It should come as no surprise to anyone that I’m a Trekkie. I’ve had a lot of theories kicking around, but a thread on the teegees brought one of them to the fore. I’ve been meaning to elaborate on this for a while now, so why not take the time and do it today?
A note on “canon”: I consider the Star Trek MMO to be part of the canon where it doesn’t get particularly silly/contradict established works. Basically, the Battletech attitude towards the whole thing.
Anyway, I’ve always seen the various stories as being an in-‘verse document affected by the politics of the time. You can extract a lot about the state of the Federation by looking at the values and assumptions each series is pushing.
Earth dominates the Federation. American culture is still in the process of going down kicking and screaming; the Western Alliance made First Contact, and they seem to have parlayed that into a cultural dominance of the Earth government. The Vulcans are content to sit back and carefully manipulate the things that actually affect their culture, acting as a mysterious older brother to the younger hotheads. People like T’Pau and her house have tremendous influence on the Federation, but they’re clearly playing the long game. Hell, look at what Mirror Spock does, according to DS9 (manipulate the Terran Empire until becoming Emperor, engineering its collapse and eventual pseudo-redemption. Over generations..). Now, I’m not saying that Spock Prime is doing something similar just because of the mirror Spock’s actions, but.. well, read the rest of this, then think about it.
The Feds are expanding rapidly, have plenty of room to keep going, and right now they only marginally care who they piss off along the way. They’re also coming off of at least 4 brutal wars in quick succession. The Earth was still cleaning up the scars of the last World War when the Andorian War started, and the Federation conquered their first civilization. And, of course, the Vulcans stepped in again and integrated the hot-tempered Andorians and Humans into one Hell of a fighting arm. That would serve them well shortly. The first Klingon War showed the Feds that diplomacy doesn’t always work, and bloodied them against an Empire – not a handful of systems and one species standing up against a larger coalition force.
Then there’s the Romulan War. Many of the older Starfleet officers served, and the younger ones grew up, during it (E.G. Lt. Kyle and Lt. O’Reilly). A faceless and relentless enemy who neither took nor left prisoners systematically nuked and leveled multiple colonies, and the Federation clearly gave as good as they got; it ended in a negotiated pseudo-peace that was still being constantly tested by both sides at least 5 generations later.
Individualist values and retro concepts of “manliness” rule the day. Freedom is the highest ideal. There’s a strong undercurrent of social justice and using power/lethal force responsibly, as well as symbolic exhortations to kill off your gods and serve the Federation. Robots get a lot of hate, but nowhere near as much as the “omnipotent energy beings” although the Organians could be responsible for that, rather than a deliberate attempt to encourage atheism.
The Animated Series shares most of its themes and assumptions with TOS, so I lump them together here.
The Movies (1-6):
These movies seem to be written after the Khittomer Treaty. The Federation is at a crossroads, deprived of the enemies they’ve faced for generations, and is forced to look within for the first time in a long time. These films “humanize” the Klingons, and tell a story of personal redemption and forgiveness of the Klingon people in the face of personal tragedy (with a healthy side of “there are some techs that it’s just not worth having”). Using a well-known warrior and highly-respected diplomat as the main characters make them even more effective. At the end, the old warriors and warships are put on the back burner after cleaning out reactionary elements in the Federation government. Notable for being the first Trek material with a non-Human/Vulcan President of the Federation, and for its subtle presentation of Starfleet’s military arm as a Human institution corrupted by their aggression and passions. Captain Spock is a noble voice for restraint and diplomacy, almost alone among the senior Captains and Admirals of the fleet. Hmm….
The Federation is running out of colonization room, and has just transitioned to a planned economy with police state elements (seemingly within the generation, at a minimum). The Feds haven’t faced a real war in three generations, and it fucking shows. Diplomacy, restraint, and non-interference are the order of the day. (The Cardassian war ended after a short time with a negotiated peace. This no doubt influences their view that the Federation has finally “grown beyond War”). Vulcan ideals of integration, non-violence, even vegetarianism are being pushed hard. The “great enemy” are Capitalists for the first few years, along with reactionary elements in the Federation government and internal corruption, via “alien worms in the stomach”. Worms who make you stronger, more energetic, yet push you into a violent and unstable state.. nah. Doesn’t remind me of anything.
The Vulcans – specifically, T’Pau’s family – quietly begin manipulating the Romulans into a state where they’ll be able to join the Federation, and the Klingons have entered a military alliance. The Feds wrap themselves in a security blanket of peace. The Borg rip it off and violently rape them in the space of a few DAYS. The Federation has to transition from a peacetime planned economy to a wartime footing against an utterly implacable, technologically superior foe they may not even be able to fight, something that pursues the ultimate Socialist ideal. Suddenly the enemies are all about insurgency (the police state is losing control), Fascism (the Cardassians make a great whipping boy for a socialist state, being family-oriented rather than class-oriented; they also show one of the possible paths emotionalism can lead your society down), and Implacable Threats From Beyond (that justify our military buildup and Your Ongoing Sacrifice).
There’s also the theme of personal morality trumping expedience, a strong “exitus non acta probatii” bent to the material, running counter to the otherwise Vulcan ideals of the series. Deliberate sabotage of the message?
Deep Space Nine:
The war memoirs of Jake Sisko. He’s working out his abandonment issues over the loss of his dad, the mutilation and growing insanity of his best friend, and the fundamental blow to the security of the Federation that a >real< interstellar war brings. Note that here Bajor is an idyll, rather than a nest of traitors and saboteurs as in TNG or Voyager; the tone of the series has great sympathy for the Maquis even as they aren’t whitewashed. It also shows the darker side of the Federation unflinchingly, and the way it affects civilians and military alike (Inter Arma, Silent Leges; Home Front; In the Pale Moonlight; For the Uniform…). It’s clearly written from a relatively neutral perspective, albeit one influenced by Cassidy Yates, Mike Eddington, and even Maj. Kira Nerys. Many senior Starfleet officers take a more sinister bent here: look at Adm. Nechayev and her cooperation with (leadership of?) Sec. 31. It’s clearly influenced by the paranoia of the Dominion war as well. Trusted allies suddenly betray the Feds, few people are what they seem, and a strong mystical undercurrent underlies the series; this is also one of the few times a specifically Deist view (rather than generic “spirituality”) is presented positively.
Jayneway’s testimony at her trial for crimes against the Federation. It’s clearly influenced by her batshit insanity and years of deprivation. But since she comes out of it the Admiral in charge of the Romulan Occupation Zone, I’d say she does a decent job of it.
(The “sudden” whiplash romance between Chakotay and 7 of 9 makes a lot more sense if you realize Jayneway’s completely delusional. “He totally lurved me until that alien hussy snapped him up right before we got back to Earth”. Yeah, sure, Cpt. Fraternization. Or he fell for her 5 years ago and you’ve been deliberately ignoring it for as long as possible.)
Riker’s T’Pol/Archer slashfic.
The Federation has come out the other side of a long and horrible series of wars, and begins looking backwards once again. They rationalize the Borg conflicts, show continuity between the “Old Fleet” and the new Federation, and re-ignite the fires of suspicion against the Romulans even as they begin forcibly occupying their space. Again, there’s a push towards recognizing that certain research is dangerous (who wants to live forever, anyway?). The freedom-oriented Remans are repainted as demons, the Romulans a cowed populace subverted by the Feds in general and Vulcans in particular.
…does anyone else find it suspicious that the Romulans and Klingons are both brought down by massive explosions of heavenly bodies right next to their capital worlds, especially once movie 11 demonstrates that the Vulcans have the tech to make a frigging black hole? Let alone the potential of the Genesis device to just enter a matter=energy tranferrence cascade and not build a new planet afterwards…