Giant Gnome Productions, 2012
I cannot claim to have been a
"Trekkie" at any point during my life. Although I was an adolescent when the episodes of the original Star Trek
were broadcast on British television, I seldom took time out to watch them; the same also applied to the follow-up series
such as Star Trek: The Next Generation. I only became hooked on the franchise very recently, when I co-wrote
a piece arguing that Star Trek taught many of the moral and behavioural lessons characteristic of any good citizenship
Shades of the Present offered a good example of how this might work in practice. It focused
on the work practices of Captain Montaine Buchanan (Edward Winterose), who helms Deep Space 3. Although dedicated
to his work, he came across as a martinet - someone who believed that the only way to run a tight shape was through fear
and heavy-handed discipline. In the words of technician Keil (Jon Jackson): "Whether you liked him or loathed him, you
knew it when he entered the room."
Partly this could be explained by insecurity: Buchanan believed - quite erroneously - that allowing
his subordinates too much freedom of decision was a sign of weakness. He treated them like children "that cry about
what they don't have, but don't know the real meaning of genuine hardship." He was particularly harsh on Executive
Office Greg Torkelson (Jonathan Jackson), whom Buchanan felt was perpetually trying to usurp his position of authority.
Structurally speaking, this episode bore strong resemblances to A Christmas Carol,
as Buchanan was forced to reflect on the shortcomings of his leadership. If ever he raised any objections, he was likely
to be slapped down - physically as well as verbally. Although we were left uncertain as to whether Buchanan
would actually reform (he was definitely un-like Scrooge in that respect), we did understand how his tyranny did not
inspire much respect among his subordinates, who referred to him derogatorily as "Bucky" or "Captain Blue Cannon."
Structurally speaking this episode worked extremely well, with long passages of
dialogue interspersed with snapshots of daily life among the crew of Deep Space 3, as they tried to do their best while
continually watching out for Buchanan (who had a habit of prowling all over the station to try and find out of what people
were saying about him).
The moral of this episode
was clear; if you want to inspire respect amongst any community, you have to respect them. It's a pity that Buchanan
never had sufficient magnanimity to understand this.