It turns out they knew about Global Warming back in 1989. They knew about the problems of pollution, the reliance of any one country on any one fuel source, and to boot they knew about religious terrorism. Howard Weinstein wrote ‘Power Hungry‘ with an eye on all of this, these problems that we seem to think of as new to our times. Obviously they are not, and were very much on people’s minds 20 years ago too.
The Enterprise turns up at Thiopia, a mismanaged world reeling from decades of exploitative strip-mining by foreign powers. Riker beams down to discuss aid the Federation is allowed to give, and is kidnapped by the ‘Sojourners’, Luddite terrorists who want to return things to a more natural state. The book charts his and Picard’s efforts to bring the mis-matched peoples of Thiopia back into some kind of alignment with a working government. It’s all eerily prescient of what happened in Iraq, and what’s happening with nation building in Afghanistan now.
The plot is also quite similar to that of #4 Survivors, in which Data and Tasha Yar go to a planet divided along two deep philosophical fault lines, Yar is kidnapped, and they spend the rest of the book trying to bring the two sides into peaceful coexistence. I don’t recall there being that many of this kind of story in the TV show. Perhaps budgetary constraints would have hampered them, as each story would require a lot of new sets to realistically convey a whole new planet. Also each of these kidnapping / world divided stories is quite long, too much so for a single episode on TV I guess.
So, we get a plethora of them in the books. It’s interesting to see this side of the Federation at work, political subterfuge, idealism butting heads with the non-interference (Prime) Directive, murky morality.
– The Sojourners live in caves on the dark side of the planet, fending off air attacks using weapons bought from a foreign power. They hate the foreign power too, but are focused first on cleaning up their own country. This must be an allegory for Russian and American involvement in Afghanistan, where the Americans helped Osama Bin Laden oust the occupying power, only to have him turn around and attack in turn once he’d got his state under repressive Taliban control.
– One thing that is always striking, if aggravating, about the crew of the NCC-1701-D is their deep embrace of pacifism. The Enterprise is attacked, and Worf is champing at the bit, but Picard sits back and just says – ‘hold’ like in Braveheart. They wait. They often have superior firepower, so they don’t have to scrap it out the way Kirk once had to. It’s an interesting deviation from TOS, but also kind of annoying. In this the foreign power, called the Nuarans, attack the Enterprise, blow up a cargo ship filled with medicine, and Picard does absolutely nothing, except fire a few shots off their bow.
Hmm. Drawing more parallels to modern day politics, it seems like the reaction of South Korea to the sinking of the warship by a North Korean submarine. They essentially do nothing, too concerned about them being the one to upset the balance of power and provoke all-out war.
Of course I can see both sides of it. Picard’s patience is admirable, though grating. He did this same thing in #2 The Children of Hamlin. Again that works as an allegory for North Korea. These aliens abduct our children, as the NK’s did from Japan, and then 30 years later we’re trading concessions to get these same children back. There’s no striding in and blasting the crap out of the bad guys, just TAKING the abductees back. It’s all instead about maintaining the fragile peace, the status quo, and avoiding war.
It’s all very grown-up, I suppose, though not very satisfying in fiction. When someone attacks the Enterprise, or steals from the Federation, I want them to get attacked back and beat down. In a way it’s a tribute to Roddenberry’s vision, that he didn’t pander to that kind of testosteronic all-out drive to kick ass and bring catharsis to story-lines (a second time, after TOS, which largely did). In the real world, as Picard understands, you play the hand you’re given and try not to upset the apple-cart too much.
– Comedy factor, not much in this one.
Good, though it felt a bit passionless. 3 stars.