Science Fiction: an Intergalactic Reflection of Earthly Folly

The Cold War marked a new era in American foreign policy: interventionism and the proliferation of American democratic principles. Accompanying this ideological transition was wave of media responses, many supporting American foreign policy in the spirit of patriotism. However, Nicholas Sarantakes points out that a silent form of media, namely science fiction, served as a social critique and opponent of American policy. Using Star Trek as an example, Sarantakes points to various episodes as allegories to US policy. For instance, “Patterns of Force” entails the USS Enterprise’s search for a missing Federation researcher, John Gill, whom the crew finds on Planet Ekos. Gill, disobeying the Star Fleet’s “Prime Directive” intervenes in the planet’s affairs by establishing a near-identical Nazi regime on the planet, even labeling himself as the führer. Captain Kirk and his crew side with the resistance force and apprehend Gill before he executes a plan to invade a nearby planet. To the crew’s surprise, Gill is drugged by the Ekonian Melakon who uses Gill as a puppet figurehead. Gill explains that he only implemented a Nazi regime in an effort to unify the planet and promote progress. Sarantakes explains that “Patterns of Force,” although entertaining, is really aimed at emphasizing that US intervention in other countries is a costly mistake. Sarantakes references Gill’s dying words: “the non-interference directive is the only way.” Highlighting the Nazi-like intervention by Gill as a tremendous failure, Sarantakes contends that Roddenberry used the episode to shed light on the potential for disaster in American international intervention during the Cold War.

Science fiction is commonly seen as solely a means of entertainment, and many people will see it as just that. However, the seemingly harmless genre, because of its perceived separation from politics and policy, is a vital medium for raising opposition to political ideology. As a form of entertainment, science fiction is never censored, but its growing popularity allows it to subconsciously influence the minds of millions of Americans. In other words, it is a way to introduce ideas of opposition to American ideology without being condemned or even detected. Another example of this theory is with Avatar, where humans develop space technology capable of reaching an alien planet with vital resources. In an effort to control the planet, the humans fight the indigenous species, who seek to protect their planet’s resources. This example of science fiction is an allegory to American imperialism in the Middle East and South America. Avatar subtly serves as an example that seeking to control other countries for the exploitation of resources undermines human rights and results in disaster.

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