Date: Tue, Apr 7, 1998 21:01 EDT
I almost never do this, but I've decided to go back and amend one of my
answers. A couple of weeks ago, someone posted a message taken from another
website that essentially took the position that DS9 was "Anti-Trek" for a
variety of reasons. It was a fairly lengthy diatribe covering two full
pages in here and when I read it my first reaction was to dismiss it with a
wave of my hand.
On reflection, however, I think that while I disagree rather strongly with
most of the arguments advanced in that posting, it was a legitimate
criticism of the show and probably deserved a better response than the one I
<<DS9 [is] going the way of the Dominion with the whole war thing. War was
not what Star Trek was ever about and special effects shows should be left
to the shows that have nothing else to offer and whose idea of storytelling
is military and political hide and seek (e.g. Babylon 5.)
Quite simply if I want to watch B5, I can watch the original. I don't want
to see the staff create an inferior version of it.
Star Trek's focus has always been on Science, exploration, ideas and
knowledge, not blowing people up and regurgiating Cold War cliches.>>
Okay, let's start with, "War was not what Star Trek was ever about." The
truth is that war and war-related themes have been present in Star Trek ever
since the first season of the original series. We saw the Federation time
and again come right up to the brink of war with various foes throughout the
galaxy. We also watched as other races grappled with the costs of war and
with the aftermath of bloody conflicts. The same thing happened in the Trek
movies (III and VI particularly) and in TNG. What we've done on DS9 is to
take our characters into the conflict instead of just talking about it. The
line, "If X happens, (Jim, Jean-luc, Benjamin, Katherine) it could lead to
interstellar war," has been said over and over again in the franchise. We
wanted to see what would happen to our characters and our station if the
unthinkable finally did happen. What would our people be forced to grapple
with? How would it change them? What would be the costs of war? What kind
of stories could we tell? What themes could we explore?
The Dominion War did not just happen overnight. This conflict has been
building ever since we first encountered the Jem'Hadar back at the end of
Season 2. The collision of the Dominion and the Federation has had an
almost inevitable quality to it, and we the writers have felt that
inevitability just as the characters have.
Claiming that Star Trek has always been about science, exploration, ideas,
and knowledge is twisting the facts to fit a certain view. As I said in my
original response, Star Trek is "about" a lot of things. Look at any season
of any of the series' and you'll find that while the above themes have
always been present, they haven't been the only focus of the voyages. Trek
has also had a strong action-adventure component, a recurring use of
comedy and satire, a healthy interest in romance and sex, a bit of melodrama
and a dash of mysticism. The series have always appealed to different
people for different reasons. To say that we can't explore the concept of a
war engulfing the Alpha Quadrant simply because it's "not what Trek is
about," is ridiculous. Trek is about a lot of things. That's the beauty of
the concept. It allows the writer to explore virtually any theme or idea and
paint is on a wide and far-reaching canvas.
<<Roddenberry created a universe where the human race could have a better
future free of prejudice, religion and hatred, where the point of contact
with other races was eventual peace and mutual respect.>>
Gene also created a universe torn by conflict and deep hatreds that mirrored
our own planet. This was a deliberate choice that allowed Star Trek
universe to be used as a metaphor for our own world. The Federation has
been dragged into war before, even during Gene's tenure (if only in
back-story), the only difference is that we've chosen to actually show it
and deal with it head-on.
<<Behr and Moore (whose purile mind I really blame for most of this) have
instead created a war torn universe, revived religion and combined a mock
spirtuality (Political correct neo Bhuddism) with a conservative view of the
universe, one in which there is darkness and corruption everywhere
(especially inside your own ranks) while our heroes stand as strong moral
lights who follow orders without question (none of that "Damn it Jim,
Captain you are being illogical bit"), our new crewmen are good soldiers who
have no problem with doing anything they're told and don't question orders
(e.g. For the Uniform, Sacrifice of Angels), old themes of purity through
war and battle are brought back and we have DS9: Ronald Reagen. >>
This is a weak argument. We've shown over and over again that our
characters question and quite often disobey orders they find objectionable.
A more legitimate complaint is that our characters are probably not
punished enough for their outright disobedience and occasional mutiny.
I'm also not clear how we're presenting dark corrupting forces within our
own ranks while at the same time we're showing ourselves to be strong moral
As for the revival of religion, I happily plead guilty as one of the
conspirators bringing this into the 24th century. Faith and the search for
meaning in life are two of the great themes in human history and I'm glad we
get to explore them on DS9. "Politically-correct neo-Bhuddism"? How
Bhuddism translates into worship of the Prophets/Worm-hole aliens and the
establishment of a near-theoracy on Bajor eludes me.
Regular readers of this board know my feelings about Ronald Reagan.
<Militarsitic values such as Worf's are acceptable but mercantilistic values
are [not] because we've regressed to a toy soldier value system. That's why
the Humanistically oriented Ship in which Sisko's values are questione gives
way to the militaristic Rocks and Shoals in which the enemy's values are
questioned and the Jem'Haddar are seen as better than the Vorta because they
refuse to negotiate, compromise or see any sort of reason beyond
exterminating the enemy, making them perfect representatives of militaristic
morality which focuses not on which side is right, but which side is braver.>
Worf's values are quite often assailed on DS9. Few people outside of Dax
understand or accept his ideas about conflict, death, war, or battle.
"Rocks and Shoals" showed us a different face of our enemy than we'd seen
before and gave the characters a new understanding of a fearsome opponent --
isn't that what Star Trek is supposed to do? Reducing "Rocks and Shoals"
to a question of "which side is braver" betrays a fundamental
misunderstanding of the show and I would advise a second viewing.
<<Elements that question the morality of the Federation and Bajor are
This is demonstrably false. We constantly question the Federation and its
ideals. And we have shown the social and political culture of Bajor to be a
complex one with a lot of rough edges and a sometimes questionable morality.
<<The Maquis are swept under the carpet, the Kai is cleaned up and
moralized, the wormhole aliens are turned into religious entities
(for all intents and purposes even if the show occasionally pretends
the DEM is scientific)>>
Actually, the Maquis were killed and dealt with in a fairly straightforward
manner. Must the Kai always be bad and always be wrong? What about
complexity? What about rounding out her character? And the Prophets have
straddled the line between "aliens" and "gods" ever since the pilot.
<<I did not say that the ST universe lacked conflict or that it should lack
conflict, without conflict there tends to be little drama. However there is
the sort of conflict that Star Trek approaches in which we encounter
different species or machines with whose existance we are temporarily
incompatible. Occasionally those conflicts even take time to resolve but
the focus of Star Trek is not on the conflicts but on the mission of
Starfleet which is exploration.
Conflict in Star Trek was merely another means for exploration.
The Klingons, the Romulans or the Cardassians were new species which we came
in conflict with but in the process of resolving that conflict we also
learned more about them. When we came into conflict with entities like the
Borg, Q or the Guardian we came into contact with the mystery and wonder of
the universe. >>
This boils down to an argument in favor of formula: Meet aliens in Teaser.
Establish conflict in open acts. Resolve conflict by end of episode with
greater understanding for all.
There's nothing wrong with that, but it's been done in Star Trek before.
Those episodes are still out there and you can watch them any time you want.
The Dominion War is different. It's about what happens when those
differences cannot be resolved, when the choices ultimately come down to
freedom or submission. I once said that I didn't put phasers on the
Enterprise, Gene did. He did believe in a better future, one in which
humanity sought peace and freedom, but he also believed in fighting for
one's beliefs. Would Kirk have bent his knee at the foot of the Founders?
Would Picard? Would Janeway? I doubt it. Star Trek has always promoted the
values of peace, understanding, and tolerance, but it's never advocated
acceptance in the face of oppression, or pacificism as an answer to
The war will continue.