It is apparent in the Star Trek episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” that both Lokai and Bele wish to see their shared home planet of Cheron become a utopia.* Yet in both of their respective attempts to accomplish just this, they end up wreaking havoc not only on their home planet, but on the Enterprise as well. In this manner, Lokai and Bele demonstrate a characteristic of what might be considered pseudo-utopias: while they may possess a society mostly free of problems, instead of eliminating the cause of certain problems, such pseudo-utopias merely distance the cause from themselves.
Such pseudo-utopias are in fact more widespread than might be thought. Generally, however, they tend to occur in relatively well-off societies. Indeed, one might consider the oil-powered American economic boom between roughly 1950 and 1972 as a sort of national pseudo-utopia, in that living standards improved dramatically** while working hours per family stayed roughly the same. However, externalized problems occurred; the rise of petro-states in the Middle East, the exhaustion of American oil supplies, and the degradation of the environment were all some of the distanced externalities*** of this uniquely American utopic vision.
In “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield”, the viewer sees far more directly the influence of externalized problems. The first problem is the inconvenience of transporting Lokai to Starbase while on an urgent medical mission to disinfect the planet Ariannus. The second is the loss of control of the Enterprise caused by Bele’s appearance and desire to take Lokai into his custody for trial back on Cheron. Both of these compromise the Enterprise‘s mission, reflective of how American externalization compromised our environment and national security. Furthermore, just as this episode depicts Cheronian society’s externalizations eventually resulting in its destruction, American externalization resulted in a decrease in American global power. In this sense, the episode provides an excellent example of how pseudo-utopias are negatively affected by externalizing societal problems.
*It could be posited that this is in fact the goal of all civilizations, and although the two Cheronians are not necessarily civil, they could pass for civilized. Can we truly consider them to be civilized? Certainly they originate from what can be called civilizations. If Lokai and Bele are uncivilized, then how can we reconcile the concept of a civilization as a collection of uncivilized people? Is there even anything to reconcile in this concept?
**It should be noted that this was, from a feminist point of view, a continuation of the confinement of the American women to the home that had begun to emerge in cities and suburbs before World War II. Can we draw parallels between this double standard and the conflict in Cheronian society?
***Note that these situations involve externalities distanced in time (exhaustion of American oil reserves didn’t fully occur until around 1970), space (environmental problems manifested themselves mostly away from major population centers), and time and space (the rise of petro-states).