A-to-Z Challenge Day Nineteen: Starfleet Standard Issue Kilts
Starfleet from Star Trek is…well, it exists as sort of a conundrum in science fiction. It’s definitely a militaristic organization that expands humanity’s reach in the galaxy (perhaps even through colonialism). The Constitution Class Enterprise NCC-1701 is classified as a heavy cruiser, a name which hints at its nature as an armed vessel.
But Starfleet, as exemplified by the Enterprise, is also a flotilla of peace and mercy. They provide assistance and aid to people in need, often without consideration of their political loyalties. The crew of the ship is allowed to follow their passions and their beliefs, and they have remarkable freedom of self-expression (so long as it doesn’t conflict with their duties and the chain-of-command).
So how are we supposed to think about Starfleet? Well, it depends on the context. The Federation is, first and foremost, a true eutopia. The problems that we often see with The Federation (apart from some very rare events) come from without: the Klingons, the Romulans, the Dominion, and all of these other threats constantly clash against the Federation’s idealism. And, really, the Federation should be seen, in total, as a civilization that thrives in a post-scarcity economy. There isn’t any need for money, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t material wealth. It means that all of the basic necessities of life, like shelter, food, medicine, education, and so on are provided as a basic right to everyone.
Starfleet is an extension of the Federation, obviously, to keep the peace and to transfer wealth, food, and medicine through space. Naturally, with all of these external threats, they need to protect themselves and their borders. The entire galaxy is not the Federation, and as we can see, the Federation expands its territories and influence by inducting new worlds into the fold. In some ways it mirrors colonialism, which is probably intentional. Is there a good kind of colonialism? I think that’s a question that Star Trek seeks to explore in a post-scarcity, democratic society.
It’s why we see Starfleet exemplifying the Federation’s most virtuous aspects as well as some of its less virtuous aspects. Multiculturalism, tolerance, respect, and equality are just basic ideas that the crew aboard the Enterprise practices every episode. However, because of the antagonism with the Klingons, we see some attitudes which border on racism from other areas within the Federation and Starfleet.
Remember in the episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” when the station manager contacts Captain Kirk on the Enterprise? He says something like, “The station is being swarmed by Klingons!”
Kirk quipped, “I wasn’t aware that twelve Klingons constitutes a swarm.”
While it is true that the Klingons are aggressive and have a reputation for violence, the attitude of the station manager betrays a kind of bigotry. Kirk, on the other hand, exemplifies the better attitudes of the Federation, even as he continues to let the Klingons on the station for shore leave when there is a fight between the Starfleet officers and the Klingons.
Kirk isn’t always in the right, however. In the episode “Arena,” Kirk wants to use the Enterprise to annihilate the Gorn, responsible for the destruction of a Federation colony on a planet that could have encroached upon Gorn territory. This, I think, represents the other side of the Federation’s power: destruction. But more than that, it demonstrates the humanness of Kirk. While humanity and human society may have evolved past our current limitations, we still have some intrinsic emotional qualities that compel bad action.
Anyway, I’d like to expand on this later, when I’m not writing for a blogging challenge and can develop this idea a bit more thoroughly. I’m pretty sure I can make it more cogent.