Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Okay, so the primary theme of The Undiscovered Country is not energy use, it’s race relations, BUT energy use does play a principle role in the narrative. The film opens with the destruction of the moon Praxis, which is the primary dilithium source for the Klingon Empire. According to Spock, the destruction of Praxis was caused by over-mining and insufficient safety precautions. The debris from Praxis is polluting the ozone of Kronos, the Klingon home planet, which will cause the oxygen to be depleted on Kronos in 50 years. This is an example of a stronger force (the Klingons) subjugating a weaker force (the environment,) and as is common with energy narratives, the environment seeks its revenge. Now with Praxis gone, the Klingons have neither the dilithium to fuel their ships nor the safety of their people.

The Klingons have been at war with the Federation for 70 years, though they are currently at an armistice. Spock says that the Klingons cannot both maintain their hostilities against the Federation and save their planet.  Thus, the Klingons have agreed to peace negotiations with the Federation.

The narrative also makes mention of a labor issue involving dilithium production. Kirk and McCoy are sentenced to a penal colony on Rura Penthe to mine dilithium for the Klingon Empire. Being sentenced to this penal colony is well known as being the same as an execution sentence. The prisoners are forced to work under extreme conditions and those who do not work are left to freeze outside the camp:

“Work well and you will be treated well. Work badly and you will die.”

Hard labor prison camps are just another form of convenient bigotry, like racism, to help find laborers that can be mistreated in order to ensure profit. In addition, The Undiscovered Country contains the same life and energy equivalency theme found in the episodes of Star Trek that I have written about thus far. The Klingons know that the conditions on Rura Penthe are so extreme that they will eventually kill the workers. Life pays for energy.

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Elaan of Troyius (Star Trek TOS): Saved by a Keen Fashion Sense

The Enterprise crew has been ordered to deliver Elaan, a princess from the planet, Elas to the planet Troyius where she will marry a member of the planet’s royal family. The marriage is hoped to bring peace to Elas and Troyius, which have been at war for many years. The planets border both the edge of The Federation and the edge of The Klingon Empire, which The Federation has been at war with for many years. The Federation hopes that by helping to facilitate this marriage that Elas and Troyius will be more likely to join or trade with the Federation, though why The Federation is particularly interested in these two planets is unclear until the end of the episode.

Elaan is vehemently against marrying a Troyian as she considers the Troyians weak and arrogant in comparison to the barbaric Elasians. However, Kirk is able to convince her throughout the episode that marrying a man that she has never met before and does not love is the “right” thing for her to do.

During the delivery mission, the Enterprise crew notices that they are being followed by a Klingon ship. Later, one Elaan’s bodyguards sabotages the Enterprise’s warp drive, making it impossible for the Enterprise to outrun the Klingons or attack them. The Enterprise must receive new dilithium crystals in order to repair the warp drive.

Spock notices an energy reading coming from Elaan’s necklace. The necklace was given to her from the Troyians as a wedding gift. Elaan claims that the jewels are common stones on Elas and Troyias and that they are of little monetary value. Kirk and Spock realize that the necklace is made of dilithium crystals and that they can use them to power the warp drive

Elaan: “It is of little value. They are common stones.

Spock: “THESE are common stones? See captain? Here and here.”

Kirk: “Common stones? Now I see why the Klingons are interested in this system.”

Kirk to Elaan: “May I have this?”

Elaan: “If I can be of any help, of course.”

Kirk: “You may have just saved our lives.”

The prevalence of dilithium on these planets also explains the interest of both the Federation and the Klingon Empire in the two planets.

Following the Enterprise’s escape from the Klingons, Elaan is safely delivered to Troyias. As a result, The Federation has gained the trust of the two planets and can negotiate trade agreements with them for their dilithium.

Once again, Star Trek like many other negative energy narratives equates life with energy. The Klingons are willing to murder the Enterprise crew to prevent them from trading with the Elasians and the Troyians. The Federation is also willing to assist in selling a woman into slavery, or as they put it, marriage, for the sake of obtaining dilithium.

Journey to Babel (Star Trek TOS): the Almost Civil War

In Journey to Babel we again see the equivalency of life and energy.

In this episode the Enterprise is tasked with the mission to deliver ambassadors from several different planets to a conference on the planet, Babel to debate the admission of the Coridan system of planets into The Federation. The system happens to be rich in dilithium and has few defenses and an entrance into The Federation will provide Coridan with protection from those whom would seek to take advantage of the planets. The thought of the future protection of Coridan gives some of the delegates pause about voting to admit the system to The Federation since it would make it harder for them to manipulate the planets into giving them the dilithium they desire.

For example, the Tellarite ambassador, Gav, demands to know position of the Vulcan ambassador Sarek because Sarek’s opinion holds a lot of weight with many of the delegates:

Sarek: Under Federation law Coridan can be protected and its wealth administered for the benefit of its people.

Gav: That’s well for you. Vulcan has no mining interest.

Sarek: Coridan has nearly unlimited wealth of dithlithium crystals, but it is underpopulated and unprotected. This invites illegal mining operations.

Gav: Illegal? You accuse us?

Sarek: Some of your ships have been carrying Coridan dilithium crystals.

Gav shouts: “you call us thieves?” and attacks Sarek. Captain Kirk quickly rushes in and breaks up their fight.

The Enterprise crew eventually discovers a plot to start a civil war within The Federation by murdering both Gav and Kirk and severely damaging the Enterprise and therefore many of the delegates on board. Kirk realizes that his attacker and the ship attacking the Enterprise must be from Orion. Orion smugglers have been raiding Coridan for dilithium and would “clean up” by selling the dilithium to both sides in a Federation civil war. The Orion smugglers are willing to murder countless people by starting a civil war all for the profit that can be made by selling energy resources, thus equating life and energy.

Mirror, Mirror (Star Trek TOS): Paying for Energy with Life

This episode begins with Captain Kirk trying to convince the leader of the planet Halkan to provide The United Federation of Planets with the rights to mine dilithium on the planet. The Halkan leader informs Kirk that the Halkan government has refused to allow The Federation to have mining rights. The Halkans are pacifists and they believe that while The Federation is not currently engaged in any military conflicts The Federation cannot provide a guarantee that they will always remain at peace. During their conversation with Kirk, the Halkans mention that they are willing to die for their beliefs, although Kirk assures them they will not have to:

Our dilithium crystals represent awesome power. Wrongful use of that power even to the extent of the taking of one life would violate our history of total peace. To prevent that, we would die, Captain, as a race if necessary—Halkan Leader

As Kirk and the away team are beaming back onboard the Enterprise they are transported to a parallel universe controlled by The Empire, which is for all intents and purposes the evil twin of The Federation. Empire Spock greets the away team and asks if the Halkans have agreed to the mining rights. Kirk tells him they have not and Spock then mentions that the Halkans “have chosen suicide,” indicating that The Empire will take the dilithium by force. The Halkans are still pacifists in this alternate universe and again refuse to provide the mining rights, and although Kirk is able to return to his own universe, the audience can safely assume that The Empire destroyed the Halkans in the alternate universe.

Like Mudd’s Women, Mirror, Mirror exposes the common thought that life is an acceptable currency for an energy resource. The Halkans realize the great power that energy resources can provide and that sometimes that power is abused and results in the taking of life. Therefore, they offer up their own lives in exchange for the lives that may be taken as a result of that abuse of power, with the hope that The Federation and The Empire will also see the link between energy resources and death and will be unwilling to pay that price. The Federation refuses the exchange but The Empire does not as they value the power and comfort that the energy resource provides them more than the lives of the Halkans. This equivalency of life and energy by the stronger force is a defining characteristic of a negative energy narrative.