I Can’t Fight What I Am: Star Trek X: Nemesis

Energy use is not the primary focus of Nemesis. Its plot consists mostly of a megalomaniac obsessed with destroying the United Federation of Planets. However, the primary motivation for said megalomaniac is his history of abuse at the hands of the Romulans as he worked in the Reman dilithium mines. The treatment of the Reman minors is meant to parallel real life labor abuses by major energy corporations.

The film opens with the assassination of the Romulan senate after hearing a report from the Romulan military urging them to accept an alliance with one of their colonies, Remus. After the Praetor (the Romulan prime minster) refuses to accept the proposal of the military, a radioactive devise is detonated, killing everyone in the room. Just before the devise activates, the Praetor announces that Remus is not meeting their mining quotas. The film later explains that one of the primary exports of Remus is mined dilithium, which Remus is forced to deliver only to the Romulan Empire.

Starfleet informs Captain Picard that the new Romulan government has asked to parley with Starfleet. Picard expresses surprise that the new Praetor is a Reman named Shinzon, because according to Cdr. Data, Remans are considered an undesirable caste in the Romulan Empire. It is this convenient racism that causes the mistreatment of the Reman miners. Picard meets with Shinzon and discovers that he is a clone of Picard. Shinzon explains that he was meant to replace Picard and infiltrate Starfleet but the plan was abandoned when a new Romulan government took power. Shinzon was then sent to the dilithium mines on Remus because it was thought that no human could survive working in the dilithium mines let alone a child:

In those terrible depths lived only the damned. Together with the Reman slaves I was condemned to an existence of unceasing labor and starvation under the brutal heel of the Romulan gaurds. Only the very strongest had any hope of survival. –Shinzon.

Shinzon said that a male Reman took care of him and thus he became brothers with the Remans. Shinzon claims that the motivation behind everything that he has done was to liberate the Remans.

Of course, Shinzon is not as he seems and secretly wants to destroy the Federation, and the real reason he wanted to parley with the Enterprise is because his survival depends on an injection of Picard’s DNA, as the result of a defect in his cloning process. However, the reasons for Shinzon’s madness can be directly linked to his abuse at the hands of Romulans.

 

Clearly, in Nemesis the Romulans’ racism against the Remans was the cause of the abuse that created Shinzon. However, the linking racism to resource extraction is not the invention of science fiction. Racism is a theme in energy narratives from Star Trek to Munif’s Cities of Salt to The Hunger Games novels.  Therefore, I’d like to pose the question: “Are crimes against race inherit in today’s energy resource extraction? Does the desirability of the resource create a convenient racism or is racism an underlying condition that resource extractors take advantage of?” Are the Romulans racist against the Remans because the Remans have dilithium or are the Romulans using a racism that already exists to justify forcing the Remans to work to extract their dilithium?

More energy narratives in the Star Trek universe

Where No One Has Gone Before-

 

This episode is an example of how science fiction is able to shift the energy narrative form into a utopian view of future energy use. Where No One Has Gone Before describes a time where space travel will be powered only by thought, which is connected to both space and time. Of course, human beings have not reached this point in their evolution, nor have they reached this ability in their technology.

A Matter of Perspective-

 

This episode serves to illustrate The Federation’s continuing search for the utopian source of energy, one with no environmental or political ramifications. In this episode the Enterprise is given the mission to check on the progress of Dr. Apgar, whom is working on developing a new energy technology called Kreiger waves. Cdr. Riker’s visit to Dr. Apgar appears to have not gone well. Just after Riker beams back to the Enterprise, Apgar’s lab explodes, killing him. Riker is accused of Apgar’s murder and eventually the Enterprise is able to prove him to be innocent. The Enterprise crew discovers that Apgar realized that Kreiger waves would be more profitable when used as a weapon. Apgar knew that the Federation would only pay for a new energy source and that he must look elsewhere to sell the new weapon.  However, he wanted to keep using the Federation’s resources to develop this technology even though he had no intention on delivering a new energy source to them. Apgar was afraid that Riker’s report would cause the Federation to investigate his research further. He decided to murder Riker and make it look like an accident. Unfortunately for him, his plan backfired and he ended up killing himself.

New Ground-

 

The Enterprise assists a science team with an experiment. The team attempts to create a “soliton” wave, which will be able to put ships into warp without the use of a warp core and dilithium. The ship would also have 98% energy efficiency with the use of the wave. Of course, this experiment goes awry, however it is clear from the dialogue that more research will be done on this new technology with the hope that it will someday replace warp drives in starships.

Deep Space Nine- Indiscretion—

 

Major Kira and Gul Dukat team up to search for a lost Bajoran prisoner transport ship. They locate the ship on a desert planet and find that the Breen has enslaved the ship’s inhabitants, and that the prisoners mine dilithium for the Breen. This episode is yet another example of the many labor violations that occur in energy narratives.

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.

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.