Scribbler’s Saga #68 – A Defining Speech

Posted: July 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

2018-07-07 12.29.05

© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

“Do you realize what you have done?”

“Yes, I do, I’ve given you back the horrors of war. The Vendikans will assume you’ve broken your agreement and are preparing to wage real war with real weapons. They’ll want to do the same. Only the next attack will do a lot more than count up numbers on a computer. They’ll destroy your cities, devastate your planet. You, of course, will want to retaliate. If I were you, I’d start making bombs. You, Councilor, have a real war on your hands. You can either wage it with real weapons, or you might consider…an alternative. Put an end to it. Make peace.”

And this middle section of a big James T. Kirk speech from TOS: A Taste of Armageddonanswers for me a similar question posed by a Minbari to a human monk on another show – “what is the emotional core of your faith?” Seeing Captain Kirk defend in three blocks the indefensible concept of war, not as a good thing but as something so scary that we never want another. In another similar context, we can also page Captain Willard to chime in – “I wanted a mission and for my sins they gave me one. And when I was done, I would never want another.”

Basically, gets me every time and…yeah, fan for life.

People sometimes remember the speech as being longer. It is. I said it came in three blocks and I do have to minimize the direct quote plagiarism, at least some of the time. The first block covered how long the war between two neighboring plants fighting digitally lasted and built up the tension with Kirk saying – “You’ve made it neat and painless. So neat and painless, you have no reason to stop. And you’ve had it for five hundred years.”

Spock identifies the computer for destruction. Kirk takes aim leading to the second bloc quoted above.

In the third block, the Councilor getting the lecture finally gets in a word edgewise (it is the very prototype of a Kirk morality speech, after all). And the man uses it to assert killing is an instinctual drive. Kirk, who is threatening his own total destruction of the planet, launches into a slightly smaller block anchored by – “we’re not going to kill today.”

What else is so instructive about this speech, beyond presenting a ballsy for the time philosophy that defines a huge part about being a Trekkie? By the way, Trekkie and Trekker are interchangeable…straights still laugh at us and Orange-nistas still reject the philosophical foundations of the show.

For one thing, I’m absolutely certain that there are a few pauses in this speech as spoken by William Shatner that have led to his often spoofed vocal delivery by people playing Kirk in homage. I will transcribe a common version with excessively pregnant pauses – “You…killed…my…man…you…Klingon…bastard!” Or his son, David Marcus, another story for another day.

You’ll notice in the quoted block that I dropped in only one ellipses to indicate the one dramatic pause that actually resolved out of watching the speech block. As I watch the episodes again, I find the basis for the pause heavy delivery busted out by such luminaries as John Belushi – “Captain’s log, stardate June 1969, it has been our five-year mission to seek out new life and intelligence in the galaxy. With the exception of one television network, we have found it.” – almost nonexistent. Yes, Shatner paused a lot, but not to where you get the parody delivery. But, there are a lot more pauses in this speech than most of the others. And so a caricature is born.

The episode about Kirk running around blowing up citizen disintegration booths as part of a philosophical episode about the perils of becoming too comfortable with war has other fun things as well. No redshirts were harmed in the filming of this episode. Yes, Kirk beams up with the same number of crew, including redshirt security officers, as beamed down. How does that happen since Star Trek actually namedthe redshirt trope?

Additionally, the lady in the Little Red Star Trek Dress is allowed to be more competent than usual. Understanding the currents in which the show aired, most of us understand Star Trek as progressive for the time. I should probably put for its timein italics…there.

The lady in the Little Red Dress, a yeoman sent on the landing party to keep the records on the tricorder running on the general setting, almost never got to be more than simply there. Or a damsel in distress. And God forbid she should throw punches…except that one time in The Apple. And she never got hurt, except when in By Any Other Name, the writers faced with wiping out a black redshirt or the yeoman had Rojan crush the lady’s 12-side die of body solids.

This kind of baby steps feminism where the death of the male redshirt implies that the lady was also in danger (the villains simply missed someone with unexpected amounts of Script Immunity also called Plot Armor), I guess counts. No other show of the era would even bring Little Red Dress down to the planet. This trope landed this way because the network thought having women being too strong would kill male fans’ enjoyment of the show and moved Majel Barrett over to play Nurse Chapel.

This episode gave us an in between level of competence from the Asian lady playing the yeoman for this episode, along the lines of give her a disruptor and set her to guard a female prisoner. The actress hammed it up sticking the prop gun in the other character’s ribs as if she’d never get another chance.

But, we can mine this episode for the small reasons for enjoyment, but we always come full circle back to the speech. And the possible missing elements another writer (me) would’ve dropped in to continue driving the nail about being too comfortable with war.

“We fight the real thing, Anon. We eat it up with two spoons as bloody as we can get and…surprise, we haven’t fought in any conflict more extensive than a border skirmish for nearly 100 years.”

Probably too much of a good thing in the sense of William Friedkin resisting the longer The Exorcistcut for years – “those scenes only make the movie longer.”

The one nail I’d really drive is to have Kirk directly enter into the playground fight about whether the Vendikans actually blew up the Enterprise. As a computer simulation, the initial attack was scored as a hit despite the Federation’s incrementally greater technology in shields and engines. And I remembered that time I played Army with a borrowed gun and two different rules for how long and where the “dead” had to count off before resurrecting back into the game; I broke the gun and stormed home on foot.

Now to avoid deception for this part of the discussion, the Enterprise wasn’t at General Quarters and so the imaginary high yield nuke mighthave gotten through. However, the state of Secured From General Quarters (actually Secure from Red Alert) doesn’t always mean a complete relaxation of the watch, either the ship only drops to Yellow Alert or a unnamed lesser state of readiness expected upon arriving at new inhabited planets that includes a sensor watch. If Sulu has his eyes open the imaginary missile dies against the freshly raised shields; an assumption based Kirk knowing and trusting his team.

The imaginary dialogue here – “Anon, you know, I almost wish the Vendikans had fired a real missile at my ship. The hit is predicated on your missiles penetrating my shields…and…the…preparedness…of…the…best…starship…crew…in…the…galaxy. You fire and get a hit when my people got caught with their pants down…fine, I need whiskey and flowers. You fire and my shields eat up the shots, maybe you’ll believe me when I sing ‘missed us, missed us, you dirty back-scratcher!’”

Still probably too much of a good thing, but it would be hilarious to see even outtakes of William Shatner saying those lines.

And there we have it, a lot of different reasons to groove on my favorite most formative Star Trek episode. Ahead Warp Factor One!

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