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A Historian’s Rant

Category: Rants and Raves

Published July 8, 2004

It’s been said that those who forget history are condemned to repeal it... or something. — David Sluss

If there’s one thing I can’t stand on any television show (or anywhere else, for that matter), its complete and utter ignorance of history. This may be just because history is my passion in life — I am the owner of a bachelor’s degree in history, after all — but that doesn’t diminish the argument that understanding history is of crucial importance to every single person on this planet. I’m not suggesting that everyone go out and dig in to every single history book they can find, but I do believe that at least some basic knowledge of Humanity’s past is not too much to ask of anyone over the age of about 15.

What really irks me, though, are the latest rumors being reported by TrekToday about the upcoming fourth season premiere. Already, we knew that we were in for a bizarre mindf*ck, thanks to the last few seconds of that oh-so-annoying episode, “Zero Hour”, but as a historian, the more I learn about how this story will develop, the more annoyed I get.

The year? 1944. The place? New York City.

As it turns out, the Germans have made impressive in-roads into North America, as well as Africa and Russia. Washington, D.C., has fallen and the bombed-out White House is now in the hands of the Nazis. They are being aided by an alien commander, Vosk, who is equipping the Germans with weapons based on futuristic technology to aid their war effort.

Excuse me? Are you telling me that in the space of just ten years (or less) in this alternate timeline, the Germans manage to conquer a quarter of the planet, with just a few advanced alien gizmos helping them? Such a premise exhibits an embarrassing lack of understanding of the reality of World War II. Now, I’m certainly not arguing that Nazi Germany was not a threat to the world — they certainly were. But despite Hitler’s appearances of some mad desire to conquer the entire world, such a feat was literally impossible for Germany, especially in such a short time span, because of relative capabilities in manpower and industry. Sure, some futuristic technology might even the playing field a little, allowing the Nazis to last longer and hold their own against the superior Allied armies (or more specifically, the massive manpower of the USSR’s Red Army combined with the superior industrial and technological capabilities of the USA).

Launching a massive, three-front invasion of Russia, North America, and Africa is quite simply out of the question of reality, even if it’s something as bizarre as an alternate reality where there are Evil Alien Nazis on Star Trek: Enterprise. Based on the report describing the setting, we can assume that reality in this alternate timeline hasn’t changed that much — after all, the majority of the contemporary population isn’t aware of where the Germans’ advanced weapons are coming from. Therefore, it’s reasonable to expect that these weapons are not all that exotic in nature, but are just relatively more advanced than those the Allies possessed at that same time period.

And of course, all of this assumes the idiotic-but-totally-Hollywood’s-style portrayal of Nazi Germany as this ultra-evil, monolithic conquest machine that had its eye on conquering literally the entire world is acceptable anyway. I’m hardly the greatest expert on World War II, but what I do know is that the continued use of Nazis as villains in entertainment today is a major insult to the German people. Bernd Schneider (a German himself) puts it quite well in his own review of “Zero Hour":

Germany has a recorded history more than four times as long as the USA, it has been the home to countless world-famous composers, philosophers, authors, inventors or physicists. It is just wrong to reduce all this to the twelve years of one barbarian regime. [...] Today Germany is a country with people of all flavors who want to and have a right to live their lives in peace and without being treated as if they were all latent criminals.

Just how often does Star Trek have to draw on World War II as the source of entertainment, anyway? Is it even remotely possible that they (the writers) could choose some sort of different time period to visit, one that’s not been addressed before? We’ve already had Voyager’s execrable “The Killing Game”, not to mention TOS’s laughable “Patterns of Force” and DS9’s comparisons to the conflict. Did no one ever pay any attention to any other part of history class? Or are we going to eternally focus on this one point in time?

I don’t really expect Berman and Braga to change, nor all of Hollywood for that matter. I’m too jaded to expect that. (And besides, the die has unfortunately already been cast with regard to Evil Alien Nazis in Enterprise.) But I would like to know that somewhere, out there, just maybe some people besides me are utterly disgusted with the ignorance with which Human history is being treated these days.

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