Published Sep 4, 2013
One Trek Mind: 5 Working Stiffs of the Federation
One Trek Mind: 5 Working Stiffs of the Federation
By Jordan Hoffman
Labor Day is more than just the weekend to get your fantasy football teams in order or to start clucking your tongues at someone who'd be so gauche as to where white to a dinner party. It came into being as working people began organizing and striking for their rights against oppression. So try and stuff yourself on BBQ ribs and potato salad with respect!
In Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future, inequality appears to be largely eradicated on Earth. (On Cardassia, not so much.) Indeed, when I was young, part of what drew me to Star Trek was the front-and-center utopianism. Here would be a society where everyone would work really hard for the sake of doing good work. Mostly in the sciences. And often wearing form-fitting unitards. Sign me up!
If you look closely, however, you will find that there are some folks in the United Federation of Planets who don't spend their days blazing trails with computers or starships or tricorders. Some people just... have a job. It's not clear if there is exploitation involved - perhaps not with a society that seems to be wholly unconcerned with ownership of goods – but there are still some positions whose functions, while nice, might be described as “non-essential.”
To these working folks, let's raise a glass of synthehol and hope they had a terrific Labor Day weekend. Who are they, you ask?
Played by Ray Walston (who was already TV's favorite martian), Boothby was the a groundskeeper at Starfleet Academy. Dismissive of technology, the somewhat cantankerous, Boothby was a spiritual mentor to Captain Picard, as well as Chakotay, Captain Janeway and even Wesley Crusher.
In addition to inspiring the young cadets to find strength and honor within themselves (usually through sagacious advice masquerading as mere chatter) Boothby had the unfortunate distinction of being replicated by a particularly sneaky member of Species 8472. Talk about an adaptation!
Some mornings when I've been too lazy to go to the supermarket I get down on my knees and wish for a replicator. Oh, if I could just say “bacon and eggs” and make them appear. (Instead, I end up chancing it on yogurt ten days past the expiration.)
But in the future there will still be those who want – who insist! - on a home cooked meal. For them there's Sisko's Creole Kitchen somewhere in the Uptown section of New Orleans. Gumbo and shrimp creole were specialties worth beaming in for from all over Earth. From a strict point of view, this was not a place that was looking toward the future or concerned with boldly going where no one had gone before. The world of Star Trek, of course, was wise enough to recognize that all labs and warp corps isn't enough to keep a society moving.
The Pergium Miners of Janus IV
The relationship between Chief Vanderburg and Starfleet is a little vague. It's unclear if his mining operation falls under any sort of military purview or if he represented an independent group that put in a low bid. Either way he and the other men who found themselves on the business end of an angry Horta were pretty much our first peek at a Star Trek working stiff.
I know they were on a colony off in space, and the raw material they extracted was used for the spacefaring PXK reactor, which lends all of this some whiz-bang sci-fi appeal for the TOS-era 1960s, but let's be honest. This is unskilled labor and is pretty much presented as such. After all, it takes the enlightened crew of the Enterprise to come in and realize that the Horta is just protecting their young. These hard-workin' hardhat guys are taking Labor Day off.
The Karidian Company of Players
In our current star-obsessed time it is hard to think of actors as laborers. But try doing eight shows a week as part of a touring company.
Anton Karidian, his daughter Lenore and the rest of the group may attend swank parties like the one Thomas Leighton threw for them on Planet Q, but these are the type of actors who do their own makeup and carry their wardrobe around as they move from star system to star system. Hopefully, by the time we achieve warp drive SAG will change its meaning from Screen Actors Guild to Space Actors Guild.
(I'm very purposely leaving out the fact that Anton Karidian was actually a mass murderer – this is supposed to be a positive list!)
The Jamaharon Workers of Risa
Well, Risa isn't Earth, but it is part of the UFP. While we never see any check-in clerks or housekeepers, the resorts of Risa do have people roving about who, it can only be assumed, are doing it because it is their job.
While the show doesn't get too explicit (TNG is, by and large, family-friendly entertainment) there's enough there to imply that while the Risans aren't exactly being forced into anything they don't want to do, they are on the clock.
And they should maybe get some time to lay in the deck chairs for a change on Labor Day.
No doubt there are some other non-starship jobs out there in the 23rd and 24th centuries. If there's someone I've forgotten, please give 'em a shout out and/or pass 'em a burger.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.