Adventures in Ethics and Science

Like a good nerd, I love me some Star Trek. I will confess to having a strong preference for the original series (TOS), on account of that was what my parents watched with us when we were wee young nerds growing up. (My dad had a freakish ability to tell within the first few words of Kirk’s “captain’s log” at the opening which episode it was going to be.)

Something I didn’t realize until I was a mature nerd was just how regularly, in TOS, Kirk and/or the rest of the crew of the Starship Enterprise violated the Prime Directive, which, as Wikipedia tells it:

dictates that there can be no interference with the internal development of pre-warp civilizations, consistent with the historical real world concept of Westphalian sovereignty. It has special implications, however, for civilizations that have not yet developed the technology for interstellar spaceflight (“pre-warp”), since no primitive culture can be given or exposed to any information regarding advanced technology or the existence of extraplanetary civilizations, lest this exposure alter the natural development of the civilization. Although this was the only application stated by Captain Kirk in “Return of the Archons”, by the 24th Century, it had been indicated to include purposeful efforts to improve or change in any way the natural course of such a society, even if that change is well-intentioned and kept completely secret.

From the point of view of plotting a gripping episode on a strange new world, you can kind of see where breaking a non-interference rule would come in handy. (It also increases the damage for those drinking along at home.) But we viewers hardly ever saw any official repercussions from these Prime Directive violations.

Here’s where the idea for a new show in the Star Trek franchise comes in.


The show would focus on a set of characters who are the Star Fleet equivalent of an internal affairs bureau on a cop show. These characters would investigate reports of Prime Directive violations. They’d conduct interviews of underlings on starships, and they’d sweat the starship captains they’re investigating in gritty-yet-futuristic interrogation rooms. And, they’d give us a fuller picture of what is at stake in upholding the Prime Directive — and of what kind of fallout intergalactic cultures might experience in the wake of some starship captain violating it for what seemed, at the time, like good reasons.

While the crews of the starships would regard these characters with derision (working title for the series: Star Trek: Rat Squad), we viewers would get to see their perspective on things, including the ways they feel torn in doing their job of investigating their Star Fleet colleagues.

I haven’t really worked out the casting, but I’d love the head of the squad to be a CCH Pounder type (like, maybe, CCH Pounder) — someone who can be very sympathetic and also very tough. I’m leaning toward someone like Jorja Fox as a Klingon, while the main Vulcan character on the squad would be played by Paul Reubens not smirking even a little.

Paramount, email me!

Comments

  1. #1 Noah David Simon
    September 6, 2009

    tell the people who put our present government in… that there is no such thing as non intervention when there is a history on intervention. Captain Kirk and Dick Cheney say to hell with your RULEZ!

    from Hezballah with chemical weapons in Lebanon to Iranian prison rapes… the sympathizers will be proven wrong by history again….

    stop pushing an orthodoxy!

    intervene already!

  2. #2 Nick (Matzke)
    September 6, 2009

    Basically, NCIS…IN SPACE!!!!

  3. #3 True_Q
    September 6, 2009

    That’s a great idea. But, in fact, I’ve always wanted a ST series from outside-the-Federation perspective, e.g Klingon perspective.

  4. #4 Tracey
    September 6, 2009

    As long as Zachary Quinto is in it, I’m in!

  5. #5 PalMD
    September 6, 2009

    OK, me and my folks also watched TOS together frequently, but I was the freakish one who knew the episode after a femtosecond.

    Like the idea.

  6. #6 Roadtripper
    September 6, 2009

    Paramount will likely turn you down, only to air something DiS9turB5ingly similar to your concept shortly thereafter. They’ll deny any resemblance, however. And, oh yeah, their show was in development waaay before they spoke with you.

    So don’t be surprised when Starfleet: SVU rears its ugly head the following season. That’s Hollywood, ya know.

    Rt

  7. #7 george.w
    September 6, 2009

    OK, I feel irredeemably nerdy just for knowing this, but there was an episode of Deep Space Nine, the ST rip-off of Babylon 5, in which the approximate scenario you describe took place. Captain Sisko time-traveled on several occasions, and once he had to explain his actions to a couple Federation investigators. They referred to Kirk. To the best of my recollection, it went like this; “The man was a menace! n separate violations of temporal directives in his career!”

    You just have to see the DS9 episode, “Trials and Tribble-ations”.

  8. #8 Pinko Punko
    September 6, 2009

    I always wanted a Star Trek where instead of being on the Federation’s flagship, they were on some junk ship on lowly patrol and you would see the resentment of the pompous Picards and playboy Rikers. And it wouldn’t be so clean because stuff would break. And they couldn’t reconfigure the shield generators to get out of everything.

  9. #9 george.w
    September 6, 2009

    Pinko Punko, the show you’re referring to is Battlestar Galactica. Though the changes you suggest would make a great ST series, so I’m surprised they didn’t steal it. Yet.

  10. #10 costanza
    September 6, 2009

    I LIKE IT!!!

  11. #11 megan
    September 6, 2009

    Deep Space Nine had it all and everything all yous are talking about what could make a good Trek but obviously never cared to watch it to see true excellence in writing and story/character development. Screw B5. Fans of that show will forever whine about how they’re is better but the production was TV values and the majority or characters too cartoonish and unrelatable for a Trek fan. Voyager had the prospect of being a BSG type great show but Brannon-Braga idiots could write or structure worth their a$$3$ and got rid of Ron Moore of DS9 when he tried to turn it around. So Ron is running BSG and making it a standout show.

  12. #12 Pinko Punko
    September 7, 2009

    Along the lines of ST:Internal Affairs, the corruption of the Enterprise Officer Corps would be exposed in that there would be a massive investigation to determine how Worf could keep his cushy job as security officer when the Enterprise got boarded every single episode.

  13. #13 Pat Cahalan
    September 8, 2009

    I always thought James White’s “Sector General” series would play well… “ER, but in space!” Although, come to think of it, SG didn’t really have enough sexual byplay to grab the medical drama audience, the two humans are monogamous.

    Star Trek is a little too Utopian to have Internal Affairs. Given that a starship has enough muscle to lay waste to a planet, Starfleet captains have quite a bit of independence; one of the tacit assumptions of the show is that nobody who is capable of being a starship captain can be the type of person who would violate the Prime Directive unless it’s one of those instances when the Prime Directive ought to be violated, right? I think you’re asking someone to pull aside a curtain, Dr. F-R.

    Just turn the Miles Vorkosigan books into a TV series, there’s enough space-opera-intrigue in those for the “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” types.

  14. #14 Anonymous
    September 12, 2009

    I always wondered — can someone explain why space is Start Trek is divided into quadrants? Say the “alpha quadrant”? Are they living in a 2D world or what?

  15. #15 Dr. Kate
    September 15, 2009

    Kind of reminds me of an old Calvin & Hobbes strip where Calvin is wondering why Batman doesn’t try to actually make things better so there are fewer bad guys (or something like that). Hobbes starts waxing rhapsodic about how Batman could go to city council meetings etc, and Calvin begins to realize why it’s not such a good idea. The one line I remember distinctly is Hobbes saying “Quick! To the Bat-fax!”

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