Star Trek’s “United Federation of Planets”, what does the “United” part really mean?
Star Trek’s “United Federation of Planets” is the omnipresent organization referenced in all TV series. We’ve seen every starship captain initiate their first contact by identifying themselves not “from Earth” but from a multi-planetary organization with peaceful intentions – the UFP.
Seems simple – doesn’t it? In the UFP, everyone “gets along” and we are polite to each other.
We appreciate similar-thinking aliens who reason like our standard human lifeforms. Sometimes we encounter a temporarily not understood alien race, seemingly hell-bent on destroying our heroes, but eventually they end up a benevolent race. The lesson: We somehow missed their peaceful intent.
But what’s the main criteria for JOINING THE UFP after “first contact”? What are the universal “positives” that make other UFP planets welcome the latest member into the fold? Just how “different” can they be and still maintain interstellar political equilibrium?
Let’s take a few Star Trek examples and test this critical element.
What if our candidate is intelligent, spacefaring, and societally proficient – aka – they haven’t blown themselves up and could, potentially, help other societies through potential troubles, BUT they also have an emotional shortcoming. Oh, let’s say they “fly off the handle” easily and get in regular Saturday night “bar fights.” Maybe they carry a knife or two or three for “protection” because they aren’t proficient in the Emily Post way of getting along with other beings and they use it to “persuade” others.
In a word, they are “problematic.” They also sound a lot like our Klingons. We see our adversary turned ally as “high maintenance” partner. We’ve seen a lot of Star Trek episodes cover this territory. It’s always messy and in many cases our standard human Starfleet types get beat up, stabbed, and dumped in some alley somewhere because of their casual Klingon associations.
Our Star Trek story always ends believing another world joins UFP. Would it really be that easy?
I always wonder what the criteria would be for Klingon admittance to UFP. It may also explain why they’ve never joined – they are the “badly behaving aliens” I was suggesting.
I can imagine other societies being troublesome too, just from their unusual expressive capacities. How would, say Dathon from TNG episode “Darmok” (youtube.com) manage to communicate a difficult concept to another planetary species without possibly starting an interstellar war just because a descriptive metaphor wasn’t understood by the listening party. Here’s an example. “Darmok: During the 100 Years War” Hint: The “100 Years War” wasn’t 100 years long and it wasn’t a “war” in conventional terms. Darmok might be referencing the incredibly complex timeline and not the fact it was a “long war” which the listener might infer.
Or how about those crazy fish creatures from “Manhunt”. How do we communicate with that bunch? A state dinner, a central place where “deals are made” is probably out of the question.
Just HOW would the Federation determine admittance criteria while ensuring every other world doesn’t feel threatened by the new candidate? What if the criteria is TOO broad? Then no one would ever join the UFP and the current membership might kick out a few misbehaving members for spite.
And while we might want honesty, integrity, consistency, and placatory tendencies from our members (old and new), what if that particular species has something the Federation desperately needs or wants? Do we turn a “blind eye” and will the other members buy into making an exception “just this one time”? And when does the exception become the norm?
These questions are great fodder for a Star Trek story. Real “source” stories could come from “United Nations” membership experiences and promote a thought provoking finale or continuing storyline. Maybe the most interesting plot aspect is a possible UFP decision so consequential it might generate a problem “so big” it’s almost impossible to tap down.
Intergalactic war anyone?
By expanding our storylines beyond traditional “starship diplomacy” we might uncork a “new” bottle of political intrigue unleashed by the UFP and probably “cleaned up” somehow by Starfleet. What an interesting multi-arc story that might be.