Star Trek: Voyager: Hunters   Rewatch 
October 16, 2017 7:53 AM - Season 4, Episode 15 - Subscribe

It’s mail call at the 4077thon Voyager, and RadarNeelix is the most popular man in campon the ship, fighting off hordes of personnel looking for their letters from home...

Memory Alpha wishes that you'd write more often, even just a Facebook post would be nice:

- The considerable size of the Hirogen in this episode is a result of the fact that the original inspiration for the aliens, as devised by co-executive producer Brannon Braga, was the largeness of football players. Alan Sims recalled that, for the Hirogen in this episode, the production crew "hired actors that were close to seven feet and then put platforms in their boots to give them even greater height."

- The exterior of the relay station in this episode was actually a studio model that was often reused in Star Trek productions, including Star Trek: Voyager's pilot episode, "Caretaker", (as the Caretaker's array) and the second season episode "Cold Fire" (as Suspiria's array).

- The first shot of Voyager in this episode – showing the vessel passing through a nebula – uses the exact same CGI background used in the opening moments of the Season 2 episode "Deadlock", when Voyager is evading the Vidiians within a nebula (the scene angle is the same, but the path/angle of Voyager is slightly different).

- Chakotay references the Bajoran wormhole established in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when speculating that a similar stable wormhole to the Delta Quadrant might have been found.

- The destruction of the Maquis was previously revealed in DS9: "Blaze of Glory".

- Although this is the first time Voyager encounters any Hirogen vessels, Harry Kim recognizes sensor readings of them here as Hirogen ships. This could be due, however, to the fact that the energy signatures of the ships are similar to the energy signature of the Hirogen's transmission from the previous episode, "Message in a Bottle".

"I'm finishing my weekly tactical review. When it's completed I'll read the message."
"You're going to wait until you finish the tactical review?"
"Do you have any reason to believe the content of the message will change during that time?"

- Tuvok and Neelix, when Neelix delivers a letter from home

"Coffee – the finest organic suspension ever devised."

- Janeway to Chakotay, explaining why she is having a fourth cup of morning coffee

Poster's Log:

This is the episode that gives us our first real look at the Hirogen, although we got a glimpse last ep with the irate one who told Voyager to get off the damn phone... and frankly, I don't think that they're much of a much. I was going to refer to them as Schmedators, but I decided on "Prettytors" because they're not as fugly as the originals (whose look was ripped off previously for the Nausicaans, and again in "Nemesis"). But, otherwise, it's not even the Yautja with the serial numbers filed off so much as there are a few scratches across the serial numbers, as if that would fool anyone. Their weapons aren't quite as cool (although they do have a nice Wall of Weapons), and ditto for their trophy wall, and frankly the rest of their ship just looks like a bunch of random junk thrown together. (Well, except for the big pot o' soup sitting out in the middle. That's a nice touch.) I'm not outraged by the, ah, borrowing from another franchise that much--there was no movie in that franchise between Predator 2 and Aliens vs. Predator, a fourteen-year gap, which meant that 20th Century Fox was burning a big pile of money every year for those fourteen years. (Speaking of AvP, that's basically the plot of the next episode.) It's just that the Hirogen don't really go beyond that; it's Species of Hats, with their hat being hunting, and the only real difference from the Yautja being that they're vaguely lizardy-looking and wear BMX armor and can't cloak (that having already been taken by the Jem'Hadar).

And it's a damn dirty shame, really, because there are a bunch of things that could have been done with them, starting with delving into how a bunch of dudes who just go around going stabby on any alien that they can get their hands on developed something like the communications network, a staggering accomplishment in terms of scope, sophistication, and sheer power. It would be like finding out that the Border Reivers had established a series of semaphore towers that stretched from Aberdeen down to Northampton, and that still worked. Did the Hirogen simply discover a pre-existing system that had been built by some ancient galactic empire, like the Iconians? For that matter, how do the Hirogen maintain their own ships, with no homeworld? Do they have vassal species, or simply demand that other civilizations service and supply their ships in exchange for not being killed and eaten? According to Memory Alpha, there's some mention in S7's "Flesh and Blood" that the Hirogen used to be a great civilization before they became this season's murderhoboes, but generally they seem to be whatever a particular episode needs; they come off as a lot more canny in "The Killing Game."

The real appeal of the episode is the mail call, and how people react to it. Tom has his daddy issues, Harry reminds us that he's got a healthy relationship with his parents, and Chakotay and B'Elanna find out about the Maquis massacre from "Blaze of Glory." (Michael Eddington, the gift that keeps on giving.) I've talked before about how I wish that they'd done more with the Maquis in VOY, so I won't beat that dead horse again, and it is worth noting that there's at least some follow-up with B'Elanna in a future episode. I also wonder if Janeway's Dear John letter, and the follow-up conversation with Chakotay, was a sop thrown to Janeway/Chakotay shippers.

Poster's Log, supplemental: At least the Hirogen get some decent actors with history in the franchise playing them; besides Tiny Ron, we get Tony Todd next ep and eventually J.G. Hertzler in "Tsunkatse", my personal favorite use of the Hirogen, plus a couple other noteworthy actors in that episode.
posted by Halloween Jack (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Particle of the Week: Anti-thorons, for when regular thorons are overexposed.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: A bunch of one-off Treknobabble references became important in STO. The subnucleonic beam that hit Tuvok and Seven's shuttle is a core ability of Science Captains in STO. The monotanium armor used by the Hirogen is available for player use, (although not recommended).

The Hirogen themselves are a staple of Star Trek Online: they had a gambling box with a bunch of associated loot, they're enemies in a host of missions (starting as early as the Romulan faction tutorial - Hirogen are frequently employed by the Tal Shiar) and so on. My main character has at least one Hirogen crew member that I can think of, off top.

Ongoing Counts: Rolled forward again.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 17.
* Shuttles: Down 8.
* Crew: 141.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

Notes:
* I too am disappointed by the lack of imagination with the Hirogen.

I don't really object to a Predator knockoff in principle: alternate company equivalents/lawyer friendly cameos have always been a thing, and Voyager being hunted by a fresh set of murderhobos is not without potential. However, I agree with Jack that these guys are underdeveloped in this outing. The exchange between Seven and the Hirogen captain is particularly telling:
SEVEN: What possible use could you make of my intestines?
ALPHA: Unusual relics are prized. Yours will make me envied by men and pursued by women.
SEVEN: You are a crude species. Only your size makes you formidable.
Seven's got their number, but calling it out in the episode doesn't make that any less true or more interesting.

* Tuvok talks a lot more smack than usual.

Tuvok's about as threatening as I can recall seeing a Vulcan, ever. He talks about how Janeway will hunt the Hirogen and destroy them and so on. I assume this is just based on his read of 'what will these guys understand,' but it really leapt out at me either way, because he's not given to that. (Tuvok is probably the least aggressive tactical specialist I can recall seeing in the franchise.)

* Scale problems again.

Gravity based problems that would keep a ship literally light years away are too big, Voyager writers. I forgive much when it comes to Treknobabble, but the casual misuse of terms like that just to sound science fiction-y is irritating.

More egregiously: this is a quadrant-spanning series of stations that have been around for 100,000+ years, and Voyager just popped the entire network. Stuff like that really annoys me: this relay network has been through all sorts of crap in its time. It can't possibly break because one link in the chain went down, or it couldn't have lasted so long. (If Voyager had fed it a virus or something else to transmit destruction along the network, that would've been a little different, but I'd still expect it to be ridiculously tough.) From a plausibility standpoint, that feels like if a couple of moths fighting outside my window managed to destroy my house.

I get that they didn't want to keep using the array, but just having the Hirogen lock them out would've been more plausible to me.

* Seven enthusiastically integrating herself into events worked for me.

Seven's adrift. Her throwing herself at fitting in after being Borg makes total sense to me, down to pushing herself to work days without sleep. Her discussion about it with Tuvok is, if anything, pretty sad:
SEVEN: I am wondering if the captain still doesn't trust me. If she feels I require supervision.
TUVOK: I am not certain how the captain regards you, but her decision to have me accompany you on this mission shouldn't be taken as evidence of any particular attitude.
She's got a cool facade, but it's telling just how hard she's working to prove herself because she knows she doesn't have anywhere else to go anymore.

* The letters mostly worked for me.

That was a sorry end to all things Maquis, but I did like how B'Ellana and Chakotay reacted to the news, at least. I also believed Paris' reactions, the general spirit of excitement, and Janeway getting Dear Johned. (It was her decision to wreck up the array in the first place - I can just picture her ex-fiance's Ask Mefi about it, and the subsequent DTMFAs.)

About the only thing I didn't like was Harry's insistence that they'd all just be going home right away - they had contact with Command via the Doctor's trip to the Prometheus already. If Starfleet had some kind of new drive, someone would've told the Doctor during his briefing. Just a small 'hang tight and pack up, we'll send a transwarp team out to recover you.' So that was annoying and implausible.

Everything else surrounding it was fine, or close enough for me to handwave.

All in all, this was a very middling episode. Enough happened that I don't feel 'meh,' but I think they could've done more or better with the material.
posted by mordax at 9:32 AM on October 16 [2 favorites]


Damn it Neelix, I thought you were over the hump. *sigh* Oh well, just repeat after me, "Hello, my name is Neelix and I'm annoying. It's been one episode since I last annoyed people." Get back on the wagon buddy, I've got faith you can get past this. And for godsakes, just deliver the letters to their individual quarters so you don't cause emotional turmoil among the crew. Keep it private Mr. Nosy.

Nice Seven episode. I enjoyed her suggesting to the doctor that Starfleet might delete his program to make Voyager compatible with the latest protocols. Her scenes with Tuvok were also good. I like the two of them together, the analytical/minimal emotional response thing works for them. But, jeez, could they do a worse job on reading their situation? You hear the dude talking about hunts and fair fights and how disappointed he was in your weakness so you go off on the whole my captain is Toughy McToughnuts and our ship will destroy you thing? Not the best reading of the room I'd say.

The letters from home thing never worked for me on MASH, and it doesn't fair much better here. The Maquis bit was a nice touch, but, as mentioned, a bit out of place given how much they chose to ignore that aspect of the characters that were Maquis. Still, the nod to continuity across shows was welcome.

Paris comes off pretty well here, Harry's reactions are probably suitable enough, but just a bit too insistent for my liking. I would have preferred to see it dialed back just a touch as Harry tries to be a little withholding of his worries.

The Hirogen, like the Kazon and Nausicaans and so many others just come across as Klingon variations since they don't really develop the culture more than adding a different frame to the same attitudes. Part of that is just baked in to Trek having set up that initial trinity of Vulcans, Klingons, and humans since that covers so much of the attitudes they want to explore given the metaphors at the heart of the races.

Aliens that develop full civilizations, one would expect, would have wide ranges of beliefs and attitudes, so the "hat" thing would only cover some of the more notable cultural traits, like a devoutly religious culture or strict or lax government set up, but within even those cultures, attitudes would vary to some degree. Their best encounters aside from the two TOS groups are with groups that either show something of that diversity or are so alien that the normal metaphors don't hold, like with the Borg that provide a different more machine-like model. Most aliens though are just like humans, but with one aspect of the culture overemphasized to the point of completely defining them, which is more tiresome than revealing much of the time. But we've been over that before, so no since belaboring the point. I just wish they had at least made the Hirogen look a little less like Shredder from TMNT with a dash of Bane mixed in.

Anyway, the Hirogen aren't the worst of Voyager's aliens, they get at least a couple decent stories worth of ideas from their hunting fetish, so they didn't bother me too much since they get some variation in personality among them, as minimal as it might be. It was nice that one of Janeway's initial plans of attack worked out for a change, they love having her make some big statement or plan only to have it not succeed and the situation take a turn for the worse.

Yeah, this was a heavy shipping episode too. Janeway and Chakotay, Tom and B'Elanna, Harry and Seven, they hit all the big ones to little point aside from Tom and B'Elanna who get a moment of bonding.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:24 AM on October 17 [2 favorites]


I concur with the general mood of the room on this episode. I'll add that the writers made a wise choice in spending so much time on the Letters From Home. This is a significant enough story development for the series that it needs weight, and I thought they did a fair job at providing it.

Aliens that develop full civilizations, one would expect, would have wide ranges of beliefs and attitudes, so the "hat" thing would only cover some of the more notable cultural traits, like a devoutly religious culture or strict or lax government set up, but within even those cultures, attitudes would vary to some degree. Their best encounters aside from the two TOS groups are with groups that either show something of that diversity or are so alien that the normal metaphors don't hold, like with the Borg that provide a different more machine-like model. Most aliens though are just like humans, but with one aspect of the culture overemphasized to the point of completely defining them, which is more tiresome than revealing much of the time. But we've been over that before, so no since belaboring the point.

One thing I like to keep in mind with Hat Species is, due to the circumstances surrounding Our Heroes' encounters with them, that our perception of them as being one-dimensional and being defined by their Hat may not be at all accurate. For instance, it is canon in my D&D setting that "adventuring dwarves"—the ones most likely to be encountered by/in a typical party—are stern, reserved, humorless, and stubborn in a way that the typical dwarf, residing in dwarf realms, is very much not. I've often headcanoned Klingons similarly—consider the lens through which we tend to view them—and there are subtle hints in the franchise that support this reading, such as the old lady in that one two-parter where Picard goes to Qo'noS.

But that's a justification after the fact. All it would have taken to give the Hirogen a semblance of depth would have been a brief dialogue exchange, such as
HARRY: So you guys are just, like, ALL hunters, all the time?
HIROGEN: Of course not. We have farmers, to supplement our diets. And even artists, in the core of our settled space.
HARRY: But the art is all about hunting, right?
HIROGEN: …Well, basically, yes.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:55 AM on October 17 [3 favorites]


WRT de-hatting, one of the things that I thought of when I rewatched the DS9 episode "Apocalypse Rising" had to do with the alternate identities that Sisko's group used to get into the Order of the Bat'Leth ceremony. I think that it would be a fairly non-trivial thing to set those identities up, since Klingons traditionally like to talk about their families almost as much as they love to sing songs about their glorious battles. If you used the identities of real Klingons, who would not only have an established family but also be willing to let someone else use their identity? When I found out that the episode was originally supposed to be a two-parter and deal more with the journey to Ty'Gokor, I imagined that part of the cut part of the episode would have them meeting some Klingons who'd decided to desert the armed forces, but faked their deaths so that their families wouldn't be disgraced. (The Federation found a flight recorder with a faked final entry, and offered them a pile of latinum in exchange for the use of their names.) Worf, of course, has a hard time with that, as he's always been the guy who tries to be more Klingon than anyone who grew up in the Empire, and one of the deserters points out that, if they'd been the ones to grow up in the Federation, there would be no problem with their not going into the KDF.

As far as the Hirogen go, it would have been nice if we'd ultimately found out that the hunters were not only a relatively small part of their society but a relatively unimportant one, the equivalent of our "big game hunters" being bored rich guys who have a weird hobby that's based in outmoded imperialist ideas. I know that their culture and whatnot is supposed to be based on hunting, but that could be the equivalent of going to a rich guy's house, seeing all the stuffed animal heads on the wall, and believing that all humans were like that. It would have been hilarious to meet some normal Hirogen who would have been like, "Oh, yeah, those assholes. They make the rest of us look bad."
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:06 AM on October 17 [3 favorites]


It would have been hilarious to meet some normal Hirogen who would have been like, "Oh, yeah, those assholes. They make the rest of us look bad."

I have what is doubtlessly going to prove to be a futile hope that Discovery is gonna pull something like this with Klingons. Or fungus-monsters, or non-gluttonous-sapient-tribbles, or SOMEthing.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:59 PM on October 17


Shredder from TMNT with a dash of Bane mixed in.
This!
The Hirogen costumes have not aged well. They look like the foam-rubber-suited villains from a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers episode. :D

I thought the boneless body found on the abandon space craft had promise. I wish the Hirogen would have been a more purposeful version of the space-zombie reavers from Firefly. I was going to skip all these Hirogen episodes. But these discussions have convinced me to watch them.
posted by hot_monster at 3:07 PM on October 17 [2 favorites]


I was going to skip all these Hirogen episodes. But these discussions have convinced me to watch them.

One of US! One of US! :)

As far as the Hirogen go, it would have been nice if we'd ultimately found out that the hunters were not only a relatively small part of their society but a relatively unimportant one, the equivalent of our "big game hunters" being bored rich guys who have a weird hobby that's based in outmoded imperialist ideas.

This is my personal headcanon for them. Their ships are just too good to come from a race that spends all their time cleaning intestines for the old trophy wall.
posted by mordax at 5:02 PM on October 17 [1 favorite]


Regarding hats and Hirogen, upon reflection, part of the annoyance with "cultires" like the Hirogen isn't even in their hats, but in the limited range of personalities, or I guess Hirogenalities in this case, they tend to show the aliens having. We'll see some variations later on, but they're still all along a narrow line of types, all in earnest, rather than shown sharing some values but presenting themselves along a broader range of personality types.

If, for example, you did compare the Hirogen to hunting buddies, obviously those pals would share some common values, but they wouldn't present themselves as being so completely devoted to one set of values to the point of not showing their individuality in other facets of their actions. Some guys would be boisterous jokers, some quiet and laid back, others serious and so on. With alien encounters we too often get characters that are all about their hats, lacking the kind of development that would come from living in a culture, even if they did share some values. It's the complete focus on the hats in exclusion of almost all else that lends the encounters such a didactic or artificial feel. Even aliens in hats have to make choices about their accessories, but we get uniformity instead.

One other, unconnected, thing I found or find interesting about this episode and how it brings to mind the larger Trek verse, is how the coldly logical Vulcans are shown as being religious, even more so than the humans in Trek tend to be. Part of this is the hat thing, where once they add in Vulcan religion then it is a trait for almost all Vulcans by default, but even so, there is some surprise in having religion or quasi-religion part of Vulcan lore, along with the Klingons and other alien species, but not much a part of human culture as it is usually shown.

Granting the importance the characters would give letters from home, I'm still not sure why the show chose to connect them to Starfleet at this time since it does change the feel of their plight in a way that I'm not seeing a clear positive use for from my memory of the following seasons. It is, I suppose, nice that they develop the connection over time, but I'm not convinced that it was for the betterment of the show. I'll have to see if that feeling changes on rewatch.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:00 AM on October 18 [3 favorites]


It's the complete focus on the hats in exclusion of almost all else that lends the encounters such a didactic or artificial feel. Even aliens in hats have to make choices about their accessories, but we get uniformity instead.

This is a fair point. With some alien species it bothered me, and others not so much.

In my mind, the worst offenders are the Ferengi - I can only name two Ferengi in the entire franchise who're not completely hat-obsessed, only one of which is a recurring character.

Klingons, Cardassians and Bajorans come off better. We see a lot of Klingons with various personalities throughout the franchise, and DS9 offers a pretty wide swath of Cardassians and Bajorans with different personalities and values.

Vulcans are definitely in a weird place, since the show itself has so many conflicting ideas about how Vulcans even work, per our extended discussions of it here. (Plus, they're canonically hardcore conformists dating back to how they treated Spock for being even a little different, and that muddies the waters.)

Hirogen... eh. They come off comparatively okay here in my mind because we do get an internal conflict in the episode: the lower-ranking Hirogen wants to do the honorable thing, while the Hirogen captain specifically wants to spoil the hunt for personal gain. That's more diversity of opinion than we've gotten from most Hardheaded Aliens of the Week. It's still shallow, but it's there at all. (I'd argue that in that moment, they got more depth of depiction than the Ferengi did until S3/S4 of DS9.)

Part of this is the hat thing, where once they add in Vulcan religion then it is a trait for almost all Vulcans by default, but even so, there is some surprise in having religion or quasi-religion part of Vulcan lore, along with the Klingons and other alien species, but not much a part of human culture as it is usually shown.

I think there's three things going on with that:

1) Alien religion is an easy way to add flavor to a culture.

I mean, they can't be too different or they're too hard to write for. Adding stuff like religious values is a great way to have stuff that only comes up as needed, but feels deep. Vulcan religion is just one more way Vulcans can be more than just humans who don't emote, Klingon religion is one more reason for them to pick fights, etc.

2) Human exceptionalism.

Roddenberry's intent was to show that humans can be a lot more than they are. We hear that message repeatedly, spelled out most visibly in Picard and Q sparring about the true nature of humanity, where it comes out that the Q think humans could reach their level someday.

Humans don't use money. Humans became a galactic power in a tiny fraction of the time of the Klingons, Vulcans, Romulans or basically any other significant species in Trek canon.

Human culture not being visibly driven by religion is one more aspect of 'humans are better.,' IMO. Onscreen, it's handwaved the same way money is.

3) We only see a narrow slice of humanity.

Tying into point #2, Starfleet is a military organization and those are aggressively conformist. I've talked about this before, but I think there are probably humans with deeply held religious beliefs, but they don't fit in very well with Starfleet culture, and are probably mostly rare, mostly reserved about it, and probably have a harder time getting promoted. I mean, take a look at how Starfleet types treat Bajorans who are openly religious - humans would probably get it worse because humans are also an embarrassment to the biggest population in Starfleet. (Vulcans, on the other hand, are pretty reserved about their beliefs, so they're not really making humans uncomfortable. Plus, they can scientifically demonstrate a Vulcan afterlife, so I guess that's something.)

So I think there's a lot of pressure in Trek itself toward that trend.
posted by mordax at 9:57 AM on October 18 [2 favorites]


Just addressing what we see and not speculation on what else there might be, I agree about human religion largely being handwaved, or, in some cases close to denied as being particularly meaningful, such as the TNG episode with Picard minimizing the importance of religious belief when aliens think him a god. What makes that interesting is that they do give Chakotay some beliefs, which, due to the general lack of interest shown by most other crew members in the various Treks, aligns Chakotay as much with an "alien" culture as human.

Some of Chakotay's beliefs then are sometimes taken up by other crew members as they might take a pill. They treat Indigenous beliefs as something that isn't so much a body of connected values as it is a group of only moderately associated practices which can be indulged in separately should the need arise for some "special" magic or as cure for some vague "spiritual" ailment. It's a one size fits all model, where any religion is viewed about the same. There is some vague sense to that in a universe as filled with godlike beings as Trek's, but at the same time it devalues the beliefs of religions as bodies of connected understandings making Talaxian beliefs of a kind with Chakotay's beliefs and little different than Tuvok's.

One size fits all theology from the viewer perspective, even as that doesn't quite fit the perspective of the characters who do hold to certain cultural beliefs, even as they share them as being suitable for all. It creates an odd effect, where the general tone of the shows are, at best, agnostic most of the time, but with side journeys into Unitarianist type actions when the need arises. It's an answer that makes religion an ethnic flavoring in which everyone can occasionally indulge. It fits the Trek value in multiculturalism to an extent, but also comes across as vaguely patronizing and, well, illogical given everything they know and face.

Regarding the other "hat" stuff, yeah, it does vary to be sure, but the tendency towards over-reduction is strong. I don't doubt that part of that is budget and time related but it adds up over all the episodes of the shows to being something that is a big part of the feel of the franchise and therefore develops some perhaps unintentional meaning to it as helping frame the view into the franchise universe.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:35 PM on October 18 [2 favorites]


What makes that interesting is that they do give Chakotay some beliefs, which, due to the general lack of interest shown by most other crew members in the various Treks, aligns Chakotay as much with an "alien" culture as human.

Yeah, they specifically scoot those out of 'normal religion' by making them the result of literal alien intervention. (Thanks, Tattoo.)

It's an answer that makes religion an ethnic flavoring in which everyone can occasionally indulge. It fits the Trek value in multiculturalism to an extent, but also comes across as vaguely patronizing and, well, illogical given everything they know and face.

In the context of the show, I think it's mostly lack of imagination. If I were indulging in fanwanking, it might actually sort of work - I imagine the revelation that various divine entities are beings that you can literally shoot with phasers has had a weird impact on the entire idea of religion for humanity.

Regarding the other "hat" stuff, yeah, it does vary to be sure, but the tendency towards over-reduction is strong. I don't doubt that part of that is budget and time related but it adds up over all the episodes of the shows to being something that is a big part of the feel of the franchise and therefore develops some perhaps unintentional meaning to it as helping frame the view into the franchise universe.

I think it's also a case of 'too many cooks spoils the soup.' Some stories have a single author, or a tightly-knit writing team. In situations like that, it's easy to maintain creative control, and things tend to have more (although rarely perfect) cohesion. I could point to a lot of external examples, but just inside of Trek, I think this is why Cardassians and Bajorans have pretty consistent culture: they weren't used a whole lot anywhere else.

Long runners see multiple creative teams, and things can fall apart more easily. Star Trek has had multiple spinoffs over decades, and so their oldest standbys like Vulcans and Klingons have been reinterpreted multiple times. A lot of stuff that's supposed to be canon is inconsistent, even leaving out the nuTrek 'Kelvin Timeline' garbage. Voyager suffers from it more than most individual shows due to the internal conflict and dissent we keep reading about behind the scenes, and due to them scrabbling so hard for ratings, IMO.
posted by mordax at 2:19 PM on October 18 [1 favorite]


If I were indulging in fanwanking, it might actually sort of work - I imagine the revelation that various divine entities are beings that you can literally shoot with phasers has had a weird impact on the entire idea of religion for humanity.

It would but in hard to predict ways as the divinity and the physicality push in opposing directions. That there are beings with the power of gods, that can be anywhere, anytime, and warp reality to their desired effects would surely lead many to worship them in hopes of achieving favor. At the same time, the sheer amount of competing godlike beings out there would make mankind feel more fragile, less powerful and important to some large degree even as individual human effort can sometimes thwart those beings in ways that seem rather too simple to be believed.

Along with that, you have the repeated examples of religious practices actually working. It isn't just myth in the Trekverse, the beliefs often do come from or fit actual events and actions those that believe attribute to their "gods" or faith. The Trekverse sort of evades this issue by positing religion as advanced alien existence or science or some vague other form of concrete reality rather than "heavenly", but that doesn't really solve the issue, just puts something else in front of it to distract from the bigger questions.

What makes that even more tricky, or even problematic, is that the alleged mission of Starfleet is to learn and explore, but they treat these phenomena as just another obstacle to be overcome instead of being of exceptional importance. Q as an annoyance hoped to be avoided rather than someone(thing) of enormous interest sort of cuts against the very mission they claim to serve. It's like their idea of science is that of cataloging or engineering, with little else in-between. Chakotay meets his "gods" gets some feels and moves on, not really changing his beliefs all that notably. Janeway saves Kes through some sort of magic-religious-allegorical-affirmations and its just another day at the office as with Kirk and Apollo, Picard and Q, and so on.

Whatever their values are, it doesn't really fit the idea of gaining wisdom and knowledge through scientific/intellectual study, the philosophy being more that they already have sufficient answers to the big questions which is their currency for dealing with the unknown. They need only chart these various entities and races and that'll prove sufficient for understanding them since Starfleet values are the ideal measure for all else. The problems arise mostly in engineering things, in the physical constraints of the objects they have (which has some strange resonance with the Star Wars universe where engineering also proves of outsized importance at times).

Those constraints are often at the heart of any given show's conundrum, the thing to be overcome, which they almost inevitably do, which is as much what makes Trek Trek as anything. That tension between the attitude they know what's best in general terms but perhaps haven't yet developed the physical objects or capacities to match their abilities strikes an odd note matched with the Prime Directive, which is limits the sharing of that latter kind of knowledge while being based around the former type of certainty in attitude. It suggests the major issues of the universe are mostly in determining what can be built when and making sure that ideal timeline isn't violated. It's like mechanical development as necessary evolutionary framework in some weird sense.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:23 PM on October 18


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