Starlog 16: Adventures and Star Trek: The Art of Communication

Professor: Adventures

Professor at the Diner II

It seems I cannot stop eating.  Every bite is warm sustenance that turns into great heaviness past fullness. Each bowl of peas porridge is $5.55 in Earth American currency, and I owe $61.05 without tax.  This heaviness pushes atop the heaviness of the night.  Lifting the spoon requires effort, and it is the only amount of effort I have left.  

Star Trek: The Art of Communication

In Star Trek: Discovery, Season 3, Episode 5, the Discovery crew meets the new Federation.  A smooth reunion is not possible due to differences in perception and in communication.  To the Federation, the Discovery crew are possible criminals who broke the interstellar treaty Temporal Accords that outlaws time travel.  The firmness of the Federation as manifested by the formal Admiral Vance is met with Commander Burnham’s direct communication style, which can be seen as impudent.   

Captain Burnham later approaches Lieutenant Willa of the new Federation.  Captain Burnham establishes commonality with Lieutenant Willa by reversing perception: she states the Discovery crew also would treat the Federation officers the same way if the situation were reversed.  Captain Burnham then provides undeniable support for her argument to help the Kili refugees in Federation sick bay by securing a protein sample from the toxic plant they consumed from which an antidote can be made.  In this way, Captain Burnham  is able to convince Lieutenant Willa to help.  Interestingly enough, it is Captain Burnham who actually enters a reversed position:  Even though Dr. Attis clearly expressed his desire to remain with his family at the risk of death near the end of the episode, Captain Burnham must uphold Starfleet’s mores that include “never to leave a person behind”.

Captain Saru, on the other hand, is able to speak and operate diplomatically to ensure effective communication.  It is he who is able to convince Admiral Vance to allow the Discovery crew to find the protein sample.  Captain Saru does this by moving into a position of service rather than one of demand and by essentially offering himself as a hostage should the Discovery crew prove disloyal.  In this way, he allows the value of Discovery and the integrity of its crew to be seen, countering the perception of the crew as possible criminals. 

During debriefing, Captain Georgiou engages in disruptive behavior.  By engaging in word play, she disrupts logic and confuses the interrogation by the holograms.  By engaging in word play, she takes over the interview and becomes the interrogator.  By blinking her eyes, she disrupts the holo protocols, “creating a reference loop that shuts them down”.  In this way, Captain Georgiou reverses her (perceived) role as a victim—someone upon whom action is taken—and asserts her dominance as someone who commits action.  This strategy also enables her to speak with the person in charge of the interrogation.  As much of a cipher as she makes herself, she willingly falls into the obvious trap of self-revelation by asking questions in order to obtain information even as the questions impart information about her.  The interrogation then becomes one in which communication is designed to provoke and to reveal.  Both participants are at once the interrogator and the subject in a slippery game of words.

Unlike Captain Georgiou, Commander Nhan simply refuses to answer questions during debriefing, repeating her name and rank instead as rhetorical strategy.  Rather than be punished for insubordination, she joins the mission as a necessary component to save the lives of the Kilis.

In all cases, the use of rhetoric enables the attainment of Discovery crew goals as they navigate what turns out to be a hostile home environment.  In the end, communication is quite like the Barzon puzzle room. The correct configuration that is communication must be determined in order to allow for revelation—connection through both the understanding and the valuing of perception.  In this way, the Discovery crew will be able find a place in the new Federation and the new Federation will be able to accept its newest and simultaneously oldest members. All then will be able to look up toward possibility.

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