Suing Star Trek

I am a huge Star Trek fan. I am also a big fan of Phil Farrand's Nitpicker's Guides (sadly, he doesn't write them any more). With the Nitpicker's Guides in mind, I have started this series of posts: Suing Star Trek.

Every now and again, whilst watching a Star Trek episode, I think, "You know, if Star Trek didn't belong to such a happy go lucky future, the families of Star Trek personnel would be suing the Federation blind."

For example, take "Genesis" (ST:NG, Season 7) in which the intrepid crew "de-evolves" into various primitive life forms: a spider, a caveman, a Klingon beasty thing, a fish, etc. It is actually quite a fun episode! Data saves the day, of course (since he can't de-evolve into anything but a pile of circuits). Phil Farrand and his nitpickers cover the basic scientific improbabilities (as in the basic scientific ridiculousness) in Farrand's second NG guide: suffice it to say, that the "de-evolutions" are caused by a virus that is caused by the activation of a dormant T-cell which is caused by Crusher giving Barclay a shot.

Malpractice anyone? That's a pretty straightforward line of causation! Not difficult for a lawyer to prove at all, especially since Crusher admits it.

Who would bring the lawsuit? The parents of the poor crewman who is ripped to shreds by some beasty thing (Picard and Data find him dead on the bridge).

I would award the parents considerable damages: the medical procedures on the Enterprise are appallingly lax. I'm not a doctor, so I would let the Federation medical council decide whether Crusher should lose her license for producing a massively dangerous virus, no matter how inadvertedly. (One of the annoying but also rather sweet aspects of Star Trek is how readily and quickly all is forgiven!)

Case 2: "Phantasms" (ST:NG, Season 7) in which Data, whilst dreaming, stabs--but does not kill--Troi. Data's dreaming program was activated a season earlier when Dr. Julian Bashir turned on a device in Engineering. Data has continued to dream regularly. In "Phantasms," Data experiences waking dreams brought on by inter-phasic bugs; the bugs were brought on board with the new warp core. He stabs Troi while in a waking dream.

Plaintiff: Troi's Mom
Defendants: Data*, Julian Bashir, the Enterprise, and the Federation

*In accordance with the legal decision made in ST:NG, Season 2, "The Measure of a Man," Data is considered fully sentient; he can be sued.

Argument: Dr. Bashir's activation of the device was unauthorized; he was aboard the Enterprise, fiddling with the device, without clearance. After the dream program was activated, Data continued to use it with the full knowledge of the captain and crew despite inherent risks: nobody really knows what Data does when he dreams. Also, Data's current "waking dream" state is caused by an infestation of bugs which should have been irradicated before the installation of the warp core. Troi's mother wants damages awarded to Troi for pain and suffering; she wants damages awarded to herself for emotional (vicarious) pain and suffering.

Decision by Judge Kate: No damages against Dr. Bashir, Data, or the Enterprise: Data has experienced dreams for over a year without harmful results. He is no more or less likely to experience "waking dreams" than a flesh and blood humanoid. Hallucinating crewmembers is a risk attendant upon service in Starfleet, especially for the ship's counselor (Troi).

Minor damages against the Federation: check the friggin' warp core for bugs, people! I mean, really!! Since inter-phasic technology was used to create the new warp core, the possibility of infestation was foreseeable and therefore, preventable.

No damages awarded to Troi's mother but a reprimand in the file that Troi's mother not interrupt or otherwise disrespect counsel. Her daughter is an adult and has chosen a risky lifestyle which includes being stabbed by sleep-walking androids, turning into a fish, and being surgically altered to appear as a Romulan. Get over it.


mike said...

Absolutely friggin' BRILLIANT! LOL! Awesome stuff. One problem is that supposedly the federation maintains a type of socialist society... no money, no extravagant lifestyles unless you choose... blah blah blah. which may be why they introduced gold plated latinum (? on spelling) in DS9. It seems the only thing you can go to court for is privileges, titles, or criminal proceedings.

But you're right. The sheer amount of death that happened on kirk's ship alone probably set the precedent, if there is one, on ship causality related law suites and proceedings.

You had people getting eating eaten, vaporized, evolved/de-evolved, mind controlled (inter racial kissing, NO!!!!!) every episode. perhaps it functions like modern military, where you can get compensation for your injury, but the possibility of injury or alien induced mutation is a possible danger of the job.

Joe said...

I've also wondered what the workman's comp claims are like.

Then there are the claims against the designers and manufacturers of the various spacecraft which don't have basic safety devices like circuit breakers.

Cari Hislop said...

I too LOVE Star Trek...but as I get older I find that "The Federation" creeps me out. Please someone tell I'm not the only one!!! It's a totalitarian society in costume. It has a military leadership structure that doesn't really have much room for individuality or people who go against the grain. If it's outside their comfort zone they (according to my faulty memory) tend to shoot first and ask questions later (sounds familiar). It isn't my idea of Utopia. I still love Star Trek, but I wouldn't want to live there. Vaporization, interstellar bugs and psycho aliens aside...The Federation comes across as a network of co-functioning dictatorships.

Kate Woodbury said...

Roddenberry wanted a utopia but, of course, fictionally speaking (and reality-speaking too, I suppose) utopias usually end up as dystopias: kind of hard to write about utopias. Much more interesting to write about things falling to pieces!

Even Star Trek writers more or less consistently portray the Federation as a bunch of pompous red-taping bureaucrats (Kirk has some fairly caustic things to say about the uppity ups in Star Fleet), and geez, Voyager had to go get itself lost just to get away from the whole "we have to call the Federation for orders every three seconds" plot problem.

If you're interested, check out my exchange with Eugene about the problem of the internally-rotting utopia: Two Types of Science Fiction. He agrees with you!

Note: I intend to track lawsuits for Voyager as well; just think of all the red tape awaiting our intrepid explorers when they get home! It'll make them wish they were back in the Delta Quadrant.