While Star Trek takes place in the future beyond such scare tactics, this nightmare of technology going too far is still well and good.
Adults have been trying to convince us for ages (or since the early 90s) that video games and other electronic entertainment devices are going to be the downfall of our generation. We have been told that our minds will be warped, we will hear subliminal messages, our eyesight will be shot and our social skills will diminish. While Star Trek takes place in the future beyond such scare tactics, this nightmare of technology going too far is still well and good.
“Video games will rot your brain!”
The world we enter in Star Trek is one that embraces technology. People and computers live in harmony. Technology has ended deadly diseases, saved planets, brought back almost extinct animals, and allows Deanna to eat as much chocolate as she wants without gaining weight. And of course, we have Data, everyone’s favorite android sidekick. Surely they would not suggest the dangers of technology? But they do, again and again.
Reliance on technology is a subject hit upon time and time again in Star Trek. We have often seen the Enterprise, Voyager and Deep Space 9 (DS9) undergo major technical problems, leaving the crew helpless. On the DS9 episode “Civil Defense”, a long-forgotten computer program trips an old Cardassian security system which almost causes the station to self-destruct because it believes the Bajoran workers are attempting a mutiny. Voyager as a series is one long story of the dangers of reliance on technology. Without access to Federation shipyards and regular trade, Voyager is often undergoing patchwork to keep her together on the long journey home. Many villains also use sabotage and characters’ easy reliance on technology to serve more nefarious purposes.
Technology sometimes seems to have a mind of its own. This isn’t always a bad thing even if terrifying to the humanoids looking on helplessly. In The Next Generation (TNG) “Emergence”, The Enterprise undergoes sudden power fluctuations, mechanical failures, and other strange activity. The crew soon comes to discover that the ship is giving birth to a new life form. The creature flies off into space and is never addressed again leaving us to wonder about the Enterprise’s parenting skills. But the crew is put into mortal peril and remains afraid through a majority of the episode, feeling that they are at the mercy of the ship they thought they commanded. A further example of the dangers of technology left to its own devices is the TNG episode “The Arsenal of Freedom.” The Enterprise discovers a planet that was once the center of the arms trade. Fully automated, the weapons systems were set to provide demonstrations of power to customers, eventually killing everyone on the planet and almost The Enterprise.
Then there is the purposeful use of technology for brainwashing. In TNG “The Game” the entire crew gets hooked on a virtual reality game that forces them to deliver the Enterprise to an enemy. In TNG “The Minds Eye”, Geordi is kidnapped by the Romulans and he is forced to make an assassination attempt when back on board The Enterprise. And in TNG’s “Descent”, Lore feeds Date negative emotions, convincing him to help him start a Borg army and harm his own friends.
There is no doubt that we see many miraculous things created by technology in Star Trek, from the emergence of Voyager’s Doctor to the rebirth of Spock in the Original Series movies. But all these good things come with a warning. The price of this technology is constant vigilance. In the wrong hands, the Genesis Project could have been used for evil, computers can kill and skilled technicians can change our very thoughts. Certainly, Star Trek shows us again and again that it is not the technology itself but the intent behind it which can be the true danger.