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?

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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.

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.

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.

Star Trek (The Original Series and beyond): an introduction

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.