Monday, September 7, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"The Survivors"

“The Survivors” is a decent enough episode, but not much more than that. It tries to make a sharp, moral point, but winds up raising a giant hole in the admiralty law of the trek universe.

The Enterprise responds to a distress call to find an entire planet devastated save for one small house and the elderly couple who live there. They have no answrr as to why they were spared, but the mystery deepens as a ship shows up and goes on the attack while Troi’s empathic powers are tortuously toyed with so she cannot determine the truth. The truth is Kevin, the old man, is eally a powerful, immortal alien who fell in love with a human woman, so he posed as a human himself. Their colony was attacked. His wife joined the fight and was killed. Enraged, Kevin used his powers to wipe out every member of the race attacking them. He created a duplicate of his wife for company. He created the ship and cluttered Troi's mind to cover up his misdeeds.

Picard says the Federation has no jurisdiction to sit in judgment, so the Enterprise leaves, declaring the planet off limits.

I pretty ambivalent about “The Survivors.” It is not a bad episode, but the premise reminded me too much of any random TOS episode. You know--an infinitely powerful being does something horrible and for some inexplicable reason, decides to hide it from the Enterprise crew. Considering the only thing they can do upon learning about the genocide he caused is leave him alone. So what was the point of hiding in the first place?

Kevin’s actions shine a spotlight on a big problem with rek that is never particularly resolved--there is no standard, intergalactic law to handle such issues like genocide. Certainly international law has its weaknesses in the real world, but at least there is a framework for dealing with issues like genocide. The major powers in the trek universe seem to have never agreed to any sort of Nuremberg-type rules, even if it is just to pay lip service to the concept of interstellar crimes.

It is a problem on a smaller scale. Genocide may thankfully not come up, but what about piracy? That most certainly is a widespread problem for everyone from the Federation to Klingons, Cardassians, and everyone in between. In international law, pirates are considered hostus humani generis or enemies of mankind. Just as the open seas cannot be claimed by an one nation, open space must belong to all species. There does not appear to be a general agreement on what to do about pirates, however. Consider that the Orions continue a slave trade which involves capturing other aliens. It is a weakness that was never addressed (even in “The Gambit”) even though it is good fodder for stories.

To end on something poignant, John Anderson, who played Kevin, lost his wife shortly before filming this episode. The emotions he showed here are real. I wish I could praise the episode more because of it, but I cannot.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment