I’ve watched a lot of Star Trek. Growing up I watched repeats of Star Trek: The Next Generation every weeknight at 7 on WTVZ Fox 33, along with new episodes every Thursday on WGNT 27, which at the time had no network affiliation. From there I worked my way backwards through the Original Series movies, while simultaneously seeing the Next Generation movies and being vaguely entertained, thrilled, bored, and ready for a new movie series. I also took in the entirety of Deep Space Nine and as much of Voyager as I could tolerate. I have enjoyed other series, but The Next Generation (or TNG, as the pros call it) was my first and favorite Star Trek. For some of the younger people, Voyager is their Star Trek, which is a shame because Voyager is mostly shit.
Star Trek exists in a rich universe, one that is much more fleshed-out than that of its often-unfairly-compared “rival” Star Wars. The Star Wars mainline canon consists of six movies. Star Trek has three seasons and six movies of Original Series, seven seasons and four movies of TNG, seven seasons of Deep Space Nine, seven worthless hackneyed seasons of Voyager, four inconsistent seasons of Enterprise, and the 2009 reboot movie. That’s a lot of characters, alien races explored in relative detail, and situations to be dealt with by the protagonists. This detailed picture of the galaxy means that you can, as an adult, find yourself musing on the practicalities of the Star Trek fictional universe in pretty concrete terms. During some downtime this past weekend, I had a sudden revelation about the era of Star Trek that begins with The Next Generation:
There is no longer any need for a shipboard Medical Officer. The only reason to have one is for her to be attractive to the Captain and ensure his sexual needs are met.
Medical treatment aboard the Enterprise D is a joke. Under the supposed “command” of Dr. Beverley Crusher, callsign “Firecrotch,” sickbay is equipped with platforms that would charitably be described as “beds,” and those beds lack even the most basic pillows or blankets. Nothing about this facility suggests that anyone is meant to stay there for more than a few hours. All medical treatment is performed by perfectly sterile machines. For all we know the crew lack both blood and organs, as sickbay’s appearance betrays the existence of neither. Treating cancer is as simple to this civilization as looking up clown porn is to ours.
Obviously it’s a wide leap from “the ship doesn’t need a doctor” to “the doctor is there to operate on the Captain.” This is especially true for the Enterprise D, whose Commanding Officer, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, is an especially “civilized” sort of gentleman. He dedicates considerable energy toward projecting the outward appearance of a human being who has wholly suppressed, if not conquered his lesser impulses. Be that as it may, no man is wholly asexual and he never engages in any sort of relationship over the fifteen-year period covered by the series and movies, so obviously this energy has to go somewhere. Dr. Crusher and Picard have a past – he delivered the dead body of her husband to her or something like that. In one episode it is revealed that they have “breakfast” every morning, during which Picard wears a robe whose length would hardly be described as “professional.”
The show is too utopian to give us explicit confirmation that the buxom, seemingly-superfluous doctor’s true purpose is to raise the Captain’s mast, so for proof we have to look for something more subtle. Luckily, it’s there. With the exception of Data, who is a one-of-a-kind android (with a couple of copies scattered on random planets when it serves the plot), artificial intelligence has not advanced to the point of replacing a core officer as of the time period covered by the Next Generation series. A holographic artificial intelligence does serves as a shipboard officer on another ship very soon after. At the beginning of Voyager it is revealed that the ship’s doctor can be replaced perfectly well by an AI with a holographic avatar that roams sickbay. It is a new piece of technology that is first introduced – and stay with me here, because this a window into exactly how military officers think – on a ship commanded by a woman.
They couldn’t put this thing on a ship commanded by a man, he’d know exactly what the implications would be – he’d lose his coping mechanism. The AI would sit unused and the Captain would simply report back to Starfleet that the thing was useless and that they should cut off funding to whatever teat-sucking contractor came up with it. Humanity may well conquer racism, class warfare, and the speed of light, but as long as the phrase “no, I am not interested in having sex with you” exists, sexism will go nowhere. So they put the AI on Captain Kate Janeway’s ship, assuming that either she would perform the operational tests with the holographic doctor asked of her by her superiors, or she would be incompetent enough that her ship would be hurled to the other side of the galaxy and her organic Medical Officer would die in the process and the ship would have to rely fully on the AI.
Janeway, by getting her ship’s doctor killed and relying on her AI doctor without any thought toward what that would mean to the existing “arrangement” having to do with Starfleet Medical Officers, went ahead and ruined the party for every Captain to follow. Those killjoys at Starfleet Headquarters were so impressed that they made her an Admiral for that shit.
I didn’t expect this to be 1000 words on why Janeway is the worst Captain, but there it is.