Apologies to Captain Kirk

I never really liked Star Trek. I found Roddenberry’s world to be unbelievable humanistic nonsense. But I learned last week that my pride blinded me to something that Star Trek had to teach me about the universe. I wanted to watch something before I went to sleep, and something prompted me to open the Original Series because it was available for free online. I scrolled through the episode list from the first season, seeking in vain for something that looked to me like it mattered. I dislike TV shows that are extremely episodic. If the happenings of one episode have no impact on the next it all looks like vanity to me. Furthermore, the main reason I watch Science Fiction is because I love politics and strategy and epic stories. So I scrolled through the list looking for something that “mattered.” I kept scrolling past things that seemed trivial and overly episodic until I finally found the episode “Errand of Mercy.” The plot synopsis included politics, philosophy, and the Federation declaring war on the Klingons. I had heard the name Klingons before, and war is always significant, so maybe this episode would be the exception! I was wrong, but this episode taught me something new.

The episode involved the Federation and the Klingons going to war. The Klingons intended to use a planet as a base, so the crew of the Enterprise beamed down (sending oddly senior officers planet side alone) to convince the natives to resist. The natives have a pre-Medieval economy and society, but seem unfazed (no pun intended) by technology and oddly unconcerned about politics. These aliens seemed to embody what I hated about Star Trek. But Kirk and Spock eloquently overacted their lines in an attempt to persuade them to rise up against the Klingons. Unfortunately, they are not persuasive and the Klingons occupy the planet, enslaving the population. Kirk and Spock are able to mount a limited resistance and try to assassinate the Klingon leader, but a mysterious force stopped them. Eventually it is revealed that the peaceful dwellers on the planet are some sort of demigods. As the Federation Navy ambushed the Klingon fleet and prepared to destroy it, the natives used their unexplained powers to completely immobilize the entire Federation and Klingon fleets. Unable to fight each other, the two Empires are forced to negotiate an awkward peace treaty and the Klingon commander and Kirk are treated to a condescending lecture from the aliens.

This episode should have embodied everything I hated about Star Trek, but instead I was faced with the fact that the Universe is massive. Kirk and the Klingons thought they were important, they thought their politics was all there was to the Universe, but because they made a tiny group of primitives angry, they were forced to put aside all of their grand designs. Although I still harbor some antipathy for principles in Star Trek, it was only when I humbled myself that I was able to learn something from it: I made the same mistake as did the Klingons and the Federation!  The things I thought were important maybe weren’t so important. I will undoubtedly post later about some of my misgivings about Roddenberry’s philosophy, I council my readers to occasionally drop their guard and allow the stories they don’t respect to change them.

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