Star Trek: Phasers set to Nobody Won. What Star Trek Voyager taught us about Coalition…

Star Trek Voyager Coalition

jokerside badgeIt’s a month since the UK’s “most difficult to call election in decades” surprised most people by not ending in some kind of coalition. It turned out that the British weren’t condemned to years of political alliance and 2010 to 2015 was some kind of freak anomaly – much like you might find in say, the Badlands of the Alpha Quadrant. Yes, apparently there ere many clues laid down by the coalition of blue, red and gold that formed aboard the USS Voyager in 1993. Of course back then it was a seven year fixed term…

RED SHIRTS USED TO HAVE A BIT OF A REPUTATION. WELL, YEAH, IT STILL HANGS AROUND. YOU MIGHT FIND THEM EMERGING FROM DRY CLEANERS AND HANGING ON STREET CORNERS ALONGSIDE KNOCK KNOCK AND CHEESE JOKES*. BUT IN THE ERA OF THE NEXT GENERATION THEY MADE A STAB FOR POWER. And very successful it was to. By the glorious 24th century those infamous Star Fleet red shirts signified command… And possibly the greatest string of election victories in recent times. Gold had fallen from its glorious hey-day a few generations before, reduced to filling in various policies on operations and social engineering. Blue, or a variation of it, remained aloof and scientific, not doubt most likely to isolate themselves from the common man…

But it wasn’t the shirts that needed mingling in the Delta Quadrant come the early ’90s. There were simply more cabinet spaces to be filled.

It started by surprise, a simple mission to dodge the boom and bust of those Badlands.  Sometimes these things come out of nowhere – riddled as the Badlands are with plasma storms and gravitational anomalies that could make the safest political ground throw up the most unpredictable of horrible surprises. In the 24th century, the USS Voyager encountered the ultimate nanny state there. The Caretaker, a seemingly benevolent and kind force who over left his over-legislated people with the biggest crisis of their short lives. Near the end of hiss term, he may as well have just left a note saying that there wasn’t any money (left).

Worse, the crew of Voyager found themselves in a wholly new and unpredictable political universe, far removed from the one they expected to inherit from the previous administration. Not that there weren’t hints of disaster creeping into Deep Space Nine... Now Star Trek was in a universe of free-roaming sects, unstoppable movements and alien nationalism. First they were stuck amid the disparate Kazon, a disapora of travelling sects who really should have had a lot more in common (and who. allegedly, even the Borg turned their diodes up at ). Having swapped one lumpy headed foe for another, Captain Janeway of Voyager had no option but undertaking various deals before aiming directly out of that space altogether. they were all in it together.

Captain’s Log: Coalition negotiations begin!

Coalition was the only way forward to achieve the majority they all needed

Aboard the good ship Voyager, a coalition was clearly necessary. At the time, the ship’s main policy had been stalking and capturing a small marginal party of renegades known as the Marquis. In short, many of that crew had previously defected from the leading party, despite their individual and singular potential, when out of control immigration was sanctioned by their government… Now the marginal anti-villains of the piece, a Marquis/ Star Fleet coalition was the only way forward to achieve the majority they all needed. And crucially to sustain the whole show for a seven season fixed term.

When it became clear that coalition represented their greatest chance of survival, the leader of the Marquis became deputy leader, with a thankless task of keeping his rabble under some kind of whip. Still, it was a job that brought many perks and a chance for command that he could have never envisioned one he’d chosen his Marquis path. It clearly meant a serious breach of the movement’s promises and policies, but for that one shot at getting home what chance did Commander Chakotay have? It’s fortunate he had one able lieutenant who could take the helm of Engineering, coming up with sensible policies that resulted in the greenest ship the fleet had ever seen.

Outside that environment though, it was a bit more than a tumultuous “year of hell”. On screen, the two crews may have appeared to settle down remarkably quickly, but there were countless squabbles.  One close ally literally jumped ship within a year. Another was soon found to be quite unstable in coalition and, er, removed to the brig. Rumours about false claiming for second quarters remain unfounded. But among a few necessary reshuffles, the key figures lasted the term as the crews of Marquis and Voyager found, to everyone else’s little surprise, that they had a lot in common.

Supplemental: The Journey Home!

The major effect of their opposition was to make friends of previous enemies

As the term progressed, the threats became greater and it’s fair to say that the Captain of the coalition made increasingly dubious decisions. The Prime Directive was all very well, but was often bent for convenience; the ship rolling on to pastures new while civilisations were left no better off, and sometimes worse.

Still, there was a lot at stake, especially for the Marquis who had to sacrifice many of their personal beliefs for the greater good.  And they had to hold that coalition during its fixed term to guarantee them any degree of success. Unfortunately constant early U-turns suggested that they were just going round in circles rather than making great leaps forward.  In comparison, it was clear elsewhere in the Delta Quadrant, as well as throughout the Gamma and Alpha Quadrants, that things were moving a lot faster under a different philosophies. It took a few years for word of that to filter through.

The end of the first season was a learning curve, by the end of the second it was time to get back to basics…

At the halfway point there were still defections going on, and quite exceptionally and unexpectedly one straight into the coalition… But it really took to the end of the third season for things began to change. Borg space had long been an elephant in the ‘room’ and at last they had reached it. And it brought a threat beyond what they were expecting. It may have been tempting to simply paint Species 8472 as nationalists, but the major effect of their opposition was to make friends of previous enemies. Sometime allying with the Borg was controversial. That Fluidic Space (let’s just imagine it was north of the border) ensured that things would never be the same again, and would have repercussions well beyond Voyager’s flight home.

Supplemental: Home again!

What of the Marquis?

And after a fair gap, it was typical that Q kept popping up. A far friendlier creation than a decade before, his lessened impact only served to highlight the lost giants of yesteryear. The days of Kirks and various legends seizing the political initiative were long gone. We were in the realm of career Star Fleeters – and sure enough upon return to the Alpha Quadrant, the Captain jumped to the upper chamber, any suspicion of misdemeanours all but forgotten.

Yes, at the end it was the Captain who got the promotion and sat pretty in the hierarchy. While at the end of the term, what of the Marquis? Well they found that the fight had escaped them in their absence. Decimated and absorbed into the bigger story many disappeared, never to be seen again…

Good thing there’s an expanded universe and countless format improvements to ensure that the flight of Voyager will stay in the memory. Truth, as they say, is often stranger than science fiction…

*And of course, it was Star Trek: Voyager that took cheese jokes very seriously indeed.

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