After watching episodes of DS9 and Voyager and TNG every night for 276 days straight, I’ve had some revelations that I never really thought about when I was a younger viewer.
1] Chief O Brien is a bit of a prick
2] The continuation of the Bajoran religion makes no sense
3] there’s a lot of xenophobia floating about
The last one is especially prevalent in DS9 and, considering the background of the series, fairly understandable.
Bajor is fresh out of a 50 year occupation by the Cardassians, the Ferengi are capital fundamentalists [and perverts] and the chief of security can change shape. For most of the first few seasons, both the Bajorans and O Brien are hostile to the Cardassians and I have no problem with this in terms of scripting as it’s completely realistic.
It’s not very Trekkian, in terms of concept at least, but it makes sense.
Actually, in the case of O Brien, it’s less justifiable as he’s fought many alien species, but seems to have a special disgust towards the Cardassians. Of course, getting kidnapped, tortured and put on trial for made up bullshit in Season 2 probably didn’t help, but it’s not just the Cardassians, he’s also rude and aggressive with Quark too.
It’s true, Quark is a sleaze most of the time, and treats his workers like slaves, but other times he’s just coming up to the Chief to ask how he’s doing, or making a comment about something happening in the bar, like when the Klingons arrive on the station at the beginning of season 4 and he mentions the low ambient noise level in the bar…O Brien snaps at him, as he always does, and Quark is forced to just stand there and take it. In all honesty, Quark usually takes these things quite well, almost like he expects it. And when O Brien walks in, he must expect it every time. Oh look, it’s the guy who has the emotional control of a four year old…can’t wait to chat with him. Even giving him his holosuite program, something he should be happy about, is a dangerous business.
Why people think O Brien is an everyman character, I have no idea. He’s just a big sulk half the time…poor Keiko…
Back to the racism…
Apart from O Brien and the Bajorans, there are other, more surprising characters who show a xenophobic attitude now and again.
The most surprising one is Sisko, as he’s the main character, but he still looks down on the Ferengi even though they haven’t directly attacked or annoyed him the same way they did with Picard or the crew of the Enterprise.
For him, it seems to centre on a general distaste of their culture, as well as Nog stealing his son’s attention away from him. Luckily, it’s phased out by the end of season 2, but it does still pop up from time to time. And with Kira too. Just like O Brien, she’s outright hostile to Quark, calling him a toad more than once…but then, he did try to copy her image and personality for a holosuite sex program, so it’s probably justified.
Is it racism in the case of Quark or just personal dislike?
After thinking it over for almost three seconds, it’s probably a bit of both.
No one really likes Quark until the sixth season, but Ferengi Culture is also despicable in many ways. In fact, it’s often portrayed as despicable in a farcical way, which ends up making it impractical as an actual culture.
Even in modern Earth cultures, capitalism with some safety nets is a mess, can you imagine the Ferengi version in operation? No worker protections, constant back-stabbing, unions outlawed, the female population basically under house arrest. Then there’s the issue raised by the Nagus in season 1…they need to expand into the Gamma Quadrant cos everyone in the Alpha Quadrant knows they’re a bunch of cheats.
How would an economic empire function if you had a face value reputation as dishonest?
Perhaps they play the racism card in their favour…you don’t want to do business with Ferengi cos you’re racist…that could make some in the Federation panic and say sorry…but it wouldn’t work with other races? Klingons wouldn’t give a shit, they’d just put you on the end of a batl’eth.
This all circles back to the racism aspect…when the writers portray an entire race and culture as comically corrupt and sleazy, is it really any wonder most of the main characters think of them as pieces of shit?
Personally, I think Quark’s okay most of the time, his schemes would be interesting to listen to if you’re sitting at the bar and the only other guy there is Morn, or worse, O Brien…but then you’d hear him chastise his workers or try and bribe a lobe-job out of one of the dabo girls and you’d think he’s a twat again…
Therefore, I don’t really blame Sisko or Kira for their anti-Ferengi attitudes…if they didn’t look down on Ferengi culture in some way, it would be weird. I don’t blame the writers too much either…they did eventually broaden the Ferengi type in later seasons, chiefly with Rom and Nog and the gradual empowerment of females and workers…it’s just in the first few seasons where it’s played as one note. A pure capitalist society without any kind of revolutionary counterpoint? Yeah, alien cultures should have alien aspects [though not really alien in this case, just a human system taken to the extreme], but they also have to make sense within their own rules, and have variety. Quite similar to the Klingons in a way, who also veer towards homogeneity. Until Martok came along to join Worf, there was no real distinction to any of them…in fact, even by the end of DS9, it was still wall to wall warriors…never any engineers or scientists [apart from an episode of TNG, Torres in Voyager and the lawyer in Enterprise, but Torres was mixed-race, and Enterprise was after DS9]. If there are some I’ve forgotten about, let me know, cos I can’t think of any more.
Back again to racism…
Probably the most stunning example of racism in all of Trek…and it’s a case that is so blatant that I can’t believe this guy is allowed in Starfleet, let alone be the captain of a ship…
You know…Season 7, episode 4, the Vulcan who challenges Sisko to a baseball game.
What a piece of shit.
The first scene he appears in, he’s slagging off humans, saying they are irked by Vulcans pointlessly acting like calculators, and he doesn’t really stop for the entire episode. When Sisko tells Kasidy the history between them – the drunken wrestling match at the academy – he’s basically giving all the reasons why Solok should be kicked out of Starfleet. Five papers on why emotionally handicapped species i.e. everyone except Vulcans are inferior…how did any of those even get accepted for marking? What’s next, The Bell Curve 2? Solok’s guide to exo-phrenology?
Later, Solok boasts about his all Vulcan crew…now, I suppose this could be allowed on occasion, perhaps during a war or by chance, and a lot of Federation ships in Trek series have been human-heavy…but that’s mostly down to budgeting reasons, as well as actors being reluctant to perform in make-up that makes them unrecognisable. The idea that this would be something to boast about is bizarre…what Solok is basically saying here is that he’s such a narrow-minded, uncurious bigot that he has to have a crew that looks exactly like him. Either that or an admiral gave the orders for it, which seems doubtful. What happened to beauty in infinite diversity?
Imagine being one of Solok’s crew…you join Starfleet instead of the Vulcan Defence Force, hoping to interact with other cultures, try different food, drink blood wine etc. and you get lumbered with a captain straight out of the Vulcan KKK! It would’ve been great if his crew had talked to the main cast more, maybe point out how xenophobic their captain was, what a misanthrope he was, how every meal was a Vulcan meal…you could’ve even had some of them asking for transfers at the end of the episode…or at least joining in with Sisko and co when they were celebrating. That would’ve destroyed Solok and everything he stood for on the spot…his own “superior” race defecting from him…as Kor would say, it would’ve been glorious! [note: Kor committed massacres, not a good guy, but fun at Quarks!]
Key point: if you have to constantly say how much better your race is, how much smarter you are then you’re desperately insecure.
I’m actually surprised Sisko [or the writers] didn’t bring up the point that can end any argument concerning Vulcan superiority…the rapid progress of humans since the 20th Century compared to the stagnation of Vulcan society…not that humans are better…physically and mentally, they’re not…but mental ability is more than calculating approximate distances and the passing of time; it’s curiosity and open-mindedness, looking at other cultures and seeing what you can learn from them, even if some aspects are immoral [e.g. capital punishment]. Understanding that the lunatics you see in other countries, the ones that pop up on the news, are about 0.1% of that culture and most of the others are not that much different from you. That’s what Trek is to me. Curiosity and open-mindedness. Plus Garak.
Another thing…why would Solok calculate to the second his last meeting with Sisko? It’s basically impossible, unless he intentionally checked the time [to the exact second] when he left the room they were in…but at what point would he count from? When he last looked at Sisko, or when he left his presence i.e. the actual room? And why would he make note of it? In case Sisko asked him the next time they met…hey, Solok, don’t you know it to the exact second?
Perhaps the writers were trying to hammer home how obsessed Solok was with Sisko?
It’s possible, though also pretty pathetic.
Just like Solok himself.
I hope his ship gets blown up by a Pakled runabout at some point. Maybe it does. I should check memory beta…
Ah, there’s one more I’ve forgotten…another self-proclaimed master race…
Swanning about in different alien forms, boasting about how they know so much, how smart they are and still failing to understand that Gowron wouldn’t let his guards fight Worf for him.
Making bold claims of bringing order to the Alpha Quadrant, committing genocide after genocide, then having the wormhole aliens make thousands of their ships disappear with a click of their non-corporeal fingers.
Starting sentences with ‘you humanoids, you’re all alike…’ while at the same time claiming that their whole existence is about ‘understanding a thing, knowing a thing.’
Not sure if it was a thick layer of irony from the writers or just happy coincidence, but there’s nothing better than seeing such a narrow-minded, ignorant culture – one that can assume any shape and any cultural viewpoint – exposed again and again to its own limits…yet correcting nothing about itself as a result. I suppose that’s what makes them great villains…they’re chained to their mindset and resolute…almost like Nazis…or worse than Nazis, especially in terms of death totals.
And the saddest/funniest part? The fact that they can swirl around in a giant sea of sludge, sharing everything only with each other, is the very thing that leads to their ignorance. It’s their own private echo chamber.
What a bunch of clowns…
Solok should go and hang out with them, they might get along.