The Great Star Trek Rewatch: The Galileo Seven

Apologies for the slow service this week, I’ve been out and about instead of at home watching Star Trek. Anyway, this was an episode I felt ambivalent about revisiting – Spock is my favourite Star Trek character, and I seemed to remember him acting somewhat like an arse in this episode. In fact, the episode came off a lot better than I remembered.

As per its standing orders, the Enterprise has taken a minor detour from its mission in order to investigate a quasar. Spock, McCoy, Scotty and four minor characters are dispatched in the shuttlecraft Galileo to perform closer investigations, only to crashland and end up stranded on a planet. With only a limited time before it must depart to drop off emergency medical supplies, the Enterprise launches a frantic search mission. Meanwhile, Spock is experiencing his first taste of command, but his logical style soon riles up his crewmates.

It’s likely that the moral of this episode is “Spock discovers logic isn’t the be-all and end-all”, but actually, I think we can make more of it than that – perhaps because I don’t believe that Spock was entirely wrong. The events of this episode are described as Spock’s first taste of command, but this seems unlikely – not only have we seen him in charge when Kirk is off the bridge, but to become the Enterprise’s first officer he must have demonstrated some level of command ability in the past. In fact, Spock himself says he does not especially desire command and merely regards it as a thing that is there, so why is he first officer instead of just purely a science officer if the additional duties of being first officer are not something he cares for?

Perhaps we can break it down as follows:

  • This is Spock’s “first” command in that it his first completely isolated command without any kind of backup from Kirk, Starfleet Command or even the compiled knowledge within the ship’s computer.
  • Spock does not desire command roles or seek them out, but he is so competent that he just gets promoted into them.
  • No one else wants to be first officer on the Enterprise, and Spock is the most highly qualified person for the role.

Now onwards to Spock’s reliance on logic throughout the mission, and whether he was right or wrong.

  • Spock was right to remain level-headed throughout, even if his crewmates chided him for a lack of emotion. He was channelling his energy into getting them out of a dangerous situation; a human fuelled by adrenaline and necessity might have done similar, and then had an emotional reaction to the event after the fact. Spock is simply more trained in keeping it together than the average human.
  • The fact that the crew of the Galileo got so riled at Spock shows his lack of people skills, however. I feel that, in general, the crew should be more accepting of diversity, and make allowances for the fact that Spock doesn’t react as they do, and does not follow the same human traditions (such as insisting on having a burial service for the dead). Admittedly, under this stressful situation tempers were more likely to fray, so perhaps some allowance can be made for this – although trained Starfleet officers should perhaps be better at this than the Galileo crew were.
  • McCoy and the others blamed Spock for angering the hostile aliens and “bringing them down on us”, but they were the ones who wanted to go on the attack. It’s likely that the crew angered the aliens just by being in their territory, but the junior crewmembers were keen to kill the aliens, which would surely have invited even more in the way of retaliation. Perhaps killing the closest aliens would have kept them safe until another wave arrived, but in that case, a phaser set to stun would have much the same effect without the dubious morality of murdering random aliens. Also, blaming Spock for his plan to scare them was counterproductive – not only was it an idea that could have worked, but they could have spent that bitching time figuring out how to build some decent defences.
  • The crew all had a good laugh at the end about how igniting the fuel was an emotional act of desperation on Spock’s part. In fact, it was entirely logical. Let’s examine the situation:

    – The Galileo is in orbit, but its orbit will decay once the limited fuel supply runs out, and everyone will die.

    – As far as anyone on the Galileo knows, the Enterprise has already left, and so they are doomed whether the orbit decays now or in an hour’s time.

    – There is, however, a faint possibility that the Enterprise is still in range right now. If nothing is done, the Enterprise will definitely not detect the Galileo, and everyone will die in a matter of minutes. If Spock ignites the fuel to send up a flare, then the chance of the Enterprise detecting the Galileo increases from 0 to some small positive probability. The orbit is going to decay anyway, so there’s nothing to be lost by taking this gamble. It’s the only logical thing to do.

Other points of interest

  • There is such a thing as a ‘Galactic High Commissioner’, who has the authority to overrule Captain Kirk in certain circumstances. As we know, their authority cannot extend across the entire galaxy.
  • There’s a colony named New Paris. It’s likely full of French stereotypes.
  • Why didn’t the Enterprise just drop off the urgent medical supplies first and then return to investigate the quasar, thus bypassing the whole problem of having a time limit to search for the Galileo? Are they not allowed to return to any place they’ve been before?
  • Why not send an unmanned probe to investigate the quasar before dispatching a shuttlecraft into dangerous conditions?
  • Why was McCoy on the Galileo anyway? Story-wise, it was clearly to make him a foil for Spock, but in terms of the mission, what was the medical officer going to do? Unless perhaps he was going to run experiments on the effects of quasar proximity on human and Vulcan health.

Summary – The Galileo Seven: As I was going to a quasar, I met a shuttlecraft with seven Starfleet officers.

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