Sunday, 26 May 2013

TOS - 1.16 - Galileo Seven

Start Trek - Galileo Seven
Mathematically speaking, your death equals 1/3 reduction
in the critical load for the shuttle-craft to achieve
escape velocity
This episode has 2 firsts.

Spock leads a scientific team on a shuttle that's forced to crash land on a planet. As the communication is cut off from the Enterprise, Spock has to assume command. This gives the Trek writer the opportunity to put Spock in the spot light for more examination of this alien who lives and works among human.

This is the 1st episode that Spock assumes such role. Because of this commanding role (pun not intended), Spock finds himself in constant conflicts with his human subordinates because of his Vulcan way (or Vulcanian way, for the purpose of this episode).

His logical insensitivity infuriates the crew members to no end. Would you believe that there's some crew members who are more frustrated by Spock's stickler for logic than Dr. McCoy?

The episode highlights both the strength and the failing of Spock logical approaches. It also shows that his logic sometimes seems quite illogical to the rest of the human crew. And in the end, Spock has to desperately resort to an 'illogical' move to save the day. But he'll never admit it's an 'illogical' decision.

Well, you could say Spock is very much misunderstood by human, and vice versa. To put it in an oversimplification, Spock and McCoy represent the contrast of dichotomy of left-brained scientists of cold analysis and right-brained artists of heated passion. But then McCoy is a very passionate scientist, and Spock is no artist (even though he plays the harp of some kind).

In these early episodes, Spock is rather condescending to the human way, referring human emotions as a failing or weakness. He often remarks that, "it pleases me to no end that my anatomy is different from human's". Is this an emotional response? Spock would vehemently deny it.

While the Romulan Empire is based on the Roman Empire as I discussed in episode 1.14 "Balance of Terror" above, the Vulcan race is based on the (Greek, Hindu or Buddhist) Ascetic who deny themselves of emotion and pleasure of the flesh to achieve their transcendental level of spiritual attainments (so they believe). In essence, he's the antithesis of a sensualist.

While the Vulcan offshoot Romulan pursues power and pleasure of the senses. The Roman decadence is well documented with their vino and food binging, orgy party, and their enjoyment of blood sport.

Spock's personal quest reminds me of the story of the Buddha's path to enlightenment. When Siddhartha Gautama begun his spiritual quest, he took the path of the Ascetic. It was at the end when he switched course to the Middle Path that he achieved enlightenment.

Spock too took that Ascetic Path in the onset, and in due course, he too achieves his enlightenment (or epiphany) of the sort by taking the Middle Way - the Path between Vulcan and Human. After all, he's 1/2 Vulcan, 1/2 Human. It's logical that he embraces both. It's illogical that he only follows the Vulcan Way. Very illogical, Spock! He's just being stubborn. That's what Captain Kirk says to Spock at the end of this episode, and everyone laughs.

To his defence, Spock grows up in Vulcan, looks like a Vulcanian, and has green blood coursing through his veins (according to him). Biologically, he's 50/50 split of Vulcan/Homo Sapiens. Culturally, he's more like 85% Vulcan, and 15% Human, + or - 5% variance. I'm suggesting that he picks up the 15% human traits from his study in the Starfleet Academy, and his mother's influence (which is obviously quite limited).

As he works and lives in close quarters with the earthlings, he has no choice but let the earth culture rubbing off, growing on him gradually. He will eventually be acculturated by the human's way (no matter how stubborn he's) having lived so close to human for so long in the Enterprise.

Of course, Spock (and B'Elanna Torres) are speaking to audience who are alien living in another culture via their on-screen's struggles of living among human. Like Latino migrants living in USA (in Kentucky, not LA), or me - an Asian - living in Australia (in SA, not Sydney). Of course, Spock is just very well speaking to gays, or any minority outsider living in a majority group. If you can't beat them, join them, eventually.

Yep, Star Trek has something for everyone, and has created an inclusive universe for all. I guess the Enterprise of the future is larger than the earth of today. Most of the time. We're getting there (I'm an optimist).

As far as I could remember, I had never seen Spock bleeds his green corpuscles despite the many dangerous Close Encounters of hostile Alien races in Star Wars. I suspect Trek directors may think green blood oozing out of Spock is too much for the Trekkie.

It's good thing that Spock is somewhat illogical. Otherwise, he would be a 2D character. Although at this point in time, he still somewhat a cartoon character (relatively speaking), but he continues to evolve with the Star Trek saga to become a more complicated and more well rounded 3D character. In this episode, he's a 2.35D character at the start, and ends with 2.4D. (And please, don't go all Spock on me by saying there's only 2D or 3D, and there can't be anything in between. And I'll say you're 200% wrong).

One day in the future episode, a movie in fact, Spock would say, "logic is the beginning of all wisdom, not the end" (if memory serves). That's logical.

Another 1st for the episode is the appearance of a shuttle-craft, which is essential for the story. In most episodes, the crew are beamed down directly by the transporter (much cheaper to film than the shuttle-craft). So it was invented (like Spock mindmeld) for the need, and lives on as part of the Trek lore.

Remember when watching Star Trek, it's never about aliens, ever. It's about humans. The aliens in Star Trek are groups of humans we call 'them', and human are groups we call 'us'.

Similarly, Star Trek is never about the future. It's about the past and present. Think Roman Empire, Greek Ascetics, etc.

In the optimistic future, we embrace ET more readily than we embrace people of other races or cultures today. From the social changes that we have witnessed since this episode was written, we have been moving in that promising trajectory. If we could extrapolate from that trajectory, we might not even have to wait that long to get there.

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