4 comments on “The Survivors

  1. Yeah, it’s an upturn in using secondary characters better. Although, for being in this ep, Dr. Crusher is barely in this ep.

    The type of devastation, “a ship so big you can see it from the surface,” and the talk of traitors, they really make you think it’s going to be a Crystalline Entity or Borg episode. Kind of amazing how the Federation survives with so many existential threats floating around.

    • Well, I think the thing about TNG is that it assumes diplomacy can solve a lot of issues. The races that can compete with The Federation are reasonable enough to cooperate with The Federation. The Borg are determined assimilators, yeah. But Picard stops them. They had stopped existing until “First Contact.”

      The Dominion would have left well enough alone except that The Federation was insistent on making contact. Then, after The Dominion finally said; “here’s our border: stay out,” The Federation continued using the wormhole. The Dominion War was the result of failed diplomacy and The Federation being too intent on getting Bajor back on its feet.

      The Federation seems to take care of business. Between the telepaths and the Zackdorn and the Bynars and the Humans, it seems they have a lot of levels through which to solve problems, kinda like their own biological/cultural adaptation to enemy aggression in place of The Borg’s technological adaptation to threats.

      The Husnock seem like real assholes, but they’re not so different from the Gorn in “The Arena.” We know Kevin’s not omnipotent and it’s credible to say he might not be a reliable narrator, so there might be more to them than we’ve seen. I’m not a Husnock apologist, I’m just saying they may not be a threat that can’t be reasoned with.

      That’s assuming they’re even powerful enough to threaten The Federation. The original Enterprise could destroy a planet, given enough time. We don’t know how long the Husnock had to work over Delta Rana IV, but it’s weird they finished before Kevin genocided them up. Even if they did have a big murder ship, they may not have had whole fleets of them. Maybe just one or two.

      With a population of 50 billion, they’re dwarfed in population by The Federation. Those billions are about five Earth-sized “core worlds.” The Federation has more than that in capitol worlds of native races (Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites, Bolians, Betazeds, etc). Shoot, in “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” they had 40 billion in casualties. Julian cited a 900 billion estimate from the Dominion War in “Statistical Probabilities.” Both of those numbers are protracted wars and the YE numbers might include Klingons so they might be a bit high, but those are still just casualties.

      The Husnock are cool and their annihilation makes me think of the Markab in Babylon 5. Destroying a civilization is a big idea and I want to see it explored more, but I’m not really on the ‘Husnock as the next big, bad’ train. Dang, the novels didn’t even pick up that thread, which seems weird.

  2. I agree that TNG prizes diplomacy, and IDIC gives them a lot of flexibility, but stay with me a minute.

    Humanity’s homeworld may have a population of ten billion, but its colonies are invariably in the thousands or low millions, and the majority of the Federation’s defences appear to be human. I think it’s fair to say the Husnack outnumber Humanity. Humanity isn’t unique in being surrounded by supplementary civilizations, either. Why would the Husnack be different from the Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, or the mirror-universe Terran Empire? They may not even be the primary race in their political group.

    The Gorn didn’t scour the planet’s surface; like you say, there doesn’t seem to be enough time for even a Galaxy-class to have done it. On a scale from Pakled to Apotheosis, I think that puts the Husnock on the same tier as the Borg and the Crystalline entity – and Kevin well above them. If villainous humans had destroyed the colony and killed Kevin’s wife, might he have wiped the human race out instead?

    Sure, the Federation may have eventually come to terms with the Husnack. But what amazes me is that a potential threat to the Federation was wiped out /completely by chance/, by /yet another/ potential threat to the Federation; that races of such power and malevolence are – witness the Borg – not atypical in the upper tiers of the galactic ecosystem, and that the area around the Federation is denser with them than I’d thought.

    The Dominion isn’t as interesting in this respect. They may be bigger and stronger than the Federation, and they may have something comparable to the Federation’s power of diplomacy, but they’re still on the same tier as the Federation. They haven’t jumped to the next technological or metaphysical level. They are (if I remember rightly) stagnant by design.

    I think diplomacy in TNG gets treated in two conflicting ways. On one hand, I want to say there’s a good, universal theme about how conflict can be unnecessary, or is often a symptom of temporary mistrust and misunderstanding. On the other hand, the Borg have been conquering civilizations for centuries, all of whom failed where the Federation succeeded – so perhaps Human diplomacy *is* somehow unique in the Star Trek universe, in a way which gives the Federation parity among the higher tiers of galactic threat.

    It must be a decade since I’ve seen Babylon 5. Must remember to rewatch it when collecting sci-fi RPG plots.

    I think we’ve talked a little about the weirdness of population figures before, but for funsies: supposing that the Federation suffered 40 billion fatalities at rates similar to the Soviets in WW2, the Federation would have a total population in the neighborhood of 74 billion; using the world average for WW2 raises that to 324 billion, which explains how DS9 would think 900 billion casualties (across three empires) is plausible; but I think the way geography shields large populations from terrestrial war doesn’t carry over very well into a space war.

    The original series was written when Earth had a population of 3.2 billion, and I think /that/ sets the setting’s baseline expectations. I mean, Vulcans were interstellar centuries longer than humans, yet it’s Earth who brought them, the Andorans and Tellurites together; and Starfleet *is* headquartered on Earth. I know we can’t equate the demographics of the Federation Council or Starfleet Command with the demographics of the Federation, but still, my impression is that no other Federation race – not even the other ‘capital’ races – match Humanity’s numbers.

    • The Husnock aren’t necessarily any more developed than existing races, with the exception of a fast-acting planet-scourer. The Breen had an ion cannon that no one else had. The Angosians had super-soldier enhancements. The Acamarians could make immortal vectors for genetic diseases. Sometimes races just have a technology no one else has, and the Husnock’s “terrible intelligence” is consistent with focusing on a planet-scourer.

      That’s a narrow interpretation, yeah, but it is just as consistent with canon as a “next big threat” theory. It’s possible the Husnock were on par with the Federation. I hate the “it’s just my opinion,” but it’s just a TV show; I don’t think that’s the case.

      On the separate-but-related idea of the threat of Federation-level “big gun” threats, I think they tend to step on more “Uxbridge Landmines” than they’d expect and it wouldn’t take many. “Big gun” races seem like they’d be rare. I’m making some assumptions here, so bear with me. Linear power can snowball, but it doesn’t share. A potentially threatening aggressive power will claim a proportionate amount of space, exclusively. As they get more powerful, they will conflict with similarly-sized powers and win (“potentially threatening” in this case means that we don’t care about “Big Gun” empires which lose or are mutually-destroyed). Repeat until they are powerful enough to threaten The Federation.

      Space could only support so many of those races, and then only so many so close to the Federation’s borders, no matter how ill-defined or three dimensional (and possibly non-Euclidian) those borders are. That’s basically what happened to The Dominion.

      Then you can talk about political structures. A loosely-aligned group of aggressive interests would require some form of diplomacy and nuance just to conduct the basic business of governing (and suffer from the same fractures that The Federation should suffer from). Unless you happen to have a multicultural (if not multiracial) coalition of parties who are all aggressive expansionists, that implies diplomatic alternatives to war. Our “Big Gun” threat has to manage itself somewhere on a scale of authoritarian and coalition for some time while constantly absorbing other threats without diplomacy.

      I think they’d tend towards ‘authoritarian’ and would be as monolithic as the Klingons, Romulans, and Ferengi are depicted as.

      It’s cool how so many Star Trek races find unique, stable ideas of “Big gun” empires. The Dominion are shapeshifters with clone middle management who demand tribute from vast swathes of space, ruling with a light hand until they catch wind of the first hint of defiance. The Borg are a combination of super-democracy and extension of an autocratic cartoon villainess. The Xindii were (kind of guessing here) a council of races sharing a culture and a goal who fell apart once the lie of the existence was revealed (I think).

      Those government structures are unique and rare. Klingon and Romulan central authorities were both brought low by unique disasters (Praxis and, I presume, the [ridiculous, idiotic] Romulan supernova).

      As far as populations go, billions of dead for a war fought primarily in space is ludicrous. Unless whole populations are going to rise up and get destroyed by orbital fire support, I just don’t fucking see it. The 900 billion number is stupid. It’s too fucking big.

      But it’s canon. :-\

      And it’s gotta be somewhat lower than Russians, who unlocked the “Jesus Fucking Christ, Guys” achievement for outstanding civilian casualties in WWII: The Game.

      I can see why the Vulcans might have fewer folks because they wouldn’t have as much sex. Tellarites and Andorians…I watched the Enterprise episodes with them, and I don’t see why they’d have lower populations than humans, especially if they’ve got their own colonies which imply a growing population.

      I don’t see humans having greater population numbers besides, “the show was written by humans.”

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