War in Star Trek has certainly developed over the course of the franchise’s history. The original vision of Gene Rodenberry didn’t really incorporate it. However, things have changed since then. November 11th commemorates the armistice of World War I (1914-1919). But more than that, it reminds us of the true value of peace. So, we felt that we’d have a look at some of ways war has featured in Star Trek, over the years. There have been many examples, and each has explored different facets and aspect of it. Let’s take a look . . .
The Original Series: A Taste of Armageddon (Season 1 Episode 23 – 1967)
An early occurrence of war in Star Trek. ‘A Taste of Armageddon’ sees two warring planets taking part in simulated warfare. The premise is an interesting one and shows the mentality that drives war. There are always motivations behind the violence, and here Captain Kirk (William Shatner) discovers them. We get an exploration of the ideology of war and the type of attitude that not only causes it, but keeps it going on. Perhaps not the hardest hitting example, or nuanced assessment, but nevertheless it was interesting.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
An important milestone in the history of Star Trek, per say. The signing of the Khitomer Accords is possibly the most significant event since the formation of The Federation, discussed in our Star Trek: Enterprise – Twenty Years On feature. But it’s the nuanced depictions of the road to peace that we’re really interested in, for the purposes of this feature. We see two opposing sides have to learn to overcome their differences, and even embrace those differences, too. Of course, the ‘Undiscovered Country’, a Shakespearian phrase, was of used metaphorically, to explore the very real fear of the great unknown, in this case, peace. Some truly memorable stuff.
Next Generation: The Wounded (Season 7 Episode 12 – 1991)
A fine look at war, consideration of the effects of it. What really comes through is the fact that hatred, bitterness and anger are such personally complex feelings. This is especially true due to the fact that the guest star, Captain Benjamin Maxwell (Bob Gunton), saw his family killed by Cardassians. Consequently, he goes rogue and his judgment is put into question. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is sent to stop him. What’s really memorable about this episode is the excellent character study, by Bob Gunton, who captured the sheer humanity of Captain Maxwell. Also, the scene where Maxwell and O’Brien (Colm Meaney) sing ‘The Minstrel Boy’ was deeply moving.
Deep Space Nine: It’s Only a Paper Moon (Season 7 Episode 10 – 1998)
Arguably the most emotionally intense offering on our list. The excellent, and much missed Aron Eisenberg shows us just how brilliant he was, as Nog. Two episodes before (‘The Seige of AR-558’ is itself an excellent exploration of the cost of war) Nog lost his leg, in a fierce, brutal battle. We see him return to DS9, after getting a replacement leg with a hero’s welcome, which he feels very little towards. Despite having undergone extensive counseling, Nog (Aron Eisenberg) still can’t come to terms with what happened to him. He becomes withdrawn and retreats to the holodeck to live with Vic Fontaine (James Darren). The episode really attempts to show someone dealing with PTSD, and also Phantom Pain. It stands up as one of the most universally accessible episodes of Star Trek, ever.
Voyager: Memorial (Season 6 Episode 14 – 2000)
As an episode, not great. It lacked real human depth, such as in the above example. However, the plot device as an idea is wonderful and serves to remind us why we remember. More pertinently, we’re reminded why we shouldn’t forget. Something worth pointing out is the cerebral element in this episode. When we visit cenotaphs or other war memorials, we can only imagine the horrors. Here, the crew of Voyager experiences them, as memories. Captain Janeway orders that the beacon remains intact, and explains why this painful experience is so crucial. And, it’s her decision that sums up the theme of the episode. We must never forget suffering.
There they are. Of course, there are many more examples throughout the history of the show. Star Trek has always dealt fantastically with the human condition. War is of course a massive part of human history, sadly. Hopefully, it won’t be in the future it won’t be. So, go — live long and prosper dear readers . . . If we’ve missed your favourite example, then by all means comment and do let us know.