Is Obama more Klingon or more Vulcan? & Michael Dorn Pitches “Captain Worf”

Actor Michael Dorn has confirmed that he is trying to develop a new television show, “Star Trek: Captain Worf.”

He told Star Trek News, “I had come up with the idea because I love the character and I think he’s a character that hasn’t been fully developed and hasn’t been fully realized…”

He said that to his surprise, the idea had “gotten traction.” He shouldn’t be surprised. Worf is popular and Trekkies are in the middle of a drought. (In fact, there is very little good character-driven science fiction [as opposed to fantasy] on television anywhere at the moment.)

A Worf Star Trek vehicle would also replicate in television the political achievement of Barack Obama. It would be the first African-American lead as starship captain in a Star Trek series. Worf was always a supporting character.

Klingons, the alien race to which Worf belongs, have long been subject to Orientalist fantasizing by Star Trek writers, and sometimes were Islamized (having harems, being devoted to a kind of jihad warrior ethic, etc.)

One plotting difficulty I foresee with the series, though, is that Worf is a hawk. He always wants to be on the safe side by attacking first. He is the Neoconservative of the Star Trek universe. Since he wasn’t typically in command, wiser heads could prevail in past plots. If he is the captain of a starship, isn’t there a danger of him starting another big intergalactic war with the Romulans or something? I suppose they could give him a Vulcan first officer

Dorn’s suggestion got me thinking about the appeal of Barack Obama on security issues. Past Democrats had been depicted as weak on national security by Republicans, and Obama is perhaps the first since LBJ who hasn’t been successfully–if most unfairly– painted as a weakling. In his decision to put all his eggs in the basket of getting Bin Laden and destroying al-Qaeda, Obama was acting awfully Klingon. His warrior side is also displayed in his doubling down on the Afghanistan War and his unhealthy fascination with killing people with drones. (By the way, since we are talking popular culture, the best film demonstration of the danger to human rights of covert drones is Bourne Legacy, just as the best popular-culture fable of the US in Afghanistan is the first Iron Man film.) Mind you, I don’t approve of some of Klingon Obama’s policies, though I’m glad he took out Bin Laden.

That is, “No drama Obama” and the Harvard law degree suggest more of a Vulcan cast. But his personal warmth and his hawkishness on some issues are more Klingon. If Dorn does get a Vulcan first officer, the two of them on deck might replicate Obama foreign policy.

35 Responses

  1. Dear Dr. Cole:

    I am a great admirer of your work and blog, but please forgive me if I correct one of your statements. The excellent actor/director Avery Brooks was the first African American lead in a Star Trek series as Capt. Ben Sisko in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, which premiered in the early 1990s and ran successfully for some seven-odd seasons. That being said, I would love to see Michael Dorn in a series of his own as Captain Worf. Make it so!

  2. “It would be the first African-American lead in a Star Trek series.”

    Don’t forget that Avery Brooks was the lead in Deep Space Nine. Michael Dorn would be the first African-American lead to captain a *starship* in the Star Trek universe. But that still doesn’t make a Worf series a good idea, IMO.

  3. I hope you’re not forgetting Avery Brooks in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine…

  4. Given that Worf is “the neo-con of Star Trek”, in the series Dorn posits, Star Fleet has seen fit to give Worf a command, in full knowledge of these tendencies. So the question you miss is “Has Star Fleet changed, or has Worf changed?”

    Possibly neither – in the Star Trek universe, there has been ample evidence of Star Fleet making commander decisions that were not particularly wise.

  5. Not much of a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fan Juan? Avery Brooks’s Captain Sisko was the first African-American lead in a Trek series. I wouldn’t say Sisko fits the model of a hawk, so Worf would still be a first in that regard, though Deep Space Nine’s focus on the Federation at war did lead to Sisko making several of the most morally ambiguous decisions of all the Trek Captains.

  6. Not that I want to be pedantic, but Avery Brooks was the lead in Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and he sure looks African-American to me.

  7. Not to nitpick, but Deep Space 9′s Benjamin Sisko already did the “Star Trek series with an African-American lead” thing. :)

  8. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had an African-American lead, Captain Sisko, played by Avery Brooks. Come on.

  9. This was fun…over the years, I think some of my basic political philosophy was informed by watching Star Trek. I’ll go with “Vulcan” in this situation. I can’t help but say that I think I know who is represented by the Ferengi! lol

  10. Hey, Juan –

    A slight correction to your post today: Arvery Brooks, playing Commander/Captain Benjamin Sisko is the African American to have the distinction of being the first Star Trek lead. Love to know that you are a Trekker, too. Or are you a Trekkie?

    James

  11. Klingons were originally inspired by the Russians (viewed through a certain cartoony lens). They are rival imperialists known for espionage and treachery (and goatees). By TNG they had joined the Federation, reflecting the then-current thaw of the East Bloc, and were threatening to disintegrate into civil war. In one episode they were said to love pain; in another, they were given a messianic religion.

    For the sake of comparison, the Romulans and Vulcans seem to primarily represent China and Japan, respectively. Romulus at the end of TNG seemed on the verge of democratization, much like the China of its time.

    Like most alien races in Star Trek, the Klingons represent a deformity or deficiency of normal human psychology. (The Vulcans lack emotion, the Klingons are too warlike.)

    I would like to see a total reimagining of Star Trek, with the alien characters turned into total non-humanoids. Or alternatively, the show could abandon the concept that they are aliens, and explain them instead as human races or subspecies that evolved (perhaps intentionally) during the process of colonizing space.

    • Next Gen actually had an arc with an ultimate episode that specifically argued the “seeding” of the galaxy by an ancient race – and that’s why we all look so much alike. So not truly alien (like Dr. Who’s Oods), but divergent over billions of years from a common ancestor. It was Gene’s gift to all of us who had wondered for so long why Trek Aliens all looked like a variation of us :>.

  12. A quick correction, professor. Michael Dorn would not be the first African-American lead in the Star Trek franchise. Avery Brooks was the lead on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” from 1993 to 1999 as Captain Benjamin Sisko.

  13. “It would be the first African-American lead as starship captain in a Star Trek series.”

    Someone never watched Deep Space Nine…

  14. I think you’re forgetting about Captain Sisko, the African American captain of Deep Space Nine (and also of the starship Defiant), who not only was portrayed by an African American actor, but was an African American _character_ too, not an alien.

  15. I think you’ve slightly mischaracterized Worf with “He always wants to be on the safe side by attacking first.” There were plenty of instances where his decision making was more than just a strong offense. But having a Vulcan first officer is still a good idea ;)

    Furthermore I’d say the White House’s tendency to try to resolve the extra-constitutional problems that arose during the Bush Administration by simply trying to legalize them is very un-Vulcan.

  16. By analogy, Romney and Ryan are Ferengi, though I would argue that Obama is also a Ferengi.

  17. “It would be the first African-American lead as starship captain in a Star Trek series.”

    You’re forgetting Deep Space Nine. Sure Benjamin Sisko is only a Commander at the start, but by the end he’s a Captain in charge of a station and a starship (Defiant) and regularly advising Admirals as an expert on both Bajor and the Dominion.

  18. Great article…but to be fair, Worf would not be the first “African-American lead… in a Star Trek series. Avery Brooks portrayed Captain Sisko on the Deep Space Nine incarnation of the series from 1993 to 1999.

  19. Obama’s drone strikes are partially due to context. As a Democrat, historically painted as weak on defence, it is absolutely imperative for him that no large terrorist attacks happen on his watch. He wouldn’t be cut the sort of slack that George W. was. Such a policy means the deaths of innocents, true, and I wouldn’t expect the poor schmuck who rented an apartment next to that of a targeted person to understand or forgive, but if Obama does lose power over perceived incompetence in defence, the people who will replace him are the ones with a hard-on for a war with Iran. Then it won’t be apartments getting blown up; it’ll be cities.

  20. Nice article although I have to point out that that Avery Brooks was the first lead African-American captain in a Star Trek series although of Deep Space Nine and Worf was one of his officers.

  21. It is funny to me. In a sane country, Barack Obama would be as far right as would be permissible, particularly if we consider his foreign policy.

  22. If you want to make the neocon analogy it is with the new Star Trek movie from 2009. Most of the utopianism of the Star Trek franchise was chucked for a cold and dangerous universe where buddies have to stick together against all those terrible aliens out there who want to hurt us. I enjoyed the film and have my own problems with the imperial universalism of Star Trek, but it was saddening to see how the new movie seemed to drop so much of the implicit politics of the past for a kind of “Band of Brothers” in space approach.
    a

  23. Worf would be perfectly positioned to take the wise non-combative route in his decision making as no one can accuse him of being weak or afraid of combat, although I’m not sure if they’ll do this for the proposed TV series.
    Unfortunately, the same might hold in current US climate — might be easier for a decorated soldier as leader to make “peace” happen as opposed to a smart non-soldier.

  24. OK, I think we’ve beaten the Avery Brooks/Benjamin Sisko horse to death, dug up it’s grave with a front-end-loader and then beat it some more…….

  25. Mr. Cole, you didn’t mention Obama’s actions re: the Libyan uprising. Yet I can’t see why the way Obama handled the U.S.’s role in those events can’t be seen as having most likely been his finest foreign policy achievement to date. I would even put that above the summary execution of Osama Bin Laden without interrogation or trial of any kind. I’m sorry, but I never saw the virtue of that. You don’t get much out of villains when you kill them on the spot without hearing what they have to say for themselves, which could conceivably have value of some kind. And after all, Bin Laden had already had 10 years to savor his victories in NYC and D.C. and to observe how the GWBush reactions merely intensified the effects of his work, so that taking his life had become essentially meaningless when it came to taking anything from him. Bin Laden might have quoted from an old blues song: “I have had my fun, if I don’t get well no more.”

    In Libya, while wasting a minimum of time, at first Obama took an active hand, and then, after a few days he stepped quietly back while letting other NATO countries, especially Britain and France, assume the leadership and do the heavy lifting, while he supported them with intelligence and other assistance from afar, and there can be no doubt that thereby a slaughter of Libyan citizens was averted that would have been much like what happened later in Syria.

    By your own testimony from having visited there– and the stuff you say always has the ring of truth — today things in Libya are not that bad, despite a few burps here and there. Yet people, predictably mostly the Reglubs, either would like to pretend that Obama’s Libyan intervention never happened, lest he be credited with a foreign policy victory, or they attack the money that it cost, though that was small change compared to what was spent on Iraq, not to mention Afghanistan and Israel and what the hawks would now like to see spent on wasting Iran, though so far Iran’s threat isn’t even “existential,” despite the constant over-use of that pompous word.

    Obama is also castigated for having left Congress out of his decision. I think we could easily get a majority vote that that “horrible” omission alone could give Obama’s Libya venture all the appearance of being the smartest thing he has done so far.

  26. I get the hagiography thing – Obama is tough on defense because he didn’t stop the SEAL’s from killing Osama.

    While OBL was largely irrelevant to US security by that time, it must not be forgotten that GW Bush ordered SEAL’s to stand down when they had OBL in their sights in Tora Bora at the opening of the war, when he was still a factor.
    They were ordered to let the PAF airlift al-Qaeda out.

    But the one recurrent theme of the Obama defense policy is that he has been afraid of Bush’s Generals. He should have cleaned house on taking office, ridding the military and armed services of all those politicians in uniform. But he was afraid of his own shadow.
    That’s how we ended up with a force and policies unsuited to the challenges we face today.
    The smartest thing he could do now is to make the cuts for 2013 that the Sequester is going to inflict anyway, showing that he now has the confidence to command the DoD.

  27. In Startrek, Klingons are culture/race/ethincity, not just a political faction. So, comparing them to the neocons is actually racist.

    Worf is an ethnic Klingon, he was raised by humans. He talks a lot about his being Klingon, but fully enjoys Federations’ equality policies, so he is treated as everybody else according to his merits, not as a Klingon.

    And yes, of course, as it was already mentioned, Sisko is a great black captain in DS9, he has none of Worf’s identity problems.

    As for the neocons, they are ultra-capitalists, but Startrek is anti-capitalist. For example, DS9 Ferengis are a satire on capitalism. So, there can be no neocons in Starfleet.

  28. Avery Brooks may have been the first black lead in Star Trek, but he wasn’t the first black captain. That honor went to the magnificent character actress Madge Sinclair. She played the captain of the Saratoga in Star Trek: The Voyage Home in 1986. As usual, Star Trek got there long before the real world.

  29. An interesting way to place Worf as a captain of a starship (in a series lead role – remember that in the Next Generation movies Worf commands a starship) would be to see his aggressive tendencies tempered by the responsibilities inherent in command. To make the contemporary foreign policy tie, think of the multitudes of leaders of the Israeli military establishment who are aghast at the idea of war with Iran, versus the civilian/religious hotheads who want to bomb away. . . .

  30. “Assassinating suspects with drones” is NOT a Klingon act. Even less so when the drones are operated by people many thousands of miles away. A Klingon prefers to kill up close and personal.

    Maybe “Romulan” would be a better description for President Obama. Romulans are closely related genetically to Vulcans, but passionate and militaristic, and sharing the Vulcan analytical abilities and competence.

    Okay, now I’m ready to see Martians swoop down to save the people of Deraa…

  31. This is going to get very nerdy, (if Cole writes about Star Trek then he is asking for it) but I want to challenge the premise that Worf is a neo-con character. By the end of DS9 and the TNG movies, Warf has mostly abandoned the more aggressive impulses of his youth in favor of rationality. Don’t forget that in First Contact, it is Worf who calls out Picard when the captain lets revenge take over his decision making process. Throughout DS9, Worf is constantly taking the role of “moderator” when negotiating with Klingons and other species in matters of security. So unless Worf is going to do a complete 180 as a character, I think it’s safe to say he will be anything but a neo-con.

    As to the Klingons in general, I think it is fair to make the criticism that they are frequently depicted as characterizations of Orientalism with lots of overtones of jihad. In fairness to writers though, recent depictions of Klingons have focused on Federation characters deciding that the cultural differences of the Klingons must be tolerated if at all possible, and that reform in Klingon society cannot be imposed from the outside. This is in contrast to the policies of Kirk and earlier Piccard policies where the differences between the Federation and Klingons were irreconcilable and unable to coexist.

    If you’re looking for the neo-cons in star trek then look for Section 31 which had a few episodes in DS9 or the Cardassians. Also, Worf probably won’t be starting a war with the Romulans as it is implied their home world was destroyed in the 2009 movie.

    I suspect that if they start a new series, it will not be especially concerned with the War on Terror. They already tried to go there with Star Trek Enterprise, and, well, we all know how that went (the series just plain sucked). I would hope that a new series might be brave enough to get into some self examination of the whole “Star Trek project”. I think there is a lot of anxiety right now about globalization, which has been represented by the Federation throughout all the series. For example, they could explore the worry that cultural hegemony will lead to the eventual disappearance of distinct cultures.

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