Vindicating the Great Bird of the Galaxy


Once again the world has proven that everything we need to know in life we can learn from Star Trek!

The Pink Flamingo noticed something on Patterico’s Pontifications, written by Aaron Worthing.  On October 22 the Texas Supreme Court, in an opinion by Don R. Willett, Justice, may have completely vindicated Gene Roddenberry’s reason for living. It also vindicated  his vision of what the world should be.

“….Summing up: Judges are properly deferential to legislative judgments in most matters, but at some epochal point, when police power becomes a convenient talisman waved to short-circuit our constitutional design, deference devolves into dereliction. The Legislature’s policymaking power may be vast, but absent a convincing public-welfare showing, its police power cannot be allowed to uproot liberties enshrined in our Constitution…”

Texas Supreme Court

The Great Bird of the Galaxy would probably consider this his greatest moment of triumph.

“…Appropriately weighty principles guide our course. First, we recognize that police power draws from the credo that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Second, while this maxim rings utilitarian and Dickensian (not to mention Vulcan21), it is cabined by something contrarian and Texan: distrust of intrusive government and a belief that police power is justified only by urgency, not expediency. That is, there must exist a societal peril that makes collective action imperative: “The police power is founded in public necessity, and only public necessity can justify its exercise.”22 Third, whether the surrender of constitutional guarantees is necessary is a legislative call in terms of desirability but a judicial one in terms of constitutionality. The political branches decide if laws pass; courts decide if laws pass muster. The Capitol is the center of policymaking gravity, but the Constitution exerts the strongest pull, and police power must bow to constitutional commands: “as broad as [police power] may be, and as comprehensive as some legislation has sought to make it, still it is subsidiary and subordinate to the Constitution.”…”

Worthing, then notes the following footnote, which has some absolutely fascinating sociological implications.  (You might want to read the comments).

“…21 See STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (Paramount Pictures 1982). The film references several works of classic literature, none more prominently than A Tale of Two Cities. Spock gives Admiral Kirk an antique copy as a birthday present, and the film itself is bookended with the book’s opening and closing passages. Most memorable, of course, is Spock’s famous line from his moment of sacrifice: “Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh . . .” to which Kirk replies, “the needs of the few.”…”

“These words must apply to everyone, or they mean nothing!”  James T. Kirk

“Liberty and freedom must be more than just words.”  James T. Kirk

When The Pink Flamingo was hanging out with the space program years ago, I managed to meet and get to know some of the most fascinating people the 20th Century produced.  I published a tiny, but well respected news magazine about all aspects of our exploration of space.  Each quarter I would manage to somehow score an interview with a major mover and shaker of the space program, entertainment, government, etc.  Newt, Carl Sagan, Dr. Edward Teller, Leonard Nimoy, and any number of lunar astronauts were among my victims.  My very favorite interview, though, was with the Great Bird of the Galaxy.

He was in Clemson doing a lecture.  By that time, my little publication had enough cachet that I was able to simple call him up and score an interview.  He talked to me for nearly two hours. (I have the transcript packed up, somewhere). The point of the interview was to discuss our future in space.  (That was pre-Obama, when we still had a future).

During the interview I learned a lot about Roddenberry.  He was a patriot.  He loved the United States.

“…Roddenberry developed an interest in aeronautical engineering and subsequently obtained a pilot’s license. In 1941, he joined the United States Army Air Corps, which in the same year became the United States Army Air Forces. He flew combat missions in the Pacific Theatre with the “Bomber Barons” of the 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bombardment Wing of the Thirteenth Air Force and on August 2, 1943, Roddenberry was piloting a B-17E Flying Fortress named the “Yankee Doodle”, from Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides when mechanical failure caused it to crash on take-off. In total, he flew eighty-nine missions for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal before leaving what was then known as the Army Air Forces in 1945.[3][4][5] After the military, Roddenberry worked as a commercial pilot for Pan American World Airways (Pan Am). He received a Civil Aeronautics commendation for his rescue efforts following a June 1947 crash in the Syrian desert while on a flight to Istanbul from Karachi…”

He wanted to be a screenwriter.  In 1949 he moved his family to LA.  To support his family he became cop for nearly seven years.

While he was working with the LAPD he used the name “Robert Wesley” for his work on Highway Patrol, Have Gun, Will Travel, Dr. Kildare, Naked City, The Virginian, Bonanza, and many other classic series. Then came Star Trek.

Roddenberry was the first to realize that his very poorly rated television series was beginning to influence people.  As a cop he had studied psychology, and knew quite a bit about people and human nature.  He had a realistic view of human nature to the point where he understood that there were some people who needed a “reason” for being.

He told me that he realized there were people living with their folks, in the basement.  They had poor social skills, were bright but under employed.  They had few friends.  They believed in nothing, had no real concept of their own future.  Roddenberry also admitted to me that he understood how easily led these people could be.  He feared an unscrupulous individual could take them and turn them into some cause that did not benefit humanity.  They were mostly young men who could go either way in life.

The cop in him took over, deciding to give these people something better than themselves.  He decided to give them a vision for the future.  To paraphrase Will Riker, “Boy did he have a vision!”

Gene Roddenberry was an optimist when it came to humanity and the United States.  Star Trek first came out during the height of the cold war.  The Klingons were to be seen as the Soviets. The Federation was us – the good guys.  As a student of history he knew that there were always people on either side who were good – or evil.

Roddenberry visionized the Federation as the galaxy’s police force.  They were to keep peace, insure freedom, and not let the bad guys win.  He also realized there were no perfect people.  Drawing on classical literature like Horatio Hornblower for James T. Kirk, his vision of the perfect person was split into three separate characters.

James T. Kirk was the model of the perfect military officer.  He was brave, courageous, bold to the point of rashness.  He was the ultimate voice of authority.  He also knew when to flaunt authority.  To Kirk, the individual, individual rights were paramount.

Mr. Spock was the voice of logic and reason.  According to Roddenberry, logic and reason were very cold and calculating, lacking of humanity unless tempered with the other two characteristics.

Dr. Leonard McCoy was the humanitarian.  He was the voice of compassion, humanity, and the conscience of of man.  Roddenberry felt that a person could not be a balanced individual if they were made up of just humanity, compassion, and conscience.  They needed logic, reason, and authority to make a real leader.

Many conservatives like to wax poetic about the socialism of Star Trek.  Roddenberry’s vision was not socialism.  He felt that humanity would muddle through, somehow.  Science and technology would take such great leaps that the world of the future would appear to be socialistic because much of the strife and drama had been removed by cold science.

Most of all, the believed in freedom.  As a cop, he felt that a good cop had to keep the peace, but could not infringe upon the rights of the individual.  The ruling that came out of the Texas Supreme Court on the 22nd is almost a vindication of his view of humanity.

The Gene Roddenberry secret for good science fiction was simple.  Take the same script, change it into an episode of Wagon Train.  If it could survive as a western, it could survive as science fiction.  The two genres, he felt, were interchangeable.  If a science fiction was not a good western, it was not good science fiction.  The best western could be turned into a space opera.  If so, it was a good western.

P. S.

Gene Roddenberry need not have worried about all those geeky teenagers and young men who lived in their parents’ basements watching Star Trek and tinkering with gadgets and games.  Many are now so rich they really don’t need social skills!


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