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Being a Good Guest, The Star Trek Way

A handy guide to not behave like these most unwelcome guests.

illustrated art image of a hand doing the vulcan salute in a pile of tribbles / Rob DeHart

With the holiday season upon us, your mailbox is going to fill up with invitations to parties, happy hours, hootenannies, and captain’s dinners. Many of these events are going to be held in people’s homes, and if you ever want to be invited back, you’ll want to be a good guest. As the Enterprise hosted many parties (landing and otherwise), there are no better examples for behavioral don’ts than five of Star Trek’s most unwelcome guests. Take note of these examples to boldly go to any party —

Bad Guest #1: Thelev

A good guest makes small talk with his fellow guests. A bad guest murders them.

While attending a gathering of emissaries from various planets, Thelev, an Orion spy posing as an ambassadorial aide, assassinated the Tellarite ambassador Gav and attempted to kill his host, Captain Kirk. If you find yourself in a heated debate, you’re better off breaking the ice with a witty anecdote rather than breaking the neck of a mouthy alien. Try diverting the conversation away from hot-button subjects like politics to neutral zone-topics like the weather. And do remember that, like Spock and Sarek, sometimes your host’s parents will be there, so it’s also a good idea to watch your language. Nobody likes a party pooper, and even fewer people like a mouthy assassin.

Bad Guest #2: Elaan of Troyius

A good guest appreciates her host’s efforts. A bad guest complains about everything.

Elaan, a Dohlman conscripted to an arranged marriage, wastes no time finding fault with her quarters, the food, and basically everything about the Enterprise and its crew. Sure, given the circumstances, Elaan may not have been in the best of moods, but that’s no excuse for being so nitpicky. Should you find the passed appetizers your host spent hours making a little salty, don’t make a big deal about it. Just subtly deposit your half-masticated cracker-and-pate into a napkin and dispose of it in the nearest trash receptacle. And do remember that under no circumstance, even if your wine isn’t perfectly chilled, should you hit your hosts about the head and shoulders.

Bad Guest #3: Charlie X

A good guest brings a bottle of wine and engages in playful banter with his hostess. A bad guest takes it upon himself to totally change the menu and totally hits on his uninterested hostess.

Teenaged Charlie would be the first to admit that he lacked some important social graces. I’m sure he thought he was trying to be helpful when he turned all of the meatloaves into turkeys. And yes, given the holiday season, turkeys would be appropriate, he still overstepped. Dietary restrictions notwithstanding, a good guest does not take it upon himself to criticize, let alone change, the host’s menu. A host can spend days if not weeks preparing for his party, and undermining the menu is but one way to overturn the party shuttle. Additionally, Charlie’s romantic interest in Yeoman Rand went from playfully innocent to all-out stalker in a matter of hours. If you find yourself hopelessly attracted to your host’s significant other, well, too bad. If you misbehave too much, someone may call your parents… who will embarrass you in front of all of your friends. Keep it to yourself, make an excuse to leave early, and check your Tinder on your way home.

Bad Guest #4: The M-5 Computer

A good guest provides help and support if his host asks for assistance. A bad guest totally takes over.

If you’re particularly close with your hostess, she may ask you to come to her place a little early to help set up. This may involve basting a turkey while she makes last-minute adjustments to the table settings, helping her hang up festive holiday lights, or running down to the store for an extra bag of ice. It does not, however, involve co-opting the entire party for yourself.

As Kirk and the pared-down crew witnessed, the M-5 computer that was initially installed to help the Enterprise run with a minimal crew eventually decided that the crew wasn’t necessary at all. By taking the operation into its own virtual hands, the M-5’s programming almost led to complete destruction. Similarly, by taking it upon yourself to become host of someone else’s party, you’re not only going to destroy everyone’s enjoyment, you’re also setting yourself up to be known hereto forth (on all forms of social media in existence and not yet created) as a control freak who can’t let share the view screen for one night.

Bad Guest #5: Tribble

A good guest may, with the host’s approval, bring a plus one. A bad guest brings his entourage.

It can be challenging to attend a party by yourself. The only thing worse than standing alone waiting for someone to talk to you is trying to insinuate yourself into a conversation. Hosts know that allowing their guests a plus one makes everyone feel more comfortable, and usually encourages them to do so. They do not, however, condone their guests bringing their entire extended family.

Your host has taken special care to make sure there’s enough seating, food and drinks for everyone on their guest list, and adding to the headcount can seriously throw off the balance of canapés and beer. Regardless of whether the party is held in a house or a studio apartment, do not schlep 20 of your nearest and dearest to the party. It is considered ill-mannered, and knowing them as you do, they’re likely to leave little fur balls everywhere, which will add lots of time to the after-party cleanup.

I’m confident that by following these rules, you’ll be an energized presence on any Bridge, planet, or party.

Happy Holidays!

This article was originally published on November 25, 2014.

Robb Pearlman is a pop culturalist and a #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 60 books for grown-ups and kids.

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