School Television

Aristotle in Star Trek?

Last semester I took a public speaking class and learned the basics of writing a good, convincing and even persuasive essay. Earlier today I was thinking about these basics and the thought came to mind, “Maybe this is why Star Trek is so good; so engaging; so believable. Of course, my opinion of it being believable is pretty far out, but you must admit, Roddenberry did an awesome job of portraying human nature even in a futuristic world.

So what are these basics that I speak of? They are those elements of writing which Aristotle came up with: Ethos, Logos and Pathos (ethics, logic and emotion). Ethos describes how trustworthy a statement is, while logos explains how logical it is to proven fact. Pathos appeals to the emotions, even if the content is an assumption or completely falsified.

The statement, “We are miracles of God,” is not necessarily a statement with strong ethos, simply because there is no basis for the statement. However, you could reword it and say, “According to the living word of God, we are His miracles.” Now the statement has some origin which skeptics could reference your statement to to see if what you were saying had any basis.

Now I feel like I’m rambling. So I’ll get to the point of this post: Star Trek. What made Star Trek so engaging and why does it still have a huge fan-base? I think it is partly because Gene Roddenberry heavily utilized these three tools in every single one of the episodes. He even personified them into certain characters throughout the multiple series that were created.

Example: Spock is obviously the persona of logic, or logos. Every statement he made was based off of a believable scientific or statistical fact. Kirk was the example of ethos. He could not have become captain of a starship without a good trustworthy background. And his crew followed him into every scenario even when at first glance, the decision seemed crazy, because they knew he could be trusted. And McCoy was a good example of pathos. Everything he did seemed to contrast to Spock, because he was a very emotional person. He based many of his decisions on how he felt at the time.

Of course, Next Generation equivalents would have been Data, Picard and Troi, respectively.

Now Roddenberry could not have created hundreds of episodes by making sure logos, ethos and pathos were present in every single one. No. In fact, I believe he intentionally reversed them in many cases. Recall the sadistic parallel-universe Kirk, or the time Picard was taken over by the electrical alien, making his crew extremely suspicious of his actions and even sparking mutinous feelings. In these cases, these leaders had lost their ethical credibility! So even a reversal in ethos, pathos and logos were used to create and add even more variety and interest to the world of Star Trek.

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