Starfleet, We Have A Problem: A Look at a Few Questionable Star Trek Characters
Starfleet Command. Just the name invokes images of the Federation of planets exploring the galaxy in peace, not wanting to cause harm to the folks on other planets. That is, until you look a bit below the surface, in a tongue and cheek way of course, and discover not is all as it appears to be. Starfleet apparently had issues with some of their Captains, Doctors and scientists that makes you wonder just what type of people Starfleet produced. Below is a list of folks who probably shouldn’t have been sent out to “explore”.
Dr. Roger Corby (“What are little girls made of”): Brilliant scientist who’s writings are required reading at Starfleet Academy. But when Kirk and crew arrive at planet EXO-III they discover a scientist obsessed with replacing humans with androids. In fact, he attempts to duplicate Captain Kirk and take over the Enterprise (the “duplication” process apparently requires spinning the person really really fast on a machine with control knobs that have interesting sound effects!). Fortunately Kirk is able to send a “message” to Spock through the android: “Mind your own business Mr. Spock. I’m sick of your half breed interference!” In the end it is discovered that Corby himself is an android, having duplicated himself before he died. While Corby touted the utopia of android-ism, it was Kirk who pointed out the obvious after several androids destroyed each other: “Is this your perfect world, your flawless beings killing off one another? Aren’t you doing exactly what you hate most in humans, killing with no more concern than when you turn off a light?”
By the way, was “Andrea” a duplication of a human or an original? They never said. But Sherry Jackson played Andrea so it wasn’t all bad.
Dr. Tristan Adams (“Dagger of the mind”): At the Tantalus penal colony, Dr. Adams has constructed a machine that alters the memory and reforms criminals previously thought to be incurable. Kirk offers high praise for the good doctor: “Doctor Adams has done more to revolutionize, to humanize prisons and the treatment of prisoners than all the rest of humanity had done in forty centuries”. But Kirk gets suspicious when Dr. Adam’s assistant escapes to the Enterprise and reveals the true nature and terror of the machine. Kirk and Helen Noel transport down and before long Dr. Adams is using the machine on Kirk, making him believe he’s madly in love with Helen (which for Kirk isn’t much of a stretch):
Dr. Adams: You’re madly in love with Helen, Captain. You’d lie, cheat, steal for her, sacrifice your career, your reputation. The pain. Do you feel it, Captain? You must have her, or the pain grows worse, the pain, the longing for her.
ADAMS: For years, you’ve loved her, Captain, for years.
KIRK: For years, I’ve loved you.
ADAMS: You must continue to remember that, Captain. And now, she’s gone!
KIRK: Helen! Helen, don’t go! I need you, Helen!
Dr. Adams is eventually done in by his own machine after a power failure, dying of loneliness under the machine with no voice guidance.
The one question that remains from this episode: As far as we know, Kirk never had the memory alteration reversed. Did he go through life madly in love with Helen? And did Ruth, Edith Keeler, Miramanee and Elaan know?
Commodore Decker (“The Doomsday Machine”): Poor Decker. A competent captain and Commodore is shattered by the destruction of his ship and the death of his crew by “that, that…thing” better known as the Doomsday Machine.
KIRK: What happened to your crew?
DECKER: Oh, I had to beam them down. We were dead. No power, our phasers useless. I stayed behind, the last man. The Captain, the last man aboard the ship. That’s what you’re supposed to do, isn’t it? And then it hit again and the transporter went out. They were down there, and I’m up here.
KIRK: What hit? What attacked you?
DECKER: They say there’s no devil, Jim, but there is. Right out of hell, I saw it.
KIRK: Matt, where’s your crew?
DECKER: On the third planet.
KIRK: There is no third planet!
DECKER: Don’t you think I know that? There was, but not anymore. They called me. They begged me for help, four hundred of them. I couldn’t. I couldn’t.
It’s understandable Decker is in shock about his ship/crew. But then when he beams aboard the Enterprise for a medical evaluation, he takes over as the superior commanding officer and almost destroys that ship as well. It’s only Kirk’s prerogative as captain that saves the day:
“Blast regulations! Mister Spock, I order you to assume command on my personal authority as Captain of the Enterprise.”
In the end Decker commits suicide by stealing a shuttlecraft and flying into the Doomsday Machine. But in doing so, he actually shows Kirk how to destroy the killing machine. So in the end he does save the lives of the Enterprise crew.
John Gill (“Patterns of Force”): When Professor John Gill goes missing, the Enterprise is sent to the planet Ekos to find him (apparently Starfleet relies on Kirk and crew to find missing folks). When they arrive they find that Gill has transformed this planet into a replica of the Nazi society with him as the Fuhrer. Lovely! As Kirk and Spock discover, Gill’s intentions were benign, hoping to use the “Nazi” machine and efficiency to bring order out of chaos – but in a peaceful way. Isn’t that special? The experiment went awry when a power hungry man named Melakon took over, drugged Gill to be a puppet figure, and planned to use the structure to destroy the neighboring planet Zeon. Dr. McCoy helps Gill become coherent enough to give a speech revealing the traitorous Melakon and orders the stop to the attack on Zeon. Gill’s dying words to Kirk: “Even historians fail to learn from history. They repeat the same mistakes.” Indeed they do. And will continue to do, sadly.
Dr. Richard Daystrom (The Ultimate Computer): Starfleet decides to test a new device called the M5 on the Enterprise. It is designed by Dr. Daystrom to do all the functions of the ship that humans (and Vulcans) are supposed to do. What a grand idea! I mean, what could possibly go wrong? As we discover, plenty. Things start out well enough as the M5 flawlessly performs analysis on a planet they are orbiting and fires on Federation ships in an unscheduled test using 1/100th phaser power. But from there things go downhill at warp speed as the multitronic unit continues to draw more and more power and evolve in its intelligence. Soon it is firing on several ships with FULL phaser power in the scheduled war games. Commander Wesley, who previously called Kirk Captain Dunsel, now blames Kirk for the unprovoked attack.
Did he forget that they installed this little device on the Enterprise? Could he not figure out it just might be something with the M5? Did they not teach critical thinking at Starfleet? And this guy is an Admiral! Daystrom tries to talk to his invention (which we have discovered has his memory engrams placed upon it). But in no time, Daystrom goes bye-bye in his arrogance: “We’re invincible. Look what we’ve done. Your mighty starships, Four toys to be crushed as we choose!” It is only Kirk’s unique ability to talk machines into committing suicide that saves the day for the Enterprise and Starfleet. And what of Daystrom?
MCCOY: He’ll have to be committed to a total rehabilitation center. Right now he’s under sedation and heavy restraints.
SPOCK: I would say his multitronic unit is in approximately the same condition.
Maybe they could try that memory alteration machine from the Tantalus penal colony on Daystrom. Just a thought.
Merik (“Bread and Circuses”): In this week’s installment of visiting planets with ancient earth cultures, the crew investigates the disappearance of the S.S. Beagle and traces it to an earth like planet (go figure!) that is patterned after the Romans. The former captain of the Beagle, Merik, has a cushy position in the government and has obviously influenced the development of the planet’s culture. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy find themselves in the fight of their lives in the middle of gladiator games. In the end, Merik is killed while helping the threesome escape. There is a nice ending to this episode. On the planet they had discovered a religious sect who worshiped the “sun”. But just before leaving orbit, Uhura explained to them what their true religion was:
SPOCK: I wish we could have examined that belief of his more closely. It seems illogical for a sun worshiper to develop a philosophy of total brotherhood. Sun worship is usually a primitive superstition religion.
UHURA: I’m afraid you have it all wrong, Mister Spock, all of you. I’ve been monitoring some of their old-style radio waves, the empire spokesman trying to ridicule their religion. But he couldn’t. Don’t you understand? It’s not the sun up in the sky. It’s the Son of God.
KIRK: Caesar and Christ. They had them both. And the word is spreading only now.
MCCOY: A philosophy of total love and total brotherhood.
SPOCK: It will replace their imperial Rome, but it will happen in their twentieth century.
KIRK: Wouldn’t it be something to watch, to be a part of? To see it happen all over again?
Garth (“Whom Gods destroy”): Kirk and Spock arrive at Elba II, home to a criminally insane asylum. They are on a mission to deliver a serum that will cure everyone. Yayyyy! One little problem: the inmates now run the asylum, lead by former Starship Captain Garth. Sorry, lord Garth as he likes to be called. Yvonne Craig is there too, fresh off her stint as Batgirl! To add to the problem, Garth has developed the ability to shape shift into anyone. He attempts to take over the Enterprise as Kirk but is foiled in the process. That darn clever Kirk had arranged a sign/countersign with Scotty. Garth had no clue what the response to “Queen to queen’s level three” was. With Spock’s help Kirk is able to defeat Garth and save the asylum.
Last, but not least, we come to Captain Kirk himself. No, he didn’t turn a planet into a reincarnation of the Revolutionary War (about the only conflict they passed over on Star Trek it seems). He didn’t create androids (although he did fall in love with one in a terrible third season episode). No, he only turned a planet over to a genetically engineered maniacal, evil man (who was much worse than the “in-famous” El Quapo).
Of course, I’m talking about Khan Nooien Singh. Or as Kirk might put it, “KHAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNN!”
So, the Enterprise beams aboard the survivors of the U.S.S. Botany Bay led by Khan. He and his group soon take over the Enterprise and attempt to kill Kirk. When the attempt is foiled (thanks to Kirk beating down Khan with a plastic rod thingy), what does Kirk do? He takes Khan to Ceti Alpha 5 to let him and his crew try and tame and rule the planet! Not only does this totally break the Prime Directive, it is INSANE! Spock says it best: “It would be interesting, Captain, to return to that world in a hundred years and to learn what crop has sprung from the seed you planted today.”
Actually it only took about a dozen years, as Kirk never checked up on the progress and discover that Ceti Alpha 6 exploded not long after Khan was dropped off there. As you can guess, this made Khan a might upset. So again he attempted to cause havoc in stealing the Genesis device, putting creatures in poor Checkov’s ears, and ultimately causing Spock to sacrifice his own life for the crew. And when you’ve got your adversary quoting Melville death soliloquies (“For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee”), you’ve most likely made a mistake. A BIG one. I will say this however: Kirk was NOT a swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood that the Klingons accused him of. They just got the character mixed up with the actor who played him!