The idea of a no-win scenario is a core tenant of Star Trek.
TrekCuture just posted an intriguing video highlighting 10 unique times that Starfleet officers and allies were presented with a potential no-win scenario. In each of the ten situations, the characters were presented with a hypothetical no-win scenario and then the videos show how the characters dealt with it.
Not every outcome is the right outcome, or a good outcome, or even a successful outcome. Sometimes, like in the instance of the Bajoran collaborator from Deep Space Nine, and the true revelation about Kai Opaka, everything is bad. There’s no “good” outcome in that scenario. In that scenario, Kira Nerys finds out that the deceased Kai Opaka, a Bajoran figure of unity, aided the Cardassians during the occupation to spare thousands of Bajoran lives. In order to protect her legacy, Kira lets Opaka’s betrayal stand, as revealing it would fracture the Bajoran people. In keeping it a secret, a more deserving future Kai, Vedek Bareil, keeps passed over for the then Vedek Winn, who would then go on to become the next Kai.
Other scenarios documented, like the Tuvix dilemma, are logically sound even if emotionally difficult. In this scenario, Tuvok and Neelix of the U.S.S. Voyager is merged to one person on accident, killing Tuvok and Neelix individually but creating Tuvix. In the end, Tuvix is re-split into Tuvok and Neelix, killing Tuvix individually but returning two others to form. The simple answer is to quote Spock, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. That’s exactly why it was the correct decision. Two crew members are better than one. That said, it isn’t an easy decision regardless.
The no-win scenario is as Star Trek as anything else in the franchise
The no-win scenario is a Star Trek staple and was one of the early defining ideas that shaped James T. Kirk. The original no-win scenario fans know about is the Kobayashi Maru, a simulation in which prospected Starfleet captains take a test to see how they’d handle a no-win situation.
The simulation gives the prospected officer taking the test the task of saving the Kobayashi Maru, a freighter ship stuck in Klingon space. If the captain goes to get the ship and its crew, they run the risk of starting a conflict with more Klingon ships than they can handle. If they chose not to the Kobayashi Maru will likely be destroyed and worse will be done to the survivors (if there is any).
It’s designed to test a person’s character when death may be the only answer. It was a test that James Kirk cheated at to beat, as he didn’t believe in no-win scenarios. Something the Vulcan Savik took umbrage with. Spock never took it. Instead, he gave his life at the end of the Wrath of Khan facing down the eventuality of his own no-win scenario.
In the alternate timeline, called the Kelvin Timeline, Kirk still cheated, but this time Spock didn’t take it; because Spock created the test.
It’s a fascinating wrinkle to the franchise, to write in an inherent, and real belief that a captain may find himself in a no-win scenario. How do you test someone in that situation? That was really impressive for the creative team to come up with such a character-defining test.