Encounter at Farpoint Station provides a different perspective than a traditional energy narrative. Most of the energy narratives I have presented thus far show a stronger force subjugating a weaker force in order to take their energy resources from them. In this case, the stronger force has all of the energy resources and is subjugating a weaker force that requires them. This TNG episode is also another example of convenient racism. The stronger force feels more comfortable exhorting the weaker force because it is of a different race.
Cdr. Riker needs the Enterprise to come pick him up from Farpoint Station, a Federation outpost. While he is waiting he talks with Groppler Zorn, who is the leader of Farpoint Station. Riker says to Zorn that he is impressed with the station’s energy surplus. Zorn appears flattered and says that geothermal energy is one of the benefits of the planet. Zorn offers Riker some fruit and Riker asks if there is an apple. Zorn regrettably says there is not, but as he passes the fruit bowl to Riker there appears to be a bowl of apples behind it. Riker exclaims that the bowl of apples could not have been there a second ago but shrugs it off when he leaves Zorn’s apartment. After Riker leaves Zorn begins shouting at thin air that it has been told not to do things like that and that if it does it again that he will have to punish it.
After Riker boards the Enterprise he tries to convince Cpt. Picard that Farpoint Station is trading its surplus energy for the materials it takes to build the station, since the planet has no such materials.
Picard and Riker decide to play Zorn a visit. They bring Counselor Troi with them. Troi has empathic abilities and while she is on Farpoint she senses an overpowering feeling of loneliness and despair but notes that these feelings are not coming from Zorn or any of his people. Zorn refuses to discuss Troi’s reaction so Picard, Riker and Troi leave.
While the Enterprise is investigating Farpoint Station an unknown ship approaches the planet. The ship is considerably larger than the Enterprise, therefore they are unable to stop the ship from firing on the planet. Riker and Data continue to investigate the planet while the ship is firing at the surface. They go to talk to Zorn but just as he is about to help them, Zorn is transported away. Riker, Lt. Cdr. Data and Troi beam aboard the unknown starship. Troi notes that she senses strong feelings of anger and hate. As they continue to search the ship, the away team finds Zorn trapped behind a force field, screaming in pain. The away team frees Zorn from his prison and they are transported back to the Enterprise. Troi informs Picard that the vessel is alive. Zorn admits that his people found another such creature and that they “saved it”; “helped it”. Riker notes that it must be this creature that is converting the planet’s geothermal energy into matter. The vessel turns into a creature similar to a massive jellyfish. The Enterprise connects an energy beam to the station and the station itself transforms into another creature.
Zorn claims that he never meant to harm the creature and that he fed it the planet’s surplus of energy. Picard retorts that Zorn only fed it enough to keep it alive and thus forced it into whatever shaped he needed. The two creatures float off into space side-by-side. It is clear that Zorn did not feel guilty about exploiting the jellyfish creature because it was not humanoid. In science fiction, what defines race is different, but ultimately the principles of racism remain the same: as long as the person you are exploiting doesn’t look like you, it’s okay.
As I mentioned before, in this episode the stronger force has all of the energy resources and is subjugating a weaker force that requires them. The stronger force in Encounter at Farpoint is just as ruthless as the stronger forces I have mentioned in other posts. Zorn and his people force the creature, (which is playing the role of the weaker force,) to give them something they desire. This perspective is important to consider since it is evidence for the claim that it is not a lack of energy resource that causes cold-heartedness in a people but rather that cold-heartedness causes a people to act ruthlessly when an energy resource is involved.