Star Trek: The Moral of the Story
I was surprised to learn that it is 25 years since Star Trek was revived for television in the Next Generation series. And intrigued, as I’m not sure I’ve watched them since they were first broadcast and was interested to see how they had stood the test of time. Having just worked my way through the first series, my first impression is, they really, really haven’t. However, I shall persevere, mainly because I’m a slightly sad and obsessive person.
What I did notice is that each episode is a little self-contained morality play. Each tries to teach us something about life, about human nature, about how we can improve ourselves. Usually it does this by bludgeoning us over the head with a big dose of the bleedin’ obvious. So I decided to look deeper, and find the hidden meaning in each of the stories.
Here, for your delectation and amusement (or, more likely, total indifference) are the results. (Before reading, it might help to have a working knowledge of the episodes of Star Trek: TNG season one. On the other hand, it probably won’t).
Episode 1/2 (two part episode) – Encounter at Farpoint
At some point in our near future the world will undergo a nuclear holocaust or disaster which will turn us all into babbling medieval halfwits. Do not worry, as this will apparently not prevent us, just a couple of hundred years later, from becoming an enlightened utopian society with starships that can travel the galaxy.
Episode 3 – The Naked Now
If a doctor realises that a deadly disease is communicated by touch, it probably isn’t at all necessary to tell the people in the effected area this so that they will be careful not to touch anyone.
Episode 4 – Code of Honor
No matter how advanced a humanoid race becomes, if it develops with black skin, it will also naturally gravitate towards the wearing of African tribal clothing and dayglo pink 1970’s disco outfits.
Episode 5 – The Last Outpost
The Ferrengi are an advanced race which travels the galaxy in search of commercial opportunities. They have developed an warp speed space travel technology, transporter beams and snazzy laser whips. They have not, however, developed ritalin.
Episode 6 – Where No-one Has Gone Before
The edge of the universe is pale blue with sparkly white bits that race around in a fixed pattern. It doesn’t matter that this does not seem to follow any known law of physics. Just accept it.
Episode 7 – Lonely Among Us
When two races hate each other so much that, when confronted with a member of the opposite race the urge to maim or kill them is irresistable, the perfectly logical thing to do is to transport delegations of both races on the same spacecraft and give them full access to the corridors.
Episode 8 – Justice
If you wish to create the perfect utopian society, the best way is by killing people who ignore keep off the grass signs.
Episode 9 – The Battle
When one of the most duplicitous races in the galaxy gives you a spacecraft as a gift, all you need to do to check that it is safe is nip over there and turn the lights on.
Episode 10 – Hide and Q
Any planet that has two moons is so remarkable that you should continually comment on this fact.
Episode 11 – Haven
When a spaceship carrying a deadly plague that will wipe out the entire population is approaching a planet, rather than informing the population that you have tractor beam capability that will prevent it from reaching them, the correct course of action is just to tell them to shut up. They probably won’t panic much.
Episode 12 – The Big Goodbye
Just because someone is a computer generated hologram with no real feelings or emotions doesn’t mean you shouldn’t risk pissing off a race of thoroughly violent and bad tempered space ants in order to reassure him about the direction his life is going.
Episode 13 – Datalore
If you need to scare away a big crystalline entity that has already killed hundreds of people without compunction, the best method is to show it that you are capable of blowing up a tree.
Episode 14 – Angel One
In a female dominated society, it will naturally still be the men who wear the trousers. Even if they are floaty chiffon ones. Also, Klingons have their own sneeze.
Episode 15 – 11001001
When you only have precisely five minutes to save your ship, it is always good to spend the first 15 seconds of it having a chat, then gently stroll to where you need to get to.
Episode 16 – Too Short a Season
In the Federation, it is possible to become an Admiral and be considered a master negotiator, whist still being unable to understand that taking the whole of a years-long course of medicine in one go, probably isn’t going to work.
Episode 17 – When the Bough Breaks
Being a member of an enlightened society which has dedicated itself for millenia to art, beauty and philosophy, does not preclude you from being a bit of an asshole.
Episode 18 – Home Soil
Encountering an intelligent crystalline life form is so surprising, unexpected and unique that everyone will comment on how they never thought such a thing possible, and completely forget that they already encountered one six episodes ago.
Episode 19 – Coming of Age
Rather than choosing candidates for the Starfleet Academy based on qualifications and levels of ability, Starfleet generally considers it better to make entry the star prize in a game show format.
Episode 20 – Heart of Glory
A heavily armed Klingon running through the engineering department is wholly unremarkable. Most people will naturally step aside and let him through, then go on about their business.
Episode 21 – The Arsenal of Freedom
If you need to search an entire planet for weapons development, sending three people randomly to the middle of a forest is quite adequate.
Episode 22 – Symbiosis
Three small aging cargo spacecraft are all that are needed for one planet to supply all the material needs of a second Earth-sized planet on a permanent basis.
Episode 23 – Skin of Evil
If you really need to piss off a talking oil slick, getting Captain Picard to have a chat with it will almost certainly do the trick.
Episode 24 – We’ll Always Have Paris
It your science experiment nearly destroys the fabric of time and reality, and only fails to do so because an android that can withstand it’s effects happens to be in the right place at the right time, it is unlikely that anyone will really mind. In fact, they’ll probably be quite happy for you to go right back and start experimenting again.
Episode 25 – Conspiracy
As a fairly minor Starfleet officer, it is okay to set yourself up a huge room in the middle of Starfleet headquarters with a big throne in the middle of it. Nobody is likely to notice, or ask why you can’t just have an office with a desk like everybody else.
Episode 26 – The Neutral Zone
It is quite unremarkable for a satellite put into orbit around Earth in the late 20th Century, using the technology of that time, to be discovered countless light years away just a few hundred years later, even though that would require it to have travelled at least close to, if not beyond, the speed of light.