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Star Trek: Discovery S1E15

Genocide is not Starfleet's way. What is, then?


Giving a tiny, politically and culturally illegitimate faction in the enemy polity the ability to threaten genocide so they can establish a totalitarian government with a foreign policy compatible with Federation interests, that is Starfleet's way.

That'd have been a serviceable mid-plot beat in a story about Starfleet running out of ideas and making bad ethical choices when facing total destruction — the dictator propping being the bad ethical choice — and then our series' crew, after some internal debate, throws an spanner into those works. Problem is, this was the less bad choice; granted, it is (much) less bad than actual genocide, but that's not a high bar.

So at the end of the season we're left with a Federation that, after installing a dictator ruling through a literal planetary doomsday device trigger, struggles grimly with the weight of who am I kidding, there's a ceremony with medals and speeches and Trekspirited background music and swelling feelings about Exploration and Our Better Selves and Sarek finds commendable Burnham's commitment to Starfleet ideals, so my guess is that the series hasn't the merest degree of self-awareness about how "better than committing genocide" can still be "bleakly direct not-even-metaphor of real life superpower realpolitiks." Either that, or this is a seriously Starship Troopers-level of swinging for straight-faced irony and missing it.

(But, no, it's not. It's (this) Startfleet's way.)(Again - better than triggering the genocidal device, yes. Maybe even the least bad way of ending the war given the situation. Hell, I'm not even saying it's bad writing for Starfleet qua organization to be deliriously relieved and throwing medals at the Discovery crew, nor is it really surprising that nobody's worrying much about the internal cultural and political integrity of a polity that was kicking their ass in a rather non-Geneva-compatible way. I just wish some character in that forsaken mirrorish mainline universe would've at least said something about the whole situation. It's not an ethically ruinous choice, given the scenario, but the lack of self-awareness, in both characters and series, is problematic.)

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