|Posted on March 14, 2012 at 6:45 AM|
Last week, I used “Friday’s Child” to address the question of jihads: what they were, what they were not. This week, I take an objective look at Nazism and the Star Trek portrayal in “Patterns of Force.”
John Gill, an old and respected professor of Kirk’s at Starfleet Academy, has been missing for years. His last known location? A planet called Ekos, which shares its sun with the smaller, outer planet Zeon.
As one Zeon named Isak explains: “[When] we came here, we thought we were civilizing the Ekosians.”
What happened instead is that Ekos had adopted the ways of Nazi Germany, thanks to Dr. Gill. Though he knew how brutal Nazis could be, he had tried to adapt the system’s efficiency without the sadism. Trouble is, when any one man or government attempts to control every aspect of the people’s lives, especially at the expense of other races, the temptation to play God is too great. To its credit, the episode does make this very point in its tag.
However, this depiction of Nazism has its problems. It’s easier to compare it with “Bread and Circuses” than with the Nazis’ lust for power in the early 1940s (see entry for last December 14). The full brutality of the real culture is all but missing from these images.
Supposedly the story takes place in only one day. Yet the real Nazis were so organized and regimented, it’s doubtful the infiltration would be so successful so quickly—if at all. Kirk credits their success to “luck,” but there are far too many coincidences, too many contrived turns of events to accept this. Besides, if luck were so reliable, why are the majority of gamblers still poor?
Ironically, “Patterns of Force” begins with a mystery that’s really no mystery at all, if we understand how God works. On her approach to Ekos, the Enterprise is attacked by a thermonuclear warhead which is “generations ahead of where these people should be, technically,” according to McCoy, and Spock concurs. Its implied Gill’s interference had caused the warhead to be built ahead of its time.
But just because a certain sequence happened on Earth, it does not follow that another planet has to follow the same sequence. Just as Earthian countries develop different technologies at different periods of time, so planetary societies could develop in their own manner.
This is one of the points behind my Savage Worlds, regarding planet Sutar. Even though their technology in most areas is akin to the 1950s on Earth, they also have common space travel between there and Kyan.
It’s also the biggest problem with the Prime Directive, the Trek theory that drives so many stories throughout the franchise. It assumes man is responsible for a society’s development, not God. See my entry back on July 1, 2009 for more details. Non-interference itself is a good thing, but to withhold our technology from low-tech nations goes too far. In fact, in spite of its own powerful preaching, the story does allow one Ekosian to watch Dr. McCoy beam down.
As I’ve said before, we can’t expect secular people to consider the Lord’s role in their stories. Therefore, we may assume the Zeons represent the Jews in Nazi Germany, even if God is rarely mentioned. This seems to be reflected in their slightly altered names: Isak, Abrom, and Davod. The only time the Lord is named is when Abrom welcomes Isak back: “Thank God you are safe.”
So let’s leave this behind and return to the plot. On beam-down, Kirk and Spock observe Isak being beaten and arrested by Nazi soldiers. They watch a news report about a lady named Daras accepting a medal from the Fatherland. And they see a picture of the führer: John Gill.
They head for his headquarters (how do they know where to go?), but on the way they are stopped twice. They overpower both Nazis and take their uniforms—which miraculously fit them perfectly. As if this weren’t enough, the same type of double theft happens a second time.
After the men are arrested, they’re whipped and thrown in jail. That’s where they meet and interview Isak. “Were they like this when you first came here?” asks Kirk.
“Warlike, yes. Not vicious. That started when the Nazi movement began.” Now whoever heard of a warlike people not being vicious?
Isak later says, “When they destroy us here, they’ll attack our planet. The danger is that taking life is so repugnant to our people, I’m afraid we’ll go down without a struggle.” He becomes more somber, more reflective. “But after what I saw in the street today, I think I could kill.” In fact, it’s all he can talk about after learning the Nazis had murdered his fiancée.
Wouldn’t the other Zeons feel the same way? I know the Jewish heart had desired peace all through time, even though their pagan neighbors continually came against them. Yet they knew how to defend themselves, to take back their own property. It does not make sense that these Zeons should be sitting ducks.
The Enterprise men happen to have subcutaneous transponders embedded in their arms before beaming down—which were never used again, so the precaution feels contrived. Spock stands on Kirk’s tortured back and creates a laser which burns through the lock on their cell. They lure the guard in to knock him out, release Isak, and follow him to his underground hiding place.
As it turns out, Daras—the woman decorated for Nazi service—is also with the underground. Eventually she uses her influence to enter the citadel where Führer Gill is about to speak, while Kirk, Spock, and Isak pose as cameramen. It’s the only time I know when the team working together consisted of four people, each from a different planet! This part I loved.
Gill sits behind a curtained booth on their right, and he broadcasts on the screen to their left.
Deputy Führer Melakon controls when Gill should appear, and the landing party notices Gill looks catatonic, a clear indication he’d been drugged. With impossible ease they get into the booth, and Kirk demands to know why he violated the Prime Directive.
His voice thick with narcotics, Gill says, “Worked … at first … it worked. Then Melakon … began takeover … gave me the drug …”
Between trying to bring him out of catatonia and encouraging him to stop the madness, Kirk finally gets Gill to speak to the people on his own: “Melakon’s a traitor!”
Melakon kills Gill, a soldier kills Melakon, and suddenly all is right with both worlds. For all its flaws, though, at least the episode showed one thing accurately: key points about Melakon’s attitude which also apply to Adolf Hitler and other real-life dictators.
1) He is handsome, charismatic, eloquent, and charming, a person most people would trust with their lives. That’s a major reason why dictators become so strong.
2) He expresses hatred toward all races but his own. Melakon refers to Zeons as “disease” or some other derogatory term. When Spock is caught and brought to him, he examines him and picks out features he says show that Spock’s race is inferior, practically a mindless animal. As though he knew!
3) He clearly relishes the power he has as deputy führer. He loves the people’s attention as much as his own persuasive power. He commands the army that flies to Zeon to subjugate the rival planet.
4) He makes laws on his own without the benefit of legislation, such as the one to exterminate all “Zeon pigs” from the streets.
In Savage Worlds, I took a different tack. No one dictator is involved with exterminating purple Kyanians; it’s the blue society of Sutar as a whole. The main instigators are teens and twenty-somethings, primarily from the blue race, who form a gang to stop all efforts to coexist.
Both John Gill and the Zeons meant well when they came to Ekos. Their heart was certainly in the right place, but were they wrong to try? No, the desire to help people is noble and desirable. But some people, especially those with their own agendas, do not appreciate the effort. Perhaps it’s xenophobia, the same fear which I believe spawned the Prime Directive.
It’s the attitude missionaries to foreign countries often encounter when they try to share the Gospel.
Jesus urged: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matthew 10:28 ).
Categories: Original Star Trek