Star Trek, whether the original series, or the Next Generation, was clearly innovative, and ground-breaking, addressing issues sometimes, that were never discussed before. And what I have found unique in TOS, or especially TNG, is how morality can sometimes be not so cut and dry. The relativity of morality, in other words.
Take the Borg. They were the federation’s mortal enemy. But were they really evil? In “the Best of Both Worlds”, Picard, as Locutus, said they were only trying to raise quality of life. Or take Q. He was clearly corrupt with power. But was he always evil? And could you say it was really his fault? The Ferengi weren’t evil per se. They just had a different system of morals, than ours. They were business-driven, usually.
And take the enemies the Klingons and the Romulans. The Klingons were now our friends. And the Romulans had at least some redeeming qualities, sometimes.
As I said, TNG was were this motif was thoroughly covered. But even the original series has some reference to it. In “Day of the Dove”, Kirk makes a touching sylloquy where he says they may have been wrong all along, about the Klingons.
I am a little drawn to this aspect of Star Trek, because I personally believe evil can sometimes be a relative thing. Some people are desperate, and some are just sick. And interestingly some people who were evil once, are evil no more (cf. gays). I think it is interesting they covered this topic so well, in the fictional Star Trek universe.
What do the rest of you think? Was this aspect of the franchise deliberate? Or am I just reading too much into it?
During TOS, the idea was always about the “brotherhood of humankind”, so including a Russian and a black woman on the main crew of an adventuring expedition was ground-breaking (not to mention an alien, so “humankind” was very inclusive.) And most monsters (like the salt-eating lady) were rarely shown as just evil.
[Side comment: I wish there were a non-gendered word for “brotherhood” but "brother-and-sister-hood is just too awkward.]
My personal fanwank is that Q’s persona was pretty much fabricated to challenge and annoy Picard. This was to challenge his worldview and ideals to make him a better person. The episode Tapestry and the finale confirm this.
There is an episode on DS9 where Odo buys a baby changling off of Quark.
Odo does his best to teach the changling but is getting little results. Sisko then informs Odo that if he doesn’t get results soon, the Federation is going to take the baby changling from him so it can be studied in a lab somewhere.
Keep in mind, this is a sentient being that the Federation is threatening to take as there own property!
My favorite line in “Tapestry” is when Picard is worried that going back to the days of his youth would “change the timeline.” Q assures him that: “Please, spare me your egotistical musings on your pivotal role in history. Nothing you do here will cause the Federation to collapse or galaxies to explode. To be blunt, you’re not that important.”
I think this bolsters your theory about challenging and annoying Picard!
In the current novels their origin was basically an accident. A vessel from the pre Federation era (a contemporary of Captain Archer) went back in time and crashed along with an advanced alien. The alien merged with some of the survivors to form the first drones.
One way to look at it is, “the Borg” are not the zombified humanoids you see coming at you, but the “nanoprobes” that infect and take over various species. The zombies are their slave hosts, expended as necessary in the perpetuation of the nanoprobe race.
Original Star Trek achieved brilliance with “Devil in the Dark” when the “horrible monster” was revealed to be a mommy protecting her eggs. That was the moment when they showed “moral relativism” to be a damned fine way of looking at situations.
It was a recurring motif in the series. It was parodied heavily in “Let That Be Your Last Battleground,” with the black/white and white/black aliens, but, ham-fisted as that episode was, the moral lesson was valuable.