Race and Religion in Star Trek Deep Space Nine
As I watched Star Trek Deep Space Nine Season 1 Episode 19 entitled Duet, I was struck by the parallels between the Cardassians and the Nazi’s. The idea of a labor camp reminded me of the Russian Gulags. However, the torture and experiments carried out were also very much in line with Nazi Concentration camps during World War II. Certainly, Kira’s interrogation of Marritza was inspired by the Nuremberg Trials.
Star Trek is great at discussing sensitive issues like race with breaking things down into simple black and white issues. One thing that always impresses me is how the alien races have names and features that are not just creative, but symbolic.
Take the Cardassians, for example. The name Kardashian means someone who is from Armenia. The spelling of Cardassian is not far from Caucasian. The label Caucasian was created for the Aremenians who wished to be separated from thier Mongolian neighbors. Although scientists tell us there is really no difference between so-called races, historically people have tried to find biological and legal ways to separate themselves from other groups.
In Star Trek the Cardassians have severe facial ridges and thier skin tone boarders on grey. To make them blonde and blue eyed would have been too obvious of a choice. Still, they are paler than the Bajorans that they colonized.
Bajorország is a Hungarian word that means Bavaria. Bavaria is part of Germany that was settled by Gauls. Bavaria won its indpedence but then was absorbed back into Germany during World War II.
The Bajorans are known for their religion as much as their problems with the Cardassians. They believe in the prophets and the celestial temple. The Prophets are aliens that came through the wormhole, but have been worshipped as deities. They left orbs behind, which are religious artifacts. In the Season 1 episode In The Hands of the Prophets, there is a conflict between The Federation’s Human Secularism and the Bajorans Zealous Religion.
The episode highlights the problems with politicizing religion. The Evangelical nature of the Bajoran cleric Vedek Winn creates tension. She believes that Keiko should include the Bajoran beliefs in her teachings about the Wormhole. When Kieko refuses, that causes Winn to protest and pull Bajoran students from Keiko’s class.
Writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe says the episode maintains the consistency of Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek:: “I have no argument with someone having a fundamentalist belief in Christianity or Islam or Judaism or Buddhism or anything else, but I do have a serious objection to people trying to impose their values on other people. And that’s what this episode is about. No one has the right to force anyone to believe the things that they believe. That’s one of the beautiful things about Gene Roddenberry’s vision of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations), and that was one of the things that we really wanted to hammer home here. Sisko does everything he can not to impose his values on the Bajorans, but Vedek Winn is determined to impose her values on everyone..”