Star Trek Canon Database

Displaying 1 to 10 of 10 records.

Database started: 1999-07-27
Page generated: 2017-12-15

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TNG Season 1, Ep# 26: "The Neutral Zone"

PICARD: Two Federation outposts in Sector three-zero have been destroyed. There has been no communication with any Federation starbases in Sector three-one since stardate 41903.2.

WORF: Romulans.

...

PICARD: The strategic decision is to send one ship.

RIKER: The Enterprise.

PICARD: Yes.

WORF: There is a risk. We could get out there and find ourselves greatly over-matched.

PICARD: True enough -- it is a gamble.

Culture: Picard again gambles with the lives of all the families on the Enterprise, by taking them with him into a potentially deadly confrontation in the Romulan Neutral Zone. It never even occurs to him to separate the saucer first, just as it didn't occur to him in "The Last Outpost", "Arsenal of Freedom", or "We'll Always Have Paris".

TNG Season 1, Ep# 26: "The Neutral Zone"

RALPH (freshly awakened from centuries of cryofreeze): I demand to know the cost of anything you do before the procedure is approved.

BEVERLY: I have no idea what you're talking about.

Culture: Dr. Crusher is completely befuddled by Ralph's concern about the cost of his treatment, almost as if payment for services is an alien concept to her.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 26: "The Neutral Zone"

RIKER: From what I have already seen of our "guests", there is very little to redeem them. In fact, it makes me wonder, how our species ever survived the twenty-first century.

Culture: Riker has apparently judged the three visitors and found them wanting. But why? Clare Raymond is a quiet and polite housewife. Ralph Offenhouse is a financier who's irritable at being cut off from everything he knows. Sonny Clemonds is a country music singer who likes to drink. How does this group strike Riker as utterly irredeemable, and what does it say about Riker (or perhaps the entire Federation culture that's prevalent at the time) that he's so offended by their behaviour?

Note that this is before Mr. Offenhouse interrupted a staff meeting with an unauthorized call. Not only had the other two not done anything objectionable, but Mr. Offenhouse had done nothing but demand to know where he was: hardly an unreasonable request.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 26: "The Neutral Zone"

PICARD: A lot has changed in three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of "things". We have eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We have grown out of our infancy.

Culture: Nice rhetoric, but how does one motivate people to work, if they no longer have any material wants? Pure devotion to duty? Selfless service to mankind? Nice slogans, but human beings don't work that way. High-tech indoctrination techniques seem a likely explanation.

There is also dishonesty in Picard's words. Tasha Yar's home planet was a Federation world, and it collapsed into poverty and crime. And how did the Federation deal with this? By revoking their membership! I guess this policy (dump 'em when they run into trouble) allows them to maintain their claim to being a povery-free zone.

Quite frankly, it's a bit like rich neighbourhoods where nobody is poor; of course nobody is poor, because they won't let the poor people in! If anyone in the rich neighbourhood becomes poor, he's gone. And even though their wealth may very well be derived from the exploitation of poverty elsewhere, they get to prance around in their nice clothes and pretend that they have solved all material problems.

We already know that the Federation engages in trade with backward worlds while witholding technology from them (for their own good, of course). Can there be any serious doubt that this policy keeps these underprivileged worlds from improving their status? The Federation takes raw materials from backward planets, refuses to give them the advanced technology that they need in order to improve their condition, and boasts that they have eliminated poverty. Hmmm ... I'm reluctant to employ an over-used Marxist term, but the word "exploitation" does come to mind.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 26: "The Neutral Zone"

WORF: Captain, my sensors indicate a disturbance. It is large and moving, but I cannot get a positive lock nor can I get it on the viewscreen.

RIKER: Shields up.

WORF: Aye, sir.

RIKER: Captain, I recommend we transfer all power to phasers, and arm the photon torpedos.

PICARD: Wait. If that is a Romulan ship, it will read our intent. We will be forcing them to take a similar posture. We are not out here to engage in battles; we are explorers.

Command Structure: Riker gives the order to raise shields, and then queries Picard about his next order. What sort of command structure exists here? If the XO makes tactical decisions, then why is Riker awaiting Picard's next instruction? If the CO makes tactical decisions, then why is Riker making a tactical decision without Picard's order?

TNG Season 1, Ep# 26: "The Neutral Zone"

WORF: Captain, my sensors indicate a disturbance. It is large and moving, but I cannot get a positive lock nor can I get it on the viewscreen.

RIKER: Shields up.

WORF: Aye, sir.

RIKER: Captain, I recommend we transfer all power to phasers, and arm the photon torpedos.

PICARD: Wait. If that is a Romulan ship, it will read our intent. We will be forcing them to take a similar posture. We are not out here to engage in battles; we are explorers.

Naval Tactics: their shields were not up despite having found two Federation colonies on the edge of the Romulan Neutral zone that had apparently been obliterated. Even the presence of a Romulan warbird on the Federation side of the Neutral Zone isn't enough to incite Picard to action. Apparently, Picard likes to gamble with the safety of his ship, as well as the lives of his crew and their families.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 26: "The Neutral Zone"

PICARD: Do you think we attacked your outposts?

TEBOK: Once we realized the level of destruction, we knew it could not have been you.

PICARD: I would like to offer a proposal.

THEI: An alliance? Between the Romulans and the Federation?

PICARD: Nothing so grandiose -- just this. Cooperation... whoever or whatever did this is more powerful than either of us.

THEI: Agreed.

Size and Scope: both the Federation and the Romulans seem stunned by the disappearance of some small surface colonies. What would they think of the obliteration of an entire planet, which Han Solo witnessed when he entered the Alderaan system?

TNG Season 1, Ep# 26: "The Neutral Zone"

RALPH: And then what will happen to us? There's no trace of my money -- my office is gone -- what will I do? How will I live?

PICARD: This is the twenty-fourth century. Those material needs no longer exist.

Culture: Picard spouts communist propaganda. Material needs and desires still exist; the Ferengi demonstrate that every time we see them. But the Federation is apparently not the place to seek them.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 26: "The Neutral Zone"

GEORDI: I have plotted a course to intercept the Charleston, sir, but they have informed me that they will be making an extended stop at Arloff Nine.

PICARD: Your point, Lieutenant?

GEORDI: At warp eight, we could have our guests at Starbase Thirty-Nine Sierra in five days. It would cut months off their journey.

Propulsion: even at high warp, it would take nearly a week to get to the nearest starbase.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 26: "The Neutral Zone"

SONNY: Let's see if the Braves are on. How do you turn on this here TV?

RIKER: Teevee?

SONNY: Yeah, boob-tube... you know. I'd like to find out how the Braves are doin' after all this time. Probably still finding ways to lose.

DATA (to Riker): Oh -- I think he means television, sir.

SONNY: Or maybe catch up on the soaps.

DATA (to Sonny): That particular form of entertainment did not last much beyond the year Two Thousand Forty.

Culture: why would television die out? I could see it dying out in the 21st century since (according to the Trek timeline) the 21st century was the aftermath of the third world war. However, when transmission systems and TV-like audio/video consoles are omnipresent, it seems ludicrous that no one would think of using them as an entertainment medium. To say that TV will become obsolete is like saying that books or stage plays will become obsolete. It's a viable entertainment medium with distinct strengths and weaknesses and as such, there's no reason to believe it will disappear.

If we are to suspend disbelief, we might explain this through bandwidth restrictions. Perhaps subspace transmissions are a bandwidth-limited medium, and their use is restricted for that reason, hence no TV. There might still be local TV on Earth (although we've never seen or heard of any), but there would be no Federation-wide audio/video broadcast system.

You may also note that this dialogue is contradicted by Star Trek: Generations, in which (during the flashback to Kirk's "death") we saw television reporters, complete with incredibly obtrusive cameras and spotlights. We also heard Kim Cattrall's character in ST6 making reference to "the news", although she could have been talking about text news rather than TV news. In any case, it would appear that television either survived beyond 2040 or it enjoyed a revival in the 23rd century. Either way, Data would seem to have the facts wrong again.

Suspension of disbelief aside, I suspect this is an example of Star Trek's infamous TNG-era cultural snobbery at work. It's part of that social reactionary movement that constantly appeals to tradition. All the trappings of modern life are bad according to this mindset, and we should seek to return to an idyllic, primitive agrarian lifestyle (the refrain of historically ignorant luddites and social conservatives everywhere). Trek has always suffered from this odd dichotomy of social messages, with some writers clearly believing that technology can magically solve all problems and others believing that a wholesome, morally superior life comes from being technologically backward (STI is a perfect example of this mentality in action).

Note: thanks to Sean Collins for reminding me about this incident.

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