Thursday, September 29, 2016

The WSW Trek 25: #1

Previously: #25-21 #20-17 #16-13 #12-9 #8-5 #4-2

Before we get to number one, I wanna say thank you for reading all this month. Blogging for thirty days straight was a little scary in some ways. I sincerely doubt I'll do it again, but after tomorrow, I can say I've done it, for what it's worth. Regular programming will resume next month. Drumroll, please...

#1. "In the Pale Moonlight" (DS9). I have said on this blog that if torture was used to locate and assassinate Osama bin Laden, I could live with it. I stand by that statement. I think anybody reading these words would agree this world is a better place without him. I wonder, though, how much thought was put into whether or not to inflict violence on a defenseless human being to obtain information. Were the ethics of such an act given consideration? If so, how much?

I remember the first few years after 9-11, wondering if we were gonna live the rest of our lives waiting for the other shoe to drop. As time passed, knowing bin Laden continued to exist, and indeed, might go unpunished for his act of genocide was like an itch at the small of your back, begging to be scratched yet always just out of reach. If the choice were mine, engaging in an act that would have subverted my morals in order to achieve a greater goal might have seemed appealing.

It's easy to say, yes, I will hold on to my principles when the shit goes down. Thing is, though, few of us will ever be put in that kind of situation. We'll never really know how important those principles are until we're in a struggle for survival. If that happens... well, how many of us have what it takes to stay on the high road? I probably don't. How about you?

Ultimately, history will not care how long we lingered over a morally-compromising decision, but I think it counts for something. I think not being so quick to succumb to an eye for an eye can make a difference, even if it's only in the short term. In the end, though, whichever way the coin drops, it's just not the kind of thing we can judge objectively. 

I can say this: if similar circumstances arise again - and hopefully they won't (knock on wood), I hope a decision like that will fall into the hands of someone strong enough to take on that responsibility, someone who will understand exactly what it means and what are the consequences.

I hope it will be someone like Benjamin Sisko.

In a way, "In the Pale Moonlight" is the opposite of "Yesterday's Enterprise." As in that TNG episode, the Federation is locked into a losing war against an implacable foe. Picard's decision to send Tasha back in time on the Enterprise-C is meant to correct a mistake, wipe the slate clean, as it were. (The same can also be said of Kirk's choice to let Edith Keeler die.) Sisko's option to trick the Romulans into joining the Dominion War will do no such thing. It's permanent and irrevocable, and perhaps that highlights the fundamental differences between TNG and DS9.

Was Sisko right to engage in deceit? Was he wrong? The beauty of this sensational ep is, it invites you to ask yourself, what if it were me? Could I do anything different from what Sisko does? Some people didn't like seeing a Starfleet officer in such a dilemma, but I thought it was necessary even before 9-11.

"It's easy to be a saint in paradise." Sisko said that, though not in this ep, yet it kind of sums up the thought process behind "Moonlight." Yes, the Federation is a great place in which to live. It represents the highest ideals of humanity finally achieved and it is a goal worth pursuing. To hold on to it, though... would you be willing to do the unthinkable?

And could you live with it?

The Hollywood Reporter's Top 100 Star Trek Episodes


  1. You could not have chosen better for thought-provoking and long lasting emotional impact.

  2. Glad you agree. "Moonlight" was an ep that never left me, even all these years later. The tension Sisko experiences not only with Garak, but with others on the station, the shock when the Romulan senator reveals his subterfuge, and of course the audacity of having Sisko face the audience as he does his captain's logs... This was the ep that, if it didn't break all the rules, it bent them at the very least. It took guts to make. It really did.


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