Star Trek is infused into my life. I was born the same week the original series premiered, and my earliest memories of Saturday morning are dominated by new episodes of the 1970’s Animated Series. Since then, I’ve watched every version of Trek made for the small or big screen, and read a lot of the written material around it.
Not only do I love the stories of Trek (with a few exceptions perhaps), but I also love the ethos of the universe. I love the optimism for the future of humanity, and I love the community of different, but largely equal, aliens populating our galactic neighborhood.
But there’s always been something that gnawed at my brain about the Trekverse: – how did humans manage to come out on top? While the Federation is a multi-species organization from its inception, it was started by humans. Starfleet is headquartered on earth, and humans clearly dominate the Federation. That’s emphasised by human-heavy crews on nearly all Starfleet vessels seen in the Trekverse.
According to the canon, when Zephram Cochrane broke the warp barrier for the first time, it attracted the attention of Vulcans who had been watching Earth, setting off a series of events that leaves humans as the founders of the Federation within a century. The problem with that is it doesn’t seem very plausible.
Vulcans were already a well established space-faring species when Cochrane fired himself off in a missile, part of a local community of Andorians, Klingons, Tellarites and others who were all well-developed space-faring species. That humans could, within 100 years, become the dominant member of that community seems very unbelievable to me.
One of the arguments made through the subtext of shows like Enterprise is that humans were uniquely capable of bringing the different species together in the form of a Federation, and that could be a plausible answer for the political side of it. But I think there’s a serious question about why there wasn’t already some sort of Federation in place, run by the Vulcans.
The Vulcans of Enterprise are portrayed as particularly divided, but at the same time, a core part of the Vulcan philosophy has always been IDIC – infinite diversity in infinite combinations. Dr. Phlox reminds T’Pol of that very fact in the first season of Enterprise (S1E07: “The Andorian Incident”), so it’s clear that IDIC is already ingrained in Vulcan society. IDIC is the perfect ethic for a species that would find common ground, even with highly emotional species like Andorians or Klingons.
With the logical, dispassionate outlook infused by the value of IDIC that Vulcans have in canon, the chaotic galaxy we see in the Enterprise era doesn’t really make sense. The Andorians are certainly impulsive and rash at times, but logic and IDIC would demand finding ways to work with them instead of opposing them. Likewise with brutal and violent Klingons – as a part of infinite diversity, Vulcans would find a way to work with them instead of against them.
Across the board, it seems that the Vulcan logic and IDIC philosophy is far better suited to “bringing species together” than anything in human nature. Logic should demand it, and IDIC should underscore the value of disparate perspectives. When the Vulcans came down to Earth to meet Cochrane after his flight, they should have already been representing a “Federation” they founded themselves.
What might such an IDIC-based Federation look like? With the Vulcan equivalent of StarFleet Academy on Vulcan, it would be a more science-based Federation, founded in logic and the scientific method. At least in its pre-human configuration, it would be a Federation far less devoted to exploration for its own sake. T’Pol makes the point in several early Enterprise episodes that Vulcans are less interested in exploring than humans are, so the Vulcan Federation (VF) would almost certainly be a more cautious group.
Exploration would still be part of the equation though. Vulcans were observing Earth from orbit for hundreds of years prior to Cochrane’s flight, noticing us after we split the atom. In other examples from Enterprise, T’Pol notes that rather than interacting with pre-warp species, Vulcans would spend many years observing from orbit, but it’s clear that exploration would simply happen in a different, more controlled way under Vulcan control.
It’s also likely that Vulcans would find ways to work with all of the various species. Klingons, for example, would probably dominate the military wing of the Vulcan Federation. Andorians would also be active in the military wing, but while Klingons would tend to be used for brute force, Andorians would be more heavily represented in the intelligence side of the military and politics.
While there’s less information about Tellarites, what we do find out about them through various series is that they are very trade oriented, and as such would almost certainly be a force in the economic side of the VF. Denobulans, of course, would be valued members of the scientific and medical establishment of VF.
Humans would have been a part of the VF, of course, after Cochrane’s historic flight, but the role we played would be smaller. Some of the most talented members of our species would join the combined service and find places onboard Vulcan, Andorian or Tellarite vessels, and humans would likely add a new spirit of exploration to the mix. In time, we’d likely become the main diplomatic arm of the VF, producing and flying ships of our own.
But humans wouldn’t be the dominant species in the alliance. We’d be an immature species finding our way among the more mature species, looking for a way to contribute to an existing alliance of more powerful, more developed species. We’d eventually find our place within the larger group. That place just wouldn’t be in the lead.