The further away from “human” a species gets, the more and more one dimensional/stereotypical they get. I thought the whole point of not being racist/stereotypical was to realize there is diversity in other groups of people. But all of the following groups are one dimensional cardboard cut outs:
Cracked.com had a similar take. What I noticed was the more evil the race, the more makeup/prosthetics they had. So Vulcans and Bajorans had ears and nose ridges, but Cardassians had foreheads and neck ridges, and the Borg were full on mechanical.
Yes, I know about the thing Worf doesn’t talk about with regard to TOS Klingons and NG Klingons.
I thought DS9 did a pretty good job of moving away from this. The characters from different species shared a certain amount of cultural similarity, but were pretty diverse in their personalities and how they interacted with that culture.
I will agree DS9 (which I think is my favorite) tried to pull the Ferengi out of the Yankee Trader mold established in TNG. Certainly Rom grew, and they explored the role of women in the society and what a Ferengi does when he doesn’t have the lobes. Plus, Nog joining Starfleet.
DS9 really hits its stride in the later seasons. No spoiler, but they move away from the Crisis of the Week that Voyager and TNG had and moved more into long story arcs.
The problem is that aliens in Star Trek serve two purposes that contradict each other.
On the one hand, they’re there to illustrate (and usually challenge) certain traits of humanity by amplifying them to the exclusion of most everything else. Thus you have the Ferengi as representatives of greed and retrograde gender roles, Klingons representing the urge to violence, Vulcans rationality, etc. The characters in these roles are applauded when they take on more human traits, balancing their extreme “alien” qualities. Thus you have Picard admiring Worf for his human qualities, Kirk eulogizing Spock as the “most human” soul he’d encountered, and so on.
On the other hand, aliens are also there to illustrate that, no matter how many bumps you have on your forehead, we’re all fundamentally the same, or near enough that we could all get along with just a little mutual goodwill. (Kirk: “Everybody’s human.”) The idea that certain interspecies differences might be irreconcilable is never given much consideration; eventually, everyone will see things our way. Rhetorically, this is eating your cake and having it too: the funny-forehead people are psychologically incomplete and need to be more like us, and at the same time they’re fine just the way they are, and who are we to judge?
It’s also just a useful storytelling device . Most ST episodes are self-contained, so there’s only 45 minutes to develop new characters, the setting and rules of whatever planet they’re visiting that week and than run through the plot. So each new alien species basically gets a quick defining characteristic that’s easy for an audience to understand. Trying to develop them beyond that is a waste of script, and is just going to make it hard for the audience to follow.
Presumably that’s one of the reason DS9 developed its alien characters more as individuals. Staying in a more or less fixed setting with a lot of recurring characters, along with longer story arcs, meant they could take the time to develop them beyond a one-sentence description, and they could have more than one example of each species around at the same time, which more or less necessitated giving them distinct personalities.
Nonsuch got it in one. Y’see, not every TV writer is going to be able to do cultural and political situations on the scale of Dune, much less alien races and cultures. That, plus half the time, Unca Gene wanted allegory, as opposed to realism… the Klingons started out as a Cold War analogy, and now they have their own language and cookbook.
The Ferengi started out the same way – behind the scenes, we learn that they were intended to be what happens when money becomes the cornerstone of your society – but they were never intended to be the Space Jews they later came to resemble.
Ain’t sayin’ you’re WRONG, per se, but I’m not sure it was intentional.
I doubt it was intentional either, but, I can express my point another way:
Over the course of the various series, we see plenty of alien species that look human and act more or less, Human. But I can’t think of any species, from any show, that was the “alien of the week” that looked distinctly non human but yet acted, human.