I’m going to try and make this clear and concise (sorry, grad school still lingers). Xenophobia is alive and well in Starfleet. Luckily its not widespread nor expressed, but its there. But dont blame it on all those redshirt deaths, there is a more subtle reason.
First off, what is xenophobia? it is fear of, or aversion to foreigners. But how can an institution that has hundreds of species in its ranks be xenophobic? We’ll cover that a bit later.
I will back up my claim with some evidence.
- Worf (and kind of Data)
- Julian Bashier
- Seven of Nine (just so you all dont think I’m biased towards DS9)
there are a lot of examples, but these are the easy ones
Worf however, is a challenging character to expose Starfleet’s xenophobia with. You see, Klingons aren’t just another funny looking alien. They
are were the enemy. And for a long time too. Thus this seems to defeat the first premise of xenophobia, fear of the unknown. Klingon are as well known as Kirk’s sexual escapades, right? Yes! but how are they known? Klingons are the aggressor, the antithesis to the ideals of the Federation. Thus when Worf walks around in his uniform, he is the textbook example of paradox wrapped in an oxymoron. Here is a bad guy, working next to good guys. And this conflict is what leads to his effect to others, xenophobia. Luckily, Data took a lot of the heat in terms of misunderstandings on the Enterprise. Also, Worf’s personality was more of culture clash than his uniform. Simply put Worf broke the barriers of preconceived notions, but Data was totally rewriting what barriers were to Starfleet. It makes you wonder what was said on other star ships about the Enterprise, either the frontier in Starfleet’s psyche or a 24th century flying circus. Depends on your take on xenophobia 😉
Nog. Oh Nog. Where Worf was the first Klingon and thus first ‘bad guy’, Nog is the first Ferengi. Or, the first not-bad bad guy. where Klingons are the violent physical opposites to Starfleet, Ferengi are the benign intellectual bad guys. Thus, no one ever questions his loyalty to the uniform (unlike Worf), but this capacity to fill the uniform. A xenophobic thought in anyone’s head could be how could a money hungry race be able to live in the communist utopia of Starfleet!? But what specifically makes the interaction with Nog in his uniform xenophobic? It’s the lack of positive interaction that expose xenophobia. I say this because as a literal bridge between the two peoples, you’d think they’d be fawning over Nog. I’m going out on a limb but believing in the ideals of the Federation are something akin to believing in religion. And most religions I know are always looking to grow their numbers… kinda like the Federation. Oh and they think their way is the best way, both religions and the Federation. And with this similarity, it just seems odd that there was such a lack of interest in his entry into Starfleet (as compared to other ‘firsts’ like Data or Worf). Now let me make a distinction. Sisko & Co. may have had some xenophobia to Nog (or him and his family in general) but they weren’t prejudice, and this is to their credit.
Now so far, even on the most basic level of xenophobia, Worf and Nog just look different. Considering Humans, Vulcans, Betazoids, and Trill all look alike, they see these guys as different. It easier to be prejudice to something totally different. Thats why racism to the Irish died out quickly as compared to black people in ancient Earth history about North America. Note, racism is an extension of xenophobia, and luckily one rarely found in Starfleet. If you look at the upper echelons of Starfleet’s leadership, there is a reason you the fore mentioned races are the only ones in command. But what about more subtle xenophobia?
Julian Bashier. Who could be xenophobic to this guys looks, wit and charm!? Well, its easy when you find out he’s
an escapee from Professor X’s school of Mutants genetically modified. If Nog was prejudicially thought of as not being able to live up to Starlfleet’s standards, the Dr Bashier is the opposite and over does the qualifications. However, Dr Basheir is more like Worf. What he is hearkens back to the Eugenics war. And its easy to prejudge someone off what history says. Once again, a known, but a bad known.
Seven of Nine. Great for ratings and great for proving hive mind of xenophobia. If you want to play the sympathy card for Voyager’s crew, I too agree being lost, in enemy territory, and having dealt with traitors would make you more unnerved and subtly xenophobic. Probably didn’t help to have a surly hologram checking your nether regions and a weirdo cooking your burnt breakfast. None the less, Seven represented to the crew their fears. Fear of an enemy withing and without, and that human body was only the sheep’s clothing. Even B’elanna Torres was more accepted! Hell, all the Maqui were unofficially inducted into mini-Starfleet on Voyager, rank and file. But if at the series’s first episode I said out of the two following characters, who would be the more ostracized crew member? Would you have put your money on a human liberated Borg or a half human half klingon Maqui? Hell, Piccard was put back into command after his assimilation and mind raping lead to thousands dead. Seven of Nine? Well Chakotay’s horny peace pipe overcame xenophobia, but not the crew.
Special entry! the Bajorans! These guys are my anti-xenophobia example. Have you ever seen another non-Federation race been so well treated by Starfleet? why? They look like us! Well, us are Humans, Vulcans, Trill and Betazeds. They were able to get early entry into the Federation. Only the Amazing Sisko stopped it. Its like the Federation has a hard on for these guys, or at least domestiphilous for the Bajorans (dont worry I made that one up, combining latin love of and familiar). However, the only Bajorans we know serving in Starfleet are the worst officers! If our best examples of Bajoran behavior are from Ro Laren and Seska, like hell I would want more of them in the Federation!
Anyways, back to the primeval, genetic reasons for xenophobia. We are genetically inclined to fear the unknown. And for good reason. Whether as a cave man or a Starfleet captain, that unknown thing could be dangerous, toxic or just bigger and stronger than you. If I were to ever recommend Chuck’s SF Debris reviews on Star Trek to you all, this is it. His thoughts in Extraterrisrial Life, and Us
are fabulous, please watch. But in short, there is good reason to be afraid. If Q didn’t do anything but show Starfleet the Borg, then he should have been paraded around and welcomed as a hero at least
! Yeah, the war with the Dominion was rough. But they had weaknesses like logistics issues, internal politics, limited ships and supplies. But the Borg had one ship that raped the Federation three ways from Sunday. Had the Borg really invaded, not just toy with the
Alpha Quadrant, not even the Dominion, Romulans, Klingons and Federation combined
could have stopped them. And Species 8472? what if Voyager pissed them off? And those are just the mortal bad guys. What if Q really was a dick? What if Guinan was malicious? What if the Pah-wraiths did escaped? or the Crystalline Entity had a family out for revenge?
Simply put, its not just dangerous out there Q, its downright vicious! And our higher functioning minds may have developed in the 24th century ethics(or not, take your pick), but our DNA hasn’t even budged. We simply have defense mechanisms for a reason, and those are hard to overcome now, and will be in the future.
TL;DR we’re hard wired to be afraid of the things we don’t know. That includes familiar threats and the unknown. This wasn’t just an easy way for the Star Trek writers to address current real world issues, but a great way to flesh out characters and have them develop, to make them real.