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Primitive Culture: A Star Trek History and Culture Podcast

Jan 23, 2018

Star Trek’s Impossible Choices.

Since the publication of William Styron’s novel Sophie’s Choice in 1979, the title has entered the cultural lexicon as a term meaning a difficult situation in which a person must choose between two equally deserving alternatives. Two Star Trek episodes-Discovery’s “Lethe” and Voyager’s “Latent Image,” both written by Joe Menosky-borrow the story’s horrifying central conceit: a mother forced to choose between her children. In Jeri Taylor’s Voyager novel Mosaic, we learn that a similarly unbearable choice early in Kathryn Janeway’s Starfleet career almost destroyed her chances at command, plunging her into deep depression.

In this episode of Primitive Culture, hosts Clara Cook and Duncan Barrett consider Star Trek’s approach to impossible choices. For the men and women who want to sit in the captain’s chair, part of their training involves facing the most terrible dilemmas-sending a friend to his death to save the ship or facing the ultimate no-win scenario: the Kobayashi Maru. But are some choices just too awful for human beings to cope with? And what happens when being forced to choose makes us lose something we can never get back?

Intro (00:00:00)
“Lethe” (00:04:43)
“Latent Image” (00:13:00)
Boundaries of Impossibility (00:23:00)
Mosaic (00:31:45)
The Kobayashi Maru (00:36:15)
“Children of Time” and Generational Empathy (00:38:20)
The Needs of the Many (00:50:45)
Twenty-first-century Choices (01:02:00)

Clara Cook and Duncan Barrett

Clara Cook (Editor) Duncan Barrett (Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Ken Tripp (Executive Producer) Norman C. Lao (Associate Producer) Amy Nelson (Associate Producer) Richard Marquez (Production Manager) Brandon-Shea Mutala (Patreon Manager)