I chose to write about Star Trek because each series focuses on how the Enterprise works. The writers of Star Trek probably spent more time coming up with believable techno-babble than they did coming up with the plots (that’s not to say that the plots were poorly written). The main engineer on the Enterprise is a main character in each series: there’s the original Scotty, Lt. Geordi LaForge in The Next Generation, and Chief O’Brien in Deep Space Nine. As a result, the writers never failed to write about how the ship goes: the warp drive. The fuel for the warp drive comes from the dilithium crystal. Though dilithium is not extremely rare, there are countless warp capable races that use it to power their starships. As a result, it is a highly contested mineral, and this contest is at the heart of many a Star Trek episode.
The first episode to discuss the fuel source for the Enterprise is Mudd’s Women.
In this episode, the Enterprise burns up her lithium (referred to as dilithium in future episodes) circuits while chasing down a rogue ship. The Enterprise crew is able to beam the crew of the rogue ship aboard before it is destroyed, however, the Enterprise must travel to the nearest lithium mining facility in order to continue on their journey. The crew of the rogue ship consists of one shady businessman and three beautiful women, whom begin to infatuate the Enterprise crew. Captain Kirk discovers that the businessman is actually a con artist named Mudd, and is then bound by law to deliver him to the nearest Starfleet base for arrest, but in order to reach the base the Enterprise still needs to refuel at the nearest lithium mine. When Mudd finds out where the Enterprise is headed, he offers the beautiful women to the lithium miners as brides in exchange for their lithium crystals and Mudd’s freedom. Mudd’s offer is an example of human life being equivalent in value to that of an energy resource. Mudd’s offer is similar to rationalizing human laborer losses while extracting energy resources. While most narratives describe an inherent racism that is used to achieve such a conclusion, this narrative uses sexism. Like out-sourced laborers, Mudd’s women are acceptable losses when gaining an energy resource.
The Enterprise reaches the planet and the miners explain this deal to Kirk, and he appears to be tempted to accept this deal due to his great need for lithium crystals. In the end he chooses to do the right thing but all three women decide to stay with the miners of their own accord and the miners give Kirk his crystals so that Kirk is able to carry Mudd away for trial.
The conclusion to this episode is especially negative. The women have come to believe that they are worth no more than the crystals and that they will receive no better husbands than the miners. They do not try to revolt nor do they try to make conditions better for themselves. They simply accept their brainwashing.