I’ve been thinking about Star Trek a lot lately, especiallyThe Original Series.
The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine were the parts of this universe I grew up watching. It wasn’t I was an adult that I actually sat down and checked out the series that started the Star Trek franchise back in the 1960s.
If you’ve never watched Star Trek before, I would recommend beginning with one of the newer franchises. There were times when The Original Series was quite slow for twenty-first century tastes, and other scenes in it really didn’t age well at all.
Still, I’m glad I saw all of those old episodes. It was interesting to see how this universe has evolved over time and what things have remained constant no matter if you’re watching something from it that was created a few months or fifty years ago.
There is one particular Star Trek episode that keeps popping into my mind. I’m going to try to straddle the line between explaining it’s importance in this universe without giving away spoilers to anyone who hasn’t seen it or caught the references to it in later series.
“The Cage” was originally supposed to be the pilot episode for The Original Series. (Note: that link contains your full daily allowance of spoilers. Avoid it and the rest of this post if you want to remain spoiler-free for a show that was created 50+ years ago).
During this adventure Captain Pike and his crew responded to a distress call on a planet called Talos IV.
Some of the planets the crew visited during the course of The Original Series were dusty, ugly places, but this wasn’t one of them.
Talos IV was a pretty, peaceful place. Captain Pike and the rest of their crew met the Talosians, the friendly humanoids of that planet who offered hospitality without any expectation of reciprocation.
If there could ever be a setting an audience could relax into, this was one of them. Everything was going well.
Captain Pike was then introduced to a pretty, young human woman who had been raised by the Talosians and who wanted him to stay there and have children with her. This was where the plot truly grew interesting, and I wish I could say more about it without giving away all of the spoilers in the entire world to people who are new to the Trekverse.
If I’d seen this story as a kid, it would have blown my mind. As it was, I sensed something was odd as soon as the Talosians began bending over backwards to make their human visitors feel welcomed.
One of the things I enjoy the most about the science fiction genre is the way it can teach its audience to look out for red flags. “The Cage” was a story filled with many different themes. One of them seemed to be about recognizing early signs that someone might not be a person you’ll want to get to know better on a professional, personal, or romantic level.
Red Flag #1: Moving Quickly
The Talosians barely even knew the names of any of the Enterprise crew members, yet they were already prepared to offer them anything their hearts desired.
Generosity is a wonderful virtue, but there should be healthy limits to it. If someone has just met you and is already offering you the world, there may be something less wholesome going on with them behind the scenes.
Red Flag #2: Not Taking No for an Answer
I can’t go into a lot of detail about this without wandering into spoiler land, but let’s just say that the Talosians offer wasn’t one that was supposed to be refused.
People who run roughshod over small boundaries generally don’t respect the more important ones, either.
Red Flag #3: Deals That Seem too Good to be True
If someone seems too good to be true, there could very well be strings attached to it that haven’t been mentioned yet. By all means get more information, but don’t make any agreements or assumptions until you have all of the details hammered out and they make sense.
I can’t tell you how many times these lessons have given me early warnings about specific situations or interpersonal interactions. It’s one thing to read about red flags in a book, but it’s quite another to see them played out in a story while being asked to come to your own conclusions about how one might apply them to real life.
What life lessons have you learned from science fiction (or your favourite genre in general)? Do you also find that fiction can keep you out of trouble?