Sunday, 22 September 2013

TOS - 1.23 - A Taste of Armageddon


Star Trek - A Taste of Armageddon
You look tired and tense, having trouble sleeping?
Don't worry, let me give you a Vulcan massage.
It guarantees to put you to sleep soundly
It probably sounds strange, but this is one of the very few episodes in TOS that tackles the issues about the future.

While the setting of Star Trek is futuristic, many TOS episodes in Season 1 preoccupy with the contemporary issues of the Cold War, and the main thrust of TOS Season 2 focuses on our past. This episode is a bit of exception. It deals with the future. A frightening future I should add.

This episode is way ahead of its time. Some critics said the scenario depicted in this episode can't occur in real life. Of course not, but they miss the point. As most, if not all episodes in Star Trek, the stories are allegorical. It shouldn't be taken literally any more than George Orwell's Animal Farm should be taken as it is. No, farm animals can't talk.

Some of the aspects of George Orwell another great work 1984 have come true while others not. Similarly, some aspects of this episode have realised.  I don't know if this episode is the 1st film to deal with the theme of wargames. It may very well be. Star Trek TOS has a habit of coming up with original ideas, especially sci-fi ones. It's certainly one of the 1st, if not the 1st.

Wargames(1983) is movie based on this eponymous theme, and this episode predated it by 13 years. This is big deal because usually TV follows the movies' lead, no thte other way around. Well, Start Trek TOS is very much ahead of its time.

While this is a film based on a fictional world, watching the Gulf War in 1990 on TV unsettled me when I saw a video game mentality in some of US pilots that we're one step closer to the deadly oxymoron of war game. They cheered in glee as they dropped bombs from their planes. And the Wargames(1983) set against the backdrop of Cold War, a war that nobody has dwelt deeper than TOS Season 1. So this episode is a predecessor to Wargames(1983) on 2 counts. However, there's one important topic that's new in Wargames(1983), and it's computer hackers. This is a popular topic in the 1980's as the internet hacking was a hot topic of its days.

The drone warfare brings us one more step closer. As the episode is never meant to be realistic, but an allegory, step by step, we're closer in fulfilling the nightmarish scenario than ever. Since the drone warfare is one sided at the moment, one can argue this is a worse scenario than those depicted in this episode because the side who owns the drones has eliminate casualty on their side, which is the whole point of the frightening message of this episode, which is the dehumanisation of technology in the battlefields.

I'm not taking any side, simply points out our military development seemingly heading towards the fictional scenario in this episode where we're increasingly relying on technology to fight wars, relying on it to make decision for us, even life and death decision as the idea is toyed with in Wargames(1983).

At the onset of industrialisation, there were a explosion of machines to serve us, but gradually the roles of machines have taken on increasingly important roles that we're becoming more of their slaves than their masters in many ways. This is also the theme of this episode, And so a sci-fi sub-genre cyberpunk was born. The Terminator (1984) and  The Matrix (1999) are the most well known examples. They're allegories of human being enslaved by machines, and we try to struggle against it. In short, we rise up to fight the oppression by the machines, figuratively speaking.




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