MasterPo says: This blog is about topics and issues that are of importance to me. I am not one of the countless blogging lemmings that are tripping over each other scurrying down the hill and off the cliff of blogging oblivion trying to write the greatest blog on the latest topic de'jour. Your comments are welcome.

April 4, 2010

The Politics of Star Trek

It's no secret that MasterPo is an avid Trekker (that's the proper way to refer to Star Trek fans, not Trekkies). No, MasterPo doesn't have a gold uniform or a pair of rubber pointed ears (but does have a Tribble!). And in so being such a Trekker, it is true to some extent that many parallels to real-life can shown in the stories. Art imitates life. But there are also some very curious and unique concepts too, from a human relations point of view, that are worthy of discussion.

It occurs to MasterPo there is something else very interesting about the whole air of Starships and being a Starship Captain: A significant amount of autonomy.

From the original series (TOS) through The Next Generation (TNG), Deep Space Nine (DS9), Voyager (Voyager), and even the semi-prequel of Enterprise (Enterprise) as well as all the movies it is clear that Star Fleet Command, presumably with the blessing of the Federation, gives Starship captains a wide latitude of power and authority. With rare exception captains like Kirk and Piccard seek guidance from their senior commanders. Instead they seem to have the authority to make decisions that not only impact their own ship and crew but even set some level of policy and direction for Star Fleet and the Federation.

In a great many episodes we see Captain Kirk or Captain Piccard tell the leaders of other worlds that Star Fleet will do this or that for them, make commitments the Federation will carry out later, provide assistance and advise to other peoples, or negotiate agreements and deal in behalf of the Federation. And all (seemingly) without needing to consult or seek approval from senior Star Fleet officers. It is apparent that a Starship Captain is a very high ranking position in the galaxy!

At the same time, it appears Star Fleet almost always supports with little question the decisions that Starship Captains make. With rare exception we have seen senior Star Fleet officers berate Starship Captains for the decisions they made (one very notable exception was when Admiral Niche chewed out Capt. Piccard for letting the Borg Hue go free without giving him a computer virus that would have destroyed the Borg. She was right for doing that!). Although we do know Starship Captains have to make detailed reports of their actions (in the episode "A Piece of the Action" Spock questions Capt. Kirk for how he's going to convince Star Fleet that each year a Starship is to be sent to the planet to collect Star Fleet's part of the profit! – though it does seem to be said more tongue-in-cheek).

Clearly someone in such a high position as a Starship Captain could do some very serious damage if left unchecked by their seniors. Captain Garth is an example of one possible out come of a Starship Captain who goes "rouge".

Supposedly Star Fleet training is soooooooo strict and Starship Captains are sooooooo carefully screened that it could be argued they have such trust in the Captains not to set themselves up as pirates or tyrants. It is also clear that Starship crews are similarly very carefully trained and picked to be a check-and-balance against a Captain who goes rogue (like Capt. Garth's crew or the Enterprise crew when Dr. Janice Lester took over Capt. Kirk's body and wanted to execute Dr. McCoy and Scotty for mutiny).

Certainly part of the reason Starship Captains have so much autonomy is the shear distances Starships operate away from Earth. Even with subspace communication a Captain can't be calling Star Fleet on Earth all the time for instructions. The network of Star Bases seems to headed up by a senior Star Fleet officer of Commodore rank at least and they seem to be the "supervisors" of Starships out in the field. Even so, it seemed rare for such to advise Starship Captains on a daily basis.

It is very comforting to know the deep honor and commitment Starship Captains have live up to the expectations of Star Fleet and the Federation while operating largely independently most of the time.

Trust is the key.

Wish we could emulate such deep honor and trust in our leaders today.

Live long and prosper.

1 comment:

Grace. said...

Good luck with the "trekkers" vs. "trekkies" distinction! Damon Knight was a longtime friend of mine, who spent years trying to erase the "word" 'SciFi' (which he insisted should correctly prounounced "skiffy,") from the world, to, of course, no avail!