Star Trek: Political Commentary Laced in an American Classic

The creators of Star Trek had intentions of making episodes that critiqued American foreign policy, and Nicholas Evan Sarnatakes highlights the various ways in which they do so in his article. A 1968 episode titled “Patterns of Force” points out the consequences of an interventionist strategy and points out that a democratic way of conducting foreign policy is correct. “Patterns of Force” begins with the Starship Enterprise embarking on a journey to a foreign planet to look for a lost researcher. Upon arrival at the planet Ekos, Captain John Kirk and Spock see that a regime identical to that of Nazi Germany has taken over the planet, being led by none other than John Gill, the lost researcher whom Kirk and Spock went to Ekos to look for. After learning that Gill has been drugged by his second in command and is not acting under his own initiative, Kirk and Spock send the ship’s doctor to inject Gill with a medication that allows him to explain what is going on. Kirk and Spock are then able to call off an attack that was poised for a neighboring planet. Sarnatakes explains that there are two comments about American foreign policy in this episode. The first is that “intervention-no matter how well intentioned-is a mistake” (85). He makes tis argument because no matter how good the intentions might be or how peacefully the intervention is staged, there will be “repercussions for which Americans will be responsible” (85). Another message that is relayed in “Patterns of Force” is that democracy is the supreme form of government. The Nazi form of government employed on Ekos was unsuccessful, and the argument is made that one person with sole power over a nation can’t help but abuse it. In this way, democracy asserts itself as the correct form of government over all others.

The platform of science fiction is an exceptionally effective one in getting controversial points across. In Star Trek’s case, the direct criticism of the US government would not be accepted on television. The show allows the true meaning of the episodes to be shrouded by elements of fantasy and action. John Lucas, a producer on the show, explains why they use the science fiction platform when he says, “You’re protected by the argument that ‘Hey, we’re not talking about the problems of today, we’re dealing with a mythical time and place in the future.'” (79). The audience is sable to decipher the true meaning of each episode while the show isn’t being criticized for any type of treason. Along with this, people enjoy the fantastical experience that comes with watching a Star Trek episode as well.




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