THE ALTERNATIVE FACTOR IV: THE BEAT OF A DIFFERENT DRUMMER by RICK AUSTIN
Previous Alternative Factors have dealt with aspects of survival, responsibility and adventure within the Star Trek universe. However, sometimes the problems the captains have had to face are closer to home, and yet can have bigger ramifications. This time the captain in question is Jean-Luc Picard, and his methodical approach to all situations as well as his unflinching determination to do the right thing.
When The Next Generation first aired, Picard was introduced to fans in a less-than-flattering light, barking orders and being cold to all those around him. After the fans had been used to Kirk and his fast-and-loose style for so many years, the most cerebral captain ever was disliked and parodied by many. Rumours still persist that Riker was supposed to replace him early on, and yet despite all of the problems the fans warmed up to him. As the series progressed his character mellowed, and he became recognised as quite possibly the best captain ever. A man of great convictions, he would stand with Worf through his problems, assist Data with his quest for humanity, and even mentor Wesley as best as a man with little family experience could. Yet one of his biggest challenges came from within Starfleet itself…
HOW WOULD THE OTHER CAPTAINS HAVE HANDLED THE EVENTS OF THE DRUMHEAD?
An explosion in engineering of the Enterprise 1701-D leads to the uncovering of a Klingon exchange officer being unveiled as a spy. When Starfleet sends in Admiral Satie, a witch-hunt begins that puts innocent crewman Simon Tarses on trial and then spreads out of control. With crew members turning on each other, things spiral into chaos and Picard’s ethics land him directly in the firing line. In the pivotal climax, Picard’s failures and questionable actions over the years are called into question. Picard goes on the attack, lamenting the McCarthyism-style hearings and explains how unfounded suspicions can lead to a loss of personal freedoms. Picard wins through and the trial is exposed as a sham, but it’s a bitter pill to swallow that such a thing could happen in the first place. But how would the other captains have handled it?
KIRK: In his fourth year in command of the Enterprise 1701, Kirk receives visitors on board who are supposed to be discussing a potential peace treaty: Ambassador Robert Fox, several admirals, and Klingon Commander Kang. When an explosion occurs in engineering, Kang is the most likely suspect and it comes to light that he has been gathering crucial information during his time on board, concealed in hyposprays. Ambassador Fox believes Kang caused sabotage, and in his usual manner takes over the Enterprise to lead a witch-hunt to find Kang’s collaborators. His primary target? Nurse Chapel, who had been handling the hyposprays.
Kirk defends Chapel, knowing her to be a capable and loyal nurse, but Fox proceeds with the same manner he displayed in A Taste of Armageddon. When Spock and Scotty conclude that the explosion was nothing more than an accident, Kirk pushes Fox to breaking point and Kirk goes on trial himself. With his track record of breaking the Prime Directive and bucking authority, it’s time for cooler heads to prevail. However, that’s not Kirk’s manner, and pushed to breaking point he snaps and strikes Fox. While Spock and Bones petition the admirals for leniency, this is one case where Kirk’s aggressive attitude may have cost him his career…
SISKO: With the resurgence of the Marquis, the threat of the Dominion and the Klingon hostilities, Deep Space Nine has been a hive of activity lately, especially since Worf’s recent arrival. Captain Sisko is managing to hold things together, until an explosion aboard the Defiant leads Admiral Leyton to visit, suspecting sabotage. While Odo continues his investigation, Leyton questions Sisko’s decision to have a Klingon serving under him, and orders Odo to investigate Worf as a prime suspect. Sisko is outraged, while Leyton is pleased to have an opportunity to get Odo on his side whilst spreading fear.
With Worf being questioned and harassed, Sisko stands his ground. Leyton regrets turning Sisko into an enemy, but focuses his attacks on him. Sisko’s history is called into question, his problems with Picard, his position as Emissary, his first officer being a former terrorist, his chief medical officer recently aiding the Jem’Hadar, even his sharing of information with known spy Garak. Sisko is angry, but with his rational nature manages to argue every point. Leyton ultimately backs down, his job of raising suspicions already done. Everything is working out for Sisko, although Odo’s discovery that the accident was sabotage raises more questions. With Leyton gone, Sisko can only wonder what happened as he says goodnight to Lt. Commander Eddington, and heads out for a date with Kasidy Yates…
JANEWAY: Justice on board the stranded Voyager has to function differently, since they’re so far from home. After six years the crew has managed to overcome their initial differences thanks to the exposure of Seska as a traitor and Tuvok’s training of the Maquis members. However, when an explosion rips through engineering and Tuvok’s investigation reveals potential sabotage, old feelings of distrust start to spread. Janeway explores all options but refuses to submit to the suspicions that are starting to spread throughout the ship. Some of the Starfleet crew are wondering if the Marquis can still be trusted, while Chakotay argues that the Marquis would have as much to lose through sabotage. However, some crew members focus their sights on another potential threat.
Rumours grow amongst the crew, especially when it becomes known that the explosions were caused by the Borg technology upgrades, and Seven becomes a target. Her cold explanation of the situation and apparent lack of sympathy for the crew members injured in the explosion do little to ease the tension. As tempers start to flare, it falls to Janeway to quell the resentment. Janeway gathers the crew together and uses every ounce of certitude to explain to the crew that what happened was an accident and nothing more. As she tells them of the dangers of succumbing to suspicion and apologies for never having successfully integrated Seven into the crew. “There’s nobody to blame here,” Janeway pleads, “but if you must blame someone then the fault lies with me.”
ARCHER: Returning to Earth after ending the temporal Cold War, routine maintenance to the Enterprise is underway while the crew engage in some much-deserved shore leave. During repairs, an explosion in engineering raises many eyebrows amongst the Starfleet Admiralty, who are keen to question the absent Commander Tucker while they investigate. His disappearance along with T’Pol, having left for Vulcan, causes doubt amongst the Starfleet top brass who are falling prey to the xenophobia that has been spreading across Earth since the Xindi attack. With Trip unable to defend himself, Archer steps up to represent his missing friend and comes under attack despite the investigation proving that it was merely an accident.
Archer’s record as captain is brought up, with every mistake cataloged and exposed. Starfleet may have had faith in him, and Admiral Forrest’s testimony and Captain Erika Hernandez’s statements regarding recently-shared information about Archer’s feelings about his job make things difficult. Archer makes a passionate plea to the admiralty, defending his friend and all he’s done over the years. “I may not have been the perfect captain and I may not have had the perfect crew, but we always gave our best,” Archer argues. “Just a few days ago you were hailing us as heroes. Now one of my crew is being judged in his absence. My doctor is being assaulted in public because he’s an alien. What happened to you people – what happened to Earth – while we were gone? Please, we deserve better than this. We all do.” Giving Starfleet something to think about, Archer may have made the speech that hasn’t just saved himself, but the future of the Federation.