Friday, June 04, 2010

Another fascinating episode of "STTNG" (for short) worthy of some moral reflection, and I know that Bryan Cross and I have discussed it:

"Half a Life"--A noted scientist, one Dr. Timicin, (played by David Ogden Stiers of "M*A*S*H*" fame as Major Charles Winchester) is attempting to revitalize the core of a star as a test to save his own world, Kaelon II. The test fails after a promising start, and Timicin is comforted by Ambassador Lwaxana Troi, mother of ship's counselor Deanna Troi. Mrs. Troi, as per usual, is amorously attracted to Timicin, who returns the feelings. In the process of their discussion, Troi learns that Timicin cannot continue his experiments and cannot pursue a long-term relationship with her because of a peculiar cultural practice--"The Resolution." In four days, Timicin will turn 60, surrounded by friends and family who will celebrate his achievements and their mutual love. When it is concluded, Timicin--as have almost twenty generations of his people--is expected to kill himself. Troi voices her strenuous opposition, and attempts to enlist Captain Picard to intervene to stop what she regards as a barbaric practice. Picard, citing his responsibility to uphold Starfleet's Prime Directive of cultural non-interference, refuses. Troi and Timicin argue over the morality of the practice, with Timicin lamenting the loss of vigor in the aged, and the tendency to lock them away in loneliness. Troi notably declares, "You got rid of the problem by getting rid of the people." Driven by his affection for Mrs. Troi--a widow for many years--and the frustration that his people will not even listen to new insights on the failed test gleaned from observation, (Timicin has already become something of a non-person to them) Timicin requests asylum aboard the Enterprise. In response, the leaders of Kaelon II send warships to potentially fire on the Enterprise. Timicin wavers, never wanting to be the cause of a diplomatic incident. In addition, Timicin's daughter (played by Michelle Forbes, more notable in this series later as Ro Laren) comes aboard the Enterprise to convince her father to go through with the Resolution. Noting that Timicin had taught her to cherish the practice, and that Timicin's renunciation of it means that he will not be buried with the family, she concludes poignantly: "I love you, but I am ashamed." Timicin eventually concludes that his motivations for rejecting the Resolution are selfish, and elects to return to Kaelon II to carry it out. In an odd twist, Mrs. Troi elects to be among Timicin's loved ones at the Resolution, though she never says that her opinion of it has changed.

The debate between the two main characters on this issue is excellent; A Christian finds himself applauding Troi (played by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) as she pleads with Timicin. Why the character decides to join him (suggesting at least tacit support) is mysterious and inconsistent. The Prime Directive, when applied to sovereign states and diplomacy, seems a wise policy. (I must confess unfamiliarity with the term, "Westphalian state sovereignty" as a theory in political science. The Wikipedia article on the Prime Directive [wow, disturbing.--ed.] claims a linkage.) In any case, when applied to morality, it is utter relativistic nonsense. [I'll take 'Natural Law' for $1000, Alex!--ed.] Even our dear Captain Picard can muster full-fledged moral outrage when necessary, which is pretty silly for those attempting to uphold cultural relativism. [They don't have logic at Starfleet Academy.--ed.] Clearly not. [Side Rant/Thought: Two movies related to this 'life/death' theme that need to be watched are "Million Dollar Baby" and "Seven Pounds." The former stars Clint Eastwood (automatic good movie) and Morgan Freeman (potential classic every time) alongside Hillary Swank; the latter stars Will Smith, AKA Mega-Star and Still Obscenely Underrated. Both times, we entered the "I Can't Affirm This, But What An Incredible Movie" Zone. I inadvertently read 3 negative reviews of "Seven Pounds," and I couldn't believe we watched the same movie. Sheesh.]

1 comment:

Timothy R. Butler said...

Good stuff... Star Trek manages a lot of great points. I still think you should watch some DS9 if you want to ponder morality in Trek, though.