From Kohms and Yangs to Communists and Yankees

Many aspects of the popular science fiction television series Star Trek serve as allegories to policy and culture in the United States, making arguments about many contemporary controversial policies and issues. One such allegory was presented through the episode “The Omega Glory”, originally airing on March 1, 1968. In this episode the Enterprise discovers a planet called Exeter where two groups called the Kohms and the Yangs, representing the communists and the Yankees, are constantly fighting. The crew realizes that this planet is an alternate version of the Earth, and that the holy words that the Yangs follow are actually the Constitution and other patriotic documents. However, despite supposedly sharing the American ideology the Yangs believe different individuals should have different rights and freedoms, and the the Kohms should be treated as subhumans. Captain Kirk explains to the Yangs the true meaning of freedom and democracy, principles misunderstood and perverted by the Yang rulers. This relatively obvious allegory specifically references the Cold War, during which fear caused the deterioration of the democratic ideals of freedom and equality, and causes Americans to question whether the these pillars of the American identity are truly expressed in government policies at home and abroad.

Unlike news and other nonfiction sources of media, the primary goal of science fiction and fantasy is arguably to entertain viewers and readers. Subtle messages imbued through allegories, for example, are offered indirectly or hypothetically. This subtlety allows authors and directors to make claims about real world matters without directly challenging any authority, but instead projecting general ideas applicable to real world issues. Sarantakes calls “The Omega Glory” a “patriotic but thoughtful piece of propaganda”, a work with a clear message about American ideals imbued into a piece of entertainment. A science fiction similar to Star Trek is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, which depicts an intergalactic battle between humanity and an alien species known as the Buggers. The story focuses on the use of propaganda to create binary representations of humanity and the alien race, and ends with the discovery that the whole conflict was caused by inability to communicate with the other species. This work can be viewed as an allegory of the Cold War, criticizing the endless propaganda and lack of any actual righteous cause behind many aspects of the war.

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One thought on “From Kohms and Yangs to Communists and Yankees”

  1. I was glad you mentioned “The Omega Glory” , as I remember it being one of the most heavy-handed Star Trek episodes in it’s treatment of the political message it was tasked with presenting to audiences. But as you pointed out, it serves as an amazing example for the overtly political tone Gene Rodenberry managed to take throughout the show’s run. I always wondered how different viewers would have responded to this episode during its original airing. Would it have come of as pushing a certain ideology or would it have truly offered a perception-changing moment in American’s viewpoints of their country’s political dogma?

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