Star Trek Canon Database

Displaying 1 to 50 of 174 records.

Database started: 1999-07-27
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TNG Season 1, Ep# 1: "Encounter At Farpoint"

PICARD: I'm not a family man, Riker, and yet, Starfleet has given me a ship with children aboard.

RIKER: Yes, sir. And families...

Culture: Starfleet fills the Enterprise with children and families, even though we know that it is routinely sent into extremely dangerous situations.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 1: "Encounter At Farpoint"

ZORN: Captain, the Ferengi would be very interested in a base like this.

PICARD: Fine. I hope they find you as tasty as their other past associates.

Culture: the Federation has almost no knowledge of the Ferengi at this point, but it has apparently disseminated negative misinformation to its officers anyway.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 3: "The Naked Now"

PICARD: Doctor, every person on that ship over there died. Is there any chance that whatever did it is loose on my ship?

BEVERLY: If you mean a disease, sir, I'd say there's no chance of it. We used full decontamination, we examined each team member carefully...

Culture: their blind faith in their technology is so great that it leads to reckless abandonment of prudent safety measures. They don't use environmental suits or 24-hour quarantine periods. Instead, their away team members happily allow themselves to be infected with dangerous pathogens, and then they rely on the transporter to remove them afterwards!

TNG Season 1, Ep# 4: "Code of Honor"

DATA: It is a highly structured society in which people live by strict codes of honor. For example, what Lutan has done is similar to what certain American Indians once did, called "counting coup." That's from an obscure language called French-

PICARD: A language which for centuries on Earth represented civilization, Mister Data.

DATA: Indeed?

RIKER: I suggest you drop it, Mister Data.

Culture: the French language seems to have greatly diminished in usage by the 24th century, to the point that it is apparently considered a mere historical curiosity. Some may choose to learn it for personal reasons (just as they learn Latin today), and it is conceivable that some pockets of French-speaking peoples may persist, but the English language is apparently predominant among all of the Earth's peoples.

This explains why Picard speaks with a British accent even though he grew up in France.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 4: "Code of Honor"

YAREENA: Natasha Yar, I challenge you! A struggle to the death!

PICARD: No! The challenge is unequivocally refused!

LUTAN: Then you shall have no treaty, no vaccine, and no Lieutenant Yar!

Culture: the Prime Directive rears its ugly head. People are dying on Styris IV and Picard won't forcibly take either Tasha Yar or the precious vaccine, even though the Ligonians are relatively primitive and weak. Therefore, they must humour the bizarre customs of Ligon II. It goes without saying that an Imperial officer would have dealt with this situation in a somewhat more "forceful" way :)

TNG Season 1, Ep# 7: "The Last Outpost"

Picard VO: Captain's log, stardate 41194.6. We are in pursuit of a starship of Ferengi design. Our mission is to intercept and recover a T-9 energy converter which the Ferengi stole from an unmanned monitor post on Gamma Tauri IV; a theft which automatic scanners recorded, providing us with the long awaited opportunity to make close contact with a Ferengi vessel. If we succeed in this chase, it will be Starfleet's first look at a life form which, discounting rumor, we know almost nothing about.

Culture: in spite of Picard's earlier slander of the Ferengi race in ep#1, we now discover that they have almost no knowledge of the Ferengi. Picard had fought a Ferengi vessel before, but as we later discover in "The Battle", he didn't know who they were at the time.

Ted Collins notes that by the time the Federation has familiarized itself with the Ferengi, it had already "educated" its youth with these unfavourable characterizations, as Tom Paris and Ensign Kim both demonstrated in the Voyager pilot episode "Caretaker" with their statements about the Academy warning all cadets about Ferengi dishonesty. Odd behaviour for a society that claims to have "evolved" beyond racism.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 7: "The Last Outpost"

DATA: The Ferengi are... well, the best description may be "traders."

PICARD: What kind of "traders"?

DATA: A more accurate comparison modern scholars have drawn from Earth history cites the ocean-going "Yankee Traders" of eighteenth and nineteenth century America, sir.

RIKER: From the history of my forebears? "Yankee Traders?"

DATA (nods): Who sail, in this case the galaxy, in search of mercantile and territorial opportunity.

RIKER: And are those scholars saying the Ferengi may not be too different from us?

DATA: Hardly, sir. I believe this analogy refers to the nefarious capitalist manner in which the Ferengi are known to conduct their affairs of commerce.

Culture: our first glimpse of current Federation attitudes toward capitalism. The very word appears to have taken on a negative connotation, and it is used here to differentiate themselves from the Ferengi.

Mike Griffiths notes that in the televised version, Data's last line was changed to:

"Hardly sir. I believe the analogy refers to the worst quality of capitalists. The ferengi are believed to conduct their affairs of commerce on the ancient principle "Caveat Emptor" - "Let the buyer beware", sir"

TNG Season 1, Ep# 7: "The Last Outpost"

BEVERLY (gasping for breath as oxygen and temperature both drop): I should visit... the family decks...again...

PICARD: I've diverted... all reserve... power there. They'll... last longest.

Culture: one would hope that Picard would now realize the folly of rushing headlong into dangerous situations (such as the pursuit of a potentially hostile starship about which they know nothing) with civilians still on board. However, over the years to come, he will continue to take his ship into dangerous situations without leaving the saucer section behind.

Mike Griffiths notes that these two lines were compressed into a single line of dialogue from Captain Picard: "I've diverted... all reserve... power down here to the family decks. They'll... last longest.". However, the basic meaning was essentially unchanged.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 7: "The Last Outpost"

LETEK: And there is even more! We can prove the hu-mans are destroyers of legal commerce ... also that they selfishly withhold vital technology from backward worlds...

MORDOC: And necessary defensive weapons, too. We Ferengi are now challenge this hu-man madness...


LETEK (exhibiting Starfleet comm badges): Proof of their barbarism; they adorn themselves with gold, a despicable use of rare metal...

Culture: naturally, the Ferengi find the Federation's policies of communism and trade restriction to be offensive and immoral, just as the Federation apparently finds capitalism "nefarious" and immoral.

This passage also suggests that the Federation has been attempting to restrict Ferengi trade activities somehow, thus leading to the current state of animosity (one which will apparently diminish over time, presumably due to diplomatic concessions and/or black-market activity that thaws the relationship between the capitalist Ferengi and the communist Federation over time).

Federation restrictions on free trade reveal much about their cultural mindset. Historically, free trade has generally led to a quasi-entropic process, in which the removal of barriers tends to blur differences between neighbouring societies. The Ferengi obviously believe that trade barriers hurt rather than helping, while the Federation feels that trade barriers must be maintained by the region's benevolent rulers even if neither trading partner wants them. They want primitive societies to remain primitive indefinitely (it's for their own good, of course, and not for the purpose of perpetuating the Federation's regional hegemony), and poor societies to remain poor indefinitely (unless, of course, they ask to join the Federation).

And finally, note Letek's outrage at their frivolous use of the "rare metal" known as gold, which would be exceedingly odd if it were truly as "worthless" as Quark made it out to be.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 7: "The Last Outpost"

DATA: They should add also that Starfleet has refused to prevent several civilizations from falling; we have sometimes let the violent and strong overcome the weak...

LETEK: They admit their crimes! Hear them; they admit the evil ...

(The being known as "Portal" eventually sides with Riker, and the viewers understand the hidden subtext that all of these offenses are actually justified by the Prime Directive).

Culture: positive spin put on shameful admissions. The human mind is not rational by nature. The same joke seems funnier when it's accompanied by a laugh track, the same tragedy is more heart-wrenching when accompanied by sad music, and the same admission of despicable moral cowardice can be perceived as proof of morality if it is presented properly.

By the more "enlightened" morals of the Federation, I suppose that means UN intervention in "ethnic cleansing" incidents was totally immoral, while the Catholic Church's conspicuous silence during Hitler's Holocaust was supremely moral.

The Ferengi actually have it right, but the show plays like a Goebbels propaganda film, and portrays their objections as ridiculous and small-minded without ever explaining what's wrong with them. The powerful "Portal" creature sides with Riker, and in the mind of the viewer, this undeclared appeal to authority somehow validates the Federation's position.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 8: "Lonely Among Us"

TASHA: About the dietary requirements of the Antican delegates ...

RIKER: I thought that had been taken care of in advance, Tasha.

TASHA: So did we, sir. Their live animals were beamed aboard -- We were going to preserve the meat for them, but ... they say we must bring it to them alive.

RIKER: Then do so! (to the Antican) Lieutenant Yar was... confused. We no longer enslave animals for food purposes.

BADAR N'D'D: But we have seen humans eat meat!

RIKER: You've seen something as fresh and tasty as living meat, but inorganically materialized out of patterns used by our transporters.

Culture: Riker attempts to portray the wholesale replacement of real meat with replicated synthetic food in a good light, by describing it as the end of inhumane animal enslavement.

This is all the more interesting since DS9 showed real seafood being cooked on Earth, and Picard uses his influence to have real caviar brought on board. Does the Federation regard livestock animals as sentient and therefore inviolate, without extending the same considerations toward aquatic life? Or is this evidence of a contrast between the stated values of the Federation and its actual conduct?

Do you remember ST4? What would the powerful, mysterious friends of the Earth's humpback whale think of this double standard?

TNG Season 1, Ep# 8: "Lonely Among Us"

TROI: Wait! I'm feeling... yes, it's the captain! The captain only. He's out there alone!

RIKER: The entity... has it abandoned him?

TROI: No, the combination just wasn't possible out there. The Captain's in trouble, sir; we must beam him back!

RIKER: Beam him back as what? He's nothing but energy now.

Culture: Picard is still "alive" and perceptible by Counsellor Troi, despite being physically destroyed. It would seem that he has a non-corporeal "soul", but no one seems willing to dwell on this, or discuss its spiritual implications.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 9: "Justice"

TASHA: I've listed my report on their customs and laws, sir. Fairly simple, common sense things.

GEORDI: Wild in some ways, puritanical in others. Neat as pins, ultra-lawful, and making love at the drop of a hat.

TASHA: Any hat.

PICARD: But even the happiest report has its negatives. Let's start with them.

RIKER: There are none, sir. Not that any of us can find.


PICARD: Wesley, if we go, you will join the away team to evaluate this world as a place for young people to relax.

WESLEY: Yes, sir. (looks to his mother for approval, and she smiles).

Culture: breathlessly envious description of the planet of the "Edo", where the family structure seems to be nonexistent. Communal relationships and pure hedonism are the order of the day. Starfleet's finest seem to approve.

This in itself may offend modern societal norms but it's not necessarily scandalous (I imagine that a modern military vessel's crew might enjoy the idea of shore leave in such a place). However, it is interesting that no one, not even his own mother, has any problem with the idea of sending prepubescent Wesley down into this environment. It's one thing to expose children to the knowledge of sex, but when there's a real possibility that they might experience the sex act itself (years before they're mature enough to deal with it), shouldn't a parent show at least some vague hint of concern?

TNG Season 1, Ep# 9: "Justice"

RIVAN: We are a people of law. They do sometimes bring us sadness, but we have learned to adjust to that. Perhaps your laws work as well ...

PICARD: They haven't always, but they do now.

LIATOR: Do you execute criminals?

PICARD: No... not any longer, that is.

RIVAN: You did once?

PICARD: Unfortunately, yes. But since then-

RIVAN: And when you did, was it believed necessary to do so?

PICARD: Can we please get to the facts concerning our crewmember? (pauses a moment) Yes, some people then felt it was necessary. But we've learned how to detect the seeds of criminal behavior... Capital punishment is no longer justified in our world as a deterrent.

Culture: apparently, the Federation justice system no longer uses the death penalty because they can "detect the seeds of criminal behaviour" early.

So what does this mean? One disquieting possibility is that children are psychologically screened for possible future misdeeds, and then "corrected" at a young age. Unless an alternative explanation exists, it would seem that they are so confident in their psychological profiling that they can effectively declare people guilty of crimes before they commit them, and then they can sentence them to imprisonment, mandatory psychiatric treatment, or who knows what "rehabilitation techniques" they might deem appropriate!

Such confidence in psychological profiling is disturbing because psychology is, at best, an unreliable science, and at worst, a pure pseudoscience. The nature of the subject matter makes truly controlled, repeatable experimentation a pipe dream. Worse yet, any observations are, by necessity, incomplete, obscured by the statistical noise of uncontrolled variables, and riddled with subjectivism, thus rendering the resulting conclusions highly suspect.

However, the larger problem is simply that they feel they can find people guilty of crimes and force them to undergo "preventive" treatment before they commit these crimes, which is so far removed from any reasonable concept of justice that it absolutely boggles the mind. Even if they did have some foolproof method of determining that someone had psychological leanings toward criminal behaviour (a questionable idea, to say the very least), the fact would remain that he hadn't committed a crime, so he's being charged with improper thoughts rather than illegal actions. When you think about it, this is nothing less than the Star Trek version of George Orwell's "thought police"!

Roy Cowan submits that Picard's claim about detecting the seeds of criminal behaviour early is laughable in light of the many crimes committed by Federation citizens. Not only did Tasha Yar's entire homeworld (formerly a Federation world) become inundated with violent crime, but we also had the high-level cases of Admiral Pressman in "The Pegasus", Admiral Kennellyin in "Ensign Ro", Admiral Jameson in "Too Short a Season", Admiral Leyton in "Paradise Lost", Doctor Bashir's parents in "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", and of course, Captain Picard himself, who repeatedly violated the Prime Directive.

Moreover, the very concept of psychological seeds for criminal behaviour (never mind their detection) is highly suspect. We must remember that "criminal" and "unethical" are not necessarily synonymous. One can be a criminal without necessarily being evil, and one can be evil without necessarily being a criminal. Blacks who violated municipal race segregation bylaws and trespassed on whites-only property in the 1960s were criminals, but they were fighting for racial equality. Police officers who beat and arrested them were acting within the law so they were not criminals, but they were fighting to sustain a profoundly unethical system of racial discrimination.

The seeds of evil are different from the seeds of criminal behaviour, and the "seeds" which the Federation seeks to find are apparently the seeds of civil disobedience. How did all the aforementioned people sneak through the Federation's screening process? It's obvious; they were all loyal to the state. Each of them may or may not be ethical, but all of them were loyal to the state, often committing their crimes out of an honest belief that they were acting in the best interests of the state, and that is quite clearly the only criterion the Federation is interested in.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 13: "The Big Goodbye"

PICARD VO: Captain's log, supplemental. I am delighted with how the Holodeck has created the fictional world of Dixon Hill ... the illusion is flawless.

Culture: the holodeck technology must be quite new to the Federation, given Picard's "delight" with it (not to mention Riker's astonishment and unfamiliarity in the first episode).

Wayne Poe notes that this technology was first deployed as a frivolous entertainment device on Galaxy Class starships, rather than being initially deployed as a training device at the Academy (or, for that matter, on those aforementioned Galaxy Class starships). Karl Marx once had something to say about the supreme importance of entertaining the masses ...

TNG Season 1, Ep# 17: "Home Soil"

SCREENPLAY: The team members take in their surroundings. We are in a twenty-fourth century power and hydraulics facility, more square-cut and mechanical than the Enterprise. Large, working machinery, on which "the bolts show." The computers are more heavy duty and their jumper cables show.

Culture: as described in the screenplay and seen in the televised episode, the Federation terraforming equipment on Velara III looks much more industrial than the carefully covered and panelled equipment of the Enterprise, probably because they felt no particular need to cover it up.

Of course, this leads to an obvious question: why is it so important for Federation starships to cover everything up? Those cosmetic measures can actually be inconvenient (eg. hiding important access panels deep inside Jeffries tubes), so it would appear that superficial appearances won out over utilitarianism in their design process. This tells us a lot about their cultural priorities: form rules over function, even in the military.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 20: "Heart of Glory"

RIKER: Should we separate the saucer?

PICARD: Let's get some more information first.

Culture: Picard again demonstrates Starfleet's casual attitude toward the lives of the civilians aboard the Enterprise, as well as the lives of their children. One must ask why Starfleet has no regulations covering this situation, if they insisted on filling their warships full of civilians and children.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 20: "Heart of Glory"

KORRIS: Sit, friend - let us eat. I did not know there are ... Klingons serving on human Starfleet vessels.

WORF: As far as I know, I am the only one.

Culture: Korris makes reference to "human Starfleet vessels", thus suggesting that Starflet practices a form of racial segregation.

Wayne Poe notes that we've heard many references to Federation starships with all-Vulcan crews in the past (starting in TOS), and we know that non-humans are in the extreme minority on most starships. Racial segregation in starship postings may help explain this.

It amazes me how Star Trek fans can accept obvious racial segregation in the form of all-Vulcan crews without batting an eyelash. Can you imagine if the US Navy had ships on which the entire crew was black? Better yet, suppose the rest of their ships were overwhelmingly white, with less than ¼% blacks on board. How would that strike you?

TNG Season 1, Ep# 20: "Heart of Glory"

PICARD: Where are they now?

TASHA: They are with Worf on Deck Seventeen.

PICARD: Deck Seventeen?

TASHA: Yes, sir -- next to the auxiliary turbolift to the Battle Bridge. Shall I alert Lieutenant Worf?

PICARD: No. Send a security team to Deck Seventeen.

RIKER: Captain, you don't think Worf would allow them access to the Battle Bridge?

PICARD: Right now, Number One, we cannot assume anything.

Culture: both Riker and Picard no longer trust Lieutenant Worf, simply because he's with other Klingons and they assume that his loyalties are therefore in doubt.

Imagine if a real-life police officer discovered that two black suspects are in the custody of a black police officer, and immediately assumed that the officer could no longer be trusted. Would that strike you as racist?

TNG Season 1, Ep# 20: "Heart of Glory"

TASHA: I thought for a minute we had a problem.


TASHA: Yes. It looked like Korris was going to hold the little girl as a hostage.

WORF: That is not our way.

Culture: Worf talks about "our way" when he was raised from childhood in the Federation, but his only knowledge of other Klingons comes from academic study.

Apparently, those studies never included the Organian incident in "Errand of Mercy", in which Kor took an entire town hostage, and ordered his men to butcher the helpless, unarmed Organians by the hundreds unless his demands were met.

TNG Season 1, Ep# 20: "Heart of Glory"

SCREENPLAY: Konmel and Korris construct a Klingon weapon. Each takes off his belt buckle. Korris twists them together. Then each removes the side panels from their boots. These too, fit together and form more of the weapon, which now begins to GLOW. Then Konmel removes the item he took off the dead Klingon. He turns it until it forms into a tube which he attaches to the other pieces and this becomes the barrel. The weapon takes shape. The bracelet which Korris takes from his wrist becomes the muzzle. Konmel's the stock. He holds the very deadly looking "phaser" and with a nod of his head, he indicates the forcefield.

Culture: Klingons conceal enough components in their standard armour to construct a weapon, provided at least two of them are present. Real-life soldiers routinely strip prisoners in order to make sure they aren't concealing any weapons, but this sort of prudent measure obviously doesn't occur to the men and women of Starfleet.

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.


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"

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"

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.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 27: "The Child"

PICARD VO: Captain's log, supplemental. We have finally arrived at 'aucdet Nine. We will pick up the specimens of Plasma Plague and transport them to Rachelis. It is only because so many lives are at stake that I am willing to put this ship and crew at such great risk.

Culture: Again, Picard is willing to put the ship and crew and their families at great risk, by undertaking this mission without first separating the saucer.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 31: "The Schizoid Man"

PULASKI VO: Medical log, Stardate 42437.5. Ira Graves is arguably the greatest human mind in the known universe... for years he's lived in near isolation on a remote planet, devoting full time to his revolutionary work ...

Culture: first Doctor Manheim, and now Ira Graves. Renowned Federation scientists seem to enjoy living in isolation, but luckily for them, communist societies such as the Federation (and the former Soviet Union) tend to reward military officers and scientists the way capitalist societies reward entrepreneurs.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 34: "A Matter of Honor"

(Riker is eating some nasty-looking Klingon food)

PICARD: I understand the theory of the feast before the transfer. I've done the same thing dozens of times. However, I usually made more civil choices.

RIKER: These are the most civil choices.

PICARD: I see... Well, their food may be somewhat backward but the Klingons are efficient, loyal to their beliefs, and are regulated by a strict code of ethics.

PULASKI: True enough. They tend to lean towards a Samurai civilization that is thousands of years old.

PICARD: But they are pure in that tradition.

Culture: Klingon food may not be very appetizing to us, but why call it "backward?" And can a society realistically stretch across numerous planets without having any significant variations in culture? Look at the cultural differences between (for example) Los Angeles and Tehran and then ask how intelligent it is to assume that a civilization spanning dozens of planets has one uniform culture.

The Klingons, the Romulans, the Ferengi, the Cardassians ... all alien species which are portrayed as homogeneous monocultures, by people who incessantly describe themselves as having "evolved" beyond racism.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 34: "A Matter of Honor"

PICARD: This is a great opportunity, Number One. We really know so little about them. We have so much to learn ... (beat, smile) ... I think I envy you, Will Riker.

Culture: WRobert525 points out that they've had contact with the Klingons for nearly two centuries now, that they had extensive knowledge in Kirk's era, and that Worf was able to study all of the details of Klingon culture while growing up inside the Federation, yet Captain Picard claims that they "know so little about them".

Clearly, their ignorance is due to apathy and/or racism rather than a lack of available information. In ST4, the level of Federation racism directed toward the Klingons was very clear; Admiral Cartwright warned that the Klingons would become the "alien trash of the galaxy". Two crewmen were making snide remarks about their "smell", and about a common racist belief that only the smartest Klingons can even talk. Perhaps that cultural bias coloured Federation behaviour toward the Klingons from that point on, producing a kind of cultural isolationism, ie- "we're interested in alien cultures only if they're Federation members".

TNG Season 2, Ep# 37: "Contagion"

PICARD VO: Captain's log, supplemental. The Yamato's entire crew and their families, more than a thousand people, have been lost.

Culture: not only did Captain Varley unilaterally commit an act of war against the Romulan Empire by taking a warship into the Neutral Zone, but he took the saucer section with him!

TNG Season 2, Ep# 40: "The Icarus Factor"

WESLEY: You try talking to Worf. I'm telling you, he's not ... normal ... for Worf.

DATA: There is, of course, a genetic predisposition toward hostility among all Klingons, although Worf does seem unusually out of sorts.

Culture: Klingons have a genetic predisposition toward hostility, eh? That's Federation science speaking, right? I would like to know what scientific studies the Federation conducted in order to arrive at this conclusion, and what scientific studies led them to classify this as a characteristic of Klingons in particular, since a genetic predisposition to hostility is present in most creatures, including human beings. Did they perform any such studies? Or are they simply going by "anecdotal evidence" and gut instinct, the same way Trekkies are when they defend the Federation's racist characterizations of Klingons?

Besides, if Klingon behaviour were genetic rather than cultural, I would ask how Worf could have turned into the interplanetary über-pussy that consorted with Troi and Jadzia later in TNG and DS9.

This sort of pseudoscientific racial generalization strikes me as eerily similar to certain nineteenth and early twentieth century European "medical evaluations" of non-caucasian races, in which numerous behaviours, strengths and deficiencies were described as genetically inherited traits by "medical experts" without a shred of meaningful scientific evidence.

One amusing example would be numerous pre-WW2 American military reports which earnestly explained that the Japanese people have poor hand-eye co-ordination, inferior night vision, and a predisposition toward covert tactics rather than direct attacks. These "medical analyses" were used, among other things, to prove that the Japanese would attempt to sabotage Pearl Harbour rather than attack it directly. Of course, these predictions had to be re-evaluated after December 7, 1941 ...

TNG Season 2, Ep# 40: "The Icarus Factor"

PULASKI: Troi's job is to keep us from deluding ourselves.

KYLE: Let me guess: Betazoid?

Culture: it would seem that the empathic abilities of Betazoids are common knowledge in the Federation. With this in mind, I find it curious that Troi does not experience any form of ostracization on the ship. This is an example of the sort of cultural and philosophical issue that is examined in depth by a show such as Babylon 5, but which is totally ignored by Star Trek.

How would you feel if you knew somebody who could tell whether you were telling the truth, whether you lusted after someone else, whether you were happy or whether you were sad? How would you feel if your emotions were laid bare for someone to analyze? How would you feel if you knew that many Betazoids are skilled enough to read specific thoughts instead of emotions?

If you were in a bar and a Betazoid walked in, would you happily sit there, knowing that he or she is surely able to detect your emotions and may also be able to listen to your thoughts? The Federation apparently has no laws whatsoever to restrict the telepathic surveillance activities of Betazoids; can they really be so casual about individual privacy? Or are they so accustomed to government intrusions in their lives that they don't give it a second thought?

TNG Season 2, Ep# 41: "Pen Pals"

DATA: Captain, Drema Four is enduring the same geological stresses we have found in the other systems.

PICARD: Then your pen pal is in trouble.

DATA: Yes, sir.

PICARD: What are you proposing?

DATA: If we can determine the cause of the geological instability, we might be able to reverse the process.

PICARD: And violate the Prime Directive.

Culture: the Prime Directive rears its ugly head again. This time, they apparently consider it immoral to save a civilization from imminent destruction. Only in the twisted world of the Federation could such a thing become immoral, because their entire concept of right and wrong is based on adherence to legal constructs such as the Prime Directive.

It's very much like Americans and Canadians who attempt to resolve every ethical question by quoting our respective constitutions. They don't realize that the constitutionality (or lack thereof) of an idea has nothing to do with its morality. If something is constitutional, that only means it's legal, not necessarily ethical.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 41: "Pen Pals"

PICARD: In this situation we must use caution. Our actions could have a profound effect upon the future. If we could see all possible outcomes --

RIKER: We would be gods, but we're not. If there is some cosmic plan, isn't it the height of hubris to presume that we can, or should, interfere?

GEORDI: So what are you saying? That the Dremans are fated to die?

RIKER: It's something that needs to be considered.

GEORDI: Well, consider it considered, and rejected.

TROI: If there is a cosmic plan, are we not part of it? Our presence at this place at this moment in time might be part of that fate.

GEORDI: So it might be part of the plan that we interfere.

RIKER: I think that eliminates the idea of "fate."

Culture: what a load of metaphysical crap. All this talk of "fate" and the great "cosmic plan" is the sort of nonsense that people have supposedly outgrown in the 24th century. The discussion is supposed to be about legality and ethics, not superstitions about fate.

When people start believing in fate, or a great cosmic plan, and try to predict its wishes, they're doing the same thing that religious zealots do when they try to justify questionable actions by saying that they're following "God's Will". They're taking ethical issues and debating them not on the basis of morality, but on the basis of adherence to a mysterious, unknown, unknowable "plan". It's a red herring and it generally signals the end of meaningful, rational debate.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 41: "Pen Pals"

PULASKI: The Prime Directive was designed to protect, not destroy.

PICARD: So Doctor, you draw the line at the death of millions.


PICARD: Same situation if it's an epidemic rather than a geological catastrophe?

PULASKI: Absolutely.

PICARD: How about a war? A generations-long conflict that is killing millions. Do we interfere?

(everyone falls silent)

PICARD (continuing): Now we're less secure in our moral certitude. And what if it's not death. What if it's an oppressive government which is enslaving millions?

The Prime Directive serves many purposes. Not the least of which is to protect  us. It keeps us from allowing our emotions to overrule our judgement.

Culture: maybe Picard can win them over with this nonsense, but step back and listen to what he's saying. Supposedly, it's immoral to interfere because we don't have the right to impose our cultural values on another society. That sounds fair enough, but where do culturally specific values stop and absolute moral values begin?

Is the sanctity of sentient life a mere "cultural value", subject to moral relativism and not applicable to other societies? There's a big difference between saving peoples' lives (especially when you're saving them from a natural catastrophe rather than self-inflicted cruelty) and forcing them to accept your Messiah or observe your rituals.

Picard uses a variation upon the "slippery slope" argument here. The "slippery slope" argument is often used as an excuse for extremism; it is used to justify extreme positions by arguing that any movement from one extreme toward the middle will lead to an inexorable slide toward the other extreme. The phrase "where do you draw the line" is heavily used in this sort of argument, with the implication being that one should choose between one of two absolute positions rather than drawing any line at all. Notice that Captain Picard uses this same argument, even using the exact phrase "draw the line", in the perjorative sense in which extremists usually say it.

This is the height of hypocrisy; this is the same Captain Picard who once argued that Wesley Crusher shouldn't be executed for breaking arbitrary laws on the planet of the Edo, with the bold statement that "there can be no justice so long as laws are absolute!" He even went on to proclaim that "life itself is an exercise in exceptions", so that he could break both the Prime Directive and the laws of the Edo in order to save Wesley Crusher. But when it's the life of an entire civilization at stake instead of just one effeminate little cabin boy, he suddenly forgets all that lofty talk about exceptions and true justice, and becomes a rule-spouting bureaucrat again.

The really sad thing is that Picard later reversed his position after hearing Sarjenka's desperate plea for help, but he never questioned the wisdom of the Prime Directive that was at the heart of this conflict.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 41: "Pen Pals"

PICARD: Data and the alien are on their way down. What would be involved in removing all memory of her communication with Data and her visit to this ship?

PULASKI: Assuming her brain structure is similar to ours the memories will be stored chemically on the neurons of the cerebral cortex. They are also time dependent. I'll have to scan for age of the chemical links, and try to find the relevant neurons. To be sure I may have to go back weeks before the initial contact with Data.

Culture: Picard is terrified of interfering with alien cultures but he apparently has no problem with erasing the girl's memory, and assuming the risk that this procedure, attempted on an alien lifeform with which they are unfamiliar, may fry her brain.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 44: "Up the Long Ladder"

GEORDI: Where are you going?

RIKER: To that cloning lab.

SCREENPLAY: Riker, Pulaski and Geordi beam into the chamber. At last we see two of the cloning units. Riker approaches one of the smoke filled artificial wombs. He opens the door, and the smoke vents into the lab. Inside is a half-formed clone, but it is still recognizably the first officer. He recoils. We see his anger and disgust as he gropes for his phaser. Riker blasts the developing clone. It vanishes. Riker steps to the second cloning unit. Opens the door; the smoke vents. He looks inside, looks back to Pulaski and cocks his head toward the clone. Pulaski nods. Riker blasts that clone, and it vanishes.

Culture: they are reluctant to destroy any form of alien life they encounter, no matter how dangerous or aggressive. But when they encounter a clone, they kill it immediately.

It was clearly immoral for the Mariposans to abduct Riker and Pulaski and steal their DNA, but once the stolen cells have begun to replicate (and it is obvious that they had already done so, since the clone bodies were mostly formed), then it is a living being. Its DNA "parent" wouldn't have the right to kill it any more than a normal parent has the right to kill his child (although some abortion advocates might want to argue about a parent's right to terminate a child).

TNG Season 2, Ep# 45: "Manhunt"

WORF: Captain... we're being hailed by a small transport vessel just coming into range.

TROI: Oh, my God!

PICARD: What is the problem?

TROI: What can she be doing here?


TRANSPORT PILOT: Starship Enterprise, come in!

RIKER: We have you on our viewer, Pilot.

TRANSPORT PILOT: Enterprise... I have a passenger -- a V.I.P. passenger -- who I'm ordered to --

MRS. TROI: Let me talk to them, Pilot. I'm much more articulate.

TROI: Mother!

DATA: Captain, we are now receiving Starfleet orders granting a Lwaxana....

MRS. TROI: Lwaxana Troi, daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Riix, heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed.

DATA: ... full ambassadorial status, sir.

Culture: Ambassador Lwaxana Troi, daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Riix, and heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed must book passage on a transport instead of using her own personal vessel. The paucity of personal starships in the Federation is even more serious than I had previously thought. Also note that they've received Starfleet orders granting her ambassadorial status, which is curious since civilian governments normally grant ambassadorial status, rather than military organizations. This makes more sense when you consider the degree to which Starfleet controls the government.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 45: "Manhunt"

LWAXANA (telepathy): He has nice legs too, Little One. Is he still yours?

TROI (telepathy): Humans no longer own each other that way, Mother.

LWAXANA (telepathy): Oh really? That's a custom we may have to introduce again.

Culture: they have families and even marriage, but humans no longer regard their spouses possessively? I'm not sure what to make of this, except to theorize that perhaps "open marriages" are the norm in the 24th century.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 45: "Manhunt"

MRS. TROI: Why are they still here?

RIKER: We thought that since you're going to the same conference, you might like to beam down with the other delegates.

MRS. TROI: They're not delegates. Those two are assassins.

ANTEDIAN FEMALE: That is... an outrage!... Lies! We demand you... transport at once!

MRS. TROI: Oh honey, don't bother to deny it. Your minds are so unsophisticated, I can read your thoughts in my sleep! (Turns to Picard) The inside of their robes are lined with ultritium. Highly explosive and virtually undetectable by your transporter.

DATA: She is correct, sir. I am detecting large amounts of ultritium.

Culture: Lwaxana Troi can and will read very specific information from the minds of people around her. In Babylon 5, this kind of intrusion was criminalized for obvious reasons of privacy and personal rights, so it led to strict laws governing the behaviour of telepaths.

In the Old Republic of Star Wars, the telepathic and telekinetic abilities that accompany Force attunement were deemed dangerous enough that any infants who displayed these abilities were taken to the monasterial Jedi Temple and raised in virtual isolation. There are also those who actively dislike the Jedi, and speak in hushed tones of how those who over-use the Force are destined to become evil (hence Luke's attempts at restraint in "Spectre of the Past").

But in Star Trek, people are apparently so accustomed to intrusions upon their private affairs that no one is remotely concerned about the presence of a telepath, even one who has demonstrated an eagerness to peek, unbidden, into the thoughts of every person in her vicinity.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 46: "Emissary"

TROI: I know exactly what you mean. My father was human... and my mother was Betazoid.

K'EHLEYR: Really! It was the other way around for me -- my mother was human. You must've grown up like I did -- trapped between cultures.

TROI: I never felt trapped -- I felt fortunate. I experienced the richness and diversity of two worlds.

Culture: more of the racial separatist nonsense that permeates Trek. Torn between two worlds: it's the return of the Star Trek Cliché That Won't Die.

The only people who can experience more than one culture are those who genetically inherit them, eh? It's either a curse or a blessing? What a load of bullshit.

One's knowledge of other cultures comes from experience or study, not genetics. My father came from Hong Kong and my mother came from Taiwan. No matter what some rednecks might think about how all asian countries are the same, Hong Kong and Taiwan have vastly different cultures. But did I feel torn between the two? Not at all, and I belong to neither. I'm a Canadian.

Someday, I would like to think that people will grow beyond cultural stereotypes based on race, but Star Trek is a bit more pessimistic. In Star Trek, they're still doing it in the 24th century, and they're proud of it. They even go so far as to call it "paradise." How nice.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 46: "Emissary"

(After doing the wild mambo and then rejecting Worf's attempt to make her his wife afterwards).

K'EHLEYR: Worf, it was what it was! Glorious and wonderful and all that, but it doesn't mean anything.

WORF: That is a human attitude.

K'EHLEYR: I am human!

WORF: You are also Klingon!

K'EHLEYR: And that means we should bond for life?

Culture: so K'ehleyr believes in non-commital sex, and Worf calls that a "human attitude", eh? I had no idea that all humans believed in non-commital sex. Again, we see how race and culture are inextricably mixed together in the world of Star Trek.

It's not surprising that the Klingons are racist; their empire is racist to the core, with the word "Klingon" referring to both race and nation in a manner that evokes some of the European ethnic, tribal and religious quasi-national divisions that have caused conflict in that part of the world for centuries. But the "enlightened" Federation claims to be above that sort of thing. Clearly, they're not.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 47: "Peak Performance"

PICARD VO: Captain's log, Stardate 42923.7. We are en route to the Braslota System, site of the first Starfleet battle simulation. Joining the Enterprise as observer and mediator is the Zakdorn Master Strategist, Sirna Kolrami. Despite misgivings, I have agreed to Starfleet's request that we take part in these wargame exercises.

Culture: Picard claims that the Enterprise vs Hathaway exercise was the "first Starfleet battle simulation." That sounds exceedingly bizarre to me. In three centuries of space exploration, no wargames were ever conducted before? Not even in Kirk's era?

Wayne Poe notes that this statement is very interesting in light of the fact that we saw a TOS-era Starfleet wargame exercise (albeit a disastrous one), in "The Ultimate Computer". How could Picard have forgotten about such an important and disastrous event in Starfleet history? It sounds like peaceniks have rewritten history in the 24th century.

Moreover, Ted Collins noticed that Picard made reference to Riker's established tactics from an Academy military simulation later in this same episode! This calls his mental competence into question. How could he be familiar with Riker's tactics in military simulations while simultaneously denying that military simulations take place at all? Could it be that simulations take place only during Academy training, and not in Starfleet? What an incredibly asinine policy that would be! So much for continuous skills maintenance and upgrading, eh?

TNG Season 2, Ep# 47: "Peak Performance"

WORF: Despite their reputations, this Zakdorn does not appear to be a very formidable warrior.

DATA: In the game of military brinkmanship, individual physical prowess is less important than the perception of a species as a whole. For over nine millennia potential foes have regarded the Zakdorns as having the greatest innately strategic minds in the galaxy.

WORF: And no one is willing to test that perception in combat.

DATA: Exactly.

WORF: Then the reputation means nothing.

Culture: Worf has a point, does he not? How could everyone be cowed by fear of a species which has not engaged in real warfare for millenia?

It seems more likely to me that the Zakdorn government is a master of manipulating public perception, and has found ways to stay out of wars based on that perception. They apparently now use the Federation as their shield, giving their "expertise" but not their lives when a war breaks out.

Ted Collins notes that we saw and heard nothing of the Zakdorns during the Dominion War; that's quite curious if their strategic abilities are as overpowering as claimed. It says a lot about the Federation that they tolerate such uselessness in their midst.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 47: "Peak Performance"

KOLRAMI: Captain Picard, I understand that you initially resisted Starfleet's request for this simulation.


KOLRAMI: May I know why?

PICARD: Starfleet is not a military organization. Our purpose is exploration.

KOLRAMI: Then why am I here?

PICARD: Because with the Borg threat, I have decided that my officers and I need to hone our tactical skills. In a crisis situation, it is prudent to have several options.

RIKER: I still prefer brains over brawn. I think it's a waste of effort to test our combat skills -- it's a minor province in the make-up of a starship captain.

Culture: Picard claims that "Starfleet is not a military organization", even though that's obviously public-relations nonsense. If Starfleet is a non-military organization, then why are their ships so heavily armed that they can dice with the warships of neighbouring superpowers such as the Cardassians, Romulans, and Klingons? Why is it called upon to fight the Federation's wars? Why does it use the rank structure and chain of command of a military organization?

If anything, this insistence on Starfleet's non-military nature speaks of habitual self-delusion and public relations obsessions within the organization. As for Picard and Riker, they demonstrate asinine stupidity when claiming that tactical skills are "minor" for a starship captain. Tactical skills are what keep his ship from turning into a drifting debris field.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 48: "Shades of Gray"

GEORDI: What's wrong?

RIKER: Something jabbed me in the calf...

GEORDI: O'Brien -- Commander Riker's been injured -- lock on and bring him up.

O'BRIEN: Stand by.

RIKER: Geordi, it's just --

GEORDI: A scratch. Right. Sorry, Commander, but we can't take any chances. We're the first survey team to set foot on this planet ... we don't know what the risks are ... what's the hold up, O'Brien?

O'BRIEN: The transporter has detected unidentified microbes in Commander Riker's body.

GEORDI: Can't the biofilters screen them out?

O'BRIEN: Apparently not.

Culture: again, we see how they blindly trust their technology even after personally experiencing its inadequacies. In spite of the problems they had in "The Naked Now", the very first survey team to set foot on an alien planet goes down without environmental suits, utterly confident that their transporter's bio-filters (which failed to stop previous infectants) will protect them.

Of course, we find out that they can't. Again. Apparently, the geniuses in Starfleet are incapable of learning from examples, even when those examples come from their own experience.

TNG Season 3, Ep# 50: "Evolution"

STUBBS: My dear Counselor, no insult intended but please turn off your beam into my soul. I will share the feelings I wish to share...

Culture: the brilliant but pathologically antisocial Doctor Stubbs is the only person to express irritation at Counsellor Troi's casual invasions of privacy. Perhaps he was able to resist Federation indoctrination techniques due to his superior intellect, so he doesn't share their acceptance of such unsolicited violations.

TNG Season 3, Ep# 50: "Evolution"

WESLEY: I've been working on my final project for Advanced Genetics. It's on nanotechnology. And I've been studying the nanites we have in the Sickbay genetic supplies. They're just like tiny little robots with gigabytes of mechanical computer memory, tiny enough to enter living cells and conduct repairs. They're supposed to be strictly confined to the lab.

Culture: some nanotechnology is inevitable, but it's reckless and stupid for the Federation to allow a mere boy to experiment with it. Nanotechnology is inherently dangerous; it would be like allowing modern high school students to experiment with samples of the smallpox virus.

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