By Bernie Bell
As with the original Star Trek, Star Trek – The Next Generation, can be a bit silly. At times, I can’t help thinking that the writers were stuck for a story-line, and just – threw something together.
There are also many story lines containing deep, strong ideas.
‘The Masterpiece Society’ …… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8JEzyhqG6A
tells of a planet, inhabited by humans, which has been isolated for 200 years. The inhabitants of this planet have been carefully ‘engineered’ – genetically selected for perfection. Any embryos which are not up to standard, are – eliminated.
The twist in the tale comes when the planet becomes increasingly unstable due to the approach of a passing bit of space rubble, which could cause a natural disaster, which it is beyond the ability of their leaders and scientists to influence, which could eliminate everything on the planet – ironically enough.
The crew of the Starship Enterprise offer to help to find a solution. The leaders of the planet are reluctant to allow what they see as potential contamination by the crew of the Enterprise, but are persuaded to let some experts come aboard, to assess the situation.
The further twist in the tale, is that one of the experts, is Geordie La Forge, and it is Geordie who solves the problem for them.
Geordie is blind, and on this planet, in this society, would not have been allowed to live – rejected as sub-standard and ‘eliminated’ at birth.
As he was born on Earth, with the advanced technology of a future time, his blindness was rectified by use of a specially engineered visor. Geordie realises that the same principles on which his visor is based, could be used to solve the problem of how to deal with impending doom for the planet.
A blind man, who would have been eliminated, saves the inhabitants of a colony of ‘perfect’ people.
Another approach to the in-humanity of this kind of perfection, is when the leader of the colony, Aaron Conor, becomes romantically involved with Counsellor Deanna Troi. He is one of the people making life and death decisions for the people of the planet, including whether to allow possible ‘corruption’ by the presence of the crew of the Enterprise, yet he wants to be with Deanna. Deanna asks, would she be accepted there, as someone who is half Betazoid and half human – not ‘pure’ at all, by their standards.
She ends their budding relationship, which gets him thinking…..
The arrival and intervention of the crew of the Enterprise, throws this ‘Masterpiece Society’ into dis-array. The scientist who Geordie is mainly working with, Hannah Bates, explains that the rule which would have meant his ‘elimination’, was introduced so that no-one would have to suffer having to live with a disability. In answer to this, Geordie questions the right of anyone to dictate who lives and who dies in this way – and he can speak from personal experience. Hannah is so impressed by Geordie’s knowledge and attitude, that she is the first of the colonists to ask for asylum on the Enterprise – she wants to visit Earth, with all its ‘imperfect’ people – people like Geordie La Forge.
Geordie saves the planet, and, having done so, he says to Hannah – “Necessity is the mother of invention” – one of my Mum’s many sayings – and, it is – if you are not able to do something, you will try to work out a way – and those ways, may be valuable to others and in other situations too. I can vouch for that, personally – I have many strategies for managing what might appear to be beyond my abilities, these days.
If not for the existence of blind people, the visor would not have been developed, if the visor had not been developed, Geordie wouldn’t have hit on the connection with the problem the planet was facing, and…he wouldn’t have been able to save the planet. So much for people with disabilities needing to be ‘rescued’ from a life of incapable misery, by eliminating them.
Ask Steven Hawking about that one!
When Deanna confesses her romance with Conor, to Captain Picard, as inappropriate behaviour, he simply says “No-one’s perfect.”
It’s a good episode, with layer upon layer of ideas and references. What could be seen as ‘weakness’, and what wonders that ‘weakness’ can actually achieve – either in dealing with physical difficulties, or in a better understanding of differences, which can come from an emotional attachment to someone who is ‘different’.
Another one I saw recently, with ideas which interested me, is called ‘Violations’. This explores ideas around – memory.
I can’t find a link to the episode – it’s probably available, somewhere on t‘Internet, but, though interested in Science Fiction, todays Science Fact often eludes me when it comes to dealing with t’Internet!
I’ll describe the main gist of the tale, and leave the reader to look it up, if you choose to.
The Enterprise is hosting three Ullians, on their way to carry out some research. Ullians are telepathic historians who conduct their research by retrieving long forgotten memories, and, while on the Enterprise, they do so for some of the crew – in particular, taking Keiko O’Brien back to memories of times spent with her Grandma, which makes her very happy.
Then, some of the crew start to experience distressing memories – memories of events which never happened – but the intensity of which, causes them to go into a coma.
I won’t give away the key to what is happening – that would spoil it.
I will say, though, that this episode raises the question of how reliable memories are. How much do we actually remember what happened, and how much can that be coloured by the passing of time, wishful thinking, even looking a bit too hard at what happened in the past, or…in this case – Alien intervention!
A lot of problems can be caused by distortion of memory, on a lesser or grander scale – as explored in this episode of Star Trek.
It’s another good one. Disturbing – very disturbing in places – but intriguing.