Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"First Contact"

****

Air date: 2/18/1991
Teleplay by Dennis Russell Bailey & David Bischoff and Joe Menosky & Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller
Story by Marc Scott Zicree
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

While undercover on the alien world of the Malcorians, Riker is seriously injured and rushed to a hospital where the Malcorian doctors discover his anatomy is nothing like theirs. "What are you?" they ask in astonishment. Riker attempts to maintain his cover by claiming he was born with numerous birth defects, but the Malcorian doctors are not persuaded. Could he be an alien from another world? The Malcorians are on the brink of warp space travel, but do not yet know that life exists elsewhere in the universe. Indeed, many in their society believe the universe revolves around Malcorian life. That belief may be about to change.

"First Contact" is one of TNG's underrated gems. It is actually about the very core of the Star Trek ideology: seeking out new life and new civilizations while observing the Prime Directive. It pursues these Trekkian themes using an approach that feels completely fresh and original. The episode's wisest choice is to tell the story primarily from the Malcorians' point of view; we come into the story with scarcely more information than they do, which means we, like they, must play catch-up. Aside from Riker, we see none of the Enterprise crew until the moment when Picard and Troi beam into a room with Mirasta (Carolyn Seymour), the Malcorian minister of science, to announce "first contact." Watching this happen through Mirasta's eyes is a crucial part of the effect; we're allowed to feel the disbelief, then fear, then astonishment, that she feels. It's like Picard and Troi truly are aliens from another planet.

Another reason this story is fascinating is that it shows us the nuts and bolts of how the Federation actually handles these delicate new encounters. Riker is just one of several other (unseen) undercover Starfleet officers who have observed and listened to Malcorian society for years in order to decide when might be the best time to initiate first contact. Riker going missing necessitated the process to be accelerated.

Next the Enterprise crew contacts the leader of Malcorian society, Durken (George Coe). Picard carefully tries to explain his intentions while putting Durken at ease, and in these scenes we get intriguing material that subtly reveals the apprehension both men feel in stepping wrong in these discussions. Durken suddenly realizes that he is but a speck of insignificance in the universe, and both Picard and Durken know that the Malcorians' fear might be viral.

Through Durken and his political administration we see the complexity of first contact in how it affects the society being contacted. It's possible — given the sociopolitical tendencies to maintain the status quo — that the Malcorians are not even ready to join the galaxy's community. Early scenes show more conservative elements, like Durken's security minister, Krola (Michael Ensign), expressing reservations over even the proposed warp flight, which didn't even assume that other life was out there. And there's talk about how Malcorian society should be taking care of itself before it starts going to other worlds. It's not often that TNG shows political details in a society that feel like they could plausibly come from our own current world, but these do.

Another detail I felt was important was how Picard puts the first-contact mission first, and only gradually moves toward the issue of getting Riker returned. This feels right; a Starfleet officer would put the diplomatic mission ahead of the man, especially with the stakes so high. Meanwhile, the hospital administration tries to keep a lid on the fact that they have a space visitor lying in one of their beds; they debate among themselves the implications of what they've got on their hands. When the lid does come off, there's a violent reaction and then political maneuvering by Krola to try to keep Durken from moving forward. Krola's maneuvering fails, up to a point.

In the end, a larger universe can't trump the societal status quo, and Durken declines Picard invitation, saying that his people aren't ready. Essentially it's a debate of progress versus what society will reasonably accept. "First Contact" has a lot of imaginative details about how this sort of encounter would play out using the Trek rules, and, for the most part, all the details feel right.

Previous episode: Clues
Next episode: Galaxy's Child

Season Index

47 comments on this review

philaDLJ - Sun, Mar 23, 2008 - 8:45pm (USA Central)
Riker getting laid by that nerdy Malcorian nurse - real Prime Directive-y...
stviateur - Tue, Jul 12, 2011 - 2:00pm (USA Central)
First Contact as indeed an excellent change of pace show primarily due to its POV. However, I found it difficult to believe that the chancellor could speak for the entire planet. How unlikely was it that the planet had a single world government and that people everywhere thought and believed the same thing? In reality, there would be a spectrum of beliefs with the Chancellor not authorized to speak for the whole planet. This has been one of the failures of Trek in that too often (if not always)it assumes every alien world possesses one culture, one government, one belief system. More likely most would be like our own, divided into many different nations and belief systems etc.
Jay - Sat, Sep 10, 2011 - 10:33pm (USA Central)
Odd to hear the Chancellor in "First Contact" refer to his home planet as "Malcor III". It's like us calling Earth Sol III.
Latex Zebra - Fri, Mar 30, 2012 - 3:38am (USA Central)
@ Jay

If the Federation have been watching the planet for a while then surely they have got the planet name from the inhabitants. We might call a system Alpha Proxima but if we met life from that system that called it Bert, so would we... Wouldn't we?

Love this episode, I actually think there is more than one episode in this kind of story.
Jay - Tue, Jun 19, 2012 - 2:17pm (USA Central)
Bert and Ernie would be the best names for a binary system ever...
William - Wed, Aug 29, 2012 - 11:22pm (USA Central)
I thought this was a fantastic episode, and I'm sorry that Mirasta (Carolyn Seymour) didn't become a semi-regular character. She would have made a nice addition to the crew. (Though she was great as a Romulan down the road).
PeteTongLaw - Sun, Mar 24, 2013 - 6:20pm (USA Central)
Krola is a complete moron and prima facie appears unbelievable as a character, but then I thought about it more and figured Donald Rumsfield was probably also just as stupid and single-minded, so i guess it works.
Jons - Sun, Dec 29, 2013 - 4:52pm (USA Central)
The scene where Picard and Troi appear is unbelievably great. I truly felt they were aliens. I could perfectly understand the Chancellor's astonishment and awe. A masterful scene.
Nissa - Fri, Jan 10, 2014 - 12:18am (USA Central)
Um....so it's alright for the Federation to send secret agents on a pre-warp planet? That doesn't violate the prime directive? Quite frankly, this is preachy Trek at its worst.

PeteTong, labels are for manufactured goods, not rational people. Don't talk about people you know nothing about.
Chris - Fri, Mar 14, 2014 - 11:33am (USA Central)
I agree with Stviateur. I was uneasy with Picard deferring completely to one man's quick decision about contact with the Federation. Even if we accept that the planet had one government, it still seemed to have a cabinet and Picard doesn't even wait to hear the cabinet's view. Was the planet even a democracy? And for Picard to say, they'd never come back? Why not say they'll check in again in 5 years or so. If Earth were contacted by a higher intelligence, citizens would want to know and would want to discuss and assess the pros and cons of contact. Another thing- Picard saying we won't give you our tech! So a society should be deprived of medical advances because of some concerns about social cohesion? Seems cruel of Picard to say that. This episode was quite good (loved Bebe Newirth; Rarr!) but it diminished my respect for Picard. He acted in an undemocratic, paternalistic manner by completely deferring so quickly to the one leader rather than consulting more broadly with the population. And he didn't even explore how the Federation's technology might help the planet. He just mechanically followed the Prime Directive. The Malcorians deserved better I say!
Jack - Wed, Mar 19, 2014 - 5:02pm (USA Central)
Troi tells Mirasta that Picard is "from a planet over 2000 light years from here". This is quite the deep space assignment...by Voyager's reckoning, where 70,000 ly is 70 years at high warp, then here the Enterprise is (assuming it can go as fast as Voyager can) two years away from Earth. But the Enterprise was just at Earth as recently as "Family" just a few months earlier...
SkepticalMI - Wed, Mar 26, 2014 - 6:22pm (USA Central)
Huh. I remembered the first part of the episode and absolutely nothing else about it. This may very well have been the first time seeing the episode all the way through, and thus my first comments on an episode with fresh eyes. Or maybe it just didn't capture my interest much when I was a kid.

Anyway, there were two major problems with this episode:

- The gratuitous sex scene between Riker and the alien was not only unnecessary but insulting. First of all, it added nothing to the plot, as the escape attempt failed anyway. Second of all, if it was supposed to be funny, it wasn't. And third of all, it was very uncomfortable. This was, essentially, akin to rape, and would certainly never fly if the genders were reversed. Then again, Menage a Troi also had sexual assault as comedy, so, you know, whatever. I'm just not sure why they think it made sense to do this. I suppose it's another side of the whole alien encounter thing, as some people might be... curious. But it was horribly uncomfortable and insulting, and it's pathetic that Riker went along with it.

- The overly evil security advisor was rather trite. For one, do we really need yet another troglodyte security guy? Isn't that Worf's job to always be negative and contrarian and be shot down by the enlightened scientists? Blah blah blah, science is the future, yeah, whatever. But there's nothing wrong with keeping an eye on security, or else the show wouldn't have a security officer in the first place. So why do we always see them as the bad guys, as stereotypical distrustful lying fear-of-the-unknown monsters? Did we really need another one?

The central conflict on the planet was also not clear. Evil security guy kept arguing for traditions. First of all, traditions are not bad. Or else why would the Federation name their flagship the Enterprise-D? Second of all, it switched around between being about traditions and being about believing their race was the center of the universe. So what was the real motivation here? What was evil security guy's motivation to try to kill Riker? It made no sense. Nothing in it made sense. Unfortunately, my guess is that this was a case of typical Hollywood stereotypes of politicians. We have the so called enlightened, tolerant side and the evil, hate-filled, closed-minded side. Sure, that isn't actually the case in the real world, but it makes people feel good. So we show that instead.

Which isn't always a deal-killer. But in this case, so much of the episode depends on this central conflict. Since it's such a big part of the show, it needs to stand on its own, and it doesn't. Because the conflict was simultaneously muddled in its reasoning and transparently a good vs bad setup, it didn't hold my interest.

In contrast, the leader did do a good job of balancing things, and when we focus on him it almost beings to make sense. For starters, there's a nice scene with Picard where he mentions a tradition he had of always eating dinner with his family. So here, we see a hint that he knows traditions are not bad and that he feels that as part of his personality and culture. It's subtle, as he doesn't hound on this fact or make it clear that this is part of the conflict, but it's there. We see some of what he is talking about. And he was very cautious in dealing with the Enterprise crew and was understandably upset when he discovered the spying. In the end, his decision to delay the first contact was pretty reasonable.

On the whole, it was still an interesting story and an interesting approach. A good episode, but I just don't hold it in as high a regard as some others.
DLPB - Wed, Mar 26, 2014 - 6:59pm (USA Central)
This was, essentially, akin to rape
-------

Please don't use that word where it is not needed. It simply waters down the true meaning of the word. Two consenting adults having sex is not rape under any meaning.
-

Onto this episode. It was pretty decent. There were a few issues here and there, and parts that suffered from a lack of logic (for example, a sceptical chancellor decides to drink a beverage offered to him by an alien, which could have been poisoned) but for TV show it was reasonably well made and entertaining.


Jack - Thu, May 1, 2014 - 9:26am (USA Central)
^^ Though I wouldn't have chosen that word to use, it's rather absurd to claim that Riker was really a consenting party here. He was doing what he felt he had to do to escape.

If you, say, threaten someone's life if they won't have sex with you this minute, and then they, faced with that, agree to do so, I certainly wouldn't call that consent.
Chris - Thu, May 1, 2014 - 11:44am (USA Central)
Since this race seems to expect ribs to be in the abdomen and digestive organs in the chest, I'm surprised the women didn't have breasts much lower on their torsos. They seem to be in the "usual" place.
Grumpy - Mon, Jun 16, 2014 - 12:35am (USA Central)
Wait... the sensors couldn't distinguish human from Malcorian lifesigns (which, nobody ever explained how that could possibly work anyway), yet when they want to find Mirasta Yale, the sensors are good enough to pick her out from every other Malcorian. Sure, the field agents might've supplied the address of her office, but how did they know she was the one working alone? If again the field agents are responsible, then surely they could've gumshoed around local hospitals to find Riker. Granted, he was a secret patient...

To address Nissa's PD nitpick... it would only be a violation if they revealed themselves, cf. "Bread and Circuses."
NCC-1701-Z - Sat, Jun 21, 2014 - 11:49pm (USA Central)
This episode got me thinking: What if advanced aliens made contact with Earth tomorrow in the manner of the Enterprise crew in this ep? If the scenario depicted in this ep occurred, but with 21st century humans in place of the Malcorians and some peaceful, super-advanced, spacefaring alien race in place of the Enterprise crew, how would we respond?

I'm not sure we humans would react all that different than the Malcorians. Call me cynical, but considering the animosity between different countries, not to mention the intense disagreements we have on many issues just within the US, I think this ep is eerily close to what would happen if advanced spacefaring aliens did make contact with us.

I liked this ep a lot, it reminded me a lot of the original "Day the Earth Stood Still" in some ways (especially the paranoia issues), and as mentioned above, I think the Malcorians are a good stand-in for 21st century humans. And that's the brilliance of this episode.

I wish Star Trek had, just once, depicted an alien world divided into different regions, languages, biospheres, etc just like our own world. The Malcorian chancellor seemed to speak for the entire planet, it seemed a bit too simplified. (TNG S7's "Attached" came close.) Not to nitpick the episode though, I loved the fresh point of view from the aliens' perspective.
NCC-1701-Z - Sat, Jun 21, 2014 - 11:54pm (USA Central)
Picard: We learn as much as possible about a planet before we make first contact.
Troi: One of the things we monitor are your broadcast signals, your journalism, your music, your humor, try to better understand you as a people.
Mirasta: I hate to think how you would judge us based on our popular music and entertainment.

I laughed when I heard that line. Meta-commentary perhaps? I can only imagine what aliens would think of us if they had been studying our pop culture(s) for a while ;)
not-dead-yet-jim - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 9:52am (USA Central)
Bebe Neuwirth - nuff said!
kubel - Sat, Oct 4, 2014 - 10:50pm (USA Central)
Re: Rape
The nerdy nurse wasn't keeping Riker captive. She was a nurse. She offered a service (distraction and guidance for escape) in exchange for pseudo sex. A legitimate and voluntary exchange, not rape. Compare this to prostitution. You may have your objections, but it's voluntary and involves mutual consent.

Re: Dictatorship
I too have objections to this decision to essentially stick everyones heads into the sand just because one ruler decided so- and then cover things up (total corruption). But the particular flavor of statism that comes out of the Roddenberry universe is some strange mix of a socialist egalitarian oligarchy with a touch of a constitutional republic. It's very contradictory. On the one hand, you have a collectivist nanny stratocracy known as the Federation. On the other hand, you have the Federation battling the collectivist Borg race. The one system where people would have an absolute say in their own future, anarchism, in the rare case where it's mentioned, is condemned outright as a society of a bunch of violent rapists and mind torturing maniacs. No one, apparently, may speak for themselves in the Star Trek universe. Only their rulers can decide their future.

Re: Malcor III
Yes, Malcor III is a silly name for a planet of people who still believe in geocentricity.

Anyway, I have my complaints- but this is one of the best TNG episodes. It was well thought out and deserves the 5 stars it received here.
Peremensoe - Sun, Oct 5, 2014 - 1:27pm (USA Central)
I assume the Malcorians aren't actually calling their world "Malcor III." That's the UT rendering.
Jack - Fri, Oct 24, 2014 - 6:41pm (USA Central)
I doubt that the UT would translate a proper name in a foreign language as Something Three. If the word for "three" in the foreign language wasn't spoken, there's no reason for the UT to spit out "three".
Peremensoe - Fri, Oct 24, 2014 - 8:07pm (USA Central)
It has nothing to do with that. It's not *three* the numeral that's being output, it's "Three" as part an already-known (because Federation speakers have spoken of it) planetary identifier. Once the UT recognizes [whatever] as the foreign identifier for a thing already indexed in the Federation-hearer's language under a Federation-language name, it's going to spit out the name the Fed-hearer recognizes.
CPUFP - Wed, Jan 14, 2015 - 4:44pm (USA Central)
A story with an intriguing premise, told from a fresh and fitting point of view and ending with a resolution that seems reasonable within the circumstances provided. However, the episode was tainted a lot by the stiff acting of all the Malcorians and by the cliché-ridden and generic dialog. "Our traditions", "our way of life", "the capital city", "the Southern continent" - could the writers at least try to be a little more specific when thinking up an alien civilization?

The issue of one person deciding for the whole planet's population really is problematic though, and the Federation surely seems to be a very elitist club, where we rarely ever see any serious form of political dissent within a population. According to Memory Alpha, "stable planetary political unity" is one of the requirements for UFP membership...
ThankYouGeneR - Thu, Jan 22, 2015 - 5:32pm (USA Central)
Having just re-watched this episode myself and coming here to read Jamahl's experience of it I found myself surprised at the comments about the Bebe Neuwirth scene. I automatically took Riker's statement "There are differences in the way that my people make love" to be the setup for Riker to tell her anything as innocuous as elbow touching to be 'the way WE do it', which would certainly give her the desired 'perception' of alien sex without needing Riker to engage sexually with her. She would accept that without hesitation and of course & fully experience it AS satisfying. I mean, gosh, her mind would have taken over and sparked her own happy physical responses. And she would have taken away the 'illusion' she had just had sex with an alien.
Mart - Sun, May 17, 2015 - 9:36am (USA Central)
I'm going to disagree here, I hold this episode to be no better than two stars.

The setup is intriguing, and the plot is well-crafted, but the characterisation is lousy, with Krola and Mirasta being mere stereotypes (of the Evil StateSec Guy and the Treehugging Scientist respectively).

The dialogue clunks like a steampunk robot. Poor Patrick Stewart gets a bunch of sanctimonious speeches that even his talent can't make riveting; the babe in the hospital speaking in cult-like adulation of aliens; the declamations of Krola and Mirasta in support of their cardboard cutout roles: it grates.

The only saving grace is a powerful performance on some decent lines for Chancellor Durken.
Troy - Thu, Jun 4, 2015 - 8:12am (USA Central)
I like this episode, especially Mirasta. It was played as if we the humans of the 20th century are the aliens. I can't believe people are offended by the Riker sex bribe, obviously played for laughs. Could a sequel episode be made with Riker being an alien dad?
Some comments didn't like the notion that the Malcorians had world government. It is possible federation would prefer these types of worlds to make contact with since at least in the Trek universe they are more stable. There is another STNG episode ("Attached") where two distinct cultures on one planet vie to join the federation and note that they are deemed to be unqualified.
luc - Wed, Jun 10, 2015 - 4:31am (USA Central)
An OK episode. Riker doing Frazier's ex-wife was a little much, but you know.

I can't believe no one mentioned the Roswell connection. The chancellor's explanation of how the incident will be explained away is Roswell.
Luke - Thu, Jul 9, 2015 - 9:45am (USA Central)
So, in the lead-up to a first contract situation with the inhabitants of Malcor III, Troi beams down to the planet in order to coordinate with the various surface recon teams. While disguised as a Malcorian, she suffers an injury and is taken to a hospital where it is immediately discovered that she is not, in fact, a Malcorian. Tensions quickly rise as word of her alienness spreads. Eventually, in an attempt to escape, she is caught by a male orderly who offers to help her for a price - that she sleep with him. Troi, clearly uneasy with such a suggestion, does everything she can think of to talk her way out of the situation. The male orderly, however, simply won't take no for an answer and, in the end, convinces the still uncomfortable Troi to go along with it and have sex with him, even though she clearly doesn't want to. This is played by the episode as funny. After having been forced into having sex in exchange for her freedom the male orderly helps her escape but she is quickly apprehended by an angry mob that literally kicks the living shit of her (including one security guard that tries to take her head off with a nightstick) until she's beaten unconscious and left in even worse physical shape than before.

Anybody else have a problem with this? Because I sure do!! How could the showrunners have been so blind to the fact that they used rape as a comedic gag?! They.... .... .... .... oh, wait. That wasn't Troi that all happened to? It was Riker? Oh, well then, fuck it, right?! As we all know, rape is funny when it happens to a man. And, besides, Bebe Neuwirth is hot! And it can't be rape if the rapist is good-looking. *epic facepalm*

But, what's sad is that that isn't even my biggest problem with this episode. As bad as it is, and it is VERY bad, it was only one scene. The rest of the episode centers around a rather disquieting political message. You know all those "conservatives" you keep hearing about? God, they suck, don't they?! What a bunch of morons! They're clearly doing nothing but holding the rest of society back from a glorious future that all of us open-minded, scientific types envision. If they would just shut up and open their eyes, or better yet get some education, the world would be a much better place, wouldn't it?

Look, I don't consider myself any type of social conservative, but I do think that tradition has a legitimate role to play in society and that it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. So, I really don't like it when an episode like this comes along and straw-mans conservatives as nothing more than idiots with martyr-complexes who just want to keep the world in the Dark Ages (a term which is explicitly used to refer to Malcorian tradition in this episode!) to the point of being willing to endanger people's lives for that goal.

And all of this is really a shame. Because this episode has such an incredible amount of potential. There is, actually, a lot of really high-caliber stuff on display here, mostly in the scenes between the Chancellor and Picard. Seriously, these two knock it out of the park! If "First Contact" had simply focused on them and showed the friction in Malcorian society through their dialogue instead of with the Krola character (and, of course, jettisoning the idea that rape is funny) this could have been truly deserving of a 10 out of 10 score. But they just couldn't keep their political bullshit out of it, could they. They had to bog it down with it. Just two episodes prior to this one, they couldn't help but present theists as simpletons, and now, I guess, it was conservatives' turn.

2/10
Robert - Thu, Jul 9, 2015 - 10:39am (USA Central)
"But they just couldn't keep their political bullshit out of it, could they."

Considering the amount of bullshit anti-science we get in the country where this was made from conservatives, this episode is more relevant now than it even was then.

Evolution, global warming, anti-vaxx (though the far left is as stupid about this as the far right), young earth, the creationism museum with the dinosaurs, etc.

Most of these people are BARELY a step up from the racist phrenologist idiots and the earth-centric morons who opposed Galileo. Conservatives don't have a particularly good record when it comes to science.
Robert - Thu, Jul 9, 2015 - 10:43am (USA Central)
I'd like to point out that while my previous post was a little harsh, I totally agree with you about the rape thing, and I actually really appreciate tradition also. But in general the conservative record on science sucks really, really hard. Bobby Jindal is a Rhodes Scholar with a Biology degree and he has to pretend evolution is just a "theory" (while at the same time acting ignorant as to the MEANING of the word theory) in order to get along with conservatives. It's RIDICULOUS.
Robert - Thu, Jul 9, 2015 - 10:45am (USA Central)
I'd also like to point out that the freaking POPE thinks global warming is one of the biggest problems of our time. You can clearly be a conservative without being a flaming anti-science airhead, but if you want to get elected in America you sure have to pretend....
Elliott - Thu, Jul 9, 2015 - 11:48am (USA Central)
@Luke,

The episode did not present the Malcorians' inability to join the larger Universe as a grand tragedy, just as a disappointment, as personified in Mirasta. The episode acknowledges the rôle that conservative ideology plays in society. By definition, conservatism is anti-progressive. It is natural and inevitable that old ways are eventually replaced by new ones, but forcing a society to evolve too quickly can cause more problems than it solves sometimes. That was Krola's rôle in the story, and that is the most optimistic spin one can place on conservative ideology in society, as a dyke keeping change from happening too quickly. If anything, this episode was unusually kind to conservatives.
Luke - Thu, Jul 9, 2015 - 5:55pm (USA Central)
@Robert,

The problem is that anti-science views are not the exclusive domain of the right-wing. There are plenty of liberals and other left-wingers out there who are just as anti-science as the staunchest Young Earth Creationist. Just look at how many on the left respond to scientific findings in areas like nuclear power, fracking or GMOs. Or, speaking of global warming, just look at how so many people respond whenever scientists disagree with the standard narrative - many on the left simply dismiss them out of hand.

As for the pope and global warming - well, I haven't read that encyclical where he talks about it, so I really can't comment on it. Though, given the fact that the media has so ridiculously distorted so many of his statements that it's almost laughable, I'll take what is being said with a grain of salt until I actually do read his own words (which I would hope any scientifically minded person would do anyway).

"First Contact," however, makes absolutely no attempt to show this bipartisan anti-science mentality. For lack of better terms, let's call Mirasta and the Chancellor liberals and Krola a conservative. The liberals are shown to be completely in the right with only positive aspects. The sole conservative voice is portrayed completely negatively. Elliott makes an almost plausible case for the episode being fair to conservatives, but I can't get on board with it because I see no attempt to portray them fairly. One of the main reasons for that is the fact that the Chancellor openly refers to tradition as the "Dark Ages," a loaded term if there ever was one.

This episode could have been so much more if they had just kept all this nonsense out of it. Because, like I said, the pieces are there for a suburb story. Or, they could have at least tried to offer a balanced view. Something I've been noticing about TNG during this re-watch is that whenever they get up on their soapbox, they almost never offer any kind of balanced view of the subject. The other shows are much better at this - though not completely, DS9 is also guilty of doing the exact same thing in "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." (though that's only one of that episode's numerous problems!). I mean, good grief, TOS did a better job than this in "The Way to Eden" of all episodes!
Elliott - Thu, Jul 9, 2015 - 11:16pm (USA Central)
Luke :

"The problem is that anti-science views are not the exclusive domain of the right-wing."

Where in the episode is it stated or implied that Krola is himself "anti-science," or that his views are in any way based upon a rejection of facts? It is not as though he encounters the humans and denies the fact that they are aliens or the implications their existence has for traditional Malcorian values. He is resistant to changing their society so radically so quickly in light of these new discoveries. Don't forget that it is mentioned that the Chancellor (whose name I forget) had recently enacted social reforms which had barely started to settle, and now these aliens and this upstart scientist are asking the people to further alter their way of thinking. Obviously, some in the society are able to keep up, but, as demonstrated by the rioting which was the initial cause of Riker's injuries, not everyone is necessarily ready to make such seismic shifts in their way of thinking so quickly.

To your point about the liberal/conservative bias in science, I totally concur in the sense that any rejection of scientific consensus about serious issues is questionable. I would posit that the scientific study of GMOs, fracking and even vaccinations (to a far lesser extent--I fully endorse the idea of mandatory vaccination) is far, far younger than the science of geology, evolution and even climate change. A Young Earther rejects the consensus of scientists of all stripes for hundreds of years, and historical records of thousands of years; a GMO-skeptic rejects incomplete and data about a recent, man-made invention. I'm not excusing the behaviour, but these are apples and oranges.

"One of the main reasons for that is the fact that the Chancellor openly refers to tradition as the 'Dark Ages,' a loaded term if there ever was one."

The "darkness" which gives this period its name is its lack of historical documentation. We are "in the dark" about many of the details which characterise this long period of history, hence the name. Of course, we tend to associate darkness with evil, but if we take at face value the cultural transposition of the term in this episode, the Chancellor is referring to a period of Malcorian history where the scientific method was less valued and thus, record-keeping was minimal. The inevitable result of this practice is of course deriving conclusions about the universe from un-tested (or un-testable) theories, often religious and often doctrinal. It is likely that, as in our society, many "traditional values" are derived from similar ideologies or ideological periods.

As I said, however, that those values are derived from unscientific means does that mean that the mere presence of new information will instantly cause those values to evaporate. This takes time. And that is what Krola is meant to demonstrate in the story. Many of us progressives, like Mirasta, want the rest of society to catch up to us and are impatient to see change unfold. But patience is a virtue we can (theoretically anyway) learn from our conservative friends.
Luke - Fri, Jul 10, 2015 - 1:44am (USA Central)
"But patience is a virtue we can (theoretically anyway) learn from our conservative friends."

Well, if such an endorsement of conservatism is indeed there in the episode, then it's buried so deep in the subtext that I couldn't even see a glimmer of it while watching the episode.
Bill - Fri, Jul 17, 2015 - 10:49pm (USA Central)
"Well, if such an endorsement of conservatism is indeed there in the episode, then it's buried so deep in the subtext that I couldn't even see a glimmer of it while watching the episode."

No worries. You can join the rest of us in seeing the bright, shining, totalitarian, feminist flame of liberalism gone amuck from the probable "Sarah Lawrence College" graduate who posts as SkepticalMI.

Rape? Yeah, everything is "rape" to them. LMAO!!
SpeedyGonzales - Sat, Jul 18, 2015 - 6:46pm (USA Central)
"Just look at how many on the left respond to scientific findings in areas like nuclear power, fracking or GMOs."

GMOs + capitalism = waste, monopoly, poverty, profit, ecocide, spiralling reliance upon mega-corporate owned fertilizers/seeds etc, all of which privitized.

nuclear power + capitalism = distasters + waste dumped on third world + unsustainable/dangerous rise in market expansion, production and so global heat.

fracking + capitalism = waste + water pollution

liberals = pro GMOs, pro fracking, pro nuclear, once the aforementioned are democratically and communally controlled for the greater good and once they are embedded within an economic system not predicated upon the madness of infinite growth.
Luke - Sun, Jul 19, 2015 - 6:40am (USA Central)
"liberals = pro GMOs, pro fracking, pro nuclear, once the aforementioned are democratically and communally controlled for the greater good and once they are embedded within an economic system not predicated upon the madness of infinite growth."

So, liberals = communists?
Bill - Mon, Jul 20, 2015 - 2:45pm (USA Central)
Since the perennially outraged liberal nerve has obviously gotten touched ("mission accomplished" or, as Janis Ian sung, "They only get what they deserve"), let's get back on topic (which isn't about "rape" or Capitalism being "bad" except it's better than everything else to anyone with a clue):

A tip of the hat and R.I.P. to George Coe, actor extraordinaire who played Chancellor Durken in this exemplary episode.
Ben - Wed, Aug 19, 2015 - 1:16pm (USA Central)
"which isn't about "rape" or Capitalism being "bad" except it's better than everything else to anyone with a clue"

Except that anyone with an actual "clue" knows that capitalism is the only system that has actually been allowed to blossom in its actual form. Whereas communism was never actually tried since the workers never actually controlled the means of production in any state. Those supposed "communist" states were actually practicing state capitalism by any definition. Between state capitalism and the oppression and ecological destruction of market capitalism, I would hardly think that anyone with a clue would believe "it's better than everything else".

Thinking humans can do a lot better.
Ben - Wed, Aug 19, 2015 - 1:20pm (USA Central)
Additionally, it's really surprising that any Star Trek fan is so pro-capitalist since the Federation in Star Trek is a nearly pure socialist entity. Star Trek blatantly made the point that socialism / state communism is not a killer of innovation & motivation, but frees human beings from the fears of scarcity to actually promote every person to innovate.
Luke - Wed, Aug 19, 2015 - 11:10pm (USA Central)
Oh damn man, that's some top kek right there. Thanks!
Ben - Thu, Aug 20, 2015 - 8:01am (USA Central)
Care to share why this made you laugh WoW guy?
Luke - Thu, Aug 20, 2015 - 10:20pm (USA Central)
"Those supposed "communist" states were actually practicing state capitalism by any definition."

State capitalism, otherwise known as fascism, is when the government controls all economic activity but allows the veneer of private ownership. Entrepreneurs may "own" their businesses but everything is regulated, micromanaged and controlled by the state. Those communist states didn't even allow that. Everything was outright owned by the state, which is exactly what communism calls for. To say that the workers never controlled the means of production is pretty funny.

"Between state capitalism and the oppression and ecological destruction of market capitalism..."

Ecological destruction of market capitalism? Like I said - kek. Where is the most "ecological destruction" taking place? It isn't in the more free market areas of the world. It's in places like communist China and other heavily socialistic nations.

"Thinking humans can do a lot better."

Nice poisoning of the well right there. Thanks for implying that anybody who disagrees with you must not be thoughtful.

"it's really surprising that any Star Trek fan is so pro-capitalist..."

Oh, I guess we've abandoned the whole concept of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Everyone who likes Star Trek must think the same way, huh?

"socialism / state communism is not a killer of innovation & motivation, but frees human beings from the fears of scarcity to actually promote every person to innovate."

Yeah, if only we didn't have to worry about that pesky thing called scarcity. Good luck avoiding that. The fact that socialism and communism "promote every person to innovate" must be why communist countries have always been so much more productive than capitalist ones, right. Oh, wait... it's the other way around. Maybe, just maybe, in a post-scarcity society socialism could work, but until we find a way to convert matter into energy and vice-versa like on Star Trek, capitalism is the best option available.

So, a complete misunderstanding of the differences between capitalism, fascism and communism, saying that the markets destroy the environment while promoting that which actually does the destroying, dismissing any alternate viewpoints as just unintelligent, promoting group-think and denying quite possibly the most fundamental law of economic reality = top kek!
Ben - Fri, Aug 21, 2015 - 8:10am (USA Central)
Beyond your use of internet slang, your total non-understanding of the economic systems which you discuss belie your young age. State Capitalism is defined as a political system in which the state has control of production and the use of capital. Fascism is the marriage of corporate power with state power. It isn't totally controlled by the state and there is no "veneer" of private ownership. In fact, the private owners of private capital collude with the state. Nazi Germany is the perfect example. I suggest you look into the corporate collusion with Nazi Germany, the attempted fascist coup in the US by Goodyear and DuPont, and the support that many industrialists and capitalists in the US had for fascism and Nazi Germany specifically.

State Capitalism is exactly what "Communist" (sic and kek as you say) China is. Communism is a STATELESS society that does not have a currency in which the entire society (the workers) maintain control of the raw materials, means of production, and wealth produced. Socialism is a form of state capitalism since the state maintains control of certain services and means of production. I suggest you actually read Marx, Engles, Luxemburg, and some more modern communists such as Michael Parenti and Richard Wolff. It's good to actually know what you're talking about besides siting common misnomers which draw their points of view from the 50 years of red scare propaganda.

"Nice poisoning of the well right there. Thanks for implying that anybody who disagrees with you must not be thoughtful."

Poisoning of the well? Get over yourself. Humans can do better than exploitation, "infinite growth" (again, kek as you say), and ecological destruction.

"Ecological destruction of market capitalism? Like I said - kek. Where is the most "ecological destruction" taking place? It isn't in the more free market areas of the world. It's in places like communist China and other heavily socialistic nations."

The most ecological destruction has taken place in the ares with the freest markets, actually. China's air pollution surged after the trade deals with free market companies were reached in the 70s. Similarly, before STATE CONTROLS were put on companies in the US (socialism, kiddo), the most egregious acts of pollution and ecological destruction happened right here in this country. There are 4 sites within a 30 minute drive of my home where Ford, Raytheon, and Lockheed have created horrible plumes from their activities. Paint factories poisoned the rivers nearby, and the highest chromium levels in the country thanks to the factories that decided to use the environment as their cheap disposal dumping ground. There's a word for this practice of maximizing profit while affecting the general public and allowing the state to pay for your destructive behaviors. It's called an externality.

Scarcity is a manufactured idea. The only time that scarcity is an actuality is during times of worldwide famine and crop death. Our current level of technology would allow for every man woman and child on the planet to eat 3 meals a day. It is market capitalism that decides who is deserving of the food. Much of it is thrown away and even more is destroyed before even hitting the stores. Companies are paid NOT to grow crops. Corporations have been buying up fresh water sources from corrupt government worldwide for scores of years and converting them into soda or bottling them and selling at a price the locals (who used to have free access to that water) can hardly afford.

So-called "Communist" countries (again, no such thing if you know what the term actually means) were more productive in many areas. The Soviets had a better space program. They were able to industrialize in less than 2 decades to go from a mainly agrarian society to an industrial giant that was able to defeat the Nazi war machine. They provided healthcare and education to many millions of people. The so-called bread lines occurred during times of famine (of which capitalist nations also had their share). They were also able to continue competing despite having extremely limited trading partners and all manner of trade embargoes. That's not to say that State Capitalism is great, nor do I defend it. But I just think we need to talk beyond the propaganda and rhetoric that is so well rehearsed in the US.

The fact that you think state capitalism == fascism would be hilarious if it wasn't pathetic. You are clearly very young and spend too much of your time on the internet. Bully on you for using terms like "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations" but with respect to the real world, you are lacking in your understanding of... well nearly everything. You can keep "top kekking" all you want. When capitalism finishes tearing itself apart, maybe we will get to see a real communism or worldwide socialism ala the Federation. One can only hope.

And, yes, it is odd to me that people who admire the future that Gene Roddenberry created are such staunch fans of capitalism. It has nothing to do with Infinite Diversity and everything to do with not recognizing what something is.
Luke - Fri, Aug 21, 2015 - 2:07pm (USA Central)
Whatever man. Have fun off in La-La Land where scarcity is a manufactured idea.

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