Ask Dayton 32 – Families On Starships
Dear Dayton: Last week there was quite a Katy-bar-the-door brouhaha on G and T about children on the Enterprise. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree with right-thinking peoples that if a ship is going exploring into the unknown, where, YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S OUT THERE, kids have no business on the ship, or with those silly-hearts who think the innocent little lambs should be placed in the way of meeting the Borg?
Also, some of us have been chatting, what is the genesis of your dislike of Gettysburg Nick? He seems like a likable enough chap, if not wound a tad tight. But then place yourself in his stitches, Teri gets all the love, Mike the credit and Nick gets…Uggo. Damn, I’d have the temperament of a Lursa on her period, too. But I digress, why the dislike?
All the best!
Oh, I don’t know that I’d have called that a “brouhaha.” I mean, they spent way more time yammering about the Maquis and all the bullshit it brought to three different Star Trek series. Compared to that, families on starships barely got any play at all before a squirrel or some other damned shiny thing captured the hosts’ attention. Such are the hazards you encounter when you join Nick, Terry and Mike for some Sunday fun.
So, families on starships: Yay or nay? First, we should probably go to the source, and see what ol’ Gene Roddenberry was thinking when he decided on this little bit o’ madness. For that, I give you this excerpt from the first season Star Trek: The Next Generation writer’s guide, dated September 1987:
As humanity probes deeper and deeper into space with ten year or longer missions becoming the norm, Starfleet has begun encouraging crewmembers to share the space exploration adventure with their families. Twenty-fourth Century humans believe that Life should be lived, not postponed.
Previous experiences in space exploration have underscored the lesson that people need people for mental and physical health. Starfleet encourages its people to participate in family and community life and bonding.
Well. All-righty, then.
So, the gist of it seems to be that Starfleet figured it’d be easier to get crews for starships on long-duration exploration missions if folks could bring along their families, or maybe start a family at some point during the mission. We know from the show that this wasn’t a fleet-wide thing, but rather something done only on certain types of ships, namely the Enterprise-D and her Galaxy-class sisters, though there also were other examples (as someone mentioned, Ben Sisko had his wife and kid on the Saratoga, a ship which at first glance didn’t look as though it was configured for a large number of civilians).
On the one hand, I can see it. I mean, ten years? That’s a long time to put your life on hold while you’re out exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new blah blah blah. If you’ve already got a family, then it seems unfair to cut yourself off from them for such a long period. In some ways, you can liken such missions to military members taking their families along to hardship duty stations around the world. A better comparison might be the American frontier of the 19th century, when wives and families often followed their Army husbands to remote posts as civilization pushed west. I’m betting spouses and children of Starfleet officers on the Enterprise have a way better standard of living than some of those frontier forts and towns, though.
Of course, those old Army posts didn’t have to worry about teenagers taking over the engineering section, or dicking up the holodeck, or breaking the dumbass local laws on some backwater planet where everybody runs around half-naked.
Yeah, I can see the argument against taking families along on starships, but I think on-screen evidence shows that such things aren’t “the norm.” Even on TNG, the idea wasn’t really explored that much, except for stories that called for kids or other non-Starfleet personnel to be in trouble or danger for one reason or another. As for why you’d want to take civilians into potentially hostile situations week after week, for this I blame the writers and producers. The ship was designed to split in half and send the non-combatants to relative safety, but of course showing that in every episode might take too much time, and how many ways can you show that saucer separation sequence?
TNG seems to imply that having families along for the ride is fairly new around the time of the Enterprise-D’s launch, and that it’s something that still isn’t widespread by the time of the last Trek flick with Picard and the gang. Hell, the Enterprise-E doesn’t look to have families or civilians, so perhaps this fad is losing steam or already has died out. Maybe we’re worrying too much about something that doesn’t really matter any more.
Of course, if we stopped doing that, we wouldn’t be Star Trek fans, would we?
As for me supposedly not liking Nick, I have no idea where this would come from. Do you honestly think I’d take the time to answer this stuff every week for somebody I didn’t like? It’s not like the show’s paying me for this shit. What’s not to like about Nick?
I mean, he doesn’t look nearly as good in his boots as Terry does in hers, but I think we all can agree that’s really not a fair fight. There’s that whole business with him joining the Army instead of a more manly military service, and some of his music choices on Impressions of Sound make me wonder if he might not be trying to get in touch with his inner 15-year-old girl. Those obvious concerns aside, I think Nick’s a pretty cool cat. Of course I like him; we give each other shit all the time. That’s what dudes do.
Look, I’ve been nice to him for like two or three sentences in a row. Enough, already. Any more saccharine in this answer, and I’m gonna turn into a spontaneous diabetic. NEXT QUESTION!
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But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.