Thursday, February 25, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 079: Billions Died Because I Failed

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Spock continues his narration of the mind meld:

"He held me responsible for the loss of his world."  We see the Jellyfish docked aboard the Narada in a long shot, and Spock descends the ramp into a surrounding cordon of Romulans.  "He captured my vessel and spared my life for one reason; so that I would know his pain."  It has been argued that Nero was overcome with grief so his actions need not be rational.  Nevertheless, I don't buy the idea that simply any action can be justified via repeated appeals to the emotional insanity defense, as is used for Bones disabling Kirk, Spock stranding Kirk, and most of Kirk's nonsensical or even criminal actions.   To me, this is a pretty cheap gimmick for avoiding the real work it takes to create believable characters with whom we can identify. 

In this case, grief induced shock at the loss of his home and people leads, as this film so often does, to the desire to escalate.  All the main characters, except Capt. Pike, the overt military propagandist and  Amanda, to the extent they have an opportunity to portray a view, they seem to advocate for escalation of conflict & violence, with the "good" side winning every time.  Suffering by "the enemy" does not exist, and in every instance, the enemy is completely beyond reason or redemption...exactly what soldiers have been indoctrinated with for thousands of years, in order to train them to murder on command.

If Nero's reaction is somehow believable, then there should be an example, somewhere in history of someone who was previously a peaceful, hardworking family man, that lost people he cared about, and reacted by trying to murder everyone associated with those who were trying to effect a rescue of the victims, but failed.  My guess is that such a ridiculous caricature has never existed outside the imagination of very prejudiced minds, including mine.

We see Spock standing on the Delta Vega glacier, staring up at the sky as he intones: "He beamed me here so I could observe his vengeance. As he was helpless to save his planet. I would be helpless to save mine."  Another madman who seeks nothing more than to destroy the world for "bloody vengeance"?  Even Darph Bobo was written with a more believable form of cliche, in spite of the handicap of being a comedy cartoon spoof.

We are shown Spock watching Vulcan's consumption by the singularity while his exposition claims "Billions of lives lost, because of me Jim, because I failed."  There are two problems with this scene: one scientific and the other ethical.

The scientific problem with the scene is that Spock is supposed to be observing Vulcan from not merely another planet, but actually another star system - making Vulcan's central star (hundreds of times the size of a planet) simply a dot, and even that would be visible only in a darkened sky.  Here, it is shown relatively larger than our moon, meaning Spock would have to be REALLY close, much  less than 1,000,000 km.  Again, the creators show ignorance for how big space really is, something our species discovered hard work, courage, and science.

The ethical problem is that in the BEST possible case, Spock is taking actual responsibility for the results of a natural disaster that he unsuccessfully tried to prevent, and in a less generous but more plausible reading, he assumes blame for the destruction of Vulcan for being unable to save everyone in time.  We were previously shown little Spock being raised on advanced definitions of heroic acts ("supererogation", i.e.: morally praiseworthy but not obligatory actions, about which there is debate if such acts even exist) and yet here under either reading, Spock is shown lacking even a basic knowledge of ethics.  If Nero, a supernova, or even time itself causes deaths, Spock and other members of the crisis response team are less "responsible" or "to blame" than those who did nothing to avoid it.  While the comically bad homicidal lunatic might violate reasonable judgment in this way, it runs opposite to what we have been shown is Spock's background.

Spock pulls his hand from Kirk's face, now weeping.  "Forgive me," Spock apologizes, "emotional  transference is an effect of the mind meld."

No females appear or speak in this segment.

Spock acknowledges McCoy's emotional difficulties in our next Star Trek by the Minute, episode 080: Enroute to Laurent

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