons complicated ethical conundrums in favor of action sequences and special effects… What's missing are the typically progressive politics and moral dilemmas that made the original 'Trek' more than a space-age adventure show and helped earn it legions of ardent fans."

http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=14834

David

James,

I saw. I notice the reviewer equates “progressive politics” with “brains”. Thing is, the “progressive” moralising was one of the worst things about Trek, especially in its later iterations. Those “complicated ethical conundrums” were usually heavy-handed, slightly ludicrous and, more importantly, undramatic. Like the mysterious absence of money - which in 40-odd years was somehow never explained - the Conspicuous Moral Agonising was much harder to swallow than warp drive or the Spatial Anomaly Of The Week. And much of what was presented as “progressive” was just cloying, implausible or, quite often, reprehensible.

For instance, there’s that damn Voyager pilot. In order to patronise a species she knows almost nothing about, Janeway deliberately strands her own crew on the far side of the galaxy, where they will presumably die alone, never seeing Earth and their families again. This is presented as something noble and heroic, rather than fatuous and immoral. Or the TNG episode “I, Borg,” in which Picard has a precious opportunity to destroy the most relentless threat to humanity; yet he spares the mortal enemy of countless civilisations in order to feel virtuous and superior. The narcissism is grandiose, yet once again it’s portrayed as virtuous and “progressive”.

It’s perhaps significant that one of Star Trek’s most popular and acclaimed episodes – DS9’s “In the Pale Moonlight” – punctures the usual glib moralising with a rare dose of harsh ethical realism. The final exchange between Sisko and Garak is excellent and pokes a sizeable hole in the moral pretensions of the franchise.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Pale_Moonlight

James S

"Like the mysterious absence of money - which in 40-odd years was somehow never explained..."

Free from oppressive capitalism we just became nicer people. Obvious really. ;)

Anna

The hand crank vibrator is pretty good but I can top that… with steam power!

http://io9.com/5242949/steam-fetishists-rejoice-this-vibrator-is-for-you

Do it for Gaia!

TDK

In the earliest series the absence of money merits no attention because they are on a military ship and the crew are serving officers. You don't pay when you eat. In later series they introduce oddities like the Whoopi Goldberg bar and other non military passengers. Now the absence of money becomes conspicuous.

However they do have the comic characters - the Ferengi - who are motivated by profit, so John Luc et al can feel smug and superior.

David

TDK,

Exactly. Once the fictional world was opened out beyond the Enterprise, the abandonment of money seemed much less plausible than any of the gadgetry. On a couple of occasions we saw 24th century Earth with restaurants and people going about their business. But there was no attempt to explain how any of this actually worked. What motivated civilians to toil in the kitchens or look after customers? If they didn’t pay, since no-one has money, were they really “customers”? And if everyone is effectively on the dole, albeit comfortably, how does anything get done?

James S

"What motivated civilians to toil in the kitchens or look after customers? If they didn’t pay, since no-one has money, were they really “customers”?"

No, freeloaders.

Star Trek citizen #1: "You're cooking my family dinner tonight - for free."
Star Trek citizen #2: "Who the fuck are you?"

Nigel

Those capitalistic Ferengi were more misogynistic than Saudi sheiks, the females weren’t allowed to work, own property or wear cloths.

David

“Who the fuck are you?”

Heh. Quite. I can cope with the subspace inversions and temporal paradoxes, but going out for a meal seems way too fanciful.

This is good – on Star Trek and money:

“So what do I have against the Federation? Well simply put, it is an authoritarian collectivist quasi-communist society (the government is clearly paramilitary) with a totally non-monetary command economy. That they have invented a state like that is not my grouse. I do not doubt there will be authoritarian states in the future just as there are now and so why not posit them? Fine... my problem is that somehow the Federation are held up to be the good guys!”

http://www.samizdata.net/blog/archives/2001/12/the_trouble_with_the_federatio.html

Nigel

There was one episode of Voyager with a moral story about slavery that partially explained how the society functioned without money, the dangerous, unpleasant work of mining was performed by holographic slaves.

Like all communists societies, they can’t function without slaves.

Anna

"In the Pale Moonlight" is one of the best Trek episodes. Very un-PC and all the better for it. Garak rules.

David

Here we are…

“That’s why you came to me, isn’t it, Captain? Because you knew I could do those things that you weren’t capable of doing. Well, it worked… And if your conscience is bothering you, you should soothe it with the knowledge that you may have just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant… and all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal and the self respect of one Starfleet officer. I don’t know about you, but I’d call that… a bargain.”

Final act: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTgGtJ-PisA

The whole thing: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=583F5C3BD4296713&search_query=DS9+in+the+pale+moonlight

Anna

Best. Romulan. Ever.

TDK

Can I be the first person to register a complaint about the disgraceful prioritising implicit in the phrase "Alpha Quadrant". Surely by now progressive types can recognise the imaginary offence felt by imaginary residents of what is insulting labelled the "Delta Quadrant". Why Oh Why......

http://www.see.leeds.ac.uk/news-items/extras/terminology_survey_results.pdf
http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/brown-university/662938-third-world-welcome.html

I suggest a letter writing campaign demanding that the scriptwriters be sent to sensitivity classes.

sk60

TDK, that's up there with "Are We Oppressing Our Pets?"

http://directionlessbones.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/are-we-oppressing-our-pets/

David

This 24th century economics doesn’t seem to have been thought through terribly well.

“…by the late 24th century, money in the modern sense is very seldom used in the Federation, and not needed for the life of a typical Federation citizen. Replicators fill the need for almost all material goods…”

Utopia looms. But even if I can use a replicator to make, say, a new wardrobe, who’s going to help me haul it upstairs, or move it across town?

“…and a pervasive altruistic philosophy of self-improvement and helping others provides most labor.”

Ah, methinks there’s the catch.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Federation_of_Planets#Economics

James S

Does anyone get paid to install the replicators? And what if it catches fire? Do I have insurance? :)

Kerry

Original Trek had a monetary system based on federation credits. They bought the Tribbles, for example. They bought drinks. It wasn't until TNG that they tried that nonsense about not having money, which always made me wonder whose lifelong dream it was to unstop the toilets.

David

That kind of attitude will get you 10 years in the dilithium mines.

bgc

"“…and a pervasive altruistic philosophy of self-improvement and helping others provides most labor.”

Ah, methinks there’s the catch."

Presumably they either had extensive childhood conditioning or brain implants to ensure that people behaved altruistically (not that it's altruism in that case, of course).

You should have watched Babylon 5 instead of all this Trek stuff. B5 didn't shy away from the darker side of human nature and hard decisions. It also had a money based economy complete with beggars, unions and rent disputes on the station.

bgc

And speaking of icky - did you notice the organ donor dolls in the sidebar of the wind-up vibrator page?

JuliaM

So, what's the feminist take on the new Trek movie going to be, I wonder? Because they weren't too keen on last week's big movie:

http://www.heroinecontent.net/archives/2009/05/x-men_origins_wolverine.html

Reading that whiny little rant, I was struck by how much it reminded me of the classic 'Blackadder' episode where his Puritan relative comes to stay, and how everything reminds her of sex, or sin.

wayne fontes

For true fans of Shatner I recommend a little known movie called "Free Enterprise". The movie stars Shatner playing Shatner as only Shatner could play Shatner.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-6519WAyxU

David

That’s the genius of Shatner. He’s impervious to parody.

Jeff

Original Trek had a monetary system based on federation credits. They bought the Tribbles, for example. They bought drinks. It wasn't until TNG that they tried that nonsense about not having money, which always made me wonder whose lifelong dream it was to unstop the toilets.

Posted by: Kerry | May 08, 2009 at 15:02

Nope, it first came in Star Trek IV, and was a significant subplot MacGuffin (Kirk selling his glasses, McCoy and Scotty trading "transparent aluminum" for some manufactured). It became canon at that point and an inconvenient issue to gloss over later on.

Candice

Speaking of the smug superiority of the Federation, Sector 001 = the Sol system.

I'm with James S. Why should anyone do anything for anyone else in the Star Trek world if not for money? Maybe that's why Sisko's dad is such a bastard. He's tired of people coming into his restaurant and eating for free.

RJ

In Star Trek IV, they didn't have cash on hand. Granted, they didn't realize they would need any until trying to ride the city bus. But, even in ST:Voyager, the crew used credits for the holodeck, replicators and to gamble/bet with.

I always figured the term "money" actually meant cash, as well as, greed. There was still a value-based system (not to be confused with values-based); the most laughable point, and this is especially true of the 1st-season TNG episode, "The Neutral Zone," where we first meet the Romulans (and wake up the 21st century frozen relics) when Picard is talking to former tycoon and trying to explain that society is now only interested in ways to better and improve itself.
Which, while not untrue, is also not accurate. We have never seen anything but Starfleet on Earth, except for a camping scene. We don't know if this statement is true or not. It is what Picard believes and probably wants society to achieve.

Simen Thoresen

Money without money is fun. One local magazine (M, for fjord-piners) has a quick recap of notable Trek computer-games, and brings up the looming MMORPG. To paraphrase;

"
Moneyless
Little is known about the economy in the game, but as the Federation had progressed beyond money by far, we can expect that trade of goods will play a major part.
"

Going beyond money should not imply going back to pre-money barter, and I can't really see how this would be construed as a good idea. Of course, barter would imply a real-value based economy (akin to the current fringe wishing for a return to the gold standard), but I can't imagine that the 'Beyond money' Federation actually would be using gold-pressed latinum as a value-holder, unless they see 'money' as purely fiat-money, and thus separate it from some real- or honest-money.

Trek would be significantly less progressive if that were the case ;-)

-S

Vitruvius

You may find interesting Mr. Shatner's role in The Project Strigas Affaire, which was last night's SDA Late Nite Radio, at: http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/011372.html

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