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Thursday, May 29, 2003

Star Trek's Department of September 12

I started number 3) in the previous post, below, by saying that sometimes Lileks seems to be reading my mind, as happened the other day. Well, he did it again Friday. Get out of my head, James. You won't like it in there, I promise you. There are dark spaces with pools of unknown substances and rats and things that...feed...upon them. Whatever you do, don't talk to the woman with the yellow eyes.

He does basically what I've done here, except he relates the various guises of Star Trek to the culture at large, rather than to the face that liberalism wears in each, which I think is more accurate. After all, the dull gabby diplomats of Next Generation were launched in 1987, during the Reagan era. The writers of the show tend to be liberals. I know that Roddenberry was (for his time) a very liberal fellow. (Maybe us more hawkish liberals ought to start calling ourselves the James T. Kirk Brigade, or sumpin).

Lileks begins by talking about the season finale of the latest franchise avatar, Enterprise.


As he says, in this episode there's been a suicide attack against Earth, with seven million killed. Through a dumb deus ex machina, Capt. Archer finds out who's behind it. They're called Xindi, and live in "the Delphic Expanse", a mysterious and unexplored region that Capt. Kirk never visited. And they're planning another attack with an even more powerful weapon.

I thought this was a bit too much copying from reality, although the episode was well done, and gripping. The hard, cold expression that Archer and Tucker wore was familiar to me; I wore it for months after 9/11 and could feel it settling on my face again as I watched.

Lileks describes a scene between them:

Captain Archer and his First Officer [sic---major geek failure here; Trip's not the First Officer] are sitting up late at night drinking scotch. (!) The First Officer lost a sister in the suicide attack. He's not exactly the cheerful fellow he used to be. He kills his drink and glares at the captain with angry, haunted eyes. "Tell me we're not going to pussyfoot around when we get in there," he says. "None of that noninterference crap."

Archer stares out the window. "Whatever it takes," he says, and he drains his glass.

This is not your father's Star Trek, you might think. But it is. We're back to the sixties' vision of the future. All Kirked up and ready to roll.

As much as I hate to, I disagree with Lileks' diagnosis. When Archer said, "Whatever it takes", he kept it very ambiguous. I took him to mean, "Yes, if we have to destroy them, we will, but if we can get to know them and come to some understanding, somehow prove to them that we mean them no harm, while, we'll do that instead." He looked a bit disturbed at Trip's bloodthirstiness.

After all, throughout the episode they have a pesky Klingon buzzing about, and it's only on the third encounter, the third time the Klingon endangers their crucial mission, that Archer finally orders him destroyed. But before he does, Archer wastes some of their precious new photon torpedoes on trying to discourage the Klingon without destroying him.

But more importantly, the reason the Xindi attacked earth is that they learned that the Federation would wipe them out in four hundred years. Therefore, obviously we are the aggressors and we must ask ourselves how we can prevent such a horrible catastrophe and atone for this genocide which we didn't even do yet. That kind of resolution is still possible.

(I wondered if I was mis-hearing the name of the attackers, and they were acutally the Kzinti, but this site, among others, spells the name "Xindi". My first guess was Zindi; I've changed it now. Supposedly, chasing after the Xindi is going to be the major activity of the series for at least the next season.)

It remains to be seen what the crew of the Enterprise will do. If Star Trek is a reflection of the current thinking of liberalism, and if Archer unleashes his inner Kirk, it may mean that liberalism can be rescued from the Chomsky choir.