“Everyone should want to be in the Federation. Hell, you even want the Cardassians to join. You’re only sending them replicators so that one day they can take their rightful place on the Federation council.”Michael Eddington, Former Strarfleet Commander Deep Space 9
Spoiler warning for Picard S2 premiere and Discovery eps up to Rubicon.
One of the many things that I have been loving about this season of Star Trek: Discovery is the conflict between Book and Burnham when it comes to the DMA crisis. I found myself siding with Burnham agreeing that a diplomatic first contact would be best. This is not purely ideological though that’s part of it. I love what the Federation stands for, but adherence to nonaggression even when a situation calls for it is the height of vanity when billions of lives hang in the balance. No, I agreed with Burnham for the practical reason that it’s not a sound decision to make a foe of a species with the potential to one-shot your whole civilization. Still, the plan to shut down the threat of the DMA immediately and decisively was also a compelling idea, and if there was evidence that it would work I might have found myself on board with Book and Tarka’s plan.
All of the debate about best practices went out of the window when Tarka made his unilateral play and destroyed the DMA controller in Rubicon. This action resulted in a new stronger DMA taking its place almost instantly. At this point, it made sense for Tarka to be undeterred. After all, his primary goal is not the destruction of the DMA, it’s the acquisition of the power source that fuels it. But I honestly did not understand Book’s investment in this plan after Rubicon. This was the exact opposite of what he wanted, a veritable nightmare scenario. Why was he still working with Tarka and insisting upon aggressive action? I struggled with this question all week, but then the answer came from an unexpected source.
The season 2 premiere of Star Trek: Picard entitled The Star Gazer was an artful slow burn that admirably showed us how everyone has been fairing in the year and a half since the events of the first season before kicking it up several notches by episode’s end. It was toward the end of this episode that I had my ‘A-ha!’ moment regarding Book’s motivations. Admiral Picard was in a small conference room cautiously optimistic about the Borg’s plea (demand?) to join the Federation. Seven was of course beside herself with how incredibly short sighted it was to enter negotiations with a species whose society functions by consuming other species.
Suddenly the Borg cube announced that the Queen was coming aboard the Star Gazer. Captain Rios raised shields but the Queen wasn’t trying to hear all that. At this point, Seven is Book demanding they open fire on the Borg ship before it’s too late. But Picard and Rios, Starfleet through and through, allow the Borg to forcibly board the ship and commander their computer before they open fire. In fact, Seven is the first to shoot! By then it’s too late. The Queen gained access to the ship’s computer and is on her way to taking over the fleet before Picard finally begins the self-destruct sequence.
So yeah, I get it, Book and Seven.
The moment Starfleet allowed a technologically advanced alien species the leeway to violate their ship in an effort to keep the “peace” and leave open the possibility for the Borg’s entrance into the Federation was the moment they lost. Now, I’m not new to Star Trek, so I know that there is far more to this altercation than meets the eye, and the decision not to attack the Borg when they attempted to beam in through the shields will be justified within the plot.
But I’m a watcher of the show, not a person living in the universe, and if I were a person living in this universe like Seven and Book, I would definitely side-eye the way Starfleet allows itself to get kicked in the teeth repeatedly before responding in kind. Usually, with an evenly matched opponent like a Romulan or Klingon ship, there is a lot of room to still be victorious. But when the attackers already have a huge advantage, every second you spend trying to ingratiate yourself and cautiously watch as they overstep every reasonable boundary is a second you don’t have to save the situation or your ship or your planet or your universe.
So, this is what it’s like for Star Trek to have a fully realized legacy franchise with shows of varying sensibilities, genres, and pacing all working together toward a cohesive universe? I like it!