As a disgusted USA and world watches, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico pollutes North America. It’s now the most devastating environmental disaster in American history, and will likely rank as a life changing event for humanity. Scores of American fishermen, and others who earn a living tending the ocean face forced retirement from a generational trade. Fisherman fathers won’t be able to hand a family business over to sons or daughters. Wildlife death toll grows, fast becoming a staggeringly vast ecological holocaust. This is as real as it gets. As a story vehicle, Star Trek deals with environmental disaster. Its sci-fi TV, movies and books explore global pollution, over population and preserving wildlife essential to a planet’s fragile ecosystem.
The Mark Of Gideon – Star Trek Original Series
A good thing leads to a bad thing. In a classic episode of the TV show created by Gene Roddenberry, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) warps to Gideon, a planet where none get ill or die. Sound good? But where do all the people go who keep on living?
The mysterious story plays out in a keenly creepy way. Captain Kirk beams down to Gideon, but instead materializes on a deserted Enterprise. As he walks empty corridors, seeing not a soul on his bridge, he knows something’s wrong. Finally he finds a young woman as baffled as himself, but soon answers are revealed. Turns out the populace of severely overcrowded Gideon don’t die because of an ecological miracle – a germ free atmosphere. Kirk’s transport was rerouted so he’d materialize on a replica starship – knowing he’d expose his germs to the woman. She’d in turn infect more, thereby restoring nature’s balance of life and death. This one is a credit to the writers. They took what may have been a plodding philosophical exercise in population control, or medical tech, and made a darkly captivating and memorable ecological tale of intrigue.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – Feature Film
For those who’ve seen this 1984 theatrical movie, it’s recalled as the time travel one with whales. While Kirk, Spock and crew time travel to the 1980’s to reclaim whales, it involves more. All in all, it’s a true ecological cautionary tale.
After an enormous probe orbits Earth, it shuts off all energy generators, even space ships in proximity. Only Kirk and crew – fresh from being forced to destroy the Enterprise after fighting Klingons – still pilot a fully energized ship in the form of a Klingon Bird of Prey. Spock calculates a time travel formula for the old Klingon ship, and the gang time trips to 20th century San Francisco. After wacky adventures, Uhura, Chekov, Scotty, Bones and the rest obtain a humpback whale couple to ferry back to the future. It’s one of the most fun, profitable and thrilling Star Trek films. The story clearly shows how essential animals are to a planet’s health. As BP fouls our water, killing crucial food chain birds like pelicans, we wonder if in the future, we’ll pay a still unknown price for BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil fueled extermination of thousands of animals.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country – Feature Film
When Praxis, the Klingon moon explodes, it throws the alien race into an ecological nightmare. BP oil spill damage parallels are clear. Praxis was a Klingon energy provider. It blew up from insufficient safety precautions – something speculated about the BP oil spill. Once a crushing environmental incident occurs, it wreaks havoc on an area, and has a lasting toll on people.
Renegade Klingons brutally murdered James T. Kirk’s son. The savage killing was seen in Star Trek: The Search For Spock. Time passed, but Kirk never turned warm and fuzzy towards the Klingon race. Here he must break bread with Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner) and General Chang (Christopher Plummer) to consider a peace treaty between the Federation of Planets and Klingon Empire. Co-writer Leonard Nimoy based it on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which helped accelerate the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. As the BP oil spill overwhelms us with complex political and legal issues, the international players involved will definitely break bread metaphorically, to arrive at real and lasting solutions.
Homeward – Star Trek: The Next Generation
This seventh season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode has security officer Worf tangle with his human foster brother Nikolai Rozhenko. It’s a family squabble caused by an environmental disaster. This one’s personal for me, since I helped write it, after my TV script was bought by Paramount Pictures.
My original premise used battle simulations that Nikolai (Paul Sorvino) and Worf worked closely on together. I’m glad it changed into a socially sensitive one involving ecology. Nikolai is a cultural observer. He’s engaged in studying primitive aliens, when planet Boraal II’s ozone layer rapidly vanishes. Captain Picard’s Enterprise warps to save Nikolai, but not interfere, nor salvage anything – courtesy of that nagging Prime Directive. Nikolai ignores the rule, and transports the aliens – one whom he’s fallen in love with – on board the starship. Most environmental disasters usually don’t occur as quickly as depicted here, but as the Gulf of Mexico is fouled by the BP oil spill, time counts down to a future where wildlife may be dead, or no longer have a clean home.
Force Of Nature – Star Trek: The Next Generation
Starships warped around the galaxy for centuries, until this episode warned against reckless speed demons. Simply put, speed kills, or rips up the fabric of space.
When sister and brother scientists warn against over use of warp drive, the Federation prohibits ships traveling past warp five – except in emergencies. Producers, and script writer Naren Shankar, agreed the tale, while important to tell, fell absolutely flat. The notion that engines powering Star Trek in terms of pure imagination narrative and distance traveled to properly tell stories is dangerous, was simply doomed at the outset. Cautioning Captain Picard against using warp drive too much just seems silly. However, by comparing fictional warp drive to a real combustion engine of Earthly origin, one sees a pollution potential metaphor for our own dependence on fossil fuels. The BP British Petroleum oil spill motivates us to develop environmentally friendly fuels and alternative energy sources – ones which won’t poison us.