I had planned on writing an essay on how Deep Space Nine was, and still is, a great vehicle for hope. I may still do that. But over the last few weeks all I’ve had on my mind is James T. Kirk punching Nazis, and how we’re here in our modern world at a time when punching a Nazi has become a meme.
So all I can think about is James T. Kirk punching a Nazi.
We shouldn’t be at this point in our life, but here we are. Back in the 60s, Star Trek showed us Kirk punching a Nazi at a time when the world was still recovering from a massive world war that cost millions of lives. The symbol of that war was the Swastika and the Nazi philosophy.
In the TOS episode “Patterns of Force,” the Enterprise crew is sent to the planet Ekos to find out what happened to a cultural observer that was stationed there. When they arrive, they are horrified to find Nazi imagery everywhere and a call for the citizens of Ekos to eradicate all Zeons living on Ekos. The Zeons, a progressive race on a neighbouring planet, have an obvious real world mirror image.
By the time the 1990s rolled around that wound was soothed a bit, but one evening I turned on my television and there was Captain Benjamin Sisko punching a Nazi!
Okay, Gul Dukat was Cardassian, but the sentiment was there. Deep Space Nine built up the Cardassian government and the military that occupied Bajor and oppressed the Bajorans as, basically, space Nazis. Deep Space Nine went further than TOS, drawing parallels between the Cardassians and white supremacist groups. Throughout the series, Gul Dukat would often state that the Cardassians were a superior race, especially when comparing themselves to the Bajorans.
Sisko ended up punching (or hitting, kicking, accosting, etc.) Dukat a good number of times. The Cardassians were later joined by other space Nazis called the Dominion. And Benjamin Sisko and his crew on Deep Space Nine got to punch them all. Especially Worf. Worf punched a lot of Nazis.
Both situations were apropos, to be honest. Sisko, a black man, fighting against a mirror image of white supremacy. Kirk and Spock, both played by actors of Jewish ancestry, punching Nazis.
Science fiction is often a mirror for real life. Right now, I feel like there’s a huge mirror reflecting back from moments in Deep Space Nine and “Patterns of Force.” When I write an essay I often try to punctuate it with humour, but this topic is very hard. We are currently living in a world where fascist, white supremacist ideology is rising once again. Fortunately, there are those who are taking a stand and refusing to let that dark time in our history rise again.
We turn on the news and see these images, these very scary and dark images that threaten to undermine everything that the world – not just America – has accomplished since the Second World War.
I think about Star Trek and how much a vehicle for hope it is. I also fear that we’ll never get there. I hope that we can overcome this nightmare that has settled on the world.
Then I realize that Star Trek is hopeful not just because it’s utopian but because it shows our heroes repeatedly resisting fascism and oppression. Sometimes hope is seeing our heroes punch a Nazi.