Are the alien species of Star Trek (original Trek) symbols of something else? I suspected so— before there even was a Next Generation. They are of course more than that. But the symbols are a key thing to understand, especially if you are making your own aliens. Or if Star Trek and its aliens are one of your Asperger ‘Special Interests.’
Klingons are the major ‘enemy’ in the original Star Trek universe. So it’s only natural that they are a symbol of the USA’s real-world biggest enemy of the time, the Soviet Union. Klingons are quite plainly presented as cruder, more aggressive, and more direct than Terrans (‘Americans.’)
Klingons remind me of a story my high-school German teacher told us illustrating the difference between Germans and Russians. Seems a small boy’s village was taken over by German soldiers during the war. Since they boy had the good luck not to be Jewish, the German soldiers were kind to him, and let him fire off one of their machine guns. The gun jammed. The German soldiers were all upset, since now they would have to send the gun back to the manufacturer to get it fixed.
As the war went on, the Germans left, and Russian soldiers marched into the village. The boy made friends with these soldiers as well, and they let him shoot one of their machine guns. The gun jammed. A Russian soldier took the gun, smacked it against a big rock, and the gun worked just fine again.
I can totally see Klingons smacking one of their disruptors against a rock to fix it, instead of sending it back to a factory into the hands of whiny, not properly Klingon eggheads.
Romulans and Vulcans
Though Romulans were an enemy race and Vulcans an ally, it was also made quite clear that they were somehow related. Romulans were more aggressive, because they were more emotional. Vulcans traditionally controlled their emotions, and were more peaceful.
I believed that both Romulans and Vulcans were symbols of Asian peoples. The Romulans were symbols of the Chinese— a mysterious people who had gone communist and assisted the North Koreans in killing Americans during the Korean War.
The Romulans in Star Trek were a mysterious enemy— the Federation had fought a war against them before without ever seeing a Romulan, living or dead, and so they didn’t know Romulans looked like Vulcans. Like the Klingons/Soviets, the Romulans/ChiComs were an aggressive empire likely to conquer planets and never give them back.
The Vulcans were symbols of the Japanese people— not the WW2 enemies that attacked Pearl Harbor and committed atrocities against civilians in Nanking, but the later, allied-to-us Japanese that we perceived as good, possessing an ancient culture, and friendly. The Vulcans were a more mature species, but we Terrans had a thing or two to teach them. Starfleet only had one Vulcan officer, Spock— and he was not only half Terran, but half AMERICAN.
They were the blue-skinned guys with an antenna and white hair. They required enough make-up that there were no Andorians on the Enterprise crew. The very little we saw of them mainly made me think they were a symbol of race/skin-color issues, especially of the more exotic races/skin-colors.
The United Federation of Planets seems to be a knockoff of a bad Terran idea, the United Nations, but with less vampires (This is a reference to Declan Finn’s vampire novels in which we learn how to get the vampires out of the UN building. Nice to know.) Even the flag of the UFP is nearly the same as the UN flag.
Both Terrans and the Federation are symbols of Americans. Because Star Trek was an American TV show with an American audience, see? Americans are a fairly useful ‘type’ of the population of planet Earth, anyway, because Americans come from all over the planet. And you can’t say that Navaho Americans aren’t ‘real’ Americans because they aren’t Scottish Americans, or African Americans are not ‘real’ Americans because they are not Japanese Americans.
Because Gene Roddenberry did not have time to invent dozens of alien races for the Federation and introduce them all before the storytelling got started, and because it was cheaper to have regular human actors without a ton of expensive time in the makeup chair, most people in the Federation seemed to either be Terrans or an alien species who looked exactly like Terrans. The few exotics we saw (Andorians, Tellerites, Horta, Organians) spiced up the rest without scaring off too much of the American audience.
Or maybe the aliens of the original Star Trek WERE too much. The show was cancelled after 3 seasons, and never made it back to network television except for the cartoon Trek which also didn’t last long.
Hoping you had a happy Divine Mercy Sunday or Orthodox Easter,
Whether you celebrated or not (everyone should have a happy once in a while)
So, what do YOU think of my ‘key’ to the Star Trek aliens? Feel free to rant about how I’m all wrong and you, with your theory, are 100% correct. What do/did the Star Trek aliens mean to you? Or do you hate Star Trek and are ‘wrong’ enough to like other SF series better?
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