It’s Life Jim, but You Don’t Want to Know It, TOS: S2E22 “By Any Other Name”

The universe is huge, and it is teeming with planets which could potentially harbor life.  True, most of these wouldn’t have hospitable conditions, but given the sheer number of planets in the universe, there should be at least a few with alien life.  The chances we are alone in the universe is incredibly small, but if this is true, where is everybody?  That was the question posed by physicist Enrico Fermi, and it became known as the Fermi Paradox.  There are several proposed solutions to this mystery, one being that extra-terrestrials are probably so advanced and sophisticated that they don’t even notice humans.  These superbeings would probably mine our solar system for resources and not give a second thought to the strange little monkeys living on the third planet.

Intergalactic civilizations, able to control the resources of their entire galaxy, might be motivated by the very expansionist drive that influenced their evolution in the first place.  The Star Trek universe is teeming with life, and most of these had cultural interests so similar to humans that it wasn’t difficult to form a federation.  However, the likelihood that our universe is filled with hostile aliens is a probable solution to our paradox.  Kirk and crew had the pleasure of meeting one such civilization.

The Enterprise responds to a fake distress call meant to lure the ship into a trap set by aliens of the Kelvan Empire. They are the descendants from a multi-generational ship completing their intergalactic mission from the Andromeda Galaxy. Taking human form, the Kelvans aim to conquer planets in the Milkey Way.  The Enterprise crew is impressed with their sophisticated technology.  Considering that Voyager was lost within our own galaxy, and they were prepared to be a multi-generational ship, it would take some extreme scientific advances to navigate the challenges of intergalactic space.  The Kelvan’s, having overcome these challenges, turned their efforts toward expansionism and domination.

Civilizations require energy, and the more advanced a civilization is, the more energy it demands.  This relates to another method employed in the study of alien civilizations, the Kardashev Scale.  Using this approach, the development of a civilization is measured based on how much energy it controls.  A Type 1 civilization is able to access all of the energy available on its own planet.  Type 2 civilizations can harness the energy of their own stars and planetary systems, Type 3 controls the energy of its galaxy, and Type 4 uses the energy of multiple galaxies.  On this scale, the Kelvans were a Type 4 civilization, or at least they were becoming one.  They possessed such advanced minds that Spock could not sustain a mind meld with them.

To survive the multi-generational journey from Andromeda, the Kelvans are streamlined for efficiency.  They have few sensory abilities, acting as single-minded robots to carry out a centuries-old mission inherited by them.  To invade the Milky Way, the aliens had to take human form, and experience human emotions for the first time.  The Enterprise crew worked together to bombard the aliens with sensory overload.  The crew uses drunkenness, love, jealousy, and irritability to distract the Kelvans.  Kirk even fights their captain, but in the end, reaches him through negotiation.  Kirk convinces the Kelvans that they would slowly become unrecognisable to their own people if they made the 300-year journey back to Andromeda in human form, but it would be far more logical for them to peacefully coexist in the Milky Way as they are.  The alien captain is surprised Kirk would welcome an enemy, and the superior aliens learned wisdom from the humble humans.

It is interesting that a civilization much lower on the Kardashev scale had more advanced views on the logic of conquest.  Star Trek often demonstrates that peaceful solutions are more sustainable than the expansionist drive that seems to be fundamental for intelligent life to compete.  The Fermi Paradox illustrates the incongruence between the sheer probability of life beyond Earth, and the complete absence of it, but if there are aliens out there, maybe we would be better off staying hidden.

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