Star Trek

The Omega Declaration

KIRK: If my ancestors were forced out of the cities into the deserts, the hills
SPOCK: Yes. I see, Captain. They would’ve learned to wear skins, adopted stoic mannerisms, learned the bow and the lance.
KIRK: Living like the Indians, and finally even looking like the American Indian. American. Yangs? Yanks? Spock, Yankees!
SPOCK: Kohms? Communists? The parallel is almost too close, Captain. It would mean they fought the war your Earth avoided, and in this case, the Asiatics won and took over this planet.
KIRK: But if it were true, all these generations of Yanks fighting to regain their land.
MCCOY: You’re a romantic, Jim.
(A drummer enters. Cloud William stands.)
CLOUD: That which is ours is ours again. It will never be taken from us again.
(A a tattered flag is brought in with great ceremony. Red and white horizontal stripes, with a corner of white stars on blue background. Kirk and the others stand.)
TRACEY: They can be handled, Jim. Together it’ll be easy. I caution you, gentlemen, don’t fight me here. I’ll win. Or at worst, I’ll drag you down with me.
CLOUD: I am Cloud William, chief. Also son of chief. Guardian of the holies, speaker of the holy words, leader of warriors. Many have died, but this is the last of the Kohm places. What is ours is ours again.
(He goes over to the flag and puts his left hand over his heart.)
CLOUD: Aypledgli ianectu flaggen tupep kile for stahn
KIRK: And to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
ELDER: He spoke the holy word!

 

Star Trek, The Omega Glory, March 1, 1968

 

 

 

Shatner the Canadian explains the preamble of the Constitution to us!

 

One of the “alternate Earth” episodes that became fairly common as the original Star Trek series proceeded, as explained by Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development and limited production budgets,  this episode featured an Earth where a cataclysmic war had driven the Americans, the Yangs, out of their cities and into primitive warbands.  Chinese Communists, the Kohms, settled in America.  Their technology was a few steps higher than the Yangs.  The Yangs had been waging a war for generations to drive the Kohms from their land, and the episode coincided with the Yangs taking the last of “the Kohm places”.

Over the generations, the Yangs had forgotten almost all of their history and what little knowledge remained was restricted to priests and chieftains.

“Cloud William: Freedom?
James T. Kirk: Spock.
Spock: Yes, I heard, Captain.
Cloud William: It is a worship word, Yang worship. You will not speak it.
James T. Kirk: Well, well, well. It is… our worship word, too.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Closing of the Science Fiction Mind

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If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

 

 

I have read science fiction since I first learned to read as a child.  I enjoyed the exposure to new ideas and the frequently iconoclastic opinions, many of which I disagreed with, by the great authors of the field:  Asimov, Heinlein, Anderson, Dickson, etc.  Their imagination and writing skills took me far away from the small town in which I lived and enlivened my life by revealing to me that books could be tickets to strange worlds and stranger people.  They helped to teach me to like to read and to like to think, both of which I have found handy throughout my life.  It is sad then to see that science fiction in this country is now beset by those who wish to impose a stifling political orthodoxy on it.  John C. Wright, a science fiction writer and a convert from atheism to Catholicism, gives us the details:

Robert Heinlein could not win a Hugo Award today.

If you are a fan of science fiction, you know how shocking that statement is. If you are not a science fiction fan, I salute you for having better things to do with your time than read stories about space princesses being rescued from bug-eyed monsters by stalwart and clean-limbed fighting men of Virginia; but please let me explain why this is shocking.

Robert Heinlein is without doubt the leading writer in the science fiction field. He was the first to break into the slick magazines or into hardcover. Were it not for him, science fiction would still be languishing in a literary ghetto, no more popular than niche-market stories about samurai or railroad executives.

He was a gadfly. Heinlein’s two most famous novels are Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land. The first challenges the orthodoxy of the Left as much as the second does that of the Right. But in his day, few science fiction readers were offended by his or anyone’s ideas. Science fiction was proud to be a literature of the new and startling. A spirit of intellectual fearlessness was paramount.

A darker time followed. The lamps of the intellect were put out one by one, first in society at large, then in literature, then in our little corner called science fiction. What we have now instead is a smothering fog of caution, of silence, of an unwillingness to speak for fear of offending the perpetually hypersensitive.

Science fiction is under the control of the thought police. The chains are invisible, but real. For a genre that glories in counting George Orwell as one of its own, this is ironic, to say the least.

Myriad examples exist. Orson Scott Card publicly expressed the mildest imaginable opposition to having judges overrule popular votes defining marriage in the traditional way. The uproar of hate directed against this innocent and honorable man is vehement and ongoing. An unsuccessful boycott was organized against the movie Ender’s Game, but he was successfully shoved off a project to write for Superman comics.

Got that? The award-winning Mr. Card, one of the finest science fiction writers today, was forced off the project because the dictates of his religious faith (not to mention his faith in democracy over rule by activist judges) did not agree with the political beliefs of the thought police.

No one accused him of attempting to write a Superman story belittling homosexuals, or belittling anyone. Sales would have grown, not fallen. This was not about money or hurt feelings. It was about this: if a man thinks what St. Paul thought about homosexual acts, he cannot write a children’s yarn about a friendly alien Hercules saving a spunky girl reporter from mad scientists or moon-apes. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Star Trek Medley

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Something for the weekend.  A medley of the Star Trek theme songs.  Ah, what memories they evoke of the endless hours I have wasted watching the various Star Trek shows!  Shatner of course had the best comment regarding obsessive Star Trek viewing.  Go here to view his comment.

Heresy!  Of course at the end of the skit we learn that Shatner was merely demonstrating what the evil Captain Kirk from the “Mirror Mirror” universe would have said to faithful Star Trek fans!  (What a relief!)

That leaves us free to debate important, meaningful questions.  What was the best Star Trek original episode?  I vote for Balance of Terror: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Original Klingon

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Well we haven’t had a Star Trek post in a while and my Chief Geek credentials for the blog need refreshing.  The idea of the Klingons being Shakespeare fans never struck me as far fetched.  The Bard after all has his admirers in all cultures here on Earth and the Germans often refer to him as unser (our) Shakespeare.  Granted that even Shakespeare has his moments of tedium but for those reared on the form of endless torture known as Klingon opera, that would be of no moment. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Constitution Day: Star Trek Style!

 

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One of the “alternate Earth” episodes that became fairly common as the original Star Trek series proceeded, as explained by Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development, and by limited production budgets,  this episode featured an Earth where a cataclysmic war had driven the Americans, the Yangs, out of their cities and into primitive warbands.  Chinese Communists, the Kohms, settled in America.  Their technology was a few steps higher than the Yangs.  The Yangs had been waging a war for generations to drive the Kohms from their land, and the episode coincided with the Yangs taking the last of “the Kohm places”.

Over the generations, the Yangs had forgotten almost all of their history and what little knowledge remained was restricted to priests and chieftains.

“Cloud William: Freedom?

James T. Kirk: Spock.

Spock: Yes, I heard, Captain.

Cloud William: It is a worship word, Yang worship. You will not speak it.

James T. Kirk: Well, well, well. It is… our worship word, too.” ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Prime Directive Debate

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(This post is from 2009.  I haven’t had a Star Trek geek post in a while and I thought it would be fun to repost this.  We had a good discussion the first go round and I hope we will again.)

“As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Starfleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Starfleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.”

Yesterday Darwin had a thought provoking post about the impact of technologically advanced cultures on less developed cultures.  In the combox discussion there were frequent references to the Prime Directive of Star Trek.  This of course gives me an excellent excuse for posting this examination of the Prime Directive and for me to burnish my credentials as the “Geekier-Than-Thou” member of this blog.Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki, has a good discussion here of what the Prime Directive is:

“The Directive states that members of Starfleet are not to interfere in the internal affairs of another species, especially the natural development of pre-warp civilizations, either by direct intervention, or technological revelation. When studying a planet’s civilization, particularly during a planetary survey, the Prime Directive makes it clear that there is to be “No identification of self or mission. No interference with the social development of said planet. No references to space, other worlds, or advanced civilizations.” (TOS: “Bread and Circuses”) Starfleet personnel are required to understand that allowing cultures to develop on their own is an important right and therefore must make any sacrifice to protect cultures from contamination, even at the cost of their own lives.

The Prime Directive is not enforced upon citizens of the Federation. Under the rules as defined in the Directive, a Starfleet crew is forbidden from removing citizens who have interfered with the culture of a world. Violating the directive can result in a court-martial for the offending Starfleet officer or crew. (TNG: “Angel One”)

In all, there are 47 sub-orders in the Prime Directive. (VOY: “Infinite Regress”)

Originally the Directive was a shield for primitive worlds. If such a world was in danger, Starfleet had been known to order ships to save that world, provided it could be done without violating the Directive. (TOS: “The Paradise Syndrome”)

The Directive was later amended, prohibiting Starfleet officers from intervening even if non-intervention would result in the extinction of an entire species or the end of all life on a planet or star system. By the 24th century the Federation had begun applying the Prime Directive to warp-capable species, refusing to interfere in internal matters such as the Klingon Civil War. (TNG: “Pen Pals”, “Homeward”, “Redemption”, “Redemption II”).”

The video that opens this post is from The Star Trek The Next Generation episode Pen Pals, and illustrates well the moral ambiguity that often ensued when Star Fleet officers were faced with a Prime Directive situation.   How can you turn your back on people who need your aid?  How can you be sure that such aid will not have long term calamitous results for the entities you sought to aid?  Is the Prime Directive an absolute as Lieutenant Worf contended, or is there room for interpretation?  What is the guiding purpose of the Prime Directive?

I think that Picard nails it when he says that the Prime Directive was intended for relieving Star Fleet officers from making intervention decisions when their emotions were aroused.  In a time when Star Fleet captains with enormous power at their disposal are often far from the direct control of the Federation I can see much wisdom in this policy.  Of course there are problems with the Prime Directive.

1.    The first problem is that it didn’t work in practice. When the Prime Directive is mentioned in one of the shows, the odds were heavy that the good guys were going to stomp all over the Prime Directive for some noble end.  Some sophistical justification was usually tacked on at the end to justify the violation, but the violation remained clear and glaring.  No consequence resulted from the violation, so one could be excused from assuming that no one in Star Fleet high command really took the Prime Directive all that seriously. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Your Tax Dollars at Play

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As faithful readers of this blog know I am a Star Trek fan.  Therefore I am doubly offended that the IRS decided to spend $60,000 bucks on a Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island parodies:

Yes, the IRS goes boldly where no man has gone before. And like a space tourist, the IRS wrote a check to do it. Some headlines suggest the price tag was $4 million. Actually, the IRS studio itself cost around $4 million but the Trekkie movie was around $60,000. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Fortnight For Freedom Day Six: Freedom is not a “Worship Word”

 

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Beginning for two weeks, up to Independence Day, the Bishops are having a Fortnight For Freedom:

On April 12, the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S.  Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a document, “Our First,  Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the bishops’ concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. The bishops called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21-July 4.

 

Bishops in their own dioceses are encouraged to arrange special events to  highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. Catholic  institutions are encouraged to do the same, especially in cooperation  with other Christians, Jews, people of other faiths and all who wish to  defend our most cherished freedom.

 

The fourteen days from June  21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to  July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for  freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face  of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More,  St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the  Church of Rome.  Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our  Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that  would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for  religious liberty.

 

We here at The American Catholic are participating in the Fortnight For Freedom with special blog posts on each day.  This is the sixth of these blog posts.

Long time readers of this blog will not be surprised to see that I have managed to work a Star Trek episode into one of the Fortnight For Freedom posts!

One of the “alternate Earth” episodes that became fairly common as the original Star Trek series proceeded, as explained by Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development, and stringent episode budgets,  the Omega Glory episode in the video clip at the beginning of this post featured an Earth where a cataclysmic war had driven the Americans, the Yangs, out of their cities and into primitive warbands.  Chinese Communists, the Kohms, settled in America.  Their technology was a few steps higher than the Yangs.  The Yangs had been waging a war for generations to drive the Kohms from their land, and the episode coincided with the Yangs taking the last of “the Kohm places”.

Over the generations, the Yangs had forgotten almost all of their history and what little knowledge remained was restricted to priests and chieftains.

“Cloud William: Freedom?

James T. Kirk: Spock.

Spock: Yes, I heard, Captain.

Cloud William: It is a worship word, Yang worship. You will not speak it.

James T. Kirk: Well, well, well. It is… our worship word, too. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Bread and Circuses

 

 

 

 

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One of the best of the original Star Trek series was the episode Bread and Circuses.  First broadcast on March 5, 1968 during the second season, it was one of the parallel worlds episodes involving an earth like alien world, caused by Hodgkin’s Law of Planetary Development and Roddenberry’s Corollary:

The “Parallel Worlds” concept makes production practical by permitting action-adventure science fiction at a practical budget figure via the use of available “earth” casting, sets, locations costuming and so on.

The episode contains a sharp satire of the world of sixties television:

ANNOUNCER: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Live and direct from City Arena, and in colour, we bring you Name the Winner, brought to you tonight by your Jupiter Eight dealers from coast to coast. In just a moment, tonight’s first heat. We’re in a taped commercial, Proconsul. Forty seconds, then we’ll be back live.
(Claudius, Merik and Kirk take seats on a raised platform. Kirk is manacled, and there are two armed guards behind him. Spock and McCoy are brought out by two guards in full traditional dress.)
ANNOUNCER: Stand by. Ten seconds. And first tonight, ladies and gentlemen, a surprise extra. In the far corner, a pair of highly aggressive barbarians. Strong, intelligent, with strange ways, and I’m sure full of a lot of surprises. And facing them, two favorites here from previous encounters, Achilles and Flavius. (The canned applause is turned up by a bored sound effects man) Victory or death? And for which of them? Well, ladies and gentlemen, you know as much about that at this moment as I do because this is your programme. You name the winner.
FLAVIUS: I don’t mind fighting, but why you?
VOICE [OC]: Begin!
(Achilles takes on Spock. They are well matched. McCoy is against Flavius, and doesn’t know what to do with a short sword.)
ANNOUNCER: Flavius may be getting off to a slow start, but he’s never disappointed this crowd. A close one. The barbarian with the pointed ears seems to be in trouble.
SPOCK: I tell you I’m well able to defeat you.
ACHILLES: Fight, barbarian!
MERIK: Most of my men went the same way. I hoped I would feel it less with yours.
SPOCK: I do not want to injure you.
(The cat-calls and hisses are amplified. Flavius gets a taste of the whip.)
MASTER: Fight, you two. You bring this network’s ratings down, Flavius, and we’ll do a special on you.
']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Favorite Star Trek Episode: Balance of Terror

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Time to refresh my credentials as Chief Geek of TAC!

A condensed version of my favorite Star Trek episode Balance of Terror.  Originally broadcast on December 13, 1966, I have always found it riveting.  It introduced us to the Romulan Star Empire, an offshoot of the Vulcans.  Mark Lenard, one of the most underestimated actors of his generation, gives one of the best performances of the Star Trek franchise as the commander of a Romulan Bird of Prey vessel, equipped with a new cloaking device, making a foray into Federation territory.  Destroying Federation outposts along the Neutral Zone, his mission is to test Federation defenses.  If his mission is successful it will be the signal for an all-out Romulan invasion of the Federation.  Lenard portrays the commander as world-weary and tired.  An extremely able commander, he has seen too much of war, and dreads the massive interstellar conflict his political masters will unleash after he successfully completes his mission.  A Romulan of honor, he will do his duty even though he hates it. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Faster Than Light?

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We will see how all this plays out, but as of now there is a report that neutrinos have been observed traveling slightly faster than the speed of light:

Well, that simple fact may be in the form of the latest experiments at the largest particle accelerators in the world, based at CERN, outside Geneva. Physicists fired a beam of neutrinos (exotic, ghost-like particles that can penetrate even the densest of materials) from Switzerland to Italy, over a distance of 454 miles. Much to their amazement, after analyzing 15,000 neutrinos, they found that they traveled faster than the speed of light—one 60-billionth of a second faster, to be precise. In a billionth of a second, a beam of light travels about one foot. So a difference of 60 feet was quite astonishing.

Cracking the light barrier violated the core of Einstein’s theory. According to relativity, as you approach the speed of light, time slows down, you get heavier, and you also get flatter (all of which have been measured in the lab). But if you go faster than light, then the impossible happens. Time goes backward. You are lighter than nothing, and you have negative width. Since this is ridiculous, you cannot go faster than light, said Einstein. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

On Vacation 2011

Family on Vacation

I am on vacation this week with my family.  My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent.  I will have posts for each day I am away on the blog, but if something momentous occurs, for example:  Elvis is discovered working at a Big Boy’s in Tulsa, the Pope issues a Bull against blogging as a complete waste of time, or there is an alarming outbreak of common sense in the government, I trust that this post will explain why I am not discussing it.

Among other activities we will be attending the Gen Con Convention in Indianapolis, a pilgrimage the McClarey clan makes each year to renew our uber-Geek creds.  If any of you are close to Indianapolis and you have never attended, it is worth a drive to see tens of thousands of role players, board gamers and computer gamers in Congress assembled.  If nothing else you will go home reassured as to how comparatively normal you are.  Last year’s attendance was in excess of 30,000 and there are multitudes of gaming related events.  A good overview of Gen Con is here.  Below is a Gen Con video from 2010 which gives a nice feel of the convention.

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My wife and daughter participate in the live action dungeon at Gen Con.  Here is a trailer for True Dungeon 2011:

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