Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Cogenitor"

****

Air date: 4/30/2003
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You knew you had no business interfering with those people, but you just couldn't let it alone. You thought you were doing the right thing. I might agree if this was Florida or Singapore, but it's not, is it? We're in deep space, and a person is dead — a person who would still be alive if we hadn't made first contact." — Archer to Trip

In brief: Yes. This is what I want to see.

Now here's the sort of episode that suggests the true potential of Enterprise as a series — an episode that takes every correct turn where it could've compromised itself by taking the safer road where human values automatically trump all else. It does not take the safer roads, for which I am grateful. By the end, it emerges as the best and most probing episode of the season. This is what is possible when a story takes a risk; that risk can pay off.

The grossly inaccurate trailer, which is played on an inappropriate note of ha-ha levity, makes this show out to be some sort of sci-fi sex comedy. It certainly is not. What was advertised is not even close to what they are selling. This story is no lightweight. By the end, it is dead serious.

What "Cogenitor" offers is some tough questions, tough answers, and surprisingly tough consequences. The last act is nothing short of a revelation (for this series, anyway), as we see exactly how badly good intentions can go wrong.

The episode begins on a refreshing note: first contact with a friendly race of explorers called the Vissians, who for once seem like real space travelers rather than artificial constructs for the sake of conflict. "It'll be nice to have a first contact where no one's thinking about charging weapons," Trip notes tellingly. The thing about aliens on Star Trek is that they're so often used as a shortcut source for shallow conflict. But conflict in real drama should be about situations and circumstances, not about "us" versus "them." Here is an episode that knows this. It also knows that the conflict is not just about two opposing groups of people, but about the multiple approaches to questions, opinions, and actions.

The Enterprise crew and the Vissians team up to study a star in the early stages of supernova. Archer quickly develops a pleasant rapport with Vissian Captain Drennik (Andreas Katsulas, who will be familiar to many genre fans) and the two take a specially shielded Vissian pod on a three-day survey of the star up close. T'Pol takes command of the Enterprise. The human crew and the Vissian crew socially interact and begin learning about each another.

Tucker befriends the Vissian engineer (F.J. Rio) and his wife (Larissa Laskin), and meets a mysterious individual called a "cogenitor" (Becky Wahlstrom). The cogenitor lives with the couple in their quarters on the Vissian ship. The cogenitor is actually a third sex that is required for Vissians to conceive children, providing, as Phlox explains, a crucial enzyme to enable conception from the male and female. In Vissian society, the cogenitors make up a very small percentage of the population (there is only one cogenitor on this ship), and have little standing in society, serving only the purpose of aiding in conception.

Phlox and T'Pol are familiar with three-sexed species, but this is a new one for Trip and, for that matter, for the Star Trek audience in general. The cogenitor here is a quiet individual. The other Vissians refer to this nameless person only as "it," which quickly arouses our suspicion in regard to the status of these people in Vissian society. "They treat her like a pet," Trip notes unhappily.

One of the pleasures I had during this episode was seeing how the show and I were constantly on the same wavelength. As the story established its elements and planted its seeds, I found myself thinking about how things would play out given what I knew about the situation and the characters. On more than one instance, as I was thinking something, the show's progress would follow in the direction of my own feelings. This should not be mistaken for predictability, but rather a show that lays out a logical story arc and prompts our intuition, and then moves in the direction that properly follows the story's logic.

Consider, for example, the way the story sets up Trip's concern for the rights of this individual. The treatment of the cogenitor is depicted as a questionable and possibly troubling issue, but in a subtle way. The Vissians treat the cogenitor with casual indifference — neither friendly nor unfriendly, but simply regarded neutrally as an object. Trip becomes the voice for our own developing troubled feelings regarding the cogenitor.

Then, in its slick and subtle way, the story turns the tables on us and we begin to see the potential disaster of Trip taking matters of this situation into his own hands. He starts telling the Vissians lies about where he is going and what he is doing. He spends time with the cogenitor without the Vissians' permission. He teaches the cogenitor to read and puts human ideas of independence and growth in her head. He tells her that she has the same mental capacity as the other Vissians, and he even proves it with a neural scan that hints at the cogenitor's true potential.

We understand Trip's feelings and why he is doing what he is doing, but we gradually see that it's the wrong thing to do and the wrong way to go about it. We see that this could blow up in his face. I like how the story hints at consequences for Trip's poor choices and then delivers on them, plausibly and forcefully. Given the nature of the dilemma and the central question of the cogenitor's "human" rights, the story could've let Trip off the hook for his actions. Much to my satisfaction, it does not. In the end, the show comes to the sober realization that this is not a story about human rights for a Vissian cogenitor. It's about the issue of human interference in alien cultures.

When Trip teaches the cogenitor to read, she's able to learn in a single day. Is this plausible? I don't think so, but I'm not too concerned about it. That the cogenitor can learn to read so quickly is simply a matter of narrative shorthand. The point here is that Trip's actions open an individual's eyes to completely new possibilities — possibilities that are wonderful and awesome and quite likely to change this individual's life ... before then being taken away as quickly as they were given. It's like "Flowers for Algernon," but with a central figure that's painfully aware of exactly what it's being forced to give up.

There's another question here, one that I'm struggling with. How could the cogenitors in Vissian society really not know what they're missing? If they have the same intellectual potential as the rest of the Vissians, how is it they haven't realized this potential before, even in small numbers? Surely what Trip unleashes here has previously happened internal to their society with their own cogenitor sympathizers. How couldn't it? And logically, a subjugated subset of a population with this sort of intelligence would know they are being subjugated and would in some way revolt, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. The Vissian cogenitors don't seem to be aware of their subjugation, and the Vissian males and females don't seem to be aware that what they are doing is subjugation. It's simply an internal cultural fact, one that perhaps is impossible to understand in human terms. (Are we a product of only what we're permitted to experience? If so, Vissian cogenitors apparently are not permitted to experience much of anything, short of brainwashing and built-in repression.) But given how "Cogenitor" plays out — with the cogentior's eyes being opened and her desire to keep them open — this accepted belief by all the Vissians seems impossible. Not that this hurts the story; it simply makes me even more curious to explore the story points.

It also brings up that difficult issue of cultural moral relativism. The Vissians are right when they explain that we know nothing of their culture. But are they right to treat the cogenitors as they do? On human terms, of course not, but as Captain Drennik points out, "We're not on your world." It's not a particularly satisfying answer, but it is 100 percent true.

Putting all the moral questions aside, the real point here is that Trip interferes where he has no business interfering. The story strikes a fascinating balance between Trip's intentions to right what he believes is a wrong (in human terms), with the fact that he is so calculating in his efforts to do so without anybody else finding out. Just watch the way Trip carefully drops hints to the Vissian engineer to invite him to a meal in their quarters, so Trip can meet the cogenitor and take medical readings. Look at how he ignores T'Pol and walks away when she suggests he not get involved. Deep down, Trip knows he shouldn't be doing what he's doing (sneaking around, hiding things from the Vissians, etc.), and yet he forges ahead anyway, damn the consequences — and there are severe consequences — because he thinks he is doing the right thing. When the Vissians discover what has happened, they're not happy, and they demand the return of their cogenitor, which Archer grants despite her request for asylum. The cogenitor later commits suicide, apparently knowing her existence in society will henceforth be an empty one.

So because of Trip's meddling, a person is dead and a couple will not be able to conceive their child. I guess that's what they call a cautionary tale.

Like last season's wonderful "Dear Doctor" (among other episodes), "Cogenitor" is yet another episode that shows why the Prime Directive will be necessary. When you have a situation like this that's full of gray areas and potentially disastrous consequences, you begin to realize why dealing with such situations will require something more absolute than a judgment call.

The final act of "Cogenitor" is a potent one, well acted and directed, where Archer calls Trip on the mat to answer for his actions, and the news of the suicide is revealed. The strength of the language here surprised me: Archer has two tirades that do not go easy on Trip, with some potent lines including:

  • "We're out here to meet new species, not to tell them what to do."
  • "You did exactly what I'd do? If that's true, I've done a pretty lousy job setting an example around here." And, "Don't tell me you know what I would've done when I don't even know what I would've done."
  • Trip: "I'm responsible [for the cogenitor's death]." Archer: "You're damned right, you're responsible."
  • "You knew you had no business interfering with those people, but you just couldn't let it alone. You thought you were doing the right thing. I might agree if this was Florida or Singapore, but it's not, is it? We're in deep space, and a person is dead — a person who would still be alive if we hadn't made first contact."

It's also notable that, throughout all this, the Vissians, particularly Captain Drennik, are endlessly reasonable. Indeed, the Vissians are novel because they come across as real explorers trying to make friends. The genuine chemistry between Archer and Drennik during the survey mission in the Vissian pod (featuring some good FX sequences, by the way) is reassuring, particularly because of Katsulas' affable persona.

"Cogenitor," while excellent, isn't perfect. I'll briefly mention the subplot between Lt. Reed and the Vissian woman who invites Reed to sleep with her. Her rationale is that Vissian customs say a woman will choose to have dinner with a man only after he has proven his worthiness in bed. No pressure. (I'm now imagining the resulting sitcom where sex is shown as the precursor and the drudgery, while talking over a candlelit dinner is the long-sought payoff.) Odd, how this story thread is created and then hastily dropped as if it had been an afterthought. (It also features at least one groaner of a line when Reed says, "I'll show you mine if you show me yours." Notable is that Reed himself can barely bring himself to say this without pausing in doubt.)

On the whole, "Cogenitor" is an Enterprise-specific episode of Trek that takes advantage of this series' premise. It's brave enough to show something that we need to see in this first Starfleet mission: humans screwing up and creating messy problems that are their own fault. The crew isn't perfect and human morality is not absolute. We don't have all the answers. It's to this story's credit that it takes a strong position on the interference issue while offering up other questions that are tough to come to terms with. This show has meat on its bones.

The last shot of a disappointed and remorseful Archer is, to me, of particular interest. I think it shows Archer's realization that, in a way, the failure is his own and he blames himself. He hasn't set a solid or consistent enough example on the interference issue, and he hasn't gotten through to Trip or his crew. There is work to be done. Starfleet has a lot to learn about dealing with other societies. That is what "Cogenitor" is all about. And that's where Enterprise has an opportunity to say something new.

Next week: Helmet! So, at last, we meet the Borg for the first time for the last time!

Previous episode: The Breach
Next episode: Regeneration

Season Index

148 comments on this review

stallion - Tue, Sep 25, 2007 - 11:36pm (USA Central)
I think out of all the four seasons Enterprise had season 2 was the weakest. I think if they was able to make more Episode like this, First flight, Minefield and Deadstop this season would had been great but at the sametimethe only reason we got the Xindi arc was because of the response of season 2 and I happened to love the Xindi arc. I love the idea of Archer and his crew having a year of hell.
TG - Sun, Mar 23, 2008 - 7:06pm (USA Central)
"And logically, a subjugated subset of a population with this sort of intelligence would know they are being subjugated and would in some way revolt, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. "
There is a (to me) rather obvious parallell in human history: The way women have traditionally been treated in most societies. They have been (and in some societies still are) banned from getting an education, they have been banned from most meaningful occupations, and have frequently been seen as having no value except to provide (male) children. And the reason they haven't revolted (and possibly why the cogenitors haven't) is that they themselves are dependend on their subjugators for continued existence. You can theoretically have a society where one skin color revolts against the other, or where one religion tried to exterminate the other, but one gender cannot rise in rebellion to eliminate the other. Resolving that kind of conflict is extremely difficult - and in the trek example, the cogenitors were even severely inferior in numbers, unlike women the real world example. In short this episode seemed to me to be the perfect feminist parable, where 'Stigma' utterly failed to be the same for hiv/aids.
AJ Koravkrian - Mon, May 5, 2008 - 10:21pm (USA Central)
Ah! Finally! This is the first Enterprise episode I have been able to actually watch without getting frustrated by the fact that its title has the name Star Trek on it.

So I guess any child born on their planet could be either male, female, or cogenitor. I wonder what the chief engineer and his wife would say if their much awaited child would turn out to be a cogenitor. Even though the probability is extremely low, there is still a possibility of that happening.
Straha - Fri, Nov 28, 2008 - 3:21am (USA Central)
It`s a good episode alright, and to be sure, it was not on Trip to force some issue here, especially not in a "first contact" situation. I still can't bring myself to think of the episode as an outstanding one because I simply wasn't very convinced by the premise. Like Jammer said: If the cogenitors are so mentally capable, they all by themselves would have sought a minimum of rights during the last 1000 years or so. What Trip achieves in just one day of interference only makes that point of critique stronger. And considering that the Vissians seem just so enlightened in all other respects (treating aliens as their equals for example), it's not quite credible that they would not even show so much as a glimpse of doubt regarding their treatment of the cogenitors. What IS the criterion according to which someone is to be treated as a person IF NOT their mental (cognitive, motivational and emotional) potential allowing them to think, act and feel like one?
Alexey Bogatiryov - Sun, Mar 22, 2009 - 11:19pm (USA Central)
Was probably my favorite Enterprise episode. was a very fresh First Contact situation that I foudn very plausible!
limey - Fri, Apr 24, 2009 - 9:14pm (USA Central)
Liked this episode, but Trip's immediate and overencompassing interest in the cogenitor felt a bit rushed and contrived.

The Enterprise encounters a friendly advanced species and Trip is barely interested in the engineering marvels they're willing to share. I couldn't buy this, and so found Trip's ever increasing interference difficult to believe.
jaseman125 - Mon, Apr 5, 2010 - 9:01am (USA Central)
I thought Trip did the right thing. If you see wrongdoing and do nothing to help, you are condoning the act. The Cogenitor's deserved to have an opportunity to reach their potential. If they are going on the principal of non-interference, then they should also have took no interest in the superior technology of the Vissians for the same reasons - They might discover a technology that their society is not yet ready for - Like giving Hitler Nuclear Weapons. I don't buy into that ideal. We must decide how to use technology morally rather than trying to surpress the knowledge.
Katie - Sun, Apr 18, 2010 - 12:43pm (USA Central)
I really liked this episode, but was very put off by Archer's high-handed dressing down of Trip at the end. In terms of first contact screw-ups with potentially severe repercussions, Trip's actions seemed a lot more understandable and a lot less stupid than Archer's decision to escalate a war rather than admit that he and Reed were aliens in "The Communicator." Leaving one side of a conflict with the impression that its opponents are in the midst of developing vastly superior technology seems like it could cause a lot of deaths. But, of course, neither Archer nor the audience was ever given a look at the outcome of that situation.
ippolite - Wed, Aug 18, 2010 - 11:06am (USA Central)
Of all the unconscionable acts Enterprise commits wherever it goes - from warmongering to genocide - the one at which Archer draws a line in the sand is helping one oppressed, emotionally abused individual with their self-esteem.

The production company should have provided some supervisors to ensure the writers stayed on their medication. There are unparalleled levels of doublethink going on in this series.
Spencer - Mon, Oct 11, 2010 - 11:33pm (USA Central)
Personally, I'm convinced that this episode script must have been recycled from some other Trek series or else ghost written by someone other than the writers who usually handle ENT.

There is no continuity between Archer's actions over the previous seasons and his dressing down of Trip at the end here. As was said above, he has made much worse first contact blunders.

Also, Trip playing GO? He is way too much of a dunce to be so good as to be undefeated at the game, as he claims.

Even something as small as these aliens' preference for a meal's aroma rather than its taste seems altogether too subtle (to say nothing of reasonable) a development for the typically sledgehammer-like cultural differences they've dreamed up for other aliens (e.g., "you eat like you have sex," or whatever that nonsense was).

I watched this episode several years ago out of context, having never seen any other ENT ep. I thought it was really good. In context, it rings sort of hollow in light of the character inconsistency. I would much rather ENT was this way, but it hasn't been.
Josh - Sat, Oct 23, 2010 - 3:38am (USA Central)
What I really liked about this episode was the end, when Archer told Trip that there would be consequences, and just left Trip to himself. Basically telling Trip that he would have to live with the suicide on his conscience. I WISH they had done more with this throughout the series. It would have made for some great storytelling.
RussS - Tue, Nov 9, 2010 - 2:50am (USA Central)
Really good episode.

Makes up for some (but not all) of the garbage so far. Not the genocide though. And not the execution of the non-corporeals just trying to survive.

Still, Trip's actions were implausible. Like there wouldn't be established guidlelines for this type of thing on a starship? They're out there to meet aliens. You'd think someone would have thought about potential pitfalls beforehand, based on historical problems between cultures on earth.

Another anoying thing for me is that the Vissians were basically Americans in space. The way they expressed themsleves ("Thank you for the invitation, Captain. We would be honored"), their willingness to talk about intimate things, their desire to become close friends after just five minutes, all of this made the encounter basically like meeting people from Milwaukee.

What could be easier than meeting some dude from Milwaukee? The fact is, these Vissians had more in common with Americans than Candians do. Compared to the Vissians, Swedes might as well be the rock people from TOS. Nobody, I mean nobody talks the way Vissians do except us.

And if the Enterprise can't even meet Americans in space wthout screwing it up, maybe their mission should be recalled.
Marco P. - Sat, Mar 26, 2011 - 10:39am (USA Central)
Well, at least it was interesting. It wasn't general low-key Enterprise garbage this time.

The whole idea of a third sex, and an individual deprived of the ability to fulfill its potential because of the reproductive role he holds within an alien society is an interesting one. It isn't ORIGINAL mind you... (this story was taken from the "Alien Nation" episode "Three to Tango", 1989, as I found out from www.firsttvdrama.com/enterprise/e48.php3 )... but at least it's interesting.

Unfortunately while the theme & idea had great potential, this episode falls horrendously short on two levels for me.

Firstly, as ippolite stated, the "unparalleled levels of doublethink" going on in this series. With every major fu**-up Archer has been involved in since the show began, he has no business giving that talking-to to Trip. He has done way worse. "If that's true, I've done a pretty lousy job setting an example around here". Yes you have, douchebag.

And secondly... why does Trip always have to be such a moron??? I mean, good intentions aside, why did the writers feel the need to make his attempt at fighting for the cogenitor's basic rights feel so awkward? Midway through the episode, why can't I help but cringe at the obvious negative impact Trip's actions will have by the time credits roll? WHY is every character from TNG, DS9, and even Voyager a role model of sorts (despite a few shortcomings), while for every major player in Enterprise I can only feel disdain or indifference?

Dare I think how more graceful this entire episode would have been, if the crusader for the cogenitor's existential rights had been someone like... Picard, Riker, or Troi?

Good God these writers suck.
Eric Dugdale - Wed, Jul 6, 2011 - 8:40am (USA Central)
I had a different take on Archer's tirade against Trip at the end. I took his harshness as a result of his own feelings of guilt/responsibility. He HASN'T set a good example, this ISN'T the worst thing that Enterprise has done in a first-contact situation, and on some level Archer realizes taht. And it's knawing at him. Yet, he can't very well come out and address that fact directly right here. He has to START setting the right example, and he does so angrily because of all that background.

Am I reading too much into it?
Jay - Sun, Sep 18, 2011 - 1:01pm (USA Central)
The story was right to take the turns it made here, but I sincerely hope this race wouldn't be permitted into the Federation with this subclass of its society treated this way. And everything we've heard about the Federation indicates it wouldn't be.
Christopher - Mon, Nov 28, 2011 - 6:29am (USA Central)
I really dont understand how this episode warrented a 4 star review. The characters actions made no sense (Trips facination for the cogenitor, the aliens complete disregard for it even though they seem so enlightened in other ways, the cogenitors sitting around all day long and doing nothing, Archer taking the moral high ground when he has done so much WORSE).

My main problem is this- the cogenitor killed themself because it didnt want to live the way it was- could anyone really say that the cogenitor was properly alive as it living was before Trip intervened? I think I would rather live for a weekend and die than live out my existance as a pet. The only people inconvienced were the Vissians not being able to have a kid.

And as said above, this show's problem is that the characters are so unlikeable and are not good as role models like you would see on other ST series over the years.
Eric - Thu, Mar 29, 2012 - 8:37pm (USA Central)
While this is no doubt a tricky moral situation, and a very good episode because of it, I am surprised to see there aren't more commenters questioning Archer's decision to send the cogenitor back (on ethical grounds rather than just as a lack of consistency with his other actions).

Doesn't the prime directive (once it is officially established) only, or at least primarily, apply to pre-warp species? With that distinction in mind, I think a request for asylum like this would be taken much more seriously, and possibly granted, by Picard (in my mind the preeminent defender of the prime directive). Arguably the advanced Vissians "should have known better" than to not anticipate some attempt at interference from the new-to-space humans (perhaps even on this particular issue considering that they know that three genders is not the norm in the galaxy).

Without a doubt Tucker should be reprimanded for his deceptive tactics and even for his interference. However, once the damage was done, with the cogenitor rethinking its existence and making such an explicit, clear, and legitimate request for asylum, denying the request is not the moral choice. It is only the political choice. Although how he went about it was wrong, Tucker gave her a chance for life. Her death is on Archer's conscience. Her suicide is evidence that the request for asylum was real and was warranted under the situation.

I don't even think the political fallout would likely have been that large. While granting the asylum would not have endeared humans to the Vissians, I also cannot imagine it causing irreparable damage considering the relationship already developed between Archer and the Vissian captain and how reasonably the captain was taking the asylum request. At best Archer might have appealed to the captain's logic that the cogenitor had already been "corrupted" beyond redemption and would only spread rebellion among other cogenitors. At worst you would have had one inconvenienced couple and maybe the Vissians considering a prime directive of their own (it seems surprising they don't already have one, if they are worried about interference with their culture, and/or haven't run into situations like this before). Nor can I imagine this incident (especially with no other cogenitors on their ship) making much an impact on the treatment or political consciousness of other cogenitors.
Sj - Thu, Apr 12, 2012 - 1:34pm (USA Central)
I love this episode it is hands down one of my favourites of all the series.

I also think many commentors reactions to it are indicative of some really clever writing as well, summarised I think by RussS' "Americans in space" quote. See, I didn't think the Vissians were 'Americans in space' - the thing is, they looked like they were, their mannerisms were similar, so was the food, the layout of the ship, the living arrangements...everything but, well, their culture.

I find it a bit ironic that for years and years we've had crazy looking aliens with all sorts of appendages, but whose culture and society are identical to ours but for superficial deviations ("we investigate all anomalies before talking to our superiors!"); but here for one of the first times on Trek we have a society, that is superficially familiar to us but has standards and concepts are truly alien - and the first thing everyone thinks to do is judge them by our own standards, assuming Trip is 'correct' and that the cogenitor is being 'denied' basic 'rights'.

Archer says as much in his tirade.

No one on here can say the cogenitor (or their gender) was being abused or subjugated - not just because we know nothing about this species and how it works - but because we don't even know what the meaning of these words are in their society.

I think the episode did such a good job of getting everyone to see the issue through Trips eyes, not even Archer's awesome truth smackdown at the end was enough to break the illusion!
Paul York - Sun, May 13, 2012 - 8:40pm (USA Central)
Re: the comment: "but are they right to treat the cogenitors as they do? On human terms, of course not, but as Captain Drennik points out, "We're not on your world." It's not a particularly satisfying answer, but it is 100 percent true . . .the real point here is that Trip interferes where he has no business interfering."

No, in fact human rights ARE universal in scope, because according to Kant and other Enlightenment philosophers they properly apply to ALL rational beings, and beyond that to all sentient, intelligent beings who are individuals. The Cogenitor qualifies; thus her / its rights are inalienable, they cannot be taken away arbitrarily. I have to agree with Trip on this and disagree with T'Pol and Archer. He did the right thing by coming to the aid of a fellow sentient, intelligent being (human or not), trying to help her have autonomy of the will, liberty, freedom.

To reduce morality as T'Pol does by calling it an "opinion" is quite wrong and really reflects poorly on Vulcans in general. Morality must have a universal foundation that applies to all, or else it is arbitrary, it becomes moral relativism, and that quickly leads to nihilism -- the belief that morality doesn't matter at all.

For example, enlightened aliens could look at humans in the 19th century and say we had human slavery but it is none of their concern -- well, in fact it would be their duty to say something against this injustice if they knew about it, because it is wrong. Rights are universal, not to be withheld because of geography.
Cloudane - Wed, May 30, 2012 - 6:39pm (USA Central)
"It'll be 100 years before it goes nova"
- I was awaiting the OH SHI- KABOOM

"It'll be nice to have a first contact where no one's thinking about charging weapons"
- I was awaiting weapons fire

I knew we were in for a good episode when both of those clichés were averted. Nice! How wonderful that they were friendly, too!
(You know when a show about peaceful exploration has been going wrong for a long time when this is so refreshing)

Trip's face when he found he couldn't directly mate with the blondes he picked up :P But hey, he gained noble intentions (if rather badly implemented, with the consequences that they had). And I was infinitely glad that the slight reminders I had of Riker in that episode with the non-gendered species weren't followed through with the same quality - there were some similarities but this was so much better.

It's very easy to judge Trip based on already coming from a future series where non-interference is very much set in place and this kind of thing is a bit closer to common sense (though those days also of course had their substantial debates). For a moment I was honestly hoping/expecting for Archer to pull a Janeway and rip one of his collar pips off in an angry demotion, and let's be honest, for a first officer to be sneaking around and interfering like this knowing he's doing wrong he'd absolutely deserve it. His intentions were great, and he could've started some good debates/talks with these people to try and influence their culture, but instead his implementation was to blunder in and sneak around and act - frankly - like an idiot.

But it's not so clear cut, now, is it? They haven't _had_ all these lessons and directives yet, and even Picard admitted that he didn't want a crew who would blindly follow orders and ignore their own morality. Then you get to the obvious question: is Archer really in the position to be throwing stones from the moral high ground, having not only the history of worse things behind him but also having refused asylum and thus the responsibility for his subordinate's effects on the cogenitor? Or indeed as Jammer says, he also has kind of failed as a leader to get this through to everyone. It's all debatable and there are many grey areas - that's what I love about it.

I also rather feel sorry for Trip, that he's been left to deal with the full responsibility and conscience. It's certainly not something I'd deal with easily even if there hadn't been all the wrongdoing involved. Meaty stuff indeed.

As an aside, the cogenitor learning so quickly felt plausible enough to me because of their captain being able to read and memorise so quickly, and that concept itself was introduced in a wonderfully natural way as part of cultural exchange between the captains. Far beats the exposition or "they just learn fast, ok?" technique.

"Enterprise-specific episode of Trek" - this is what we needed more of. There's no point of having the prequel if it's just going to be treated as the same thing with slightly different terminology, but luckily episodes like this keep me watching.

Excellent - can't argue with 4 stars at all. Biggest textwall comment I've made for quite some time says it all.
CeeBee - Wed, Aug 29, 2012 - 6:18pm (USA Central)
Didn't let Archer die a whole race in Dear Doctor because he thought it unethical to interfere with other cultures and their "natural way of living"?
And no he's disturbed over the death of one individual. His speech to Trip is beyond belief.

More annoying is that there's no subtlety in the supposed message the writers tried to convey. These people on the Enterprise don't act out of their underbelly, they practically live there. I wonder what that training of theirs back on Earth consisted of.
Zane314 - Fri, Sep 7, 2012 - 8:40pm (USA Central)
This was quite an episode, Jammer nailed it. I might go 3.8 stars but we only do 1/2 star units here. I was a little taken back by Trip's recklessness educating the "it" when he should know this is way out of bounds. In fact, they might meet races that are much, much worse to some of their peoples than we saw here. E.g. chattel slavery. I like the observation in an earlier comment about how this mirrored treatment of women though I'd add this treatment of women still occurs in some places and some people still want it to be the standard (almost all men of course). Anyway excellent episode, effects, and guest stars. It was great to see Commander Tomalak again; his easy manner with Archer really worked well. I didn't mind Reed and his forward alien though some of their dialog was a bit painful. The suicide was heavy and not very "lightweight" like most Enterprise stuff but it was realistic - actions have consequences that are sometimes tragic. Lastly, I really liked Arched chewing out Trip at the end; it's what I wanted to do the whole episode! I thought it might end in a demotion or at least a permanent mark on Trip's record but I guess I should be happy with a chew out. This scene so reminded me of Adama chewing out ... well, anybody! Adama gave these talks to Starbuck, Sharon, Lee, probably others. I particularly liked how Archer kept his back to Trip when he dismissed and Trip seemed taken about by that and the whole chew out. Excellent episode, very good tv sci-fi.
Elphaba - Sat, Sep 15, 2012 - 6:41pm (USA Central)
"It'll be nice to have a first contact where no one's thinking about charging weapons"

When Trip said that, I basically yelled at the screen: NO SHIT SHERLOCK.

Same thing when Archer said he hadn't set a very good example to his crew about how to conduct affairs with other cultures.

I constantly expected in this episode for the writers to fuck it up and end with a firefight. I was almost certain it would happen in the last ten minutes. When it didn't I was absolutely shocked. And very pleased. This is what Enterprise should have been. I honestly can't believe that B & B wrote this, given their love for stripping T'Pol and Hoshi and relying on unnecessary action. There's just no way B & B wrote this. I can't imagine them resolving a story like this without a firefight at the end.

This episode is what a First Contact/Prime Directive episode should really be about. This is the reason the Prime Directive was invented. Not that bullshit immoral episode that I refuse to accept into continuity, "Dear Doctor." This is what a Star Trek prequel should be about: the knee-jerk reaction to help as a human versus the high-minded morality of non-interference. These are the sorts of issues that are worth exploring in a Star Trek prequel. Unfortunately most of Enterprise doesn't particularly care. But this is a gem in an otherwise horrible horrible season and show. A diamond in the rough.

And yes, taken out of context, the actions of the characters are very much so out of character. That's because B & B couldn't possibly have written it. This script requires competent writers. But taken on its own simply as a Trek episode, it is very good. Ignore the rest of the idiocy in Enterprise. It's mediocre at best and immoral at worst.
Elphaba - Sat, Sep 15, 2012 - 8:11pm (USA Central)
Addendum to my above:

This kind of episode would be an average episode by TNG or DS9 standards. But it's ironic that when it's an Enterprise episode, we all get excited. Just goes to show how utterly bad this series is so far. Especially by Star Trek standards.
Jay - Mon, Dec 3, 2012 - 1:25pm (USA Central)
CeeBee sez:

"Didn't let Archer die a whole race in Dear Doctor because he thought it unethical to interfere with other cultures and their "natural way of living"?
And no he's disturbed over the death of one individual. "

In both scenarios he was on the side of noninterference, so it's consistent.
John the younger - Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - 1:24am (USA Central)
I very good episode indeed; I would agree with most of what you've said Jammer.

I also very much agree with Eric's comments above, particularly the points about Archer's decision to send the cogenitor back. As he says; "once the damage was done, with the cogenitor rethinking its existence and making such an explicit, clear, and legitimate request for asylum, denying the request is not the moral choice. It is only the political choice."

So during the 'Archer chewing out Tucker' scene, there should have been a throwaway line about Archer having contacted Starfleet and them ordering him to release the cogenitor on politcal grounds. If they'd just rectified that issue I would rate this as a real Trek Classic.

Anyway, as is, it's still a first-rate, thought-provoking episode.

Note: I'm willing to give the writers the benefit of the doubt and assume that Archer was indeed expressing some genuine guilt when he said "You did exactly what I'd do? If that's true, I've done a pretty lousy job setting an example around here."
CeeBee - Fri, Dec 28, 2012 - 5:08am (USA Central)
@Jay
When it comes to sticking to a principle you are right, of course. But my main point is again that it shows how convoluted Archer's ethics are.

His implicit message to Tucker was: had you not interfered, we wouldn't have had a death on our hands. If the reason Archer is so upset over one death due to some decision, then why wasn't he disturbed about those millions he left dying back then due to his own decision?
And we know how consistent his ethics are.

Visiting a medieval world (Civilizations) he dispenses medication to cure a few people that didn't ask for help, obviously not making him feel bad. Result: many lives saved through interference.

In Dear Doctor he withholds an advanced civilization medication that specifically asked him for help. He let them die without as much as shedding a tear. Result: millions of deaths through non-interference.

In The Communicator he sends a civilization into a deadly war because these people shouldn't discover three advanced transistors and two futuristic condensors in a piece of equipment. Result: possibly millions of deaths through non-interference.

And now again he refuses to interfere again, sending a sentient being into death. Remember: it was HIS decision to _stop_ interfering here, not Tucker's. If he had interfered and given it refuge it would not have commited suicide. Result: one death through non-interference and he's upset about that death because it's the result of interference.

If you see time and again that non-interference leads to death and destruction, sometimes millions of people at a time, and interference leads to lives saved, you should reconsider your non-interference ethics. Archer couldn't be bothered. In his arrogance he even lectures other about these genocidal ethics.

It has been said so often: Archer is written as a psychopath and it's totally unclear how future Star Trek ever came to embrace such a non-interference "prime directive" if it gives such a repeated and guaranteed high death toll. In my opinion viewers shouldn't be pointing out those gaping flaws of ethic and logic.
Q - Fri, Dec 28, 2012 - 10:33pm (USA Central)
Yes. Far better argumentation for PD delivers B5' episode "Believers" written by "our" Gerrold:
www.astro.umd.edu/~avondale/Reviews/B5/s1-believers.html

Maybe 8abylon 5 isn't Trek, but renamed Star Trek: The Birth of Federation or Star Tek: Babel 5:
foolquest.com/star_trek_the_ship_of_fools/foolquest.htm
with cosmetic changes (another names, another aliens' characterisation) it will makes Trek prequel far better then ENT.
Q - Sat, Dec 29, 2012 - 3:23am (USA Central)
ps. Babylon 5 is maybe not Trek-ish in narrative structures, and not very Trek-ish in tone, but have TOS veterans (Fontana, Gerrold and Ellison) as writers and Majel's famous cameo.
And... yes, I know that B5 plagiarised TOS "Journey to Babel" (partially it was Fontana's self-plagiarism), and DS9 later plagiarised B5, but I like it, as I like Trek and Star Wars "allusions" and cliches in Firefly/Serenity or Wormhole Aliens... err.. wormhole builders in FarScape. It looks as parallel timelines in one BIG universe (you know, TNG "Parallels") or side effects of (in)famous Temporal Cold War ;D.

BTW. You can find very good arguments for Prime Directive in written Eastern SF fiction. I mean: Strugatskys' "Hard to be God" and Lem's "Eden".
Christopher - Wed, Jan 16, 2013 - 3:42pm (USA Central)
The reason this episode is stupid - A society advanced enough to invent a polymer with 200 naturally occurring elements and a shuttle that can fly into a star would easily be able to synthesize an enzyme in astroglide or other personal lube to make cogenitors unnecessary. Thus, the cogenitors could spend their lives pursuing life as they chose.
Nathaniel - Sat, Jan 19, 2013 - 12:06pm (USA Central)
@Christopher

You say this in a world where fertility treatments are considered evil and ban worthy by a church that holds 1 billion members as its followers. I wouldn't be so sure of your assertion.
Arachnea - Tue, Feb 12, 2013 - 12:21am (USA Central)
This episode is good because it makes us think and if you take it out of context (about the characters and what happened before).

Having friendly aliens was refreshing, the experience shown between the two captains was excellent (and A. Katsulas was such a great actor).
There are more questions than answers and that's a good thing, it lets our imagination run.

But like I said, there's something that doesn't ring true about two characters: Trip and Archer. Not everything is wrong, it's just insidious and is forced for the sake of the story, but it bothered me. Especially Archer's speech: it would have rung true from any other captain.

So, Trip is right but the way he tried to uncover the potential of the cogenitor was wrong. I'd have liked a little more insight about why this race chose to treat sentient beings like objects, or pets. I'd have liked to know the true reason for Archer to not grant asylum: was it for political reasons ? To keep theses aliens as friends ? Because he thought the loss of the cogenitor would have severe repercussions on the society ? Or was it because he didn't recognize the cogenitor as a sentient being with the right to claim asylum ?

What I mean is that was one of the points of the episode. It would have been nice to explore the dilemma further and let Archer acknowledge that he truly hasn't been a stellar example for the crew when it comes to non-interference. That would have made his shouting at Trip much more powerful and believable.
Tony Hendren - Thu, Feb 14, 2013 - 2:40am (USA Central)
I can't believe how many people agree with the outcome of this episode. It's scary. That it's okay to let other societies enslave people because it's their business. Totally uncharacteristic of Archer. Trip did the right thing, and the suicide was NOT his fault. Ending the show with Charlies death on his shoulders was wrong. If society suppresses people who would rather die than not be free than who is to blame? Society, not freedom. A society that is not outraged by this sort of situational morality is in danger of accepting it. I thought I would see more outrage here, but to my dismay a lot of people agree with the stupid story. AHHHH!
Peremensoe - Sun, Feb 17, 2013 - 8:46pm (USA Central)
"The reason this episode is stupid - A society advanced enough to invent a polymer with 200 naturally occurring elements and a shuttle that can fly into a star would easily be able to synthesize an enzyme in astroglide or other personal lube to make cogenitors unnecessary. Thus, the cogenitors could spend their lives pursuing life as they chose."

They probably could, if they wanted to. But there's lots of reasons they might not want to. Maybe 'un-natural' reproduction is a revolting idea. Maybe the scarcity of cogenitors is long sanctified as a means of population control.
Peremensoe - Sun, Feb 17, 2013 - 8:53pm (USA Central)
"...to my dismay a lot of people agree with the stupid story."

I *didn't* agree with the outcome (meaning Archer's position), but I thought it was a fantastic story nonetheless. I am perfectly comfortable with the idea that sometimes our heroes do the wrong thing.

I agree with Arachnea that there were more dimensions that could have been explored. This could have been a two-parter.
mark - Wed, Feb 20, 2013 - 8:45pm (USA Central)
Trip had the most to do but this was Archer's episode and an important one for him. Because he hasn't been the best captain or set the best example. He's been running around doing things by the seat of his pants--in fairness, partly because Starfleet hasn't figured out the rules yet--and his officers have followed suit. Bakula wrung every drop of drama out of his scenes in the final act with a wonderful performance that, finally, has me thinking that Jonathan Archer is a worthy ancestor of Kirk and Picard. Bravo to Bakula and the show in general, and the four stars are deserved.
Michael - Sun, May 19, 2013 - 2:03am (USA Central)
This episode had the potential to be one of Enterprise's very best episodes but was ruined by the morally bankrupt ending. Captain Archer's decision to return the cogenitor to the Vissians was the wrong decision plain and simple. He basically sent a sentient being back into slavery and the individual chose suicide over continued nonexistence as a slave with no name and no rights whatsover.

Let's not sugarcoat this decision with ridiculous talk about the moralities of alien civilizations. There are no alien civilizations that we know of at this point in time. This is a work of fiction. The only moralities we can look to in this situation our human moralities. And by those standards Archer's decision to return the cogenitor is morally wrong.

And please no more talk about the prime directive. As a 40 plus year fan of Star Trek I can say with certainty that the prime directive does not apply to warp capable civilizations. Captain Archer is within his rights to consider a request for asylum from the cogenitor as he himself points out to the Vissian Captain. His big mistake was not to grant asylum in this instance.

Trip was wrong to interfere in Vissian affairs without getting the permission of the Captain or the First Officer. But he was not ultimately responsible for the death of the cogenitor. The Captain was responsible. It was his decision. The buck stopped with him. He made a command decision as Captain and he has to live with the consequences. To throw all the blame on Trip was cowardly and reflected very poorly on his leadership ability.

Jay - Sat, Jun 1, 2013 - 8:19pm (USA Central)
It had to happen so that Trip could meet her (or it, I guess) and trigger the main plot point, but considering the regard the society gives the cogenitor, it's rather odd that they even brought the cogenitor aboard the Enterprise for dinner in the first place. Imean...if they don't even get to have names...
Jay - Sat, Jun 1, 2013 - 8:23pm (USA Central)
ANd on that...the lack of a name seemed really absurd. For one, even pets have names, and more importantly, if cogenitors spend their lives being farmed out to couples, I'd think the department of the Visian government (or whatever entity) manages that task) would need a way to keep track of their various cogenitors, numbers at the very least.

This episode had a good story to tell, but there were flaws.
rosie - Wed, Jun 19, 2013 - 10:04am (USA Central)
this episode is sick! it condones sex slavery. I cant believe star trek was allowed to continue after this kind of shit
Jordy - Thu, Aug 15, 2013 - 3:09pm (USA Central)
This episode disgusted me, frankly. I thought the cogenitor's suicide was the fault of many people, but Trip was not among them. Archer, despite his lamabasting Trip at the end, was most directly to blame for refusing the asylum request. Vissian society is also to blame for treating fellow sentients like chattels. Trip could have been more careful, but ultimately he was acting from a moral position whereas just about everyone else was concerned with expediency and not rocking the boat. I wanted to punch Archer during the last scene for having the gall to chew Trip out for something that was mostly HIS OWN damned fault.
Sarah - Tue, Sep 10, 2013 - 2:14pm (USA Central)
I have to throw my two cents in here because this is one of my favorite episodes of Enterprise. I agree that the ending is very depressing and that the Vissian's treatment of the cogenitors is morally wrong. But to me that it was makes this episode fantastic. I loved that this episode refused to take the easy way out and instead offered a cautionary tale about how difficult and dangerous first contact can be even when weapons aren't being fired.

As for the Prime Directive, I have to disagree with the people above who say that it only applies to pre-warp civilizations. The Prime Directive covers that situation, but it also covers warp-capable civilizations that are not Federation members. The best example is the Bajorans. Sisko, Picard, and numerous other Starfleet officers state that they are bound by the Prime Directive not to interfere in the internal affairs on Bajor (in "Emissary" Picard even summarizes Sisko's mission as "You are to do everything, short of violating the Prime Directive, to make sure they are ready [to join the Federation]").

In some ways, this episode reminds me of the DS9 episode "Accession," in which the Bajorans go back to a caste system which results in civil unrest and eventually one death. Sisko says that as long as they have a caste system, they will not be eligible for Federation membership because it violates some of the Federation's basic principles about personal freedom. However, he does not try to stop the Bajoran government from reinstating the caste system, and he doesn't stop the Bajorans from following the caste system on the station. Even though he disagrees with it, he respects their culture.

In this episode, while Trip had good intentions, there really wasn't much that he could have done personally to help the cogenitors. The best case scenario was that the cogenitor Charles would have spent the rest of its life in exile among aliens, unable to return home. That's fine for Charles, but what about all of the other cogenitors? We know that in a few years, the Federation will be formed; perhaps when that happens, they could offer membership to the Vissians only if they gave the cogenitors equal rights and ensured they had access to education. The Prime Directive, as I understand it, prevents individual Starfleet captains and officers from interfering in alien civilizations (both pre-warp and warp-capable). However, the Federation as a whole is not bound by the same limitations, although they also tend to favor non-interference. To me, the point of this episode is that interference by a single officer or a single crew in an alien society is very dangerous.

I do agree that the weakest part of this episode is Archer. I agreed with what he said, and I liked Bakula's performance, but I kept thinking about all of the times Archer did even worse things during first contact missions. Like that planet he visited in "The Communicator" -- his claim that he was a genetically-engineered Alliance spy probably led to a civil war.
Nancy - Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - 10:48am (USA Central)
I agree that The death of the cogenitor is Archer's fault for inexplicably refusing to grant asylum. His throwing it all onto Trip - and the writers apparently expecting us to do so as well - is disgusting.

So we are never to interfere because each culture has its own rules? Let's take that to its logical conclusion. The writers make this more palatable for us by showing "it" as a complacent, "happy" pet. What if cogenitors were kept in cages and the reproductive act was painful and fatal, or ended with a ritual mutilation such as female circumcision? Would it still be shrugged off as "well that's their culture" and non-interference be presented as the moral high ground?

How bad does it have to get before we realize that there is a right and wrong, and that we must stand up for what's right?

The comparison to the way women were treated in the past is apt, but the oppression of women has often been treated by men like B&B as somewhat regrettable, but not really THAT bad. There's a reason the cogenitor wasn't played by a male, folks.
Adam - Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - 6:57pm (USA Central)
I agree with Jordy, and ironically this episode was directed by Geordi LaForge himself, LaVar Burton, who played Kunta Kinte in Roots. Like "Cogenitor", Roots was a story of a slave who wasn't allowed to have his own name. But in "Cogenitor", the slave is forced to have sex with thousands of people, and most people commenting here seem to think that's ok as long as "it's their culture". The best part of this episode is that the Cogenitor finally exercised her power - she denied her slavemasters what they needed from her by killing herself. In a free society, people would have to ASK a Cogenitor to participate in reproduction, and therefore Cogenitors would be important and valued people. It may be similar to women's rights issues in Muslim countries, but it's not much like women's issues in modern America. In our culture, men are the ones with no reproductive rights, and the government has taken over the role of men in giving women what they need and want in terms of a protector and provider. But even in the history of Christian countries, women weren't treated like Cogenitors, since they willingly sought reproduction and the marriage arrangement. The biggest difference is that Cogenitors have the power to hold their species hostage and deny reproduction until their rights are recognized, so they could win their rights and hold them by their own merits. In our culture it's completely different, since women's rights are gifts given to them by men, protected by men, and taken for granted by ungrateful women. A man can walk down the street without fear, because he knows he can protect himself. But the only reason women can walk down the street without fear is because men are constantly protecting them from other men, and most of our women are childlike in their complete ignorance of the luxuries afforded them by our safe society (which was built by men). Google "The Manipulated Man" by Esther Vilar.
Nathaniel - Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - 10:12pm (USA Central)
@Adam,

Dude, your misogyny is showing.
Adam - Sat, Oct 12, 2013 - 10:41am (USA Central)
@Nathaniel,

You ignored about 34 comments from other people supporting the enslavement of an entire gender. Your willfully stupid hypocrisy is showing.
Retnan - Sun, Nov 3, 2013 - 8:52am (USA Central)
I was disgusted by Archer (and T'Pol) in this episode.

Trip should have chewed that son of a bitch out. Or least said the S word (SLAVE), rather than just standing there and saying "it's not your fault capn" while Archer browbeat him.
K'Elvis - Thu, Nov 7, 2013 - 9:24am (USA Central)
No, women's rights are not "gifts" given by men. Women have no obligation to be "grateful" for their rights. Men do have their reproductive rights, they are perfectly free to keep their pants on. Until relatively recently, women had little rights over who they married and little rights over how many children they had. It used to be legal for a man to force his wife to have sex.

Trip didn't make the cogenitor do anything. The cogenitors were essentially slaves, sent where they were sent regardless of what they wanted. If this episode was about women being sent against their will to be impregnated, few people would say "it's OK, it's their culture." Since their are so few cogenitors, one would think that cogenitors should be in high demand, and thus enjoy a high status in culture. Instead, they are slaves. What this culture needs is a slave revolt - a Lysistrata Option. Withhold their services until the cogenitors can choose which couples they will partner with.

When someone wishes to have a mate and have children, they have to persuade that person to join them. But wooing someone and getting them to agree is a lot of work. Wouldn't it be a lot easier if you could just force someone to have your children? It would be easier, yes, but unacceptable. The congenitors don't want to be forced, what makes that acceptable? The wrong here was not with Trip, the cogenitor was already unhappy. If the congenitor was happy with the situation, then Trip would have been in the wrong.

It's a shame that the cogenitor committed suicide, and it really felt contrived. The cogenitor could simply have used passive resistance, refused to cooperate until demands were met.
Jack - Mon, Nov 25, 2013 - 9:54pm (USA Central)
Off topic, but I cringe every time Archer says "Tell Chef that blah blah blah". The ship's cook surely has a name, it's absurd and impolite not to use it.
Quark - Thu, Jan 2, 2014 - 9:34am (USA Central)
I've been watching the series in relatively rapid succession on Netflix. This episode seemed out of place to me. The writers obviously wanted to try something new and avoid the neatly packaged ending. They wanted to disturb the viewer and force them to think. But I'm left wondering what it was they were trying to say, and have to agree with those who were turned off by the ending.

For me, the story was mostly about the congenitor and "her" possibilities -- to live, to love, to learn, to feel joy, and to be useful for society in some capacity beyond just making babies. The tragedy of her slavery was amplified by the fact that her species can learn so quickly. Upon first seeing her, Trip immediately noticed something was wrong, that her energy was sad and heavy, and it stirred his curiosity and his conscience. For whatever reason, Trip was the only character who expressed any concern about her lack of freedom.

It appears that the writers were trying to convey how societal conventions and norms can so readily influence how we think and stifle our conscience and humanity -- how someone who swims against this stream (in this case, Trip) is often silenced and shamed.

However, I can't be sure that's what they were trying to say. The ending seemed odd to me, and left a bad taste in my mouth about Archer, T'Pol, Flox, etc., The execution of the story also seemed odd.

Overall, I have really enjoyed this series, but this episode fell short. A beautiful theme with tremendous potential, but the execution fell short.
Andy's Friend - Thu, Jan 2, 2014 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
Let's take this episode seriously, shall we?

YOU are the captain of a starship. The fastest your planet has ever built. Built specifically to explore space, of which your species still knows precious little.

YOU then meet a starship belonging to another species. One that appears to be friendly. One which has technology considerably superior to that of your own.

YOU seem to get along with the alien captain. He even invites you to participate in a short trip into the corona of a star, displaying said superior technology. Similarly, your crew seems to get along with the alien crew.

Could it be that this encounter could lead to further encounters between your two species? Could YOU actually be paving the way to lasting, friendly relations between your two spacefaring species?

Then one of your crewmembers discovers something about the aliens. For some reason, they kill some of their babies immediately after birth. Apparently, this species has three genders, not two. But the third has become redundant. So all babies of the third gender are killed immediately after birth.

Will YOU tell them it's wrong? Will YOU not only risk the friendly relations with this crew, but potentially risk antagonizing this technologically superior species by telling them how YOU think they should behave? Will YOU decide Earth's foreign policy towards other worlds? Is that YOUR responsibility?

If you answer 'yes' to any of these questions, you are not only grossly incompetent, but should be court martialled the minute you set your foot back on Earth.

It is NOT YOUR responsibility as a starship captain during a First Contact to tell other species how to behave themselves and run their societies and worlds. It is NOT YOUR responsibility as a starship captain to singlehandedly run Earth's foreign policy.

Your only duty, in a fortuitous First Contact such as this one, is to establish as smooth and friendly relations with the alien species as possible, and later report back to your superiors as accurately as possible.

Your superiors will then decide whether Earth should attempt to establish formal diplomatic relations with said species or not, and in which manner, and under what conditions such diplomatic relations should be pursued.

It's as simple as that.

When humanity eventually meets other species out there, we are most certainly going to be faced with many different fashions of strange and, certainly also in a few cases, questionable (by our standards) behaviours. We might, for example, meet some sort of 'Space Chinese', with full spacefaring capabilities but few political or individual rights at home. And we might meet far, far worse.

When humanity eventually meets other species out there, we are going to, at least initially, have to accept all sorts of alien behaviour just to make some friends out there.

That is, quite simply, what this quite remarkable episode is telling us. Whether or not Archer should have granted the alien asylum or not isn't even open to debate. And if Trip had been anywhere else but in deep space, he would have been dismissed, and rightly so, for doing what he did.

We humans share a certain responsibility for one another on this planet. It's our planet. We're all humans.

We have no responsibility whatsoever for an alien or aliens belonging to a species we barely know or understand at all during a First Contact. How anyone can condone Trip's behaviour or criticize Archer's is astonishing, and only shows that some people are discussing this episode for what is, a TV episode, and not for what it pretends to be, a story about First Contact in space.

Similarly, those people are discussing this for what they think it is about, notably some sort of slavery - completely oblivious to the fact that from the perspective of an alien species, things might look very different altoghether. That's being extremely ethnocentric, folks. If you think this is about slavery, or any other form of exploitation, we have missed the point. This is about alienness, and our right to interfere. What is right, and what is wrong, is all in the eye of the beholder. We on Earth have agreed to certain standards. Is is really that hard to imagine the existence of truly different perspectives? Hopefully, you would all be a little more sensible in an actual First Contact situation...

This episode shows us what being alien is all about: that other and utterly alien perspectives may exist. And in many cases, we'll just have to accept them in order to establish good relations - and certainly during a fortuitous First Contact like this one. Great episode.

Adrian - Sat, Jan 18, 2014 - 12:50pm (USA Central)
This episode wants us to believe Trip's behavior was unethical, but it is T'Pol's condemnation of Trip's interest in the cogenitor, Phlox's indifference to its status, and Archer's apparent ignorance of the Vissian's treatment of its cogenitors that is truly immoral. It's not a question of human rights versus alien values, but of the kinds of values that would deny basic freedoms and liberties to any sentient being that desires it.

One may speak of non-interference and of how something like the Prime Directive might have influenced these character's choices, but I don't think taking an interest in and discussing matters of personal rights with those you are interacting with would be consiered a form of interference under the Prime Directive. It's one thing not to impose your values upon other cultures, but quite another to speak as if the ethical treatment of sentient beings is simply a matter of cultural relativism. Even if Trip was wrong to go about things the way he did, for Starfleet to condone continuing ties between themselves and aliens whose society condones slavery would itself be a kind of interference far less ethical than anything Trip did in this episode.
Moonie - Sat, Feb 15, 2014 - 6:37am (USA Central)
I think this was my favorite episode so far. A good plot, and Trip-centered (my favorite character).

Verroak - Sat, Mar 8, 2014 - 4:53pm (USA Central)
I can't believe so many reviews of this episode are *positive*. This episode is the absolute nadir of Star Trek as far as I've seen, and is the proof why the Prime Directive is either the absolute worst idea in Star Trek, or is the most viciously abused one.

Let's put the events of this episode in perspective, and call everything by its proper name. So we have a person that is treated like an animal, and is sexually abused. This dehumanized sex slave meets another person that attempts to help her. Her new friend teaches her to read, write, shows her movies. Basically, he's the first person ever to treat her like a sentient being she is. But when her owners realize their "property" was taught reading and other things she ought to know as a basic sentient right, they get pissed and punish their sex slave. Then the sex slave asks her new friend's captain for asylum. Instead of treating her like a person, the captain treats her like property and sends the victim back to the abusers, against the victim's wish. When the victim commits suicide to escape further abuse, the MAN WHO TRIED TO HELP HER gets blamed for the death - not the people who abused her, or the captain who helped them in it.

This is a person who's not only sexually abused, she's also literally treated like an animal. I don't care about your vaunted Prime Directive, this stuff is WRONG. There is no possible moral justification for doing what the aliens are doing, or for what the captain has done. And "it's not our business" is MOST DEFINITELY NOT a justification for this despicable act. This is worse than the "eugenics is actually kinda good" episode from the previous season.

This has completely ruined the character of Archer, and possibly the entire show, for me. I'm seriously considering just never watching it again if something as bad as this has passed the basic conceptual stage. 0/10
Andy's Friend - Sat, Mar 8, 2014 - 8:38pm (USA Central)
@Verroak (and half the other commenters here):
Let’s settle this once and for all, shall we?

You have to accept the premise of this episode: Archer has *just* met an alien species that is *clearly* technologically superior.

Let me put it in a way that you perhaps can understand:

Imagine Archer is flying around in the Enterprise, and suddenly meets Darth Vader, aboard his huge imperial super star destroyer from ”The Empire Strikes Back”. And Vader behaves politely, and says, ’Come along, captain, I’ll show you the Death Star we’re building’. And off they go, and Archer can only be awed by the colossal power of the Imperial Fleet. But once they’re aboard the Death Star, the imperial admiral gets mad at someone for no apparent reason and sentences him to death. But the poor victim then turns to Archer and asks him for asylum. And the admiral says that there can be no such thing: his officer is to stand trial and be executed for no good reason. What would you want Archer to do? Would you want him to tell Vader that his admiral can go screw himself, and that he isn’t turning the officer over to them?

Or, if you want to keep it in the Star Trek universe, imagine that Archer and his little Enterprise meet the Voth from VOY and their huge city ship. Imagine a similar scenario ― say a scientist accused of heresy against Doctrine. Would you want Archer to tell the Ministry of Elders that they can screw their Doctrine, that he isn’t turning their scientist over to them?

That’s what’s at stake here. We have no idea who these people are, only that they are more advanced than we are. Archer cannot risk offending, provoking, or antagonizing a technologically superior species. The message of the episode is more subtle than my examples, but still clear, simple, cruel, and true: we need friends out there. Not enemies.
Trekker - Sun, Apr 6, 2014 - 5:24pm (USA Central)
Guys and Ladies:

These aliens are not human and do not need to be placed on a pedestal of human values.

I might be in the minority on this, but I felt Trip's actions were inappropriate.

In Star Trek, if a culture wants to have honorable martial battles to the death, then we are all for it. However, when a culture has a third gender and they mistreat "it" as a matter of custom, we throw a tantrum.

The Prime Directive was rightfully developed for Star Trek's universe and it is probably why I enjoy the shows. Ethically, it is the right thing to do, if you do not want to interfere in another race's natural development.

On TV shows like Babylon 5, which I love as well for exploring what Trek is afraid to including opening up same sex relationships among humans :P , there is no prime directive and lesser developed species are in constant conflict over values and cultural beliefs.

In this episode Enterprise did something right in context to the Star Trek universe, we learn why the Prime Directive is not only useful, but why we can't judge another alien race by our standards.

Too many reviewers here place too much a premium on human values, but Star Trek has always been about exploring "New worlds" and "new civilizations" to "bodly go where no one has gone before".

If you argue this as a moral judgment against slavery, then let's reduce the issue from there. Slavery is only a vice in human value system after the 18-19th century Judeo-Christianization of the world. Without Judeo-Christian values, most cultures did not have an issue on slavery; labor or sexual to begin with.

I am not defending slavery or in sexual repression, but who are we to judge any other cultures value on what is morally right or wrong, if they don't share our system of beliefs or ideologies.

-----------------------

This is a great episode, one that is not bound by human values and one that strives to prove itself worthy of Trekkian ideals.

9.5/10
Nell - Tue, Apr 8, 2014 - 6:02pm (USA Central)
Just chiming in to agree with Verroak - I couldn't have put it better myself. I saw this episode and was so disgusted with Archer, T'Pol, and the writers that I never watched another episode. All of this moral relativism is hideous.

'Who are we to judge' is wilful moral complacency in the face of evil.

'We need friends out there' is nothing but ghastly cowardice that enables others to get away with the most wicked crimes. Evil flourishes where no-one dares, or cares, enough to stand against it.
SWT - Mon, May 5, 2014 - 9:21pm (USA Central)
Been going through Enterprise and have to say that this was probably one of the better episodes in the series at least up to season 2. I disagree that the episode touted 'moral relativism' 'in the face of evil' or something. The episode was completely neutral--it provided enough important details to allow the viewer to make up your own mind about things. If it's bothersome, that's only because it strikes close to home as good sci fi often does.

The cogenitor is -as much a part of that 'culture' as anyone else-. We are invited to sympathize with the cogenitor and take its/her side. The episode purposefully included the detail of the cogenitor's suicide because clearly the cogenitor couldn't bear to go on living. The people who are using the cogenitor tell us to suspend judgment. Who of the above do you side with?

There were a lot of parallels that could be drawn here in terms of complacency with slavery and other things. It was incredibly well done.

The final point however was that meddling in foreign cultures nearly always makes things worse. Ignorant heroes have no business rushing in when they don't understand what the consequences of their actions will be. It shouldn't take too much searching to find historical examples on this planet. And Archer was clearly conflicted by the end, after all he granted the cogenitor asylum.

Wish there were more episodes with this level of nuance. This is such a step up from some of the terrible 'ethical' episodes of TNG. Ethics isn't a picnic, it's messy, it hurts, and heroics won't always save the day. Four sparkleys out of four.

Andy's Friend's Enemy - Fri, May 9, 2014 - 5:39pm (USA Central)
@Verroak, I Agree

@Andy's Friend,
You are totally missing the point.

It's not about what's at stake.
That's a political question.

The question is a moral one.

"Human" rights are universal and should really be called "Rights of Sentient Beings".

It is universally wrong for one sentient being to enslave another sentient being.

Hence Archers decision to deny the cogenitor's request for asylum is morally wrong.

For him to do it on political grounds is another question. But do we really want to be friends with a race that enslaves, objectifies and de-"human"-izes an entire gender?

This just makes the ending so utterly disgusting and illogical.
That Archer sits on a moral high horse and places the responsibility solely on Trip when it's his own decision that caused "it's" death.
Andy's Friend - Sat, May 10, 2014 - 10:29am (USA Central)
@Andy’s Friend's Enemy ― a.k.a. my best fiend ;)

Thank you very much for your reply ― and thanks for referring me in your name, I am honoured! :D :D Well, this is what I have to say:

Although I understand what you’re saying, I must stress that this is only a moral question on the surface. The true message is about cultural diversity, and accepting that which is different (I won't use the word tolerance, because I could write a whole treatise on that specific word alone).

Morality is a philosophical concept. Specific morality is the child of a particular culture and a particular age. Our morals in the West today are not the same as morals in India, or China, or among the Amazon Indians. Our morals in the West today are not even what they were thirty years ago, much less three hundred. Who knows what they will be three hundred years from now? Or three thousand?

As such, this episode is clever writing because it speaks to a Western audience with our present moral beliefs, and provokes reactions based on those Western beliefs. If this episode were shown to a Chinese audience, for example, the vast majority would wholly agree with Archer, and we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Why? Because Chinese culture is one of diversity, much unlike what is perhaps generally thought. As long as you obey the Emperor ― or nowadays, the regime ―, the specifics are not important. Hong-Kong and Macao are prime examples of this: most people were expecting China not to respect the agreements with the UK and Portugal, but China has, in fact, respected the two-system models agreed upon, and kept Hong-Kong and Macao as different societies than neighbouring China. In China, there is no paradox in this at all. What better example can be given of how the mentality you claim to be, quite literally, universal, isn’t even shared by all societies on Earth today?

*****************

There is also no such thing as “human rights”. That concept, too, is the child of a particular culture and a particular age. Read the above paragraphs: the same applies. Even in the West, many Christians will tell you that the concept of “human rights” goes against Christian doctrine: “human rights” are given by man; but only that which is given by God can hold universal value.

If you accept this view, morals turns into a religious question. And who is to say which religion’s morality is more equal than others?

If you deny morality as a religious question ― i.e., if you deny God or the gods ―, all you have left is philosophy. You may believe that our Western set of morals, if such a thing can be said to exist, is the pinnacle of morality. You may even believe that nothing truly new has been written in Western philosophy since Plato and Aristotle, and that such longevity proves that morality as we understand it in the West is universal and eternal. I would almost agree with the first part of that sentence; but certainly not with the second.

*****************

For the record: personally, my dear Enemy, I am fond of the morals you defend. But then again, I am also a Westerner, and a child of our day and age.

However, unlike you it would seem, I am perfectly capable of imagining societies that abide by very different moral standards than ours. And I am especially willing to accept the existence of strange, alien, extra-terrestrial civilizations with wholly outlandish ethical and moral systems.

There is a fantastic poem by a very atheistic poet, who in one of his major personae is close to reading as a Zen master, which sums it up nicely:

“Accept the universe
As the gods gave it to you.
If the gods wanted to give you something else
They would have done it.

If there are other matters and other worlds
There are.”

(Fernando Pessoa [as the Alberto Caeiro heteronym], 1917)

This huge little poem really says it all. But try also reading the philosophical treatise that is “Star Maker”, which deals with these matters in a fundamental way:

“Star Maker is a science fiction novel by Olaf Stapledon, published in 1937. The book describes a history of life in the universe, dwarfing in scale Stapledon's previous book, Last and First Men (1930), a history of the human species over two billion years. Star Maker tackles philosophical themes such as the essence of life, of birth, decay and death, and the relationship between creation and creator. A pervading theme is that of progressive unity within and between different civilizations. Some of the elements and themes briefly discussed prefigure later fiction concerning genetic engineering and alien life forms. Arthur C. Clarke considered Star Maker to be one of the finest works of science fiction ever written.” [Wikipedia]

In a few hundred pages, Stapledon merely elaborates on a colossal scale on what Pessoa wrote in the six lines above: that the issue we are discussing here is not that of political or even moral questions, and much less of moral relativism ― is it one of diversity on a cosmic scale.

I don’t have the imagination to think of the exact manifestations of such “infinite diversity”, to quote Star Trek, much less to describe it; nor does Stapledon, for that matter, nor does he really try to. Pessoa wisely reduced the matter to six lines! But I am capable of imagining the possibility of that existence ― much like in that other huge novel that is "Solaris" ―, and I understand how the matter we are discussing here is absolutely trivial and absurd ― i.e., meaningless ― from a moral point of view, if you accept the premise of "Star Trek: Enterprise". If there are other matters and other worlds, there are.

*****************

What is not trivial, however, if you accept the basic premise of ENT, is that Archer has in no way carte blanche to conduct Earth’s foreign policy. He is not an accredited ambassador to this specific civilization; he has no mission objective regarding other cultures in space other than to learn about them, and make friends out there. Implicit in that mission objective is that you do not antagonize alien civilizations. Especially ones that are technologically more advanced than we are. How anyone in their right mind would dispute this is beyond me.

I see that you realize this: “Hence Archer’s decision to deny the cogenitor's request for asylum is morally wrong. For him to do it on political grounds is another question.”

But the matter is, that it is only morally wrong from his perspective. And Archer realizes this. So in the end, we're back where we started: it is not up to Earth to tell the rest of the universe how to behave.

But as Q would put it, some of us puny, insignificant creatures are so arrogant, or so naïve, that we think that it is our place, and that we have that right...

As I said, this is all very clever writing. Because the writers know their prime audience: early 21st century Westerners. And they know that many of them will feel, and react the way you, my dear Enemy, do. So we end up having nice little debates likes this one, more than ten years after the original television episode aired. Which is no small achievement for a television episode, or a television series on the whole. Live long and prosper, dear Enemy :)
Andy’s Friend's Enemy - Sat, May 10, 2014 - 5:18pm (USA Central)
If moral is completely arbitrary (which is the same as to say there is no such thing), the only thing we can truly rely on is our own view on morality. And in that case Archer still acts immorally because he's acting against his own morality. Also if it is arbitrary, he has just as mush right to interfere (grant asylum) as they have to treat a an entire gender as cattle.

To say that it is not his place to interfere when there is no such thing as morality is a contradiction.

He could simply chose to grant asylum because he recognizes, as a sentient being, that that the cogenitor is unhappy with the situation.

The problem with the writing is that they destroy the integrity of Archer when he gives the speech to Trip.

A few episodes later (Rajiin) he frees, what he believes to be, a sex slave and then gives a speech that humans don't believe that one sentient being can own another.

This is in complete contradiction.

If he had simply stated that he would not grant asylum because of earths foreign policy or because of his own decision (based on fear of consequences?) not to interfere it would have made more sense.
But now we have to episodes almost next to each other where his moral views are in complete opposition.

-------------------------------

I would like to argue that the human race still hasn't truly achieved sentience, and that any fully sentient/"enlightened" being would recognize that since they them self would not wish to be enslaved, they would chose not to enslave other sentient beings.

Hence "Rights of Sentient Beings".

But I think you are right. Everything is arbitrary, and as humans we have no way of appreciating just how alien conscience can be.

I am now a nihilist...
Deborah - Sat, May 17, 2014 - 9:12pm (USA Central)
I got the impression that the Vissians wouldn't give Charles up without a fight. In a case of "you give 'it' back or we blow you up," Archer would have no choice but to give Charles up. But if the day ever came when the Vissians wanted to join the Federation, they'd have to change their ways, wouldn't they? There's a limit to what a lone captain can do vs. a Federation.
Deborah - Sat, May 17, 2014 - 9:33pm (USA Central)
Oh, and for those who keep referring to the "Dear Doctor" episode, remember it was the *Doctor* who made the compelling argument of the show... which was that choosing to help one species over another in the case of the Valakians/Menks would be the equivalent of alien visitors to Earth choosing Homo neanderthalensis over Homo sapiens under similar circumstances.
MisterFred - Mon, Jun 2, 2014 - 2:32pm (USA Central)
This episode is a travesty. Humans have not yet met aliens. But self-aware sentients should have a value beyond that of what a majority decides to assign to them.

The show's message is morally reprehensible, and condones virtual slavery in the name of moral relativism.

Starfleet should be ashamed. Archer, relieved of command. And personally, I'm disgusted with the author of this episode.

It could have been decent if the cogenitor was not fully sentient. It could have been decent if Archer granted asylum but was forced, at gunpoint, to give the cogenitor back despite his ruling. It could have been decent if Archer granted asylum at the expense of the aliens rejecting all future relations.

As it is, the episode teaches evil.
Snooky - Thu, Jul 3, 2014 - 2:01pm (USA Central)
While I can appreciate the idea that we may not understand alien races enough to judge them, that falls by the wayside by how "human" these people behave. Any aliens that can appreciate MacBeth and Hamlet aren't alien enough to justify Archer & Co. turning a blind eye to what is essentially sexual slavery. I really wanted to slap Archer for accusing Trip of being responsible for the cogenitor's death. Clearly his own decision to deny her asylum, out of a selfish desire to have friends in space, led to her suicide. This is the worst portrayal of Archer so far in the series. I couldn't have cared less that the couple wasn't going to get to have their baby at that moment (aw, too bad so sad), but Archer seemed to think that was something to scream at Trip about.

I wish the cogenitors would get together and demand not only their rights, but to be treated as the rare resource they really are. They should be reviewing applicants and making the decisions!
Yanks - Mon, Jul 7, 2014 - 9:13am (USA Central)
Jammer:

"There's another question here, one that I'm struggling with. How could the cogenitors in Vissian society really not know what they're missing? If they have the same intellectual potential as the rest of the Vissians, how is it they haven't realized this potential before, even in small numbers? Surely what Trip unleashes here has previously happened internal to their society with their own cogenitor sympathizers. How couldn't it? And logically, a subjugated subset of a population with this sort of intelligence would know they are being subjugated and would in some way revolt, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. The Vissian cogenitors don't seem to be aware of their subjugation, and the Vissian males and females don't seem to be aware that what they are doing is subjugation. It's simply an internal cultural fact, one that perhaps is impossible to understand in human terms. (Are we a product of only what we're permitted to experience? If so, Vissian cogenitors apparently are not permitted to experience much of anything, short of brainwashing and built-in repression.) But given how "Cogenitor" plays out — with the cogentior's eyes being opened and her desire to keep them open — this accepted belief by all the Vissians seems impossible. Not that this hurts the story; it simply makes me even more curious to explore the story points."

Great point. I think this IS the story here.

So many get into trouble by viewing the cogenitor's "situation" through human eyes with human rights as their justification for praising Trip's actions and sticking a knife in Archer's back for returning "it".

From what we've witnessed this is the assumption I've come to with regard to how "it" is treated within the Vissian society.

The one cogenitor we know, learned to read etc and obviously couldn't handle the knowledge/status within their society. We do learn that cogenitors make up only about 3 percent of their population so protecting them would seem to be mandatory for their species survival. Could it be that one day in their history, the cogenitors were so powerful that the "masses" had to rally to overtake them to survive? Could it be that the cogenitors aren't emotionally stable enough to handle knowledge and freedom and the way "it" is treated is mandatory for their survival? I tend to believe the latter because of the suicide and how open the Vissian's were to the Enterprise crew. If this advanced civilization wanted to hide any knowledge of the treatment of the cogenitors it would have been very easy.

I just wish we could have had one more scene on the Vissian's vessel that could have shed some light on this.

What makes this episode so good, is that it could have been a great TOS/TNG/DS9/VOY episode as well.

Love Archer’s lambasting of Trip. He deserved it for sure and Archer didn’t let him off the hook.

This episode took us where 'Dear Doctor' should have. Archer should have helped the Valakian’s and there should have been grave consequences as a result. This is a true “Prime Directive” episode.

Hats off to another wonderful SCI-FI performance by Andreas Katsulas. He was a truly gifted actor.

Easy 4 stars for me. Tremendous trek here.
Alkar555 - Fri, Aug 15, 2014 - 9:16am (USA Central)
Another horrible piece hailing horrible principle of non-interference. It is Their Way Of Life, so it should be out of ethical scope at all. Great.

I can only add what rich people should probably stop paying taxes. Their money interferes with natural way of poor people's life after all, and, according to the ENT logic it would be better to let them rot in their poverty.
Jack - Fri, Oct 3, 2014 - 5:35pm (USA Central)
It was hard to see the point of teaching the Cogenitor English. She could
Logan - Wed, Nov 12, 2014 - 6:38am (USA Central)
It's surprising to see how many people justify slavery, rape, and severe prejudice.

If she didn't have the same rights as me, then neither do any of you. If you deserve none of these rights and you squander them on your own selfish desires, then I consider you the worst kind of scum.

America prevented teaching slaves and that's how we kept them in line. they didn't know they could do anything. they didn't know another world laid over the horizon. Dying birds with broken wings. If they not even to dream, then there is no hope.

In just two days, it was as if she had touched the face of god, and it was all swept away a in the span of a few breaths. My familiarity makes me glad she escaped that wretched life.

Archer was just wrong. The other captain was clearly understanding enough to allow them to leave with her and not hold a grudge.
Yanks - Wed, Nov 12, 2014 - 8:57am (USA Central)
Logan,

#1. It's not "she". "It" is more appropriate.
#2. The "rights" you refer too are "human rights". They don't apply here. This is why the need for a Prime Directive is so important.
#3. Captain Drennik gave Archer time to make an unemotional informed decision. His actions can't be confused with being passive in this situation.

"DRENNIK: We're in no rush to leave. Take your time. Consider what we've said."

T'Pol even thinks Archer makes the right choice here:

"T'POL: You shouldn't have misgivings. You've made the right choice."

Not an attempt to make your experience insignificant BTW.
Elliott - Wed, Nov 12, 2014 - 11:44am (USA Central)
Another subtle and complex Enterprise episode is derided by the overzealous and self-righteous commentary community.

The episode acknowledges that Trip's motivations and actions were quite noble and does not condemn him for acting with his conscience. But, it also realises that sometimes, unfortunately, the broader political ramifications supersede individual rights. More specifically, if the Vissians were members of the Federation, they could not subjugate their Cogenitor sex the way the do, any more than the Klingons would be able to ban women from serving on the High Council. But of course, the Federation doesn't even exist in this time frame. So, as a prequel series, this is the perfect episode to demonstrate, via tragedy, why the Federation is a good thing and *should* come into existence. That's the point of the series, isn't it?

The way Vissians treat their Cogenitors *makes sense* given their biology, even if it's not justified ethically. It often takes an outsider's perspective to instigate cultural change. What would have made the episode stronger would be for the Vissians to have been replaced by a more familiar species from the other series, one of the one-off aliens from TNG we never really get to know, but are in the Federation, so we would know that, eventually, their cultural practices were reformed.

"T'Pol even thinks Archer makes the right choice here:

'T'POL: You shouldn't have misgivings. You've made the right choice.'"

Except, as a feeling human being, he of course should have misgivings. He still made the logical [correct] choice, but he ought to feel miserable about it, because that's the price of command.

Robert - Wed, Nov 12, 2014 - 2:10pm (USA Central)
"What would have made the episode stronger would be for the Vissians to have been replaced by a more familiar species from the other series, one of the one-off aliens from TNG we never really get to know, but are in the Federation, so we would know that, eventually, their cultural practices were reformed. "

I would vote for the Bolians. That could have been cool.
Yanks - Wed, Nov 12, 2014 - 6:06pm (USA Central)
Elliot,

"The episode acknowledges that Trip's motivations and actions were quite noble and does not condemn him for acting with his conscience. But, it also realises that sometimes, unfortunately, the broader political ramifications supersede individual rights. More specifically, if the Vissians were members of the Federation, they could not subjugate their Cogenitor sex the way the do, any more than the Klingons would be able to ban women from serving on the High Council."

I just don't think we know enough about the Vissians, their biology etc to assume any of this.

Elliott - Wed, Nov 12, 2014 - 7:25pm (USA Central)
@Yanks :

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that--I don't even mention the Vissians' biology in the text you quoted. Can you be more specific?
Yanks - Thu, Nov 13, 2014 - 12:39pm (USA Central)
Congenitors are required for reproduction. All we know is they provide it, we don't even really know if the act is "sex" as we know it. So when someone mentions "sex", I always trickle to biology. Especially when someone bring up the Federation as somehow this sexual repression would be corrected "if" .... like I said, we don't know enough about the Vissian's. It could easily be determined that the Vissian's treatment of the cogenitors is acceptable and factually mandatory.

I believe all we know is this:

"PHLOX: Multi-gendered techniques aren't always the same, but in this case I imagine the cogenitor provides an enzyme which facilitates conception."

..and that's just Phlox speculating.

Also you state that the episode does not condemn Trip. I think it does. Archer put Trip in a place he's never been put before. That can only be seen as condemning what he did I think.
Robert - Thu, Nov 13, 2014 - 1:13pm (USA Central)
@Yanks - "It could easily be determined that the Vissian's treatment of the cogenitors is acceptable and factually mandatory."

I'm not sure I can agree with that any more than it was factually mandatory to have slaves to keep the plantations running.

I don't think Elliott meant that the Federation would fix their reproductive "issues", I think Elliott meant the Federation would fix their human rights issues.

Sperm is necessary to procreate, but it's not acceptable for the government to assign mine to anyone. And then not teach me to read so I don't know I'm getting a crappy deal.

I think Elliott is right here, this species would never be accepted to the Federation. I don't think Archer is wrong though.
Yanks - Thu, Nov 13, 2014 - 2:00pm (USA Central)
Robert,

Again, you make assumptions based on "human" values. Exactly what we need a prime directive to protect ourselves from.

What did Picard say?

"You see, the Prime Directive has many different functions, not the least of which is to protect us. To prevent us from allowing our emotions to overwhelm our judgment."

We don't know what (or how) the cogenitor participates in the reproductive process, hell - we don't even know its lifespan. The only real thing we can draw from this is that whatever they provide can't be synthesized.

We can just as easily surmise by looking at the facts that are presented to us in this episode that the "treatment" of the congenotors is mandatory for the survival of the Vissians. Look what happened to the one that was taught to read! "it" killed itself!! This very well could be the mental state of all the cogenitors. 3% is not a big percentage.

The Vissians are not cavemen. They are 100's of years ahead of humanity. Why does everyone just jump to the "sex slave" / equal rights side? Because it's the "human" thing to do.

Could that be true? Sure, but we can't judge here because we don't know what we don't know.

This is not an equal rights episode, it's Enterprise's best "prime directive" episode.
Robert - Thu, Nov 13, 2014 - 2:32pm (USA Central)
I'm not disagreeing with you. But the Prime Directive does not apply to Federation worlds. In the Federation a sentient being gets free will. It's really that simple.

That said, if this species never joins the Federation then we wouldn't interfere with them. But I still feel pretty justified in saying we would not let them in unless circumstances are very different than the assumptions this episode encourages you to draw.
Robert - Thu, Nov 13, 2014 - 2:33pm (USA Central)
I'm not saying sex slave. I was actually talking about sperm banks. In the Federations individuals have self determination, no matter how badly other individuals need or don't need them.
Robert - Thu, Nov 13, 2014 - 2:34pm (USA Central)
And last... I actually do think it's a great prime directive episode for the same reasons you do. I just also agree with Elliott that this race would never be allowed in the Federation without some serious social reform.
Yanks - Thu, Nov 13, 2014 - 5:41pm (USA Central)
Robert,

You are saying you wouldn't allow them into the Federation based on assumptions gleamed from this episode.

That doesn't make any sense. You can't say they would have to change when you don't know all the facts. It is very plausible that "it" can't handle self determination.
Baron Samedi - Thu, Nov 13, 2014 - 7:03pm (USA Central)
Superb. Aside from the "In the Mirror Darkly" two-parter (which was fun in a goofy way), this is the only episode of Enterprise that has genuinely impressed me. I'm sure part of the problem is that I'm watching the show completely out-of-order, but nonetheless the hit-to-miss ratio so far has been pretty abysmal. But "Cogenitor" is the only Enterprise episode I've seen so far that I'd rank as a Trek classic for all of the reasons Jamahl describes here. I didn't even mind the 'Reed hooks up with an alien' subplot. I wish more Enterprise episodes explored ideas like this - deep ideas that have serious consequences and complex moral implications - instead of focusing on routine action.
Andy's Friend - Sat, Nov 15, 2014 - 9:00am (USA Central)
@Elliott, and Robert, and Yanks, and everyone else:

The narrow-mindedness of commenters here never ceases to amaze me. And people here call themselves fans of sci-fi?

Most of you are not asking the right questions. In this case, the only real question here is:

What would human society be like if only 3% of all women (or men, for that matter) were fertile ― and it always had been so?

Does anyone here have the least doubt that *every* human culture on Earth would have developed religious, philosophical, and ethical systems that would justify some sort of similar tratment of the fertile 3%?

Does anyone have the least doubt that those fertile few would be treated as some sort of breeding machines? In a cage of gold, perhaps, pampered beyond belief by the societies they kept alive, but breeding machines nonetheless? Does anyone have any doubt whatsoever that *every* human civilization in History would have taken their personal freedom from them, and that they themselves would consider this perfectly logical today?

Elliott’s ― and so many others’ ― perception that the Vissians “subjugate their Cogenitor sex” is absurd. It is so anthropomorphizing and ethnocentrical it hurts.

This is sci-fi, people. It doesn’t necessarily have to be allegory of human society every week. It could also be the occasional exploration of truly different, exotic species, and their provocative societies, and philosophical and ethical systems.

On a televison budget, yes; hence all the humanoid species, etc. But please, try to be a little more abstract in your thinking, most of you.

I’m with you on this one, Yanks.


PS. Just think, in human history, how certain European powers in certain periods in history quite simply sentenced criminal women to exile to their overseas colonies, to help populate them -- where men convicted for the exact same offences offences would be jailed, or fined, or sent to the galleys, or a variety of other sentences.

Think of how white women were sometimes prohibited to leave the European overseas colonies for precisely the same reason: populating them, i.e., birth and population control.

Think also how all over Europe, depending on many factors and time periods, women and men would be sent to convents as nuns and monks in order to regulate birth rates.

Throughout human history, we humans have done precisely the same thing as the Vissians here: taken personal freedom away from people for pure birth control reasons -- and their further implications.

We in the Western world have moved away from that in the last two hundred years. But the question, I repeat, is: what if only 3% of women, or men, were and had ever been fertile? How would Humanity have developed then?

Think big thoughts, people. Live long and prosper.
Andy's Friend - Sat, Nov 15, 2014 - 9:50am (USA Central)
@Robert:

"Sperm is necessary to procreate, but it's not acceptable for the government to assign mine to anyone. And then not teach me to read so I don't know I'm getting a crappy deal."

If humanity had developed differently, and you were one of only 3% of men who produced sperm, you would be regularly milked for sperm, Government would assign it to whoever met the specified criteria (or paid the most, or whatever), and like everyone else, you would find it right and proper.

You only think the way you do because you grew up in the world you grew up in.
Yanks - Sat, Nov 15, 2014 - 3:10pm (USA Central)
Andy's friend,

A friend of mine had the same thought about the "3%". One would think they would rule the planet! I might agree had our "it" had not committed suicide. My thought is based on that fact. We just can't make the assumption they are mentally "stable". It could very well be that they are subjugated to breeding machines too. But we really don't know enough about the Vissians to make that conclusion.
Elliott - Sat, Nov 15, 2014 - 3:57pm (USA Central)
@Andy's Friend & Yanks, et al. :

I explicitly said that the Vissians' treatment of the cogenitors could very well make sense given their biology. After all, the fact that women used to (and still do in some places) die in childbirth is a predictable if specious reason to treat them as 2nd-class people--their lives seem to end once they've fulfilled their reproductive purpose. The same can be said of gays--their seeming inability to contribute to the gene pool makes them less valuable, doesn't it? The point is, while one can make the argument as to why treating the cogenitors in the way the Vissians do might make sense given a certain perspective, the Federation's (an extension of certain modern humanist values, you are correct in that) perspective is that every sentient being has rights equal to any other. In this episode we learn that the cogenitors possess sentience and even intelligence.

Andy's Friend, your hypotheticals about humanity's fertility ratio and potential sexual classes are certainly interesting food for thought, and hell, would make for a great Trek allegory, but what you don't address is the morality of the issue. It is possible for one's mind to be sufficiently broad to look on our past (or an hypothetically alien future) and understand perfectly why people acted the way they did and also say, unequivocally that that action is wrong.
Andy's Friend - Sun, Nov 16, 2014 - 12:12pm (USA Central)
Yanks,

”A friend of mine had the same thought about the "3%". One would think they would rule the planet!”

A most interesting scenario, and a possible one in very primitive societies on Earth. However, I think than on Earth, it would become less probable the more advanced any culture and civilization became. Let’s entertain the thought for a minute:

In very primitive, nomadic hunter-gatherer societies, it makes perfect sense that the few who fathered/bore the children would become patriarchs/matriarchs. But the larger and more settled the communities became, I believe that the role of the 3% in all likelihood would shift to that of Queen bees or ants ― constantly laying eggs/breeding, being cared for the community, but in all aspects as powerless as the King in the game of chess.

This would be especially true of the males: as soon as they became sexually mature, they would undoubtedly become institutionalized breeding machines, mounting the maximum number of females per day (assuming all females were fertile). This would be done in order to maximize the population ― and thus power ― of that given community/culture/civilization. This is what any sane ruling class, in any society on Earth, would do in order to achieve maximum greatness ― maximum number of subjects, and hence taxpayers, warriors/soldiers, etc.

The women might be slightly better off. But only slightly. First of all, they would be bred on from their very first period until the menopause, assuming one still existed. Second, it usually takes repeated copulation to ensure a pregnancy. So they would probably be mounted by either any number of selected males daily during the fertile period, or by the specific male who had been selected (much less likely, I believe, unless the privilege could be purchased by the wealthy) until pregnancy was achieved. And finally, once the pregnancy was confirmed, the women would be monitored closely ― in special institutions, with controlled diets, for example ―, and most physical activities would be prohibited to them, in order to prevent any miscarriage, in a way much similar to that of women in medieval high nobility and royalty, living out one pregnancy after the other in the tranquil gardens of their palace. Except that to ensure maximum efficiency, these women would, with almost absolute certainty, be locked up together in special, purpose built institutions.

I can imagine a few scenarios where smaller communities who never developed the goal/ambition of achieving maximum population size/greatness would never develop institutionalized “breeding farms” in case the 3% were men. Such communities would remain rather small and remote, and would eventually be reduced to inaccessible pockets in say, the Himalayas, the Alps, or the Andes, and quite probably be seen as odd religious or philosophical curiosities by the much greater cultures that would surround them.

I have great difficulty in imagining a society where, if the 3% were female, “breeding farms” wouldn’t be established, though. And this is because siring a child is very different from bearing it to term. To maximize efficiency, and the safety of mother and child ― especially in a 3% scenario! ― in a Classical or medieval-analogue setting, such institutions would certainly be founded virtually in any case.

And there’s the rub: regardless of whether the fertile 3% were male or female, as soon as the society became sufficiently advanced those fertile few would, in all likelihood, be concentrated in such “breeding farms” as soon as they were identified, to live out their entire fertile lives there. These would most probably be luxurious by the standards of the society, to ensure the well-being of the fertile few ― think a Roman palace with pools and gardens, etc. ―, but for all practical purposes, those people would become mere breeding machines, living totally for the purpose of maximizing the number of births.

This is what I meant with:

“In a cage of gold, perhaps, pampered beyond belief by the societies they kept alive, but breeding machines nonetheless”

And, to connect that to this episode again, there can be no doubt whatsoever that every single such civilization on Earth would develop religious and philosophical systems entirely different from the present ones which all, each in their own way, would justify these practices. The concept of personal freedom in such an alternate Earth would be very different from the one we know; and the breeding machines would never miss their personal freedom ― just like the cogenitor doesn’t.


P.S. On a final note, all this reminds me of Chinese mentalities, and how much they differ from the Western-Christian mindset. There are so many discussions going on here on this site that would be meaningless to most Chinese that you wouldn’t believe it. The degree of ethnocentricity, narrow-mindedness, and sheer ignorance here on Jammer’s is mind-boggling...
Andy's Friend - Sun, Nov 16, 2014 - 7:21pm (USA Central)
Elliott,

Your comment:

“what you don't address is the morality of the issue. It is possible for one's mind to be sufficiently broad to look on our past (or an hypothetically alien future) and understand perfectly why people acted the way they did and also say, unequivocally that that action is wrong.”

...is absurd in its first sentence. And it is so for two reasons.

First, because you make here the same mistake that you made in one o your responses to me in “The Outcast”. And here, as there, since I never answered your last two replies to me there: I am under no obligation whatsoever to elucidate this forum on my own or any other moral beliefs. You must be careful about feeling entitled when it is not due, Elliott.

I am an academic, not a cleric. I analyse and describe; I don’t preach.

Here, as on “The Outcast”, I do something you fail to recognize: I don’t waste time on normative ethics, but prefer descriptive ethics. As one should, in a sci-fi forum, I might add. What is sci-fi, after all, if not the exploration of “strange new worlds”? Descriptive ethics is what matters most here, Elliott; not normative.

Second, because of exactly that. To “adress the morality of the issue”, as you would like it, requires a fixed set of universal values that quite simply does not exist. What you say is wrong today a Chinese or an Indian ― or I ― might find right. What you find right today someone three hundred years ago, or three hundred years from now, might find wrong. And what the 22nd century Earth believes, or for that mater the 24th century Federation, after having seen first TNG and then DS9, is anyone's guess.

So what morality would you have me debate? Without a universal morality, we’re left to our personal ones. But while discussing my morality, your morality, Robert’s and Yanks’ moralities, etc. may prove entertaining, it is ultimately pointless. It’s the Alien Species of the Week’s morality that is interesting.

You might then answer that the Federation morality could serve as the universal morality I demand, poviding we could agree on what that is, and that the Vissians could then be judged by it. Regardless of the fact that such a thing does not yet exist at this time, you would be missing the point. You would be no better than the early European navigators and explorers, who in the 16th century sailed forth and judged everything they saw on distant shores morally based upon what they knew was universal moral truth ― because the European churches said so.

What the audience must ask ― and fails abysmally to do so, if this thread is any testament ― is: what would it have taken for us to have similar moral systems on Earth? This is the only truly important question, because the answer to it is what allows us to better understand this particular society, and that particular species. Sadly, no one has asked it.

It is not up to us to judge, Elliott ― and certainly not based on as little evidence as we have here. It is up to us to try to understand.

I may agree completely with you on say, ENT’s “Dear Doctor”. But notice how many, on what they believe are moral grounds, disagree with us. We, a bunch of Western Star Trek fans, can’t even agree here, on a Star Trek fansite, on what is the “right” thing to do. We can't even agree on what the exact Federation policy would be in any given situation ― and I'm guessing we've all watched every single episode of Star Trek several times. What relevance does my personal religious, or philosophical, or moral positions then have? And why should it interest you at all, when it has no effect whatsoever on this alien society’s systems of morality?

So I fail to understand what you have me do. Should I debate the Vissian’s morality juxtaposed to say, Catholic, or Lutheran morals? Or your system of moral philosophy of choice? Or should I perhaps look at it using specific methodology, say, the Quadriga, in what would certain prove to be a highly amusing attempt at exotic xenoexegesis? Those are the kinds of talks I might have with good friends over a bottle of wine or two and some good laughs. Not here, Elliott.

Here, I am merely interested in observing, and attempting to truly understand the Vissians' society and morality, as I should. My own morality is totally irrelevant to the matter. So is yours, or anyone else’s. Only when we have a firm grasp of a moral or philosophical system may we attempt to evaluate it. And judging by this thread, most commenters haven't even tried to understand the Vissians, by putting themselves in heir place. This is what I am trying to show.

I know that many characters, and whole civilizations on Star Trek are mere symbols and allegories ― what you often so aptly call myths. But not necessarily so in this case. This isn’t necessarily about slavery, or gay rights, or women’s lib. Sometimes new life and new civilizations are just that.


P.S.: On a final note: I’m betting that the main reason the vast majority of people who side with Tucker and the cogenitor do so is simply because the Vissians are ― alas, as always! ― so humanoid. This episode would have been very different, and would have made its point much better, if the Vissians were truly exotic, bizarre, outlandish non-humanoid beings, that required us to look at social dynamics in a truly different manner.

This is, as always, the fault of Star Trek: it is a television series with a television budget. But it is also the fault of the viewers: for being so literal, and taking everything at face value, and failing to reach a higher level of abstraction.

I’m sorry to see that this also seems to be the case with you here, Elliott.

P.P.S: Do you know of the Chinese Rites controversy of the 17th/18th centuries, in which Catholic Jesuit missionaries to China adopted a series of Chinese customs as a way to better understand the Chinese ways and thus better spread the Word of God, and of the long conflict with the Vatican, and the Dominicans and Franciscans it provoked? I suggest you study it, as it is one of the finest examples of the problems of interpreting, truly understanding, and respecting the nature of alien beliefs and customs in human history, between two highly civilized, and yet so distant cultures.
Robert - Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - 7:31am (USA Central)
I honestly can't see why the statement that these aliens would not be admitted to the future Federation is so controversial.

I'm going to address a few points.

1) I'm NOT judging them. I see your points in what might happen to humanity in similar situations. I hope that in an enlightened society (I'm not arguing we have one either) the government would not be assigning my sperm, but instead that I'd be free to do with it as I please and the rest of the people would make it really, really worth my while to impregnate as many women as I could. I'd like a lot of monies please.

2) I'm not even applying MY morality to the situation. I'm applying the morality of Picard's Federation to the situation and extrapolating that they would not be welcome in the Federation under their current system. Although maybe by then they'd have changed anyway, the Federation doesn't exist yet.

3) I'm assuming the Congenitor kills itself because it would rather die than return to it's own life. I take the episode how it's presented. Nobody even considers the fact that Trip screwed with a mentally unstable being. You may consider it to be a possibility, but you have to look at what the writers were trying to say as well as what's actually in the canon, and to me the episode never really raises this possibility, so I discount it. You can feel free to have a different opinion, but until we agree to disagree and/or set this aside there is no point in continuing because it so radically changes the premise of the argument.

So again, ALL I'm saying is that this species would need to allow their Congenitors self determination to join Picard's Federation. I'm not making any judgement calls on my own morality. I'm looking at 2 fictional morality systems (the 22nd century Vissians and the 24th century Federation) and seeing if they are compatible. My assessment is that they are not.

I just wanted to be very clear as to what I personally am actually saying. Interesting arguments all around though, specifically what would happen if only 3% of men were fertile (if 3% of women were fertile I think we'd all be screwed for obvious reasons unless we were able to have litters of children).
Andy's Friend - Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - 12:27pm (USA Central)
Robert,

”I'd like a lot of monies please.”

:)! Yes, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?

But now, let’s be serious: “the statement that these aliens would not be admitted to the future Federation” isn’t “controversial” ― it’s simplistic.

Your biggest problem, which is also the problem of just about anyone else here, is this that you write, Robert:

“I TAKE THE EPISODE HOW IT'S PRESENTED” [my emphasis]

This is exactly what I meant to Elliott:

“But it is also the fault of the viewers: for being so literal, and taking everything at face value, and failing to reach a higher level of abstraction.”

I feel like Q here, talking to Picard in “All Good Things...” You have to go further. You have to think deeper.

This reminds me of trying to discuss theology with the kinds of people who have only ever learned how to quote Scripture. I very much enjoy discussing the finer points of theology. But with such people, it’s impossible: they may know the entire Bible by heart, but that's all they know; and they don’t understand the meaning(s) of the Word of God. They take it as it is presented. So they are typically wholly ignorant when it comes to the questions of interpretation that existed already in the early Church, and the commentaries by the early Church Fathers, or by later, medieval theologians such as say, Aquinas, or Bonaventure, or Ockham, and so on.

All they know is to quote Scripture. Which really is not knowing at all.

This is what I mean, Robert: commenters here need to start asking much, much bigger questions, and stop quoting the scripts.

To put this episode in context, let’s take an actual example: slavery.

*Every* single human culture and cultural region that reached a minimum of civilization above that of nomadic Amazon Indians or Australian Aborigines saw slavery at one time or another. The Arabs, the Aztecs, all China, all Europe ― from Greeks and Romans to Vikings ―, the Incas, all India, all Japan... and so on and so forth: all ancient civilizations had slavery, and many had so until very, very recently. According to the space and the time, such slaves went by different nomenclature ― serfs, slaves, thralls, etc. ― but the condition of slavery was common to all.

This tells us something extraordinarily powerful and important about mankind that you cannot simply ignore: mankind, thoughout almost all its history, has had no qualms whatsoever about taking away the personal freedom of some to the benefit of others.

Consider this: even in certain Christian, democratic cultures, slavery existed as late as the second half of the 19th century.

Now take our hypothetical 3% scenario.

This is a scenario so radically extreme that it would completely have transformed humanity. The concepts of democracy, free will, personal freedom and slavery would never have developed the way they did. Everything, from religions to philosophies, would be radically different, to reflect the fact that the 3% were, for all practical purposes, a third gender, a class of its own.

Had you been one of those 3%, you wouldn’t have been given a free choice, nor those nice monies ― but you would be equally compensated ;) In a Classical or medieval analogue society, you would live happily in a stud farm mounting ten women a day, being fed a healthy but exquisite diet, and pampered for in any way you could imagine. You would exercize, have music and dance performed for your pleasure, and be happy. But you would not be allowed to leave. Ánd I'm guessing you would never wish to do so, either ;)

By the time we got to a 21st century technologically analogue society, our alternate religions, philosophies, morals and customs would be so deeply rooted, that although your semen might be used to artificially inseminate as many females as deemed necessary by society and civic planners, I’m betting all my money that because mentality was so deeply rooted, you would still enjoy ten women a day, and the actual old-fashioned intercourse. And fertile women everywhere would be waiting for it to be their turn, to visit one of the stud gods in one of the lavish stud farm palace baby-making rooms. And husbands wouldn't be jealous if their wives enjoyed the sex with the stud gods, those few times in their lives. Which sane woman wouldn't?

So you would still live in a lush stud farm ― we wouldn’t want you to walk about the streets and get hit by a bus, would we? ―, would be fed a tasty and healthy diet, and your group holidays with the other stud gods to the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall of China would be as closely monitored as European crown jewels in an overseas exhibition.

And all your mentality would make you never want to get an education, or a job, or a wife. It would make you never wish to leave the stud farm palace you were so lucky to inhabit, being pampered like a god, other than for the occasional group holidays ― not until you behan losing your vitality with age, and would then either reire with a pension (best-case scenario) or be ritually sacrificed à la "Half a Life" (worst-case scenario). No, you would not be allowed to leave even if you wished to during your most potent years. But of course, you yould never wish to.
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Now suppose this alternate Earth develops warp drive, and meets... the Vossians. The Vossians are the leaders of an enlightened United Commonwealth of Planets, which places great emphasis on individual freedom. The Vossians greatly admire alternate Earth’s artistic and scientific achievements, but... they believe that you, a stud god at the height of your virility, and all the other stud gods, are subjugated slaves. And so they deny alternate Earth admission to the Commonwealth.

Is this in any way fair? That the Vossians and the Commonwealth should tell you that you are not a stud god, but that you are a slave? That if you’re perfectly happy to be a stud god in your stud farm palace, and not see it for the cage of gold that it is, it is because you have been brainwashed for millennia?
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These are some of the scenarios that people must imagine when watching this episode. These are some of the questions that they must ask. The stud gods in this scenario are not being mistreated in any way. And they’re perfectly happy to be what they are.

So are the cogenitors.

The one major fault of “Cogenitor” is that this is not made more obvious. But that is really nothing but clever writing, aknowledging the fault of the viewers: of only understanding things in human terms, and needing everything to be explained to them in human terms.

Tell me: if the cogenitor in "Cogenitor" were all Colgate smiles, excitedly telling Trip how thrilled it was, and how it looked forward to help the next couple have their child, and then the next, and the next, how many of the viewers do you think would find that the cogenitors' situation, based on having seen just that one, was a happy one? Do you think we’d be having this conversation? And finally: would the Colgate smiles change anything at all on a philosophical level?

This whole discussion reminds me of those wonderful lines in Lem's "Solaris", which unfortunately seem so truen when I read what is written here. Please see my next message.

I therefore, once again, repeat my last paragraph in my P.S. to Elliott:

“But it is also the fault of the viewers: for being so literal, and taking everything at face value, and failing to reach a higher level of abstraction.”
Robert - Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - 1:00pm (USA Central)
"This reminds me of trying to discuss theology with the kinds of people who have only ever learned how to quote Scripture. I very much enjoy discussing the finer points of theology. But with such people, it’s impossible: they may know the entire Bible by heart, but that's all they know; and they don’t understand the meaning(s) of the Word of God. They take it as it is presented. So they are typically wholly ignorant when it comes to the questions of interpretation that existed already in the early Church, and the commentaries by the early Church Fathers, or by later, medieval theologians such as say, Aquinas, or Bonaventure, or Ockham, and so on."

I just don't see that as being a good argument to what I said. When I say "I take the episode how it's presented." I mean that if the writers did not intend the Congenitor to be mentally unstable then it is not. It's not the same as quoting scriptures without understand them, it's a matter of seeing things that aren't there.

It'd be like reading the Bible and then saying "We should persecute gay people". Totally ignoring the love everybody, turn the other cheek, judge not SPIRIT of the Bible. When I say "I take the episode as it's presented" I mean the SPIRIT of the episode. The SPIRIT of the episode does not support the possibility that Trip took advantage of a mentally unstable individual accidentally. The SPIRIT of the episode is that Trip gave a slave a taste of freedom.

Now the civilization may have had good reason to enslave said person and it's great fun to ponder if the ends justify the means, but to argue that the Congenitor could be mentally unstable is to throw out what's presented. It's a little too death of the author for me, sorry.
Robert - Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - 1:07pm (USA Central)
I will also say that I don't disagree that your stud farm is a likely result of the scenario we discussed. I merely question if it is in line with Roddenberryism (ie the Federation).

"Is this in any way fair? That the Vossians and the Commonwealth should tell you that you are not a stud god, but that you are a slave? That if you’re perfectly happy to be a stud god in your stud farm palace, and not see it for the cage of gold that it is, it is because you have been brainwashed for millennia?"

I suppose if a Vossian could convince me in the span of oh say.... 1 hour long episode that I was miserable and I really wanted to leave they might be on to something? Just maybe....

I can agree that the Vissians are a breath of fresh air from the usual hard headed Trek aliens. I can agree they had good reasons for doing what they did in preserving their society. But the episode presents the fact that when the Congenitor is shown it's potential and that in it's life it cannot reach said potential it becomes unhappy.

I guess I just can't figure out why you don't want to deal with or talk about that.
Robert - Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - 1:09pm (USA Central)
And again, I still want to say that I'm not judging or imposing MY morality on this situation. I'm just trying to discuss if this is compatible with Roddenberry's brand of enlightened society, because if not they would not be welcome in the Federation.
Andy's Friend - Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - 1:13pm (USA Central)
To all,

Expanding on all my previous messages on this thread, a quote from Lem’s “Solaris” (1961), a novel I cannot recommend enough:


“Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.

[...]

We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: for solitude, for hardship, for exhaustion, death. Modesty forbids us to say so, but there are times when we think pretty well of ourselves. And yet, if we examine it more closely, our enthusiasm turns out to be all a sham. We don't want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos. For us, such and such a planet is as arid as the Sahara, another as frozen as the North Pole, yet another as lush as the Amazon basin. We are humanitarian and chivalrous; we don't want to enslave other races, we simply want to bequeath them our values and take over their heritage in exchange.

We think of ourselves as the Knights of the Holy Contact. This is another lie. We are only seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don't know what to do with other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can't accept it for what it is. We are searching for an ideal image of our own world: we go in quest of a planet, a civilization superior to our own but developed on the basis of a prototype of our primeval past. At the same time, there is something inside us which we don't like to face up to, from which we try to protect ourselves, but which nevertheless remains, since we don't leave Earth in a state of primal innocence.

We arrive here as we are in reality, and when the page is turned and that reality is revealed to us ― that part of our reality which we would prefer to pass over in silence ― then we don't like it anymore."


Never has this ― or the whole novel ― sounded truer to me than while reading comments on this thread.

It’s sad, isn’t it? Here is ENT finally presenting us Lem’s other world and other civilization (please note that his formula antedates Star Trek’s), and at the first sight of essential difference, what do we see here? People holding up mirrors...

“We think of ourselves as the Knights of the Holy Contact. This is another lie. We are only seeking Man,” Lem writes.

Most of the commenters here, in a sci-fi forum of all places, would seem to prove him right.
Robert - Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - 2:02pm (USA Central)
If you're speaking of me, I'm just acting as a mouthpiece for Gene. I still am not passing any moral judgement here.

In any case Trek espouses your viewpoint in the Maquis. "Everyone should want to be in the Federation. Hell, you even want the Cardassians to join. You're only sending them replicators because one day they can take their rightful place on the Federation Council. You know, in some ways you're worse than the Borg. At least they tell you about their plans for assimilation. You're more insidious. You assimilate people and they don't even know it."

For the record, I agree that what you say is what we're likely to do when we go up there.... but that still doesn't change the fact that all I'm arguing is that the Vissians wouldn't be accepted into the Federation.

::shrug::
Elliott - Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - 2:26pm (USA Central)
Andy's Friend,

I appreciate what you're trying to say. Really, I do.

The thing is, is sci-fi and Trek in particular really supposed to be a handbook to our real-life encounters with alien beings, or is it an allegorical structure for dealing with ourselves? It could possibly be both, I suppose. But Trek has at this point a very firm foundation in using sci-fi (the undefined other) as a vehicle for social commentary. While it may not have been perfect, TOS' idealistic diversity of crew and hierarchy of principles managed to get on the air *only* because the sci-fi setting shielded the show from critics to an extent. I don't know if I'm willing to grant ENT this level of social-awareness, but the episode seems to me like a 21st-century equivalent to the integrated crew of the 60s.

We have found ourselves in a world where fundamental differences in culture have encountered an impasse. The ideals and achievements of Western Enlightenment can no longer coëxist tranquilly against the reactionary sects of the old world, and we are called upon to accept an ugly truth, that perhaps, in the words of Bill Maher, "liberal, Western culture is not just different – it’s better."

From your quote of Lem's :

"We are searching for an ideal image of our own world: we go in quest of a planet, a civilization superior to our own but developed on the basis of a prototype of our primeval past."

Yes, that is called mythology, of which Trek is a futuristic subtype. Like it our not, life is an egocentric experience; all we can do with the information we accumulate over our lifespans is change ourselves, and hope that that change will be for the good of many. While Lem's idea (as presented by you; I confess I have not read his work, but I intend to) is an interesting exercise in exploring the truly unknown, in the end it seems woefully limited to that hypothetical space. In sci-fi which mirrors the human experience (as Trek often does masterfully), we are asked specifically to see ourselves in these aliens and, in so doing, *evaluate* our choices, our morals, our standards and our future. Evaluation often goes hand in hand with judgement. While I think Robert's (and Trek's) attitude about withholding judgement is a wise rule of thumb, what really can we do in this case? Either we accept at face value the Vissians' claim that their social order is not only natural, but GOOD for their society, or we evaluate their society by the only means we have at our disposal, the mirror.

"Now take our hypothetical 3% scenario.

This is a scenario so radically extreme that it would completely have transformed humanity. The concepts of democracy, free will, personal freedom and slavery would never have developed the way they did. Everything, from religions to philosophies, would be radically different, to reflect the fact that the 3% were, for all practical purposes, a third gender, a class of its own. "

While, of course, such a scenario would totally change the way human cultures look and feel, the *concepts* of class, race [yes it's a concept], freedom, etc. would not be any different. Equality of gender, for example, is not based on the fact that humans tend to be about half female and half male. The *concept* exists independent of statistics. That is why, conceptually, those who identify without gender or as transgender or as possessing non-binary genders are afforded equality of status, even though their numbers are somewhere in the ballpark of the Vissians' cogenitors or even smaller.

Your scenario about stud farms and the like is certainly a plausible course of human history given human nature, but that doesn't make it RIGHT! No more so than slavery (which is also plausible). We have decided to evaluate our own societies based on certain axioms which are borne of the European Enlightenment. Either we abandon those axioms or we embrace them. You keep suggesting that, because some cultures do not embrace those axioms (you specifically mentioned the Chinese--which is, ironically, a broad generalisation that doesn't hold up, as I know personally at least a dozen individuals who grew up in China who not only understand by embrace Western ideals), they cannot be regarded as Universals. Well that may be true, but let me ask you, do you think societies (all societies including the Chinese's) would be better or worse off for embracing those Universals? I think it's worth lifting your head outside the cave of abstraction for a moment to answer that question honestly before continuing.
Andy's Friend - Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - 3:13pm (USA Central)
Robert,

Yes, Eddington's words echo Lem's in this passage. But unlike you when you write: "[Lem's "seeking Man"] is what we're likely to do when we go up there", I'm pretty sure that the minute we meet a truly alien species, we'll give up such childish, foolish thoughts.

Before I get back to your main question, consider this, though: the fact that you are willing to seriously discuss the one cogenitor you have ever seen in your life, and that for a mere half-hour or less, and use him as sole reference, concerning a species that you have also only seen once in your life, and that for about the same half-hour, just proves my point: you are being concrete to the extreme.

You need to raise your level of abstraction, Robert.

ROBERT ― "When I say "I take the episode how it's presented." I mean that if the writers did not intend the Congenitor to be mentally unstable then it is not. It's not the same as quoting scriptures without understand them, it's a matter of seeing things that aren't there."

My point is much, much simpler: these are alien beings. You don't know what you are seing. You only think you do, because you choose to interpret it in human terms.

ROBERT ― "When I say "I take the episode as it's presented" I mean the SPIRIT of the episode."

The spirit of this episode is that we should not interfere in that which we do not understand. The spirit of this episode is Archers fantastic final delivery to Tucker. YOU see a slave. I see an alien. And I recognize that I am in no way in a position to even begin to make an educated guess about its nature.

You seem to believe that you are not merely capable of making that educated guess, but in fact of knowing the Truth. You, Robert, must be a wiser man than I.

...which brings us back to the Federation issue. I get it: all you're arguing "is that the Vissians wouldn't be accepted into the Federation" because of the cogenitors' situation as per this episode.

I understand you, and unfortunately, gladly concede that you may have a point. This is because the TNG Federation has failed, abysmally, in depicting true alienness within its member planets. How are the Bolians different from humans? They're blue!

But what else do we know of the Bolians? Or the Betazoids? Or the Benzites? And so on and so forth. I can't recall a single episode of TNG that deals with serious ethical problems arising from the native customs of a member planet.

TNG thus unfortunately painted itself into a corner by not establishing, through carefully studied example, what situations would and would not be accepted in member worlds. And we of course tend to see Picard, the paragon of virtue, as representative of all the Federation worlds, not merely professionally (which he of course is), but also mentally (which he can never be).

Are we to believe that the only difference between Bolians and humans is that the former are blue? This is ridiculous. We must make room for some cultural idiosyncrasies in every alien species in the Federation. Again: it is Star Trek's fault that we were never presented such true, cultural diversity.

And again: this is why you, and so many others, must raise your level of abstraction.

Allow me to give a real-world case: in the European Union, every single expansion has included specific clauses for each country that allowed for some very specific national legislation to be maintained above the common EU law.

In the case of Austria, for instance, when Austria joined the European Union in 1995, that country specifically demanded that its constitutional paragraphs barring the members of the former Imperial House of Habsburg to candidate for the presidency of the country be maintained. So if you happen to be the great-grandchild of the last Emperor of Austria, you can't run for president. These paragraphs are of course illegal under European Law and might be contested at the European Court; but the EU gladly accepted this among Austria's several demands in order to have them as members. And other such highly specific exceptions have been made in every single admittance to the European Union.

I cannot possibly believe that something similar is not the case in the Federation, and that every single world has not specific clauses of membership, and specific local legislation that accomodates and respects its historical heritage.

Are we for instance to believe, as suggested by Elliott here the other day, that the Klingons wouldn't be accepted to the Federation just because they won't allow females on the High Council? This is a ridiculous thought. I can think of much better reasons why the Klingn's shouldn't be allowed to join, and could also argue that they should. Klingons give their females ample rights. Who cares if there are a few special cases of "males only" or "females only" to certain specific bodies or institutions ― on Qo'noS, on Betazed, Bolias, wherever? These are alien planets and cultures, after all. There must be some fundamental Federation law that is important. Are they democratic? Austria is.

What you are implying, Robert et al., is a policy of admission to the Federation that would be narrow-minded to the extreme, and more akin to pure fantasy than anything resembling science-fiction. We must allow for some cultural peculiarities and idiosyncrasies to exist on alien worlds, even if TNG never showed them. Is our goal to seek out new worlds, and new civilizations? Or are we really merely seeking Man?
Paul M. - Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - 3:54pm (USA Central)
Andy's Friend, I am in awe. My respect to you, good man! I am tempted to write something more, so that this doesn't sound like simple "what he said", but I feel I can't contribute anything meaningful to your fantastic series of posts.

And yes, I'd also recommend Solaris. A great book, to be sure. (While we're at it, Interstellar has energised my SF batteries to dangerously high levels. I plan to re-watch some great SF movies these days, both Solarises included.
Yanks - Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - 7:58pm (USA Central)
Paul M,

I am with you.

In awe with this conversation and I loved Interstellar too! :-)

One comment. If "it" looked like Jaba the hut 90% of the empathizers wouldn't be there.
Robert - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 7:14am (USA Central)
"The spirit of this episode is that we should not interfere in that which we do not understand. The spirit of this episode is Archers fantastic final delivery to Tucker. YOU see a slave. I see an alien. And I recognize that I am in no way in a position to even begin to make an educated guess about its nature.

You seem to believe that you are not merely capable of making that educated guess, but in fact of knowing the Truth. You, Robert, must be a wiser man than I. "

I'm not saying I know the "truth". I'm saying that it's not an alien, it's an actor in an art piece.

I do agree that if we were watching a documentary about this incident there would be no way to no if the Congenitor was unbalanced, if the other Congenitors are happy, how oppressed they are, etc.

But if you look at what the WRITERS are trying to say (or at least I will admit that it's what I THINK the writers are trying to say), the episode stops making sense if the Congenitor is not oppressed. And it REALLY stops making sense if the Congenitor is unbalanced.

If the Congenitor is unbalanced and none of the other Congenitors are like this it stops being a story about Trip interfering wrongly and starts being a story about Trip getting supremely unlucky. Can we agree on that?

"I cannot possibly believe that something similar is not the case in the Federation, and that every single world has not specific clauses of membership, and specific local legislation that accomodates and respects its historical heritage."

Yet a small moon penal colony where former soldiers are pampered caused Picard to recommend that Angosia not be Federation members. It didn't matter that they were treated well or that the government deemed it necessary to make a bunch of super soldiers to fight a war. Picard deemed it wrong, so no soup for you!

I do agree that in the beginning Archer was likely bending over backwards to lick the Andorian's and Vulcan's boots to get the first few guys into the Federation, but once you have HUNDREDS of worlds you can be pickier. Now perhaps they SHOULDN'T be pickier, but I don't think I'm arguing that here.

"What you are implying, Robert et al., is a policy of admission to the Federation that would be narrow-minded to the extreme, and more akin to pure fantasy than anything resembling science-fiction. "

Actually I don't think I am. The Klingons are one of the quadrant powers. They nearly became Romulan allies multiple times during TNG. If I were the head of the Federation and they asked to join I'd lick their boots.

And now back to what the episode is about... and of course here we can agree to disagree.

To me the writer of the episode seemed to make a Congenitor that was oppressed (I understand I'm seeing this through human eyes, but the writer was human and wrote it with human hands) so that Trip could do the right thing and still be wrong. I mean, that's a helluva kicker right? You did the right thing and you were still wrong! Why were you wrong? Because
Robert - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 7:19am (USA Central)
Huh.... I lost the bottom there. Did I make it too long?

It should say

"Because (insert Archer's speech here). I will agree with you that Archer's speech is the moral of the story. But we disagree on what it means. I think it means that it's not OUR PLACE to judge these aliens. You think it means that we CANNOT judge these aliens. I hope you are wrong. I hope when we make the eventual Federation we don't allow the Vissians in while they are still oppressing their Congenitors, the Vidiians while they are still harvesting organs or the Cardassians while they are occupying Bajor. As a cautionary tale for building a Federation with the "wrong people" go watch the very excellent VOY S7 episode, "The Void"."
Robert - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 7:22am (USA Central)
I guess my point is... I would hope the EU wouldn't accept "it's totally cool to fry the Jews" as a rule bending from a Nazi Germany that was trying to join. And yes I know you automatically lose internet arguments when you mention the Nazis, but I still think it's a good point here. Mostly because I'm not comparing the Vissians to Nazis.
Andy's Friend - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 10:33am (USA Central)
Robert,

Why don’t we meet each other half-way?

ROBERT ― ”But if you look at what the WRITERS are trying to say (or at least I will admit that it's what I THINK the writers are trying to say), the episode stops making sense if the Congenitor is not oppressed. And it REALLY stops making sense if the Congenitor is unbalanced.
[...]
I will agree with you that Archer's speech is the moral of the story. But we disagree on what it means. I think it means that it's not OUR PLACE to judge these aliens. You think it means that we CANNOT judge these aliens. I hope you are wrong.”

There are two possibilities here:

1 ― The Cogenitor is oppressed. Yet, it is not Tucker’s, or Archer’s, place to judge these aliens. “it's not OUR PLACE to judge these aliens”. And Archer tells Tucker that.

2 ― The Cogenitor may or may not be oppressed. We don’t know. We know next to nothing about it. And knowing so little, we have no means of really interpreting it. Yes, it may very well look opressed to us, but that may be our interpretation tricking us. Knowing so little about it and Vissian society, “we CANNOT judge these aliens”. And Archer tells Tucker that.

Either way, the episode makes a lot of sense. But one of these interpretations is for children, and the other is for grown-ups. One of them is simplistic, and childish, and the other is intelligent, and adult. You choose, Robert.

...and I had already written this, on May 10, 2014:

“As such, this episode is clever writing because it speaks to a Western audience with our present moral beliefs, and provokes reactions based on those Western beliefs.”

So what are the writers really trying to say? This episode is outstanding because it knows its broad viewer base, and reaches both the simple minds who can only make literal readings of everything they see, and the ones who can reach a higher level of abstraction. It thus fuels discussion between the two. Which is exactly what we are doing here. This does not change the fact that your interpretation is the simplistic and naïve one, and mine is the more complex and much more realistic one.

Can we agree on that?
Robert - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 10:51am (USA Central)
Agreeing that my view is simplistic and naive is meeting half way? You have quite the ego. I think we can all agree on that.

I will agree with you that both 1 and 2 are the two possibilities. At least that eliminates 99% of the rest of this discussion.

"Either way, the episode makes a lot of sense."

Perhaps, but in your scenario Tucker learns not to jump to conclusions and in mine he learns not to play morality police. Both lessons are pretty simple and useful to learn while exploring the stars. Both are pretty basic and simple. Your interpretation isn't some magic awe inspiring life altering lesson. Don't jump to conclusions is advice we teach to young children.

Now if the episode was about our inability to understand the aliens because of how alien they were, THAT might be interesting. But the episode CANNOT be about that. As you yourself said "We know next to nothing about it. And knowing so little, we have no means of really interpreting it."

If 2 is correct our failure to understand enough to judge the Congenitors is a lack of information, not a culture clash. You WANT this to be about the alien-ness of it all. About how we are not able to judge them because we're too human, too Western, too whatever. You want to think that you've expanded your abstraction enough to see this episode as some great truth... but if 2 is correct than Tucker was wrong because he judged without all the facts. Not because of any great truth.

And if 1 is correct Tucker learned something about not being an arbiter of morality. PERSONALLY, I find #1 more interesting, but your mileage may vary. Either way (1 or 2), the episode isn't about what you think it is.
Robert - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 10:57am (USA Central)
And lastly, Elliott is still right. Sci-fi, and Star Trek in particular very rarely is about what it would be like to meet something alien and much more about shining a mirror on ourselves.

Even if Western liberal culture is the correct morality, going into the middle east and forcing it on them overnight is going to have some pretty horrible consequences. Trip learned a lesson that interfering has consequences, even if your morality is correct. At least that's how I see it. As I said, other interpretations may be valid, but don't kid yourself that yours is deeper.
Andy's Friend - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 11:19am (USA Central)
Robert,

On a different note, you have of course a point regarding admission to the Federation, that “once you have HUNDREDS of worlds you can be pickier”.

But I gave you an actual, historical example of how such proceedings actually work in a real-world scenario, in a case where all the involved parties are actual human beings.

The United Federation of Planets is not, and cannot be, like the United States of America, a federation of rather homogeneous states with very little history and individual culture, and all sharing the most important common markers, including language.

The UFP will of course much rather resemble the European Union, a more loose confederation of very heterogeneous states, with millennial histories and different cultures and languages, composed of Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Latin, Slav, and a few other, more peculiar peoples, such as the two Finno-Ugric ones.

These are nations with much, much stronger national identities than the individual US member states, and therefore much more akin to the varied nature of the UFP worlds. I mean, even Albania has its own, very peculiar language and more than two thousand years of history. What has Alabama?

I come from a southern European EU member state, and at the moment I live in a northern European one. I essentially live in a proto-UFP. If anything, the multinational dynamics are greater at EU level than they would be at UFP level, because of the geographic proximity and the physical interconnectedness of the member states: an earthquake in Italy may disrupt electricity supply in France; a flood in the Netherlands, or a livestock epidemic in Germany, may affect food supplies throughout the EU in a matter of days. We actually depend on each other, in ways the UFP worlds cannot begin to compare.

I read regularly of the various issues concerning transnational or multinational cooperation at EU level on areas of key strategic interest to specific member states. It can be exasperating, at times: here are member states attempting to cooperate for the common good, while at the same time defending of course a minimum of national interest.

But I also read of simple cooperation on matters of less strategic importance, but very long and proud traditions, such as say, reforms of education systems at universities that are more than five hundred years old.

Imagine a EU proposition of reform that would force a few 700-year old faculties to close and be merged with others. How well do you think such a proposition would be received in the affected countries? These are ancient and almost sacred institutions in the respective EU member states. That is the power of history, and tradition, and culture: its beauty, and its disadvantage. It is what makes my Old World so incredibly beautiful. It is also what makes it so slow to change. Old habits die hard.

Now, if ancient European universities can make a fuss about standardization procedures and abandoning old traditions for the sake of a European common education policy, what would the universities on Bolias and Betazed and Benzar say? Why should they abandon their peculiar traditions, and change everything, or anything, to accomodate “HUNDREDS” of distant worlds, of which they probably only regularly interact with the closest dozen or so?

Again, Robert ― and I don’t know how many times I must say this ― you must raise your level of abstraction. You have to think bigger thoughts.

Suggesting that every member planet of the UFP has NOT its own, very specific memberships clauses, but just has signed on the same standard charter as everyone else, with no special provisions for its specific cultural characteristics, practices, and heritage, isn’t simplistic: it’s rather weak thinking. That could only have two interpretations:

1) The Federation charter is nothing but a vague and not legally binding declaration of intents, or
2) The Federation has a legal, educational, etc. framework which is identical in every single world, and once you've signed the charter, you must adopt that framework.

Either one of these suggestions is preposterous.

So even if you’re right in saying that “once you have HUNDREDS of worlds you can be pickier”, the Federation would still need to, as I wrote previously, “allow for some cultural peculiarities and idiosyncrasies to exist [...], even if TNG never showed them.” And this means also at the legal level. And this means negotiating terms of admission.

This is how the real world works. And we must debate Star Trek based on a minimum of realism.

You wrote: “I'm not saying I know the "truth". I'm saying that it's not an alien, it's an actor in an art piece.”

And this is your problem, and my point, ever and always: if we want to have serious talks about Star Trek, we have to stop pretending these are actors and start pretending it’s all actually true. And we have to debate it as such. Not in a concrete, literal sense, but in a more abstract manner, based on how reality actually works.

Ergo, what we see in this episode is a First Contact. Ergo, the cogenitor is an alien. And ergo, you ― or I, or Elliott, or Robert, or Yanks, or anyone ― have no clue whatsoever as to its true nature.

The episode doesn't lose its value as a result. Quite the contrary: it functions also as an important reminder of that old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover".

So what will it be, Robert, of the two in my previous message? Interpretation 1, or interpretation 2?
Robert - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 12:00pm (USA Central)
You accuse me of not thinking big enough, yet when I get to the point where I see your point and yet still tell you I think that reading of the episode is wrong you tell me my interpretation is naive.

I totally agree with you about the EU, but I ask you... would the EU accept a slave state. If the British slave trade still existed, should we allow them into the EU?

Since the ORIGINAL point of the discussion is if they'd be allowed in the Federation, it would be thinking big to discuss if there are lines that shouldn't be crossed. Could we allow Klingons in even though they treat women less well than men? Could we allow Vissians in when 3% of their population isn't allowed self determination? Could we allow Romulans in when they keep Remans as a slave caste.

You say we cannot judge alien cultures, I look at an episode like "The Void" and say eventually we're going to have to. And judging doesn't mean interfering, this episode paints the price of interfering quite high. Judging means deciding for ourselves who we ally with/do business with/whatever.

So I still come down on Interpretation 1. And that's not because I'm not thinking big enough or don't understand your point. It's just because I genuinely don't think that's what the writer was trying to say. I WILL say that it's GREAT that this stuff makes us all think big thoughts about the universe though.
Robert - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 12:02pm (USA Central)
To phrase the question in another way. Even if the Federation has done away with inherited aristocracy you'd probably, if you were the head of the Federation, allow Mrs. Troi to keep the holy rings of Betazed, right? Because it'd be worth getting the Betazoids into the Federation.

But is there something a race could do that would give you pause? That would be non negotiable? Anything at all?
Andy's Friend - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 12:38pm (USA Central)
Robert,

Very interesting. I missed your previous message, as I was writing to you. Perhaps you missed the folowing:

"Perhaps, but in your scenario Tucker learns not to jump to conclusions and in mine he learns not to play morality police."

Not really. In my scenario, Tucker learns NOT TO PLAY morality police because he learns NOT TO JUMP to conclusions.

I get to have my cake and eat it. That is one of the reasons why this is the superior interpretation: it encompasses everything. As I said, this is the more complex interpretation. It takes more factors into consideration. That is also why it is the more realistic approach. This is what we're actually seeing, if we are to take this in any way seriously.

It seems to me that it is you who "WANT" this to be merely a simplistic story, and only want to see part of what's going on. My interpretation gives you everything. Why not take it?

"If 2 is correct our failure to understand enough to judge the Congenitors is a lack of information, not a culture clash."

You are actually completely missing the point here: it is precisely because Trip receives TOO MUCH information that we see this culture clash.

Tucker simply cannot correctly assimilate what he is told in such a short period of time. That is why he jumps to conclusions. It is a paradox, but a very true and well-know one: too much information in too short time is also too little information.

Anything sufficiently "alien" to you will quite simply be misunderstood or not understood at all at first, in spite of the information amount, by any normal human being. It is an ages-old paradox, and one of the reasons why meeting and moving to sufficiently different cultures can be such a tricky business.

Being an expat myself, and having lived in various countries in Europe and Asia, this is perhaps why I tend to particularly like this episode. What Trip goes through is the absolutely typical response of anyone not understanding and not liking what he is experiencing in a sufficiently alien culture. He then jumps to conclusions. And he then gets carried away and plays morality police.

As I said, the cogenitor may or may not be oppressed. But the important thing is that Trip really doesn't know. Unlike what you claim, he's actually suffering from information overload which he cannot possibly assimilate in such a short period of time. i say again: it is possible that the cogenitor is opressed. But Trip can't know. And he wants to know. Because he's been told too much ― and not enough. He therefore loses emotional control, and starts acting clearly on his emotions.

Doesn't this seem a fair interpretation to you?
Robert - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 12:59pm (USA Central)
"I get to have my cake and eat it. That is one of the reasons why this is the superior interpretation: it encompasses everything. As I said, this is the more complex interpretation. It takes more factors into consideration. That is also why it is the more realistic approach. This is what we're actually seeing, if we are to take this in any way seriously."

Taking MORE factors into discussion is better, but what if some factors don't hold up. I just don't personally find it to be as powerful a message to learn to not be the morality police because you misunderstood/didn't wait for the facts as opposed to "Trip got the facts right, the Congenitor is oppressed and he STILL shouldn't be the morality police." To ME that's a deeper, more interesting message.

"It seems to me that it is you who "WANT" this to be merely a simplistic story, and only want to see part of what's going on. My interpretation gives you everything. Why not take it?"

I may see the story as simple, but I don't see the morality beyond it as simple. I guess THAT'S why I like the episode. I think it's a hard lesson to learn that can't save everyone and it's even harder to learn that you shouldn't always try. I just think that lesson is more interesting than don't jump without all the facts.

"Tucker simply cannot correctly assimilate what he is told in such a short period of time. That is why he jumps to conclusions. It is a paradox, but a very true and well-know one: too much information in too short time is also too little information. "

See now, I DO find this to be an interesting interpretation. And it's certainly a cool though, but I don't see the way the episode played out as being about this. I tend to think that Trip could spend 4 years with the Vissians and still make the same mistakes. Leading with his heart over his head is a character trait. I don't think Trip could ever get to a place where he accepts the subjugation of Congenitors. It's just not in his nature.

YOU (and perhps Q) might say that shows how limited we are, but Kirk and Gene would probably say that it's what makes humanity great.

"Being an expat myself, and having lived in various countries in Europe and Asia, this is perhaps why I tend to particularly like this episode. What Trip goes through is the absolutely typical response of anyone not understanding and not liking what he is experiencing in a sufficiently alien culture. He then jumps to conclusions. And he then gets carried away and plays morality police. "

I do really appreciate this point of view. And I can see it. I just don't think that's where the episode is coming from. These are little hour long drama pieces, right? We don't have more than 15-20 minutes to learn about the alien of the week because the episode doesn't allow it. I guess I just assume that what we learned in those 15-20 minutes was correct and that the conclusions we draw are those the writer meant us to draw. I think Trip's all to short crash course on the Congenitor is not the point at all, but besides the point and a limitation of the medium. We don't assume Lucy and Ricky were actually monochromatic, do we? ;)

I will concede that it's great and Star Trek worthy that this episode has caused you to think big thoughts about how alien is too alien, how we would be judged by aliens, how aliens would judge us, how we judge other cultures here on Earth and so forth. I STILL don't think it's what the episode is about, but ANYTHING that makes you think like that is great :)

I will definitely agree that Trips emotions get carried away. But I also know that if this was TNG and the Congenitor was attracted to Riker that Picard would have granted it asylum.
Robert - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 1:00pm (USA Central)
It would be fascinating to live in another country for a time though. I'm sure I'd get a whole new perspective on many things I take for granted. So perhaps neither of us is right and both of us see it through the lens of our own experiences. Death of the author that I was rejecting up top and all that.
Elliott - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 1:41pm (USA Central)
@ Andy's Friend ;

To echo Robert, in addition to the numerous, gaping logical flaws in your admittedly prolific arguments, you have consigned your analysis of the Federation to a comparison with the EU, because it is the only example you care to use from extant history.

To quote from TNG's "Attached" :

"Every member of the Federation entered as a unified world, and that unity said something about them, that they had resolved certain social and political differences, and they were now ready to become part of a larger community."

The premise of the Federation is not that other worlds would simply embrace human ideals, it is that *all* races/species inexorably evolve these ideals, and would naturally seek unity with other worlds once interstellar exploration became possible. The mirror/myth of this premise is that contemporary humans, just like every other species, are evolving in this direction and we should embrace/encourage that evolution. The EU may be seen as a kind of embryonic form of this--wherein those things which already hold the nations together in common are formalised politically and economically. But we shouldn't hold the futuristic Federation's admittance practices to the EU's standards. On the contrary, we should encourage the EU to be more Federation-like!
Elliott - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 1:49pm (USA Central)
"What Trip goes through is the absolutely typical response of anyone not understanding and not liking what he is experiencing in a sufficiently alien culture. He then jumps to conclusions."

Maybe. But as Robert has pointed out a couple of times, the episode itself supports the idea that Trip's conclusion was correct. Maybe he stumbled onto this conclusion because the TV format doesn't allow for him to come to this conclusion in careful, considered ways (and the episode is mindful of the fact that this is true), but that does not discredit his, shall we say, "accidental" revelation.
Paul M. - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 1:57pm (USA Central)
@Elliott: "The premise of the Federation is not that other worlds would simply embrace human ideals, it is that *all* races/species inexorably evolve these ideals"

Ah, there are no terms strong enough with which I could express my disagreement. You seem to contend that every single society in the vastness of universe will inevitably (unless some shit, like extinction or whatever else) come to the same conclusions as present-day humans from the Western civilization. This is simply a preposterous train of thought. Not to mention that this reasoning supposes that our present socio-economic ideals are the *only* ideals worth having and that the future is hence unable to deliver anything new except means of attaining said ideals more easily. What you're proposing aren't ideals; it's religious dogma.

No wonder we have a history of slavery and genocide. Everyone who's not exactly like us *is* by default inferior, since the only explanation why they're not like is that they haven't yet reached the "inexorable" point in their evolution. It is up to then to help them along. Earthman's burden indeed.
Paul M. - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 2:02pm (USA Central)
Some strange word-eatage occurred. My last paragraph from the previous post should read as:

No wonder we have a history of slavery and genocide. Everyone who's not exactly like us *is* by default inferior, since the only explanation why they're not like us is that they haven't yet reached the "inexorable" point in their evolution. It is up to us then to help them along. Earthman's burden indeed.
Robert - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 2:11pm (USA Central)
"Ah, there are no terms strong enough with which I could express my disagreement. You seem to contend that every single society in the vastness of universe will inevitably (unless some shit, like extinction or whatever else) come to the same conclusions as present-day humans from the Western civilization. "

I won't weigh in on either side of the argument, but that is not what Elliott said. At best he said the EU is the beginning of an eventual evolution of better ideals.

You can still disagree with Elliott, but the premise was that "Every single society in the vastness of universe will inevitably (unless some shit, like extinction or whatever else) come to the same conclusions as FUTURE ENLIGHTENED humans".
Paul M. - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 2:24pm (USA Central)
Robert: No, that's exactly what Elliott said.

I will quote him once again:

The premise of the Federation is not that other worlds would simply embrace human ideals, it is that *all* races/species inexorably evolve these ideals.
Robert - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 2:30pm (USA Central)
I'll quote Elliott too!

"The mirror/myth of this premise is that contemporary humans, just like every other species, are evolving in this direction and we should embrace/encourage that evolution."

If we are evolving towards that ideal now, we cannot currently be there. I'm not saying you can't disagree with Elliott, merely that your use of "present-day humans from the Western civilization" is a misrepresentation.
Elliott - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 2:58pm (USA Central)
@Paul M.

I am not offering this as a theory of my own design, but as the underlying premise of the Star Trek universe. You getting your knickers in a bind about it is like complaining that Luke Skywalker can move things with his mind.
Paul M. - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 4:53pm (USA Central)
Well, then it's up to you to prove that this is "the underlying premise" of Star Trek universe. For example, Vulcans, especially as depicted in TOS era, are most certainly nowhere near such value system. As far as I can remember, Andorians were also pretty suspect in that regard. Odo's people, by the very nature of their dual individual/communal existence could never accept the same value system as humans. Individuality, freedom of choice, civil liberties, hardly anything could be mapped to the traditional tenets of enlightenment.

Why the need to insist on such utterly anthropomorphic perspective. Software needs hardware, right? The idea that everyone can subscribe to the same underlying value system is impossible even on the level of DNA. We can't impose human societal norms on dolphins, elephants, or chimpanzees if for no other reason than because of our "hardware", our DNA, our physical needs. Every society is built upon such a material basis. Hypothetical alien life would be hardly different. Their perspectives, value systems, moral coordinates, or whatever you'd like to call it, would always be superstructures that grow on the foundation of their underlying hardwired physical selves.
Andy's Friend - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 4:56pm (USA Central)
Elliott,

ELLIOTT ― “To echo Robert, in addition to the numerous, gaping logical flaws in your admittedly prolific arguments, you have consigned your analysis of the Federation to a comparison with the EU, because it is the only example you care to use from extant history.”

Thank you very much for alerting me to logical flaws in my argumentation. As you yourself mention, I am somewhat of a prolific writer; and unlike certain dilettantes, who essentially have but one argument, which they repeat ad nauseam, and certain other intellectually vain types, who prefer to point out faults in other people’s ideas rather than advance some ideas of their own, I do try to develop, as you know, some independent thoughts in every other message or so.

It is thus hardly surprising that, among all my lines, a few ― nay, perhaps even numerous, and gaping ― logical flaws may appear in my argumentation, and I thank you for alerting me to them.

Unfortunately you only mention them en passant, instead op pointing them out. I would normally say that merely alluding to a man’s mistakes without stating them smacks of slander; call me old-fashioned, but I just wasn’t brought up that way. But I am sure you must have very good reason to not actually mention them. You were very busy, perhaps?

I myself would of course never point out a man’s mistakes in public without explicitly referring them, thus giving him a chance to defend himself. It’s just the sporting thing to do, don’t you think? I have for instance called a couple of your thoughts ridiculous, but made quite clear which. It’s just the sporting thing to do.

Anyway, I would like to ask you to be so kind as to point out the logical flaws that you allude to, that I may attempt to avoid them in the future. It goes without saying that I have no idea of what you are referring to, or I would have corrected them myself; but being so numerous and gaping, I’m sure you can remember a handful of them.

Will you please be so kind to show them to me, Elliott?


As to the second part of your sentence that I quote, well, what can I say? I’ll be direct, as I always am, and quote von Pauli, in what is a remarkably adequate use of the famous quote: “es ist nicht einmal falsch!“
Andy's Friend - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 5:03pm (USA Central)
Elliott, and Robert,

ROBERT ― ”Interesting arguments all around though, specifically what would happen if only 3% of men were fertile (if 3% of women were fertile I think we'd all be screwed for obvious reasons unless we were able to have litters of children).”

Robert, I’ll deviate from our nice chat to examine this, and ask you to indulge me in some “Statistical Probabilities” of my own. Because you're actually right, in a way, I think. Consider the following:

I’m guessing that in a 3% alternate Earth society, with my suggested specialized breeding farms, medical discoveries such as the benefits of personal hygiene, and sterilisation of instruments with fire or alcohol, would be made much quicker than actually happened in the real world.

Women in my suggested breeding farms, being well-fed and well taken care of, might thus expect to survive their pregancies and births, and have perhaps up to 20 children while 15-40 years old. It is not unrealistic.

Of these, again with said basic medical improvements, some 17-19 might perhaps be expected to live into adulthood. So while not exactly having litters as you suggested, for practical purposes the effect is roughly identical.

Contrary to popular belief, women and men in the real world often only married as late as in their mid-20s in the days of yore. Miscarriages were frequent, and infant mortality, as is well-known, was sky-high, often around 50%. Historical birth rates in the world suggest that on average, very roughly, only about 2-3 children survived into adulthood, out of twice that amount of births, and even more pregnancies. This is why population growth in the world was so moderate for most of human history.

So our 3% fertile women could perhaps produce a number of babies corresponding to some 25% of the real-world women. Add to that some 10% of women in convents in medieval Europe, and our 3% correspond to about a third of the actual women ― some ten times more than their actual number.

This is the very advantage of regulated and planned breeding that I have suggested, and why it would undoubtedly be practised. While population growth would certainly be slower than in the real world, it is absolutely feasible that 3% of the women, if well bred on, could sustain thriving civilizations.

...because, if one wished to go even further, we might begin contemplating SELECTIVE BREEDING ― just like we’ve done, and still do, in the real world with any livestock. Why do cows produce more milk today than a hundred years ago? Why do sows give more piglets? Improved nutrition, and selective breeding. This would mean, for example, intensive selective breeding of women with a history of producing twins. And selective breeding of women known to produce large, strong, healthy children. And selective breding of women known to stay fertile until say, in their 50s.

How long would it take before a subspecies of women with a very high probability of producing twins had been bred?

How long would it take before a subspecies of exceptionally strong, athletic women who gave strong, athletic children had been bred?

Would such women not be reserved for the upper classes of society?

Would such differentiation not further divide human society into biologically differentiated castes? From the menial workers who only were granted access to inferior-grade females, to various upper castes with access to the more formidable females?

ELLIOTT ― "[Now take our hypothetical 3% scenario].
[...]
While, of course, such a scenario would totally change the way human cultures look and feel, the *concepts* of class, race [yes it's a concept], freedom, etc. would not be any different.”

This is utterly absurd. Do you seriously, really believe that? This is merely a scenario, but a highly plausible one. I could give you others. Admittedly, it's all "Statistical Probabilities". But have you ever considered the ramifications of scenarios, Elliott?
Elliott - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 6:28pm (USA Central)
Andy's Friend,

I am exceptionally close to being done with this conversation. I commend you on all the thought you've put into this, and I daresay, your talents would be put to better use co-writing your own fiction than analysing Trek, because your scenarios spin further and further away from what this show is trying to be about. And let me be clear, that in itself is fine, good even, that you should be so inspired as to keep the gears turning and churning. However, I don't feel that you are necessarily able to leave all that baggage behind and analyse what you see before you critically. "Independent thoughts," as you put it, can become so in-dependent as to become superfluous.

I am going to do the honourable thing and pedantically point out each little flaw that I see in your arguments above, but I want to be totally clear that I don't think those little flaws are particularly important in the scheme of this argument. In a sense we are having different conversations and with each subsequent alternate scenario you present, yours gets further and further away from this story. With that caveat out of the way, here we go:

1. The nature of the Vissians and the cogenitors:

You wrote : "I'm pretty sure that the minute we meet a truly alien species, we'll give up such childish, foolish thoughts."

That is not a logical argument, it is a belief. Your belief is predicated on, it seems, a style of science-ficiton/fantasy which you prefer to Trek's style.

That is completely fine, of course, for you to prefer other's (ie Lam's) style of fiction. But in analysing a work of Star Trek, you do have to take it on its own terms. Just as you adamantly put forth the arguments of historical and cultural relativism, *fictional* relativism is important. If it is your conclusions that Trek's myth/mirror approach is faulty, foolish or dangerous, you are free to make that argument, but it is tremendously self-defeating to impose your own preferences onto a Universe which has chosen another path. You decided for yourself that the Vissians were "a truly alien species," but in Trek, no alien species is actually alien; each is a mythological magnification of humanity, so that one may tell tales via proxy. The prejudices we face are after all the result of dismissing others as somehow *less* human than ourselves. By making the other human players "alien," the distinctions between actual human beings are revealed to be laughably minor in comparison. Thus the original premises for our prejudices are robbed of their power to hold us. That is the power of the Trek myth, and why it is next to pointless arguing that the Vissians or any other Trek race is truly alien from us. They are not, and cannot be because that is not the *reason* Trek has alien races, or is set in the future. It has always been about us.

Hence your statement, "these are alien beings. You [Robert] don't know what you are seing. You only think you do, because you choose to interpret it in human terms."

is utterly baseless. It isn't Robert or I who interpret the aliens in human terms, it's the writers who INVENTED them who do so. You are free to take that invention and roll with it, inventing and conjuring your own scenarios as you do, but that act doesn't give you the right to substitute your version of their creation inside their premise, and then criticise the rest of us for failing to see the genius of your arguments.

"I understand you, and unfortunately, gladly concede that you may have a point. This is because the TNG Federation has failed, abysmally, in depicting true alienness within its member planets. How are the Bolians different from humans? They're blue!...it is Star Trek's fault that we were never presented such true, cultural diversity."

As I've already said, if you want to be critical of Trek for being what it is, you are in large company (just take a look at this site!), but it seems pretty obvious that, for you, this was the episode which broke the mould and suddenly stopped being Trek in favour of a wholly different type of science fiction. There are episodes of Trek in nearly every series (some more than others) which really cross the line and become something else, but this is not one of them. This is so classically Trek it could easily be adapted into a TOS format and told forty years earlier. The subject matter (read: the human social dysfunction which the episode is criticising in moral terms) is more contemporary than the issues typically dealt with on TOS, but the spirit, as Robert put, is very blatantly there.

"There are two possibilities here:

1 ― The Cogenitor is oppressed. Yet, it is not Tucker’s, or Archer’s, place to judge these aliens. 'it's not OUR PLACE to judge these aliens'. And Archer tells Tucker that.

2 ― The Cogenitor may or may not be oppressed. We don’t know. We know next to nothing about it. And knowing so little, we have no means of really interpreting it. Yes, it may very well look opressed to us, but that may be our interpretation tricking us. Knowing so little about it and Vissian society, 'we CANNOT judge these aliens'. And Archer tells Tucker that."

First of all, "The cogenitor is oppressed" and "the cogenitor may be oppressed" are not mutually exclusive possibilities are they? Logically, there are two possibilities, the cogenitor is or is not oppressed.

It may not be our place to judge, I'm basically with you there, but what happens in the episode? The cogenitor is exposed to the rights and privileges of male and female Vissians (and exhibits the exceptional proficiency that most of the species seems to possess) by Tucker, and in having its consciousness expanded, chooses to leave its society. But politics do not allow for this possibility and, given the option of living with an expanded consciousness in a world which has made no room for that expansion, chooses to end its life, which the Vissians all agree is a tragedy. We may not know *everything* about Vissian biology or culture, but we know what happened to this one individual. This one individual demonstrated the classic symptoms of oppression as defined in human terms, which are, I might reïterate, the only terms with which we are capable at all of defining things. It is possible to determine, knowing full well that the Vissians are Trekkian stand-ins for certain subsets of humanity, and given only the information in this episode that the congenitor is oppressed.

Allow me to take a small but relevant tangent. I once had a conversation with a Lebanese man who found the West's treatment of women morally appalling. We "let them" expose their bodies in public, allow them to be mistreated by men who don't even have the decency to marry them, and it seems (to him) we don't really care about them enough to protect them from the difficulties of the world with which only men are biologically capable of dealing. From a traditional Muslim perspective, his views are not strange. From a culturally relative perspective, his attitudes about women are natural and normal, and in his world, a woman who would actively choose to rebel against those ideals or, say, end her own life because she was exposed to different life which she may never get to live, would be considered mentally unbalanced. And what do we say to that? Do we say, "To each his own! In the West, our women are to be treated equally to men, but your women must be different. So, we shall be sure not to pass judgement on your society and consider women who are de-sexed, privilege-less, and purposefully kept ignorant of the larger world to simply be too alien for us high-minded Westerners to understand? If that is your view, I pity you, sir, but not nearly so much as millions of souls here on earth who continue to lead lives mired in oppression because such perspectives as yours and my Lebanese friend.

2. The Federation :

"Robert,

On a different note, you have of course a point regarding admission to the Federation, that 'once you have HUNDREDS of worlds you can be pickier'.

But I gave you an actual, historical example of how such proceedings actually work in a real-world scenario, in a case where all the involved parties are actual human beings. "

I am rather perplexed by your choice to judge a fictional, idealistic political body by the actions of a contemporary and woefully flawed one. An integral part of the Trek message is that humans--all humans--eventually outgrow most of the very natures which make the EU, as an example, so tenuous an organisation. It's just as preposterous as assuming that the Federation would operate like the Roman Empire, annexing and subduing different peoples into its sphere of influence. Whatever clever parallels headline-grabbers like to draw between contemporary powers and the Romans, surely you as an historian know how ridiculous a comparison of actual Roman political policy and contemporary models is!

Robert's citations of TNG's "The Hunted" and VOY's "The Void" are perfect examples of how the Federation is UNlike contemporary political organisations. Just like with the Vissians, you don't have to like what Trek is, but you cannot pretend it simply isn't in order to suit your own arguments.

3. Gender equity :

The ironic thing about all of your spun out examples of hypothetical human breeding is that they are totally unnecessary for proving the point here. Humans have managed to treat legions of of other human beings unfairly to the point of slavery and genocide within the parameters of our current biology. If you (and you in particular should be a rich font of knowledge on this point) consider the historical justifications for the treatment of women, other races, gays, the elderly, the poor, the unbred, etc. you can easily see that (just like my Lebanese friend from before), from a certain cultural perspective, there is a kind of relativistic justice in those crimes. We humans haven't changed our biologies, have we? Our species procreates the same way it always has and the numbers of genders and genders hasn't changed in proportion very much, has it? So why is it that now, those same attitudes are considered immoral? Because we evolved. We discovered new worlds, as it were, and we changed our beliefs accordingly. The excuse "this is simply the way we are" is no longer sufficient.

Can it go too far? Absolutely--that's where I think we agree, the Prime Directive comes in. In the specific case of this episode, the wisdom which eventually becomes the PD is what drives Archer to make is decision. Even though the Vissians are oppressing their cogenitors, the solution is not to impose our moral standards upon them, but to invite them to catch up. Eventually, with a UFP and history behind us, that invitation becomes all the more appealing.
Robert - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 6:51am (USA Central)
"...because, if one wished to go even further, we might begin contemplating SELECTIVE BREEDING ― just like we’ve done, and still do, in the real world with any livestock. Why do cows produce more milk today than a hundred years ago? Why do sows give more piglets? Improved nutrition, and selective breeding. This would mean, for example, intensive selective breeding of women with a history of producing twins. And selective breeding of women known to produce large, strong, healthy children. And selective breding of women known to stay fertile until say, in their 50s."

Would such a thing even be possible? I feel we may be in a beggars can't be choosers scenario. If 3% of women are fertile we would kind of have to use all of them, right? I don't know that'd we'd just lean more heavily on the "right" women.

Granted twin producers over some 20 or so births as you suggested would naturally spread their genetic material faster and possibly lead to a takeover, but I don't think we'd be able to only breed with the best women. When 97% are infertile, the 3% ARE the best women.

But that is besides the point, the likelihood of your scenario is not required to answer it's main point. Is freedom (the concept) different because of our individual scenarios? I think yes and no. In the Western world we think we are free yet most of us are indentured servants to whomever owns our debt. In the Middle Ages I assume hating your King meant you wanted a different one. Likely most of them felt they WERE free. The idea of truly being free from a King would have seemed preposterous. And although children often retort in America when someone tells them to stop doing something that it is "a free country" it most certainly is not.

That said, I do think that great philosophers understand Freedom is a "scenario-less" way, in which you can decouple it as a universal truth from whatever scenario you happen to be living.

But back to the conversation at hand. I think it is possible that the Federation have a standard of "freedom" that equates not to being truly free to do anything one wants but to self determination and equal rights. And I think that, Gene's Federation would require members to have reached that point.

I will also say that this conversation has opened to my eyes to why TNG/TOS fans sometimes consider DS9 to be too great a departure. In "The Void" Janeway disconnects needed equipment and sends alliance members away because they broke her rules and killed someone. In "In The Pale Moonlight" Sisko violates Federation rules to save the Alpha Quadrant. And that's not even touching on Section 31. I still love DS9, but after sitting here preaching to you that you don't seem to "get" the Federation, I realize that DS9 doesn't either.

As to the rest of the argument. What Elliott said, basically.
Paul M. - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 7:52am (USA Central)
"I still love DS9, but after sitting here preaching to you that you don't seem to "get" the Federation, I realize that DS9 doesn't either."

Oh come on, that was a needles jab! I can just as well say that TNG doesn't get the Federation in its naive self-righteous anthropomorphism. I'm being intentionally harsh here, but I think there are some merits to such words. TNG, and I do love that show, chooses to show all Federation members as essentially the same homogeneous thing with almost identical beliefs. Of course it's no problem to form common interests with such species. Thing is, all those 150 Federation species of TNG era seem to have more in common with humans (and Western humans at that) than two thirds of our own planet. It's a gross simplification that doesn't strike me as particularly plausible.
Andy's Friend - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 9:37am (USA Central)
Robert,

“I still love DS9, but after sitting here preaching to you that you don't seem to "get" the Federation, I realize that DS9 doesn't either.”

Hehe, mission accomplished! I love being the Devil's Advocate, Robert, and I’m very happy to say that you’re reading me all wrong: you seem to be reading to much into certain phrases of mine, and (quite understandably) not considering others that were never said. I am a TNG man to the bone. As much as I also like DS9 as a series, I would hardly call it Star Trek at all, and it makes me very happy if all this has made you realize at least part of that. But before I answer another interesting question of yours, I’d like to answer your question on selective breeding:

ROBERT ―”Would such a thing even be possible?”

This is very important to understand my point of how this could potentially change mankind. In short: you cannot breed on a billion women. But take a thousand, and you can do anything.

It is thus exactly because the number is a small one that intensive selective breeding would be absolutely feasible. As you of course know, humanity has done this for millennia. There’s a reason for the huge disparity between colossal Spanish mastiffs and tiny Spanish Papillons: selective breeding ― the big and strong get bigger and stronger, the tiny and cute get tinier and cuter.

We saw a reflection of this in Europe until the 19th century: old nobility ― the high nobility descended of medieval knights (noblesse d’épée), who were generally physically far above the rest of medieval society ― was on average taller and stronger than the rest of society. This was not only due to better nutrition, but also to exclusive endogamic practices.

We still see this in some places in India today ― a visible, physical differentiation between high- and low-caste people, a result of millennia of endogamic practices.

Just like dogs or horses, you could, almost literally, breed a race of human Titans if you so wished. And before you accuse me of being the last Nazi doctor alive, writing from my hideout in Argentina to share my experiences in perverted human breeding programmes: just like with the cogenitor issue, I am merely being descriptive, not normative.

It would be extremely easy to run selective breeding on women if only 3% of them were fertile, and kept in breeding farms. The children of stronger women who bore the highest number of children, were less susceptible to suffer birth complications, and had longer fertile lives would be paired with each other ― and their offspring likewise. The overall quality of women, for breeding purposes, would surely rise. The quality of the top percentiles would rise enormously. And in the process, the overall quality of men, and especially of the top percentiles, would also rise, though not as much.

We did this to cows millennia ago, because we needed them. We made them bigger; made them give more milk, and more calves. And in the process, oxen grew meatier, too. We would surely also do it to women if only 3% of them were fertile, even before reaching say, an Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek or Roman-type level of society.

You are of course right in saying that all 3% of women would be used for breeding purposes. What I am saying is that while the general level of women ― and also men ― would rise, some would rise more than others. The top percentile of prize women would be repeatedly paired with the prize men in society. They would have large, strong, healthy children; and their baby boys would go on to win battles and conquer enemies, and the right to be paired with other prize women in the very top percentile. The more vulgar men would be paired with the more vulgar women in the 90th percentile or so ― and the intermediary groups with each other. In time, such intensive selective breeding would almost surely lead to the development of a hierarchy with few near-Titan individuals at the top, many regular citizens at the bottom, and some intermediary categories. And mind you: we are talking of a hierarchy in a way much more conspicuous than the Indian caste system.

This is of course only one scenario, but that which I consider most probable. It is possible to imagine absolute randomness in allocation of women, for example, though I consider it extremely unlikely. If you were a Prince, or a Duke, would you not demand to be paired to a prize woman? If you were a knight, would you not expect to be paired with the second-best? And if you were a lowly peasant, would you not accept the scrawnier woman you were offered?

I am thus merely trying to illustrate that Elliott’s assumptions that class and freedom notions wouldn’t be affected in a 3% scenario are highly unlikely: class divisions would probably become much more conspicuous; and surely all mentality, including freedom concepts, would reflect this.

Consider this: it is perfectly possible to imagine a system of morality that emphasized INDIVIDUALITY such as the ancient Greek would arise in such a scenario. But would a religion that stressed EQUALITY such as Christianity ever arise?

Would the West be the West without Christianity? Is it any coincidence that modern concepts of civic liberties and human rights developed in Christian Europe, and not in the caste system of India?

PAUL M. ― "all those 150 Federation species of TNG era seem to have more in common with humans (and Western humans at that) than two thirds of our own planet."

Exactly. And would a 3% scenario on Earth, in fact, not alter mankind entirely?

ROBERT ― “it's great and Star Trek worthy that this episode has caused you to think big thoughts...”

That’s why I love it :)
Elliott - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 10:09am (USA Central)
Paul M.

You basically answered your own question from earlier : "Why the need to insist on such utterly anthropomorphic perspective[?]"

with

"I can just as well say that TNG doesn't get the Federation in its naive self-righteous anthropomorphism."

Call it what you will (I think 'anthropomorphism' is fine), but, c'est le Trek.

Robert & Andy's Friend :

You have both made my morning.

Quickly, re: Christianity and the Enlightenment. It is important to point out that the flavour of Christianity in which humanist ideals were born was one which was heavily influenced and reformed by pre-Christian Athenian culture whose priorities ended up being very different from the Roman Catholic worldview. Hence why so many of the ideas emerged in non-Catholic Germany and England (as well as ostensibly Catholic but highly cosmopolitan France).
Robert - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 10:24am (USA Central)
@Paul M. - "TNG, and I do love that show, chooses to show all Federation members as essentially the same homogeneous thing with almost identical beliefs."

This is literally Gene's vision. I like DS9 better than ALL OTHER Star Trek. But I never truly understood why people didn't think it "fit" until I was sitting here explaining Gene's vision.

I was NOT taking a jab at DS9! I'm just saying it's more of a departure than I thought it was!!
Robert - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 10:27am (USA Central)
Also, those DS9 episodes I mentioned as strikes against it holding up the vision are among my favorites. I suppose what I'm saying is....

I hope the future turns out like TNG, but when I'm in the holodeck the entertainment I'm running will look more like DS9 :P
William B - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 11:47am (USA Central)
This is an interesting discussion. I haven't actually seen this episode because I stopped watching Enterprise back in its original run before this episode; I guess I can't help being curious and I will probably watch it soon. A few general points:

I think that it is possible to maintain, as Elliott and Robert do, that there is a certain standard of at least an attempt at equality for sentient beings, especially autonomy over one's body, which the Federation seems to try to maintain. It is possible that this definition of personal liberty is a purely parochial and narrow-minded conception of the West, but it's still more or less shown to be one of the key values of the Federation and a key value that the artists making Star Trek generally believe is a philosophical position that is admirable, that, to quote prominent Star Trek fan Martin Luther King Jr. :), “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” and that personal liberty and bodily autonomy are not faddish products of Western excessive individualism but values which are as close as we can determine to goodness. A great example of this in effect is the case of Worf in "The Enemy," where Worf is granted a very wide latitude to choose what to do with his blood, even if it is damaging to the Federation as a whole. And I think to Trek's credit, it is not really just a function of assuming the future will be like the West. TOS sort of hints at it but TNG goes something like full-tilt socialism during the Reagan/Thatcher era; Trek's vision of what a "better" future looks like is not necessarily the same as fans'. But it does suggest that it is "the best" way of balancing the needs of the community with the needs of the individual, or at least the best up to that point in human history. The Federation has no right to impose its views on other species, but acceptance into the Federation means acceptance of those values. Perhaps this *is* narrow-minded, but I think it's believable that the Federation (or any organization) has certain core tenets which should not be compromised for its voluntary-joining members.

That said, I do think Andy's Friend and Paul M have a point about the ethnocentrism of the Federation as we see it. I agree that it's not a very convincing depiction of alien life, though like Elliott I don't really think this was ever the function of alien races in Trek anyway, so I'm not too concerned. However, at least on some level, Humanity really *is* The West, in a sort of overwhelming way. I don't think that the values of the importance of voluntary service to the community ("we work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity") coupled with certain lines of important freedoms and personal bodily autonomy are ones that the show need divest itself with on a regular basis; Trek has a point of view and an ethos, and I think that's fine. But it becomes uncomfortable especially when other species in Trek are always painted as backward compared to the heavily Westernized view of humanity.

And the image of the future still is based on assumptions of what constitutes "normal" in 20th century America in certain key ways. In TNG, which I'll take as the seminal Trek series for the purpose of this post, it is notable that the only two adult white male humans in the cast are the top two in the command structure, and that the other white male adult *actor* plays the third in the command structure and the character with (arguably) the biggest role save Picard. The only female cast member who starts in a "non-nurturing" role and a line officer is quickly killed off. Homosexuality is not acknowledged. Humanity, rather than other Federation worlds, is inevitably the focus of most of the aliens, including Data and Q and the Borg. The main character who fulfills similar roles to that of Uhura or Sulu in TOS, as the mark of the series' progressivism and inclusiveness, is Geordi, starting with Roddenberry's concept of the blind man flying the ship, so that's good. One can say that these are surface features, but I think representation is on some level important especially if the series is imagining a future which is *supposed to be* far more "advanced" than our own. That humans are the default and that white men are on some level the default kind of humans suggests the kind of cultural bias that prioritizes not just some Western ideals, but the whole of the West as the centre of the universe, with most variations (e.g. the Klingons with their feudal Japan-esque warrior/samurai culture) being ones demonstrating other human cultures' inferiority. I think the show's general anti-capitalist attitude, going after the Ferengi, at least seems to be some form of self-criticism, especially with the Ferengi being introduced (however poorly) as Yankee traders and thus an implicit criticism of the entire foundation/history of the USA.

That said, there is a big precedent in Trek history that I think needs to be talked about that supports Andy's Friend's contention that the Federation's rules for its members may be less strictly adhering to the TNG-style Western humanism than Elliott, Robert and, indeed, I think seems to hold most of the time.

Two words: "Amok Time."

I think it's fair to say that the episode was made before the TOS writers had nailed down what the Federation was supposed to be, and the secrecy with which Vulcan was shrouded seems not quite to fit the Federation as depicted in TNG. I think there is some implication somewhere that Vulcans got special leeway as a founding member of the Federation. Regardless, "Amok Time" is actually maybe very relevant to the discussion of this episode, as I understand it, because there are certain biological imperatives in Vulcan physiology which significantly alter the way we usually think about procreation. Vulcan males during the pon farr, at least before the holodeck was a reasonable substitute in Voyager for Tuvok, need to either fight to the death or to have sex, we are told; there are no other options, or they die. This is an odd starting point, to be sure, but it also marks the Vulcans as particularly alien in a weird way that also reflects on certain aspects of humanity. Now, as far as I can tell, during the episode, no one actually is forced to do something against their consent from without; Spock maybe has lost control of himself, but if he's a slave it's to his own biology. Kirk agrees to the fight with Spock willingly, and it's made somewhat clear that he has the *option* of refusing, even though his refusal might make Spock have to fight Stonn or die. Stonn seems willing to fight as well, and Spock is raring to go because of his pon farr. So no one is entering unwillingly. Still, it's already a stretch from what we think of as traditional Federation values to allow fights to the death in the first place, a concession made to biology, though the concession means they are suspending what I assume would be general regulations against death matches, not suspending people's right to choose.

Still, here we have something that goes really uncomfortably against what seem to be more global Federation values:

T'PRING: You have become much known among our people, Spock. Almost a legend. And as the years went by, I came to know that I did not want to be the consort of a legend. But by the laws of our people, I could only divorce you by the kal-if-fee. There was also Stonn, who wanted very much to be my consort, and I wanted him. If your Captain were victor, he would not want me, and so I would have Stonn. If you were victor you would free me because I had dared to challenge, and again I would have Stonn. But if you did not free me, it would be the same. For you would be gone, and I would have your name and your property, and Stonn would still be there.

So from this exchange we learn:

1) T'Pring cannot divorce Spock except by the kal-if-fee ritual combat challenge;
2) Spock *can* "free" her for daring to challenge;
3) Spock owns personal property which his wife has access to.

So apparently divorces are illegal except through ritual combat to the death on Vulcan? OR, perhaps -- women are unable to divorce men, but men are able to divorce women? It's unclear exactly what these rules and laws are, whether Spock would be able to divorce/"free" T'Pring at any time or if he can only divorce her because she insisted on the kal-if-fee. I'm not sure.

Since it seems as if Spock has property, it seems to me that it is *possible* that the terms of the divorce are actually more economic than purely legal -- maybe T'Pring could get a divorce under normal circumstances, but would lose all her property if she pushed for the divorce. Or maybe there is an intense social stigma, and "the laws of our people" are more equivalent to unwillingness to break social taboo than a legal requirement. Certainly, I could imagine T'Pring, cold-blooded as she is, just suggesting Spock and Kirk fight so that if Kirk wins T'Pring keeps all of Spock's property anyway. Still, while one can interpret different possible meanings to her words, I do think that the most straightforward one is that it's not legal for T'Pring to get a divorce.

We know, too, that he and T'Pring were actually betrothed at age *seven* by their parents, in an arranged marriage which it is fair to say is below the age of consent. Vulcan children maybe grow up quickly, but regardless, it was their parents who made the arrangement. Spock distinguishes between the betrothal and what is basically the "marriage" ceremony which is what is to happen during the episode, which will presumably end with consummation; so, not only is T'Pring not allowed to get a divorce, she can't get a divorce from a *betrothal* which was arranged by her parents when she was seven.

Now here, I think, putting moral judgment aside and looking at the facts of Vulcan biology as we know it, I think it makes sense that divorce is legally forbidden. The biological effects of the pon farr, we learn in "Amok Time" and "Blood Fever," are such that Vulcans go crazy with life-threatening afflictions, and then need to either mate or kill. In "Blood Fever," the possibility of undergoing a deep meditative trance is introduced; in the Tuvok pon farr episode, the idea of mating with a hologram is also presented as an option, though it wasn't considered with Vorik and I'm going to make a leap and say that it's because of Tuvok's age that it was an option at that time. In "Blood Fever" Tuvok states that the meditation is very difficult and seems to imply that it's by no means a guarantee that a Vulcan can manage it. So we're looking at a condition which, if a structure for mating is not maintained, can lead to a high probability of death (either through ritual combat or the Vulcan dying themselves). Of course it becomes logical for divorce to be taboo or even illegal, without the ritual combat which provides an alternate outlet for the pon farr tensions. Since men and women are both affected by the pon farr, any monogamous structure will have some kind of problems, since presumably there will in general always be people losing and gaining mates as a result of death and the population will not be 100% one-to-one in size. Perhaps there is some degree of polyamory on Vulcan or some sort of prostitution we're unaware of. Or, of course, things become simpler once Vulcan makes contact with other species who are not bound by the pon farr cycle but can still bond with the Vulcans to some degree (presumably Sarek's wives, Vork's attempt with B'Elanna).

So the reason for the lack of option of divorce, AND the reason for the early arrangement of marriage, makes sense. If adults can die from not having a mate during the pon farr, then there is no reason to leave this to chance; Vulcan parents assign their children a mate of the same age so that their cycles overlap, so that both will not face the risk of death in the event that they are left without a mate. But this means that Vulcans have very little actual choice in who they marry, except perhaps later in life after a spouse dies or except through ritual-combat divorce. Perhaps men have more rights to divorce than women (as implied by the implication that Spock can free T'Pring), though there maybe it still requires the ritual.

It's hard to emphasize how much of a violation of what Federation tenets seem to be this is. What happens if a Vulcan doesn't *want* to be married to the person they've been assigned at childhood? What happens if they do not *want* to have sex with their partner? The Western humanist in me (which is the dominant part) certainly hopes that there are options available to Vulcans who do not want to mate with their assigned partners, that they have some sort of recourse if they do not consent to the pairing. But the cultural relativist now speaks up and says, well, arranged marriages do often work out in human life, and even if they didn't, Vulcans really are quite different from humans in this respect. Vulcan marriages do obviously have some degree of affection and love (c.f. Tuvok's love for his wife, Sarek's for his human wives), and we see that T'Pring prefers Stonn to Spock and so Vulcans do have some way of "measuring" who they prefer among people. But as an unemotional people, it may be that marriage means a different thing to most Vulcans than it does to humans. With a lesser emotional component, perhaps personality compatibility is not as important as it is for us. Perhaps a Vulcan couple could recognize each other's primary function as to be their sexual partner and the parent of their children, and other bonds and differences between them are not so relevant. Presumably parents are able to take into account projections of personality and career desire compatibility when they match them up with each other, and Vulcans' logic means that they may be able to smooth over the personality conflicts which break out in human marriages and lead to divorce. Their marriages may be something more of a partnership.

The other thing the cultural relativist says is this: the thing we know about Vulcans is that the vast majority of the time, they avoid emotion and base their decisions and values on logic; and then on the pon farr, logic goes out of the window. The ritual in "Amok Time" is violent and what many of us would consider barbaric. However, the "barbarism" of the ritual is a counterbalance to the extreme peaceful sophistication that the Vulcans have the rest of the time. As a society, they have found a balance that "works" for them. McCoy suggests, and I think we're meant to assume, that the excess emotionalism and violence and primal urges of the pon farr ritual are directly related to the deep emotional control that Vulcans have the rest of the time. Humans attempt to find a balance between our biological and emotional selves, and our rational selves; in general, we try to be something like the same person most of the time, combining both elements. Vulcans pay for their choice to be logical and peaceful most of the time with an excessively violent ceremony. I think it's fair to say that Vulcans are very likely less violent overall than humans are, even 23rd/4th century humans, and so perhaps this balance is worthwhile, even if it means what seem to be backward marriage practices which go against general Federation/humanist values of the importance of individual choice and peaceful resolution of conflicts, in the micro.

It may be that Vulcans have the option of refraining from sex with their partners, of having legal bodily autonomy which is important in our world. It may be, then, that most Vulcans still consent to pon farr sex because their cycles are always in tune with their partners; or that they recognize, as Saavik does in The Search for Spock, the pragmatic importance of satisfying a biological urge and regarding it as a rational response. It may also be that Vulcans who are not undergoing the pon farr may not feel the same intense emotional/physical effects that sex has on humans, and which makes rape in particular and grudgingly-consented-to-sex in general so traumatic for humans, and so the connotations of the central importance of sexual consent, which is justifiably very important to most human societies (though it takes on different forms), are perhaps not as relevant to Vulcan society. I don't know.

What's interesting is that "Amok Time," one of my favourite TOS episodes, sort of plays in both frames -- both in presenting the Vulcans as a totally alien species, and in commenting very specifically about humans. And in the human case, the story is largely about how humans, even very rational and logical ones, have a hard time dealing with their biological urges, and feel intense emotions when it comes to love, sexual attraction, jealousy, sexual rivalry, etc. In this frame, the story is best read as a huge exaggeration of human traits. Taken too literally, the story is, to use a common social justice cultural criticism word, Problematic, bigtime, in its suggestion that being horny is SUCH an intense experience for people, especially (?) men, that they basically can't control themselves and can only marginally be held responsible for their actions. That is a really damaging argument to make, and I don't ultimately think the episode is making that, though it can be read that way. I do think that the intense emotions surrounding sex drive can be powerful and it does happen often that people are overwhelmed by them, but it's important to recognize that there are emotional tools to cope with this without sexual assault or violence. However, in the frame where we're meant to see Vulcan society as genuinely alien, this criticism sort of takes on a new meaning. Maybe for Vulcans they really can't control themselves, or it's so absurdly difficult that they need an entire deeply regimented social structure specifically to allow these biological urges to be channeled relatively peacefully without destroying the rest of their society in the process.

So, while I don't know how much this applies to the situation in "Cogenitor," I think how we evaluate, and how the Federation evaluates, the details of Vulcan mating ritual (which we know about) tells us something about what our, and the Federation's, values are.
William B - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 11:52am (USA Central)
I should add:

I think that part of the reason that the pon farr is as powerful as it is in Vulcan is the recognition that, without powerful drives, it may not be logical to procreate at all. Many Vulcans might believe that their talents are better served without raising children, or might not particularly feel the need to create new life in general. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspectives that Vulcans who *do* have an overwhelming, insatiable procreative drive which survives the transition to logic would tend to procreate more and thus become dominant. Vulcans who want to have lots of children can of course have them outside the pon farr confines, but the pon farr and the attendant rituals ensures that the (non-rational) urge to continue the species does not fade away.
William B - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 12:04pm (USA Central)
OK, another point:

I still am not certain because I haven't seen this episode, but I believe that one thing which distinguishes the Vulcan situation from what seems to be the Vissian situation is that, for the most part, it seems as if all Vulcans are in the same boat as each other: they have arranged marriages which maybe can't end in divorce, but it's not that a small 3% of Vulcans are denied the same legal status of the other 97% of Vulcans.

As I said, there may be a gender asymmetry in terms of legal allowances for divorce based on T'Pring's statement. However, in addition to the possibility that in general divorce can only happen as a result of ritual combat but Spock could divorce T'Pring for asking him to do it, it may also be that divorce is just impossible unless both parties consent; in this scenario T'Pring would obviously consent to a divorce with Spock, but she doesn't trust Spock's willingness to grant her a divorce. I like this interpretation, because I think that Vulcan seems to be generally egalitarian in terms of gender. That being the case, Vulcans are at least all treated equally, even if aspects of their mating rituals seem to go against some of the personal freedom/bodily autonomy values of the Federation. Even here, I can't say with certainty that it violates Federation convictions, because they are not entirely spelled out.
Robert - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 3:01pm (USA Central)
"It's hard to emphasize how much of a violation of what Federation tenets seem to be this is. What happens if a Vulcan doesn't *want* to be married to the person they've been assigned at childhood? What happens if they do not *want* to have sex with their partner?"

I do agree with you but I will refer you to my above comment (which you sort of mentioned anyway)

"in the beginning Archer was likely bending over backwards to lick the Andorian's and Vulcan's boots to get the first few guys into the Federation, but once you have HUNDREDS of worlds you can be pickier"

I really believe, as you said, "I think there is some implication somewhere that Vulcans got special leeway as a founding member of the Federation." And I will also say I find the situation to be less bad than the Vissian one because, as you said, they are all in the same boat. But women seem to get a raw deal and I'd assume that this is one of those instances where the rules were bent to get a member to join (as in Andy's Friends EU examples).
Yanks - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 3:50pm (USA Central)
I'll start of by apologizing if this has already been answered. I'm floored at how much discussion is taking place and haven't had time to read it all yet :-)

@ Elliott - Tue, Nov 18, 2014 - 1:49pm (USA Central)
"What Trip goes through is the absolutely typical response of anyone not understanding and not liking what he is experiencing in a sufficiently alien culture. He then jumps to conclusions."

Maybe. But as Robert has pointed out a couple of times, the episode itself supports the idea that Trip's conclusion was correct. Maybe he stumbled onto this conclusion because the TV format doesn't allow for him to come to this conclusion in careful, considered ways (and the episode is mindful of the fact that this is true), but that does not discredit his, shall we say, "accidental" revelation.
==========================

This episode does not support the idea that Trip's conclusion was right. The very opposite is true. His actions directly resulted in "it's" death for goodness sake. Archer was right not to grant asylum because he was smart enough not to judge them as he didn't know enough. Trip's at fault here because he assumed he knew enough.

@ Andy's Friend,

I've been thinking about your analogies regarding humans and what-ifs such as the males were 3% of the population etc. I'm not sure that's a fair analogy as the Vissians have 3 parts required for reproduction.
Yanks - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 4:31pm (USA Central)
Robert,

"I won't weigh in on either side of the argument, but that is not what Elliott said. At best he said the EU is the beginning of an eventual evolution of better ideals."

I would say that NATO is better comparison to what the Federation is trying to represent.
Paul M. - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 5:36pm (USA Central)
William B, a great take, as usual.

There's another Federation member that could be an interesting study in this respect: Trills.

We know that there is a great difference between Trills who aren't joined and those who are. The first are essentially humans with spots; we can safely assume that everything that applies to your typical specimen of Homo sapiens, applies to them as well. The latter, however, differ greatly. They are a symbiosis of humanoid and non-humanoid life, each of which contributes to the new gestalt personality. Even more than that, the symbiont serves as some kind repository for personalities, memories, and experiences of all previous hosts. The longer the symbiont survives, going from host to host, the more intricate, more complex does the new gestalt personality become. Jadzia Dax, has 7--strike that--8--wait, is it 9?--"personalities" to juggle inside that body of hers, and Dax only goes back some 300 years. There are probably joined Trills out there that reach back much futher than that. It's almost a form of immortality (while it lasts). I mean, Curzon is not really dead, right? He informs what Jadzia is today. And if we are to argue that he truly died, wouldn't it then mean that Jadzia, such as she was before her joining, in a manner of speaking also died? By most accounts, she's not the same person anymore, nor can her body survive the extraction of the symbiont.

Yet, there are few symbionts available for joining. I forgot the numbers provided, but they're low. Hence, Trills who want to become joined must pass through a rigorous process to determine the best, most intelligent and emotionally stable candidates that will then undergo the joining.

And here the Trill society, viewed with the discussion on this thread in mind, starts to encounter problems: the joined Trills are likely to become a caste of their own. Not necessarily as an institutionalized measure, but as a virtue of their, well, superiority in almost every quantifiable way. On the average, they'll be much more intelligent and rational, in better control of their emotions, with a broader perspective and several lifetimes of experiences to draw on. They'll be more desirable as potential sexual partners, they'll probably always have advantage when applying for jobs because, let's face it, they'll usually be better at them.

It's almost akin to genetic engineering, which we know is forbidden in the Federation (or is it Earth only?) Imagine a whole subrace of humans... or don't; there's Khan for you. Something like this is bound to create a potential for deep rifts in any society, which would then have to come up with measures to counteract or diminish these devastating effects.

There will be "practical applications" of this divide. What if two Trills, one of them joined, suffered life-threatening injuries in a car crash and there isn't enough time to treat both of them? In human society, medical professionals would generally treat the one with greater chances of survival. But would that hold in the Trill example? Does the life of one Trill hold the same weight as the life of a joined host-symbiont, especially if he/she/it has, say, a thousand years of experiences and personalities inside. I can easily imagine such venerable Trills achieving special status in their society, reserved for the rarest of treasures. They may become institutions in their own right, the living bonds that tie those that came before and generations that will follow. Their continued existence and well-being may become one of the society's paramount concerns.

But when all is said and done, is such treatment really fair towards "the ordinary masses"? Why does this one have to die so that "the important one" might live? I can easily imagine such scenarios asserting themselves in different walks of life on Trill every day.
Andy's Friend - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 7:55pm (USA Central)
William B.,

First of all, thank you for your excellent comment.

Second, I'm sorry that you should have read so much about the episode. But you should definitely try and watch it when you have the chance, even if you now have read how the story goes.

Anyway, thank you for mentioning the Vulcans in your excellent example. I've had some of the same thoughts about them myself (it's hard not to), and they are indeed the prime example of what I mean: room must be made for certain cultural idiosyncrasies in Federation member worlds; we can’t expect every alien culture to be just like us. And here we see that the Federation respects native customs and practices very different from the Federation Earth's, as long as the species overall can be said to adhere to the main guiding principles. The only question is of course: how much idiosyncrasy is to be tolerated?

Unfortunately, the reason the Vulcans are the best example of what I mean is because they are perhaps also the only example, or one of very few ones. This is what I meant with:

"This is because the TNG Federation has failed, abysmally, in depicting true alienness within its member planets. How are the Bolians different from humans? They're blue! [...] it is Star Trek's fault that we were never presented such true, cultural diversity"

And importantly:

“I can't recall a single episode of TNG that deals with serious ethical problems arising from the native customs of a member planet.”

The Bolians may have customs that are even more outlandish than the Vulcans: but unfortunately, we simply don't know. So might the Benzite. And, and... But we just have never seen them, or heard of them.

So a fundamentalist might argue that Bolians are essentially just like humans, except that they're blue. A fundamentalist might argue that Benzites are essentially just like humans, except for breathing another atmosphere and having two thumbs on each hand. And so on and so forth. And I cannot truly argue against it: Star Trek has never given me the means to do so. But I can do more than point at the extreme improbability of that scenario: I can point at how petty, and how sad it is to only accept that which is exactly like oneself.

WILLIAM B. ― "That said, I do think Andy's Friend and Paul M have a point about the ethnocentrism of the Federation as we see it. I agree that it's not a very convincing depiction of alien life, though like Elliott I don't really think this was ever the function of alien races in Trek anyway, so I'm not too concerned. However, at least on some level, Humanity really *is* The West, in a sort of overwhelming way."

Two comments: Star Trek is of course mostly social commentary, and deals with the human condition. I understand perfectly that both for that reason and for budgetary reasons, almost all aliens on Star Trek are humanoids, often incredibly so. And in the vast majority of cases, I too, like you, am not concerned: I not only don't mind, but wouldn't have it otherwise. We need these humanoid characters to be able to tell stories about ourselves. But having said that, I believe that the third gender in "Cogenitor" transforms this episode from social commentary to Strange New Worlds. The cogenitors are New Life, akin to the Trill symbionts, or the Kriosian empathic metamorphs: they represent something alien, something we may only ever vaguely understand.

And finally, we must remember that Star Trek, and Roddenberry's vision, betrays itself. Because Star Trek clearly isn't always about a humanity that cares for Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Star Trek often isn't even about humanity. Star Trek is clearly all too often about what you call a "Humanity [which] really *is* The West".

Consider this: you have discussed the pon farr, and Vulcan arranged marriages. There are many countries in the world today where arranged marriages are still practiced at every level of society. One of them is no small country, and is one in which I have lived: India.

There is very little to suggest that by the 24th century, Indians won't still be practicing arranged marriages. It is perhaps surprising that so many well-educated Indians continue this practice in our day and age, but there you are: they do. I myself, as a European of a suitable family, was offered a considerable number of suitable girls in marriage while in India. Often, an arranged marriage is the solution even for well-off Indians abroad: and it is so overwhelmingly domestically. Why? In a few cases because people are forced to. In the vast majority because they want to: because of a very different mentality.

Where is *this* human diversity in Star Trek?

Why have we never seen, on TNG, a 24th century Indian arranged marriage?

It's funny: I read people who want to see gays on the bridge. I read people who want to see blacks in the captain's chair. But no one here asks to see two Indians professing their undying mutual respect and affection in an arranged marriage.

Lem was right: "We don't need other worlds. We need mirrors. We don't know what to do with other worlds."
Andy's Friend - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 11:08pm (USA Central)
Paul M.

“And here the Trill society, viewed with the discussion on this thread in mind, starts to encounter problems: the joined Trills are likely to become a caste of their own.”

Very good point, this and the following. There can be no doubt whatsoever, for instance, that the joined Trills would always receive preferential treatment in your accident scenario ― other Trills be damned.

One might argue that this would be to save two lives rather than just one ― in a way similar to that of a pregnant woman. Or one might go further, and say that in a way, saving a joined Trill would be saving the lives of all previous hosts also, who in a way can be said to live on in the joined Trill.

But one might also just say it plainly as it is, and is shown on Star Trek: a joined Trill is simply considered more valuable in Trill society than an ordinary Trill. That much seems obvious. Whether that is because of some reverence for a certain embodiment of history they represent, or sheer recognition of their rarity, or excellence is irrelevant: the joined Trill are, to use your word, superior.

The truth is that the very fact that joined Trills exist *IS* preferential treatment, as you hint at: the joined Trill will have every advantage in virtually any situation, with vastly superior knowledge and experience being the most obvious. Add to that the fact that only the best and the brightest are allowed to join, and given enough time, you have your caste, institutionalized or not, as you point out.

All this may seem at odds with our Western, human thought. But again, these are not humans, and certainly belong to the more exotic types on Star Trek. Can we understand the joined Trill at all?

On a purely personal note, I have no problem whatsoever in recognizing all sorts of preferential treatment imaginable (well, almost) to joined Trills. As I tend to see everything as abstractions, I could not care less whether the Trill are blue, have spots, or pointed years. But they have one extraordinary feature: they can be two beings in one, one of which is itself, in a way, many beings.

The true nature of the joined Trill of course exceeds my power of abstraction: I am like a child who is told about lovemaking: I have only the vaguest possible understanding of reality.

But even that vaguest possible understanding tells me that the joined Trill are something more. Much more. This is valuable, and precious, and deserves preferential treatment.

But it all boils down to lovemaking. In the literal sense, William B. wrote of the Vulcans, and pon farr. In a more abstract sense, we have the symbionts, and the cogenitors, and the likes. All these are strange, alien concepts we can only hope to understand as the child understands lovemaking. Unless you’re a fundamentalist who only sees what’s on screen, that is. The fundamentalists are like little boys who mostly care whether the aliens are blue or have spots. They think everything you need to know is on screen; they can tell you precisely how many spots Jadzia Dax has, will believe they fully understand the joined Trill, and will get terribly excited about it and share their profound understanding with anyone who will listen.

As for me, I am the curious child, wanting to know more about lovemaking. I seek out naughty pictures. Perhaps even see a wicked film. But I know that I'll never understand it, never truly know it until I've tried it. And I guess that in Star Trek, there are some things that we humans just can't try.

So this is quite simply the way Trill society has evolved. And in the end, it is either this, or they stop joining and witness the extinction of the symbionts ― and a part of exactly what makes them Trills.

And such are the cultural idiosyncrasies we must accept.
Robert - Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - 6:44am (USA Central)
I will (surprise) play Devil's Advocate on the Trill issue. Although it's a great point, I don't know that it's valid.

To put quite simply, we're discussing self-determination and equality as universal requirements to Federation membership. Being able to have your divorce denied is a serious (IMHO) violation of #1. Vulcans fail here (although again, it very well could have been the only way to get those first 4 to the table that Earth had to make concessions to them).

I actually don't see Trills failing in the way you suggest.

All Trills CAN be joined. If everyone has an equal chance at a symbiont, but not everyone will get one this is no difference than the aristocracy of being a Starfleet cadet or a starship captain. There are not enough spots/ships/slugs for everyone. But as long as everyone has an equal shot I will argue that equality is achieved.

"Add to that the fact that only the best and the brightest are allowed to join, and given enough time, you have your caste, institutionalized or not, as you point out."

This could quite literally be used as an argument against any of those things (Starfleet academy membership, being a captain, etc.). When something is a rare commodity there needs to be criteria for doling it out. Look at the (very excellent) episode of Enterprise where they look at who was going to get the first space flight/first captain's seat. They were all deserving/qualified/whatever. There was only one NX ship and now Jonathan Archer is the most important person in Starfleet.

If there was actually a caste system where you could inherit a slug or whatever, I could see your point... here I think you are seeing inequality between a Joined Trill and a Trill, but all Trills are born equal (minus their genetic makeup of course).

I see it may trouble you that joining imparts a sort of immortality, but it doesn't bother me. A rare commodity can't be given to everyone.

What troubles me more (and I wished they had touched on it), is who is Dax? What if Dax hates Jadzia? Could it? Could Dax have failed to "serve" Yedrin because he murdered Jadzia? Trills seem to be equal (all have the same shot at a symbiont) and they have self determination (they choose to be joined or not joined... although Ezri's example is troubling there too), but what of the symbionts? Are they willing participants? Controllers? Slaves? Something else?
Robert - Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - 11:11am (USA Central)
Whoops! That last bit makes no sense. I meant to say Verad, not Yedrin!!
Robert - Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - 11:56am (USA Central)
"This episode does not support the idea that Trip's conclusion was right. The very opposite is true. His actions directly resulted in "it's" death for goodness sake."

@Yanks - Surely you can concede that one can come to a correct conclusion and still take the wrong course of action.

That's my take on the episode. Trip's findings were correct, his actions were wrong. And I think the episode supports it.
Andy's Friend - Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - 2:26pm (USA Central)
Robert, and William B.,

ROBERT ― "I actually don't see Trills failing in the way you suggest.

All Trills CAN be joined. If everyone has an equal chance at a symbiont [...] as long as everyone has an equal shot I will argue that equality is achieved."

I never said otherwise. But you seem to miss the point: being joined is far, far more than being admitted to Starfleet Academy. You are actually tranformed. You become some sort of superior being(s). A Starfleet officer, even an Admiral, only has authority with the framework of Starfleet. Out on the street, he is your average Joe. A joined Trill is a joined Trill everywhere.

I actually had a very interesting discussion once about this, trying to describe the differences between what is a Viceroy, and what is a titled noble: ranks, privileges, and such. It boils down to this: a Viceroy represents the Monarch, and rules in his stead. But his power is confined, in space, and in time. Outside his Viceroyalty, he enjoys lesser privileges. After his term has ended, he is what he was before.

A Duke is a Duke, whether he is 8 years old or 88. He enjoys all the privileges of his rank at any time, anywhere within the realm and the empire, and in the good old days in other kingdoms and empires as well. Until a few years ago when Spain joined the European Union, for example, every Spanish Duke held a diplomatic passport as default. He was seen as an old lineage, an embodiment of history, and a representative of the Kingdom of Spain. He was more than a man.

And our good Spanish Duke doesn't even begin to compare with what a joined Trill is. And as I said, only the best and the brightest get to be a joined Trill. So the best and brightest get joined, and have babies. If you cannot see the long-term consequences of this...

ROBERT ― "What troubles me more (and I wished they had touched on it), is who is Dax? What if Dax hates Jadzia? Could it?" etc.

Good question. It really hasn’t been too well described to us, has it? I guess your guess is as good as mine.

Other than that, a few comments on cultural diversity, ever my main topic:

ROBERT ― ”we're discussing self-determination and equality as universal requirements to Federation membership. Being able to have your divorce denied is a serious (IMHO) violation of #1.”

Not really. It depends. A billion and a half Catholics and Orthodox on Earth today can’t get a Church divorce. We will much, much sooner see married priests in the Catholic Church again ― just like in the early Church, something which the Orthodox churches have maintained to this day ― than see Rome abandon the principle of “usque ad mortem”. I see no problem in this whatsoever: it is coherent. If you believe in a god, and promise him in a holy sacrament to stand by your spouse till death does you part, it is the only thing to do. If you take your god or gods seriously, you must also take your promise to him or her or them seriously.

Most Protestant churches have subverted the sacrament of marriage. And they do so because they maintain the “usque ad mortem” ritual, while abandoning it in practice: the far majority of Protestants ― take the Lutherans ― promise unto God “till death does us part” at the altar, and half of them get a divorce within a decade, and then promise it again to enother. There is a name for this practice, and that name is hypocrysy. Where Catholic and Orthodox marriages are events of the utmost solemnity ― a forever binding promise to a spouse and a god ―, many, perhaps even most, Protestant ones are not.

There are many Lutheran priests (about a third) who are against this, just like there are many Lutheran priests who are against women as priests; I happen to know personally a woman priest who, paradoxically, would vote for denying herself and her sex the option, for instance. But historically, all Lutheran churches have been state churches of the northern European states, unlike the independent Roman Catholic Church. So when these states became more democratic and egalitarian a hundred years ago, they simply forced their churches to be the same.

I’ll give you an example: the present government Minister of the Church in Denmark, Manu Sareem, is a Muslim. He’s a kind and well-intentioned young man, but he knows precious little of Christianity. But it doesn’t matter, because the Church of Denmark is a state church run by an elected governnment minister and his bureaucrats, who then appoint clerics to the positions. The Church of Denmark can just as well be run by a Muslim as by a Satanist.

What I am saying is, that in spite of William B.’s thourough analyses of minor details in the Vulcan marriage and divorce rituals, we still know next to nothing about them. The single act of matrimony is a huge question, even contemplating only Christian churches. When you start considering all the fringe movements ― Adventists, Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, and so on and so forth, in an amazing list ― you realise Christian matrimony is quite the complicated thing.

And keeping with the theme of alien cultures in this thread: how can we be sure that Vulcan matrimony isn’t as complicated a thing? Are we to believe that there is just one simple set of rules and vows and rituals that is used throughout Vulcan? Or are there not quite possibly many regional variants, with certain philosophical differences between them? Are we fundamentalists, and believe only and everything that is explained on screen as the Absolute Truth? Or do we understand that we are most likely only being shown a part of that truth?

It is a huge problem on Star Trek that nearly all worlds are treated in such a simplistic way. We see most worlds treated as a single, uniform culture, and end up treating most aliens as caricatures: the Vulcans are thus, the Cardassians are thus. This can be excellent, and indeed quite necessary, when dealing with stories that require archetypes. But it is also dangerously close to saying that the yellow man is silent and diligent, and the negro isn’t very bright, but he can sing and dance.

We don’t want to say such things, do we? This is why I normally dislike very strongly too much focus on specific details, unless it is to answer specific questions. Otherwise, we end up focusing too much on those details. William B. did a great job of going through many minor details of Vulcan ritual; but to me, much less is needed to tell me what I need to know: the Vulcans are qualitatively different.

The details aren’t really important: trying to analyse them makes as much sense as trying to define some remote, exotic community in a mountain valley in India or China by the six days I spent in their company: it’s best avoided. I am content to know of their existence, and to have a vague notion of who they are.

But when this remote, exotic community doesn’t occupy an idyllic mountain valley in the Himalayas, but a whole planet, I *must* presume that they are not only different from us: they must also be different from each other. Why would the Vulcans ever have developed the philosophy of IDIC in the first place if they were a uniform culture?

It is ironic, isn’t it? I’m guessing that most people on this forum have only the vaguest of notions about true Earth diversity. It puzzles me, for instance, to build on my previous comment to William B., as a Western European, to see the Federation so often described here by commenters as “the West”, and not as what it is truly is, “the USA”. Certain subject matters aside, the very earthlings I see in Star Trek aren’t really my West, and how I predict it will develop. A more Eurocentric 24th century Earth would emphasize the IDIC to a much higher degree than Star Trek does, because it is also our nature: we are, in fact, diverse in Europe. The Earth of Star Trek worships the complete opposite, the traditional “melting pot” philosophy of America.

Who, but Keiko Ishikawa and the Token Indian who is far from the bones of his people, shows any sign of an individual cultural heritage? Picard did, in the very beginning; he even said "Merde!" once, such a beautiful word if you know how to pronounce it, in all its nuances. But Picard's Frenchness was never fully developed, and sadly all too soon abandoned. And all the others are absolutely anonymous: they have no culture.

If I didn't love Star Trek so much I'd be insulted: it depicts my native southern European culture(s) as indistinguishable from the northern European culture(s) I now live in, which is preposterous, and will be three hundred years from now. If anything, people in the future will emphasize old, local rituals and traditions in order to affirm their cultural identity. We already see this happening in the European Union today.

But Star Trek has to resort to Keiko the Japanese and the extremes of the Far East in order to show that vestiges of culture still exist. All other characters are virtually cultural blank slates. Now, there may be little culture in the US, but there is plenty of it, and very diverse, in Europe ― not to mention the rest of the world. And I'm guessing that there will be too in 24th century outer space. The writing of Star Trek, and its vision of the future, merely reflects where it was created.

This is at the heart of the matter of "Cogenitor".

ROBERT ― “It would be fascinating to live in another country for a time though. I'm sure I'd get a whole new perspective on many things I take for granted. So perhaps neither of us is right and both of us see it through the lens of our own experiences.”

Amen, my friend.
Robert - Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - 2:41pm (USA Central)
"And our good Spanish Duke doesn't even begin to compare with what a joined Trill is. And as I said, only the best and the brightest get to be a joined Trill. So the best and brightest get joined, and have babies. If you cannot see the long-term consequences of this..."

I can see the consequences, but a Duke doesn't earn their title the same way a Trill earns their symbiont. People (for better or worse) think less unkindly of earned privileges than inherited ones.

"Not really. It depends. A billion and a half Catholics and Orthodox on Earth today can’t get a Church divorce."

Ok, but the Catholic Church is a private institution. It's not quite the same as the government saying you cannot separate from someone you are married to!

"What I am saying is, that in spite of William B.’s thourough analyses of minor details in the Vulcan marriage and divorce rituals, we still know next to nothing about them."

In Amok Time "For you would be gone, and I would have your name and your property, and Stonn would still be there." these laws seem to dictate a lot more than "in the eyes of the church".

"Now, there may be little culture in the US"

I think perhaps that too, is in the eye of the beholder :)
Andy's Friend - Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - 5:51pm (USA Central)
Robert,

ROBERT ― “I can see the consequences, but a Duke doesn't earn their title the same way a Trill earns”

Allow me ask: can you see the *long-term* consequences?

Think of what I wrote of selective breeding. Don’t you believe that the children of joined Trills, whose parents were already in the very top percentile of society, will have childhoods with possibilities of learning far above the average children? Don’t you think that when they have reached adulthood, they will have higher probabilities of passing the necessary tests or requirements to join? In time, will their greater ease at passing the tests not raise the bar?

Should the Trills pass laws prohibiting descendants of joined Trills in a number of generations to join themselves?

If not, how many generations will it take before only the children of joined Trills will be able to pass the necessary requirements?

ROBERT ― “these [Vulcan] laws seem to dictate a lot more than "in the eyes of the [Catholic] church".

To you, perhaps. To a Vulcan, most probably. But to a Catholic?

What is more? “your name and your property”? Is this more? To a Vulcan, perhaps. But what if you believe in God?

Is it possible that laws which are of a very different nature and of seemlingly very different importance can feel equally important to very different people?

I’m just giving you food for thought. But this last question is directly related to "Cogenitor".

ROBERT ― “I think perhaps that too, is in the eye of the beholder :)”

Undoubtedly ;)
Robert - Fri, Nov 21, 2014 - 7:11am (USA Central)
"Think of what I wrote of selective breeding. Don’t you believe that the children of joined Trills, whose parents were already in the very top percentile of society, will have childhoods with possibilities of learning far above the average children? "

I do see your point to some extent. But do all the best and the brightest want a worm? I mean, Ezri's family seemed to slightly disdain the idea of joined Trills. Jadzia and Arjin were incredibly bright and both failed out.

Since having a symbiont put in changes you, I'd hope that some of the best of the best don't want them and still have kids. And regardless our leaders now who earn (instead of inherit) those leadership positions still get the advantage you speak of (like Chelsea Clinton for instance). Not even to mention that Wesley gets to serve on a Galaxy class starship because Captain Picard has the hots for his mommy.... how did THAT look on his resume :)

I just think it makes a difference to me that anybody CAN earn the symbiont, even if they are less likely to.

"What is more? “your name and your property”? Is this more? To a Vulcan, perhaps. But what if you believe in God? "

While I understand your point that losing property is not akin to being shunned in the eyes of your God, unless the planet is a theocracy (like maybe Bajor), one cannot really blame the world government for the actions of individual religions. We'll have to judge the world on the basis of it's laws I'd think.

But yes, to a Bajoran not being allowed to remarry in the eyes of God might be a great deal worse than losing some property.
Andy's Friend - Sat, Nov 22, 2014 - 12:01pm (USA Central)
Paul M., and Robert, and everyone,

Paul, I really would like to thank you for your truly excellent point about the Trills. I had never really given the Trills this much thought, but the more I think about, the more I think you’re right.

From Memory Alpha ― “Common belief in Trill society holds that only one in a thousand Trills make acceptable hosts. In fact, this figure is vastly understated, and nearly half of the Trill population is capable of being joined. The myth is perpetuated very carefully, though, in order to avoid the widespread chaos which would arise if the information were made public, since the symbionts would become, essentially, objects to be fought over, as people fought to gain the few prized symbionts. (DS9: "Equilibrium")”

Nevertheless, we are still told that “Because there are many more humanoid Trills than symbionts, prospective hosts are weeded out by a demanding selection procedure, overseen by the Symbiosis Commission. (DS9: "Equilibrium") The competition for the few symbionts is fierce and attracts the brightest and most highly motivated of Trill society.”

First, this corrects Robert’s assertion that “All Trills CAN be joined.” They cannot; but what Robert probably meant was that all Trills that CAN be joined MAY do so. This means that it is only partially true that “everyone has an equal chance at a symbiont”. But it is still partially true.

Second, it shows that the Trill state quite simply lies to its population. Not about top secret treaty negociation clauses with an alien species, which might be quite understandable, but about the very nature of the Trills themselves. This is powerfull stuff.

Third, it shows that Trills are, quite simply, divided in an A Team and a B Team. Half the Trills can never join. When you consider the enormous consequences of being joined, you must also consider the full implications of this fact. In time, it is virtually impossible to avoid, for instance, that the symbionts are joined to a host who is the descendant of a previous host, thus granting half the Trill population not only access to many former memories, but also to the memories of their own ancestors. This is immensely powerful stuff.

And the “common belief in Trill society” of who makes “acceptable hosts” is hugely important, because it is symptomatic.

I had mentioned the very top percentile previously, but now I see that it is actually even fewer who are commonly believed to make acceptable hosts. As you all know, I seldomly make literal readings; and I can’t really take the “one in a thousand” seriously, because it’s so clearly a convention of speech. So I’ll be very generous, and allow it to be ― maybe ― just my original top percentile.

This is still a mere 0.1-1% of Trills that is generally believed by the population to be able to join. What does this really mean? Who are those very few who are entitled to believe themselves, and are generally believed to be by society, the only ones capable of joining?

Are they in fact an oligarchy of sorts? An elite of ultra-gifted, of whom the vast majority must be presumed to be born to the upper echelons of Trill society?

If it is not an oligarchy of sorts, how on Trill could an ordinary citizen ever get the idea that he or she might be in that percentile and make an acceptable host, and compete for the selection procedure?

Let’s consider what Paul suggested, and I briefly commented on. We know that some joined Trills have children ― half the Daxes had, and more would have if it were not for a couple of premature deaths, including Jadzia’s. Imagine what it must be like growing up the child of a joined Trill. You would grow up with the history of not only your lineage, but also that of others, and would thus grow up intertwined with Trill history. And you would have a rather unique insight into what it means being a joined Trill ― as close as possible without actually being joined. All other things being equal, would that not make you much more qualified in the selection procedure?

On Earth, children quite often follow in the footsteps of their parents. We cannot know that Trills feel the same way; but in DS9’s “Prodigal Daughter”, Ezri’s mother had her sons working for the family mining business, and their family patterns seem somewhat to resemble human ones. It would perhaps not be unreasonable to presume that some children might seek to emulate their parents. Yes, Ezri’s family didn’t seem too enthusiastic about her being joined. Was that because they had lived off-Trill for too long, perhaps? Or could it be that they simply belonged to a lower tier of society ― following the same line of thought that makes many factory workers on Earth dislike the idea of one of their children going to university?

Would joined Trills perhaps be more suppportive of their children wanting to join? And would children of joined Trills not have a considerably higher probabily of being accepted than others?

This is all of course purely speculative. I can only compare directly with human equivalents. But based on human elites, I do believe that we are looking at a caste here, at least in an embryonic state. Certainly one very important aspect of true aristocracy is present: history, and memories. So is excellency. Given enough time, wouldn’t virtually only children of joined Trills, and a few true geniuses, be considered acceptable hosts?

The only way to avoid this would be, as I wrote, to pass legislation prohibiting children or grandchildren (in any number of generations) of joined Trills of becoming joined Trills themselves. Without such measures, I quite honestly can’t see how the descendants of this ultra-elite would not, in time, virtually monopolize the symbionts.

Please note that this does not conflict with the one known provision regarding hosts:

From Memory Alpha ― “Trill law forbids reassociation between subsequent hosts of joined persons, whose symbionts were romantically involved in their previous hosts, and the people who the previous hosts were romantically involved with. This is because the main purpose of the transfer of symbionts is to experience new things in life.”

If the Trills developed a true symbiont caste, this would inevitably mean that at one point in future, a symbiont would join a host who would be perhaps the great-great-grandchild of a previous host of the same symbiont. For the symbiont, this new generation would still lead to “experience new things in life”. But the host would thus gain access to the memories of their ancestor(s), and would become the most stunning example of an aristocracy I have ever had the pleasure to consider. This is truly powerful stuff.

I doubt the writers who created the Trill symbionts had considered the likely consequences of their creation. To them, it was probably just a neat idea; but the likely consequence of it is that unless specific law is passed to reduce the rights of individuals, the Trills will at one point in time be ruled by a virtually hereditary caste of superior joined Trills.

Much the same way, the writers who created the cyclical Vulcan pon farr, probably didn't consider the full consequences of their creation: you can only marry 14% of the opposite sex, because your pon farr cycles must be aligned. Correct that for the previous generations who are bethrothed to each other at a very young age, and your options become very, very limited indeed. By introducing the pon farr, the writers introduced an element of biological determinism, savagely reducing the options of choice, to a whole species.

Much the same way, the writers who created the Vissian cogenitors introduced an element of biological determinism to another whole species, which savagely reduces the options of choice of a small minority of that species is the species is to be able to survive. The cogenitors quite simply cannot be given free choice, as it would disrupt Vissian society beyond belief. They are an extreme case of biology and sociology for whom ignorance truly is bliss, for all parts involved.

As we are increasingly beginning to understand on our own planet right now, biology matters. But I doubt that most writers of Star Trek episodes fully consider the consequences of their writing. As such, certain of their creations are akin to Dr Frankenstein's.

The Trill society is possibly the most elitist, least egalitarian society of any major Star Trek society we've seen; and it is so by force of pure biology.

The Vulcan society is surely the most deterministic of any major society we've seen; and again, it is so by force of pure biology.

And the Vissian society is perhaps the most deterministic when it comes to a small minority of the population. But again, it is so by force of pure biology.

Biology also matters in another way: if the Vissians were sentient jellyfish, and the cogenitor a different type of sentient jellyfish, I believe very few people would have a problem with their situation. And I repeat: if the cogenitor in this episode were all Colgate smiles, telling Trip how delighted it was to be able to help one family after another, we wouldn't have this discussion at all. But the writers understandably wanted something more dramatic, more controversial. So they gave us this, just to provoke discussions such as these we're having. I call it outstanding writing. But I also call it manipulative writing, of the sort I don't take too literally.

Are the Trill, the Vulcans, and the Vissians neat ideas with unthought-of consequences? Are these three species cases of Frankenstein's creature? I don't know, but I know that two of them are members of the Federation. And I know that Frankenstein's creature, in spite of its flaws, is kind at heart. How we treat it says more about us that it says about it.
Robert - Mon, Nov 24, 2014 - 7:25am (USA Central)
"First, this corrects Robert’s assertion that “All Trills CAN be joined.” They cannot; but what Robert probably meant was that all Trills that CAN be joined MAY do so. This means that it is only partially true that “everyone has an equal chance at a symbiont”. But it is still partially true."

Agreed. All Trills can be joined the way all humans can procreate, even though some of us can't. Legally we all have the opportunity to do so (even if some are biologically prevented).

"Second, it shows that the Trill state quite simply lies to its population. Not about top secret treaty negotiation clauses with an alien species, which might be quite understandable, but about the very nature of the Trills themselves. This is powerful stuff."

Agreed, although they lied to the Federation too (and I don't think Sisko blew the whistle, given that episode I think he may have left a lot of it out of the report). I wonder what the Federation would do if they learned of it?

"Third, it shows that Trills are, quite simply, divided in an A Team and a B Team. Half the Trills can never join. When you consider the enormous consequences of being joined, you must also consider the full implications of this fact. In time, it is virtually impossible to avoid, for instance, that the symbionts are joined to a host who is the descendant of a previous host, thus granting half the Trill population not only access to many former memories, but also to the memories of their own ancestors. This is immensely powerful stuff."

I do agree. I don't know that it's enough to rule out the possibility that all Trills have equal right and self determination though.

I often wonder if the symbionts are regarded in a god-like way given the DS9 writing crew's penchant for dealing with spirituality.

I mean, why else would Ezri agreed to be joined? If I was dying, and you could save me by "merging" with me... would you do it? (I doubt it)
Matt - Tue, Dec 9, 2014 - 10:15am (USA Central)
After such heavy discussion, I'd advise taking a break. Go back to the episode and freeze the shot of the monitor where Trip is trying to choose a movie. The list of titles is a hoot!

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