Star Trek as Canadian politics
This post will also be mirrored at Vancouver's Metroblogging site [mbv] though it will appear here first.
I've been dwelling on the fact that Conservative leader Stephen Harper has come out of the closet, so to speak, and has been revealed as a Star Trek fan [mbv]. Former Canadian University Press President and all around Trek fan Don Iveson finds the revelation surprising given Trek fans' general lefty slant [di]. He points out an article on Salon.com [sal] that argues convincingly that Star Trek is the for egalitarians while it's Star Wars that is the franchise for rugged individualists.
The differences at first seem superficial. One saga has an air force motif (tiny fighters) while the other appears naval. In "Star Trek," the big ship is heroic and the cooperative effort required to maintain it is depicted as honorable. Indeed, "Star Trek" sees technology as useful and essentially friendly -- if at times also dangerous. Education is a great emancipator of the humble (e.g. Starfleet Academy). Futuristic institutions are basically good-natured (the Federation), though of course one must fight outbreaks of incompetence and corruption. Professionalism is respected, lesser characters make a difference and henchmen often become brave whistle-blowers -- as they do in America today.
In "Star Trek," when authorities are defied, it is in order to overcome their mistakes or expose particular villains, not to portray all institutions as inherently hopeless. Good cops sometimes come when you call for help. Ironically, this image fosters useful criticism of authority, because it suggests that any of us can gain access to our flawed institutions, if we are determined enough -- and perhaps even fix them with fierce tools of citizenship.
So Trek sounds more like some kind of left wing NDP show doesn't it?
Well I got to thinking, Harper only likes the original Trek. Maybe that's a clue since the original Star Trek was much less focused on the Federation and Star Fleet as a whole, Kirk and the like didn't become good public servants until the movies and even then they were court-martialed for being too awesome. In reality there are so many Star Trek series and thus faces of Trek that each can relate to a Canadian political party. Thus here it is, the definitve Canadian Election 2006: the Star Trek Edition.
The Liberal Party = Star Trek: the Original Series
Despite the fact that the original is Stephen Harper's favorite it's the show that best fits the Liberals since it's vaugely left leaning without actually being that way. The Liberals might have legalized gay marriage but they certainly didn't seem happy to have done it, similiarly Kirk may have kissed Uhura (in television's first inter-racial kiss) but he had to be mind-controlled into doing it.
Similiarly both the Liberals and the first Trek have mixed up views on war. On one hand we're still in Afghanistan despite the fact that we've got no real plan there other than to be targets in place of American soldiers who had to go in Iraq [cbc]. Our being there is enabling the American occupation of Iraq. In Trek Kirk was always good about avoiding war with the Klingons, but would be happy to whomp on the Romulans if they got uppity. Like the Liberals he might make friends with a planet of Native Americans but he certainly wasn't going to give them warp drive.
Kirk and crew tried to be good enviromentalists, they saved the whales and created a new fertile planet with the Genesis Device, but they generally did it out of only when forced to by aliens probes, Kahn or needing to court the NDP. Speaking of Khan Noonien Singh a Conservative show would have put him to death for his crimes on Earth, an NDP show would have tried to rehabilitate him, only a Liberal show would have taken the useless middle ground of sticking him in a rocket and shooting him into space [st].
As much as Kirk wanted to use time travel to alter the future and save his one true love Edith Keeler's life he had to realize that messing with the past was dangerous and so he watched her die before his eyes [st]. Paul Martin wasn't so smart when he decided to fool with the past and opened the Gomery Equiry which lead us to this election.
Star Trek's first series was meant to be a five year mission, but was cancelled after three years. Martin's government should have had four years, but alas it won't even make three.
More nerd politics after the break. Just click on read more and go to the rest of Canada's political parties.
New Democratic Party = Star Trek: Voyager
A woman captain, a first nations first officer, an African American Vulcan security officer, an Asian ensign, a hispanic Klingon engineer and a convicted felon flight control officer nothing says melting pot like the NDP. That's not the only reason Canada's least popular party is Trek's least popular show, but it's an obvious one to start with. Trek has always been good about multi-racial casting going back to Uhura who Martin Luther King Jr. argued was a boon to the civil rights movement since it was a positive representation of a black woman on primetime television. Canada's political parties are generally good at this as well, even the Conservatives have a more diverse candidates roster than the American Democratic Party. Sure all the good posts are saved for white (straight) men, but you can tell everyone at least pays lip service. Voyager/the NDP takes it to the limit and both manage to do it without feeling like it's symbolic tokenism. Hell they even took in/back a Borg/Svend Robinson.
Thematically Voyager fits in with the NDP in a few ways. First off the crew of the Voyager, sent by a space thingy jagillions of light years away from Earth, are stuck on their ship. There is no hope for a handy resupply at a Starbase, and so they must conserve energy and materials they have to reduce, reuse and recycle. Even their precious holodeck time is limited. This forced enviromentalism matches the NDP's view on the issue, which may in the long run prove to be the right one, we are all on Starship Earth and nobody's going to be docking us at a Starbase anytime for resuply so for God's sake turn the water off when you brush your teeth.
Lastly how about the holographic doctor? If that isn't the total Tommy Douglas end vision, government provided medical care as home appliance, then I don't know what is.
The Conservatives = Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
This show was a hard one to place, since it's overall story is one of an embittered Starfleet officer who is posted at the ass end of nowhere, only to become a sort of religious icon to the native Bajorans who in the end he sacrafices his life to protect. Harper may have a Jesus complex but let's face it, he's not about to jump in a pit of molton lava to unify Canada.
Still there are parallels. Starfleet finds a wormhole near the station, a tear in the fabric of space that allows rapid transit to a far off area of the universe, and the first thought is to use it for trade and when that doesn't work war begins. In fact the Feregni Quark and the Klingon Worf, a transplant from the Next Generation, respresent the two stereotypes of the Conservatives unfettered (corrupt) commerce mixed with an agressive military. Though both the characters and the Tories' policies on these issues is more complex the comparision is useful here.
Captain Sisko is a more conservative captain. A family man he's initially skeptical of the overt religious beliefs of the Bajorans, the way the red Tories worry that the hard Christian vote is hijacking the party, but he's able to bring together the non-religious Starfleet (red Tories) with the spiritual Bajorans (Christan rural base). He might not like war, but he's good at it and Starfleet quickly gives him his own Klingon and warship the USS Defiant to kick ass and take names.
On Deep Space Nine law and order plays a big role, as for the first time a Trek show is set in a non-Starfleet enviroment. The hardnose Constable Odo, an alien shapeshifter who lives to bust criminals, would be the perfect Tory MP as part of their get tough on crime platform.
And what do the Conservatives have in spades? Old people! And who is the oldest of them all, save Whoopi Goldberg on TNG? Well a trill silly, and the hotter than you Jadzia Dax [st] is well over 2340 years old and that's only slightly older than the average Tory supporter.
Bloc Québécois = Star Trek: Enteprise (sort of)
This was a hard one, though Enterprise was the only show that I ever thought of pairing with the Bloc not because the Bloc is like Enterprise but because Enterprise is the Bloc's worst nightmare. Enterprise, set before even the first Trek series, takes place after a global war has devestated Earth and the peoples of the world have come together to rebuild the world as a utopia, an English speaking utopia (Cue scary organ music: Duh duh duh....).
After coming together to learn English and kick Kahn off the planet the anglos build a warp drive and promply set about meeting the most WASP-y race in the universe the Vulcans. After a meeting where the anglos and Vulcans decided to outlaw gravy and cheese on French fries and to strip les Habs of all their Stanley Cups they set about making sure every other race in the galaxy learns English such as the Andorians. Seperation isn't an option, and it's hard to keep your language going when a universal translator is being developed that lets the anglos hear you as though you were speaking of English.
In fact in a few hundred years an English Shakespearean actor is going to pass as a wine making Frenchman named Picard, and though he's from actual France, it's still going to to be a slap in the face especially when the most popular captain was totally a Quebecer playing a Yankee [wiki].