Star Trek has been influential in pop culture and society for over four decades, but now it has gone a step farther to becoming a legal precedent. In a new ruling, the Texas Supreme Court has specifically cited the "the needs of the many…" axiom from Star Trek II. Details below, plus exclusive reaction from Wrath of Khan writer/director Nicholas Meyer.
Star Trek makes law
In a ruling on Robinson v. Crown Cork and Seal, an asbestos lawsuit, the Texas Supreme Court struck down a lower court decision and declared a provision of recent legislation to be unconstitutional. As explained by the South East Texas Record, the court found that the legislature should not enact a law which in effect protected a single company.
Where things get interesting is in the written opinion where, in the section on "how the Texas Constitution allocates governing power" , Justice Don R. Willett cites a certain science officer:
Appropriately weighty principles guide our course. First, we recognize that police power draws from the credo that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Second, while this maxim rings utilitarian and Dickensian (not to mention Vulcan21), it is cabined by something contrarian and Texan: distrust of intrusive government and a belief that police power is justified only by urgency, not expediency.
And it gets better, footnote 21 reads:
See STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (Paramount Pictures 1982). The film references several works of classic literature, none more prominently than A Tale of Two Cities. Spock gives Admiral Kirk an antique copy as a birthday present, and the film itself is bookended with the book’s opening and closing passages. Most memorable, of course, is Spock’s famous line from his moment of sacrifice: “Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh . . .” to which Kirk replies, “the needs of the few.”
So apparently Justice Willett is a Trekkie. Could this kind of thing catch on? There have been a number of Star Trek related classes at colleges and universities, perhaps it is time for Star Trek to be taught at law school.
Spock explains how sacrificing himself is logical in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"
Earlier I emailed Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer, who wrote the final draft of the script for the film, to get his reaction to this. Here is his reply:
It WOULD be the Texas Supreme Court…
Still, you’ve made my day!!
Thanks so much.
Live long, and prosper,
Thanks to SFWA for spotting this
Wonderful how a movie released in ’82 remains relevant in a wildly different universe. Great words.
I sure hope the new movie has this kind of timeless writing (but NOT recycling that quote again!)
Can anyone honestly quote one memorable line of dialogue from last years popcorn Trek?
That is awesome
The next quote will be from TOS for todays elections:
“Brain and brain…what is Brain?!”
I think all the dialogue from “The Way to Eden” and “Return of the Archons” needs to be incorporated too.
When trying to get a law or motion passed they could say “Just be friendly. You know how to be friendly.” Right on brother. I reach that I really do”
When sentencing someone you could always say ” You will be….excised. For the good of the body….you, and all those you know you, must be….destroyed.”
This is really quite amazing and I love it!
However, may it please the Star Trek Supreme Court, I am moved to indicate that the same idea is actually encapsulated in the philosophy of utilitarianism as famously espoused by the English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, who lived from 1748 to 1832. This greatly precedes Charles Dickens or, of course, Star Trek.
Utilitarian was later refined as rule utilitarianism by none other than John Stuart Mill.
I know this because philosophy was one of my favorite subjects in college some decades ago.
Of course, it may be possible that Bentham was actually a time-traveling Vulcan.
MEMORABLE QUOTE FROM LAST YEARS FILM:
“You can settle for a less than ordinary life. Or do you feel like you were meant for something better? Something special?”—Pike to Kirk in the bar after the fight
…granted, not taken from classical literature, but it has the same resonating meaning as if it had been.
And how about how Quinto-Spock said ‘Live Long and Prosper’ to the Vulcan Science Academy Council in a way so it sounded like ‘F**k you’ and made you think OMG Spock’s gonna go Sylar on the Council LOL
Don’t mess with Texas. ;)
He cited utilitarianism in the opinion. “Second, while this maxim rings utilitarian and Dickensian (not to mention Vulcan21) …”
Oh, and there were some great lines of dialogue — exchanges, indeed — in ST2009.
“You know your father was Captain of a Starship for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives. Including your mother’s and yours. I dare you to do better.”
Spoken by Christopher Pike, who features in my proposed Trek fiction, “Star Trek: Convergence” (previously known as “Star Trek 2: Terminal Convergence.”
TWOK is still the greatest of the TREK movies!..
10, good point, but my idea is to draw the connection between utilitarianism and the Vulcan line and to indicate that utilitarianism greatly precedes the fictional Star Trek universe.
By the way, there are, I am certain, many philosophical and legal ideas that one can find in Star Trek, which is an endless source of interest to the intellectually curious amongst us.
Trek is a very rich trove of some very profound ideas that one scarcely finds expressed anywhere else in popular culture.
None of the quotes mentioned from ST09 even come close to “Can I cook, or can’t I?”, never mind “The needs of the many…”
And @8 NuKirk – really? Quinto’s childish petulant “Live Long and Prosper” was horribly out of character – a cringe-worthy example of modern smartassedness replacing class and substance.
^^14, the edgiest, most pop-cultural, and strangely least controversial (considering its subject) line — albeit spoken in jest, in the movie, were the ones referencing bestiality:
Lt. Nyota Uhura: I’m impressed. For a moment there, I thought you were just a dumb hick who only has sex with farm animals.
James T. Kirk: Well, not only.
In retrospect, that is. Although, I must say that that line struck me as unusual.
En passant, here is an exchange I like from the movie:
Burly Cadet #1: Hey farmboy. Maybe you can’t count. But there are four of us and one of you.
James T. Kirk: So get two more guys and then it’ll be an even fight.
@14: Do people still not get Vulcans? After the movie came out, it was months of “Vulcans don’t fall in love!” Utter nonsense, natch. In the same vein, how is it out of character for a Vulcan to be sarcastic? Vulcans are the masters of sarcasm, renowned throughout the galaxy. One exchange from “The Trouble with Tribbles” leaps to mind:
CHEKOV: I was making a little joke, sir.
SPOCK: (witheringly) Yes, ensign. Very little.
Vulcans also don’t
b. have sex — ever
c. enjoy intimacy or,
d. none of the above.
No points for choosing the obvious correct answer (d).
It is possible that the young Spock, being half-human, had simply not yet developed the self-control that the slightly older Spock we have been used to (from TOS) had.
great…the barbarians are at the gate, and Rome is burning…
Yeah, too bad. Rome had so much going for it…
“You bring this network’s ratings down, Flavius, and we’ll do a special on you!”
Well, it’s a start. Now, if we could only get more people to adopt the philosophy of IDIC, we’d be moving in the right direction.
Now, I don’t expect to see transporters and food replicators in my lifetime, but a little acceptance and common sense? Why does that seem like too much to ask for…?
Peace and long life, neighbors.
3. Odkin – “Can anyone honestly quote one memorable line of dialogue from last years popcorn Trek?”
Oh yes, I can, but I doubt these words would make for any legal precedent though. LOL
“What’s your focus?”
“Xenolinguistics. You don’t know what that means.”
“Morphology, phonology, syntax. It means you’ve got a talented tongue.”
“I’m impressed. For a moment there, I thought you were just a dumb hick who only has sex with farm animals.”
“Well, not only. ”
“Is this townie bothering you?”
“Oh, beyond belief, but nothing I can’t handle.”
“You can handle me. That’s an invitation.”
I’ve been meaning to ask which one of the writers – Kurtzman, Orci, Lindelof, was responsible for those lines? Don’t be shy now. You task me, you task me.
Has anyone any idea how it is when I see and hear the Pine/Kirk say the words, “You can handle me. That’s an invitation” . If only, oh how I could handle that man, if I got my hands, etc on him…sigh!!!!!
“I dare you to do better.” – Christopher Pike
Reminder: dont get political
Has anyone else noticed the very large degree distance between Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Nemesis as measured by degree of formality? For the most, the lines in Nemesis can be spoken of in a stentorian voice, almost as though in an operatic play.
For example: “The crew has responded with the dedication I’ve come to expect of them… And like a thousand other commanders on a thousand other battlefields, I wait for the dawn.” (Nemesis.)
This kind of dialogue has been described as “heightened,” and it evokes classical tradition.
Compare this with the “sex with farm animals” line in ST2009, and the difference is clear.
ST2009 is made without what some might consider “stuffiness” in dialogue; I think an analogy can be made between the hyperdescriptive, to-modern-ears-stilted language of Dickens and the still-modern language of Hemingway and London, where economy of words and informality are more highly prized.
I’m not rendering value judgments on either approach. I just find the difference remarkable.
I’m kind of envious of those old enough to have seen TWOK when it was first released in ’82. Spock’s sacrifice must’ve been so much more profound back then… rather than now when even new or casual fans already know that old pointy-ears gets resurrected in the third movie somehow.
uuuuh Anthony… how can we not get political when they subject of this article is politics via legalities and court cases?
It is nice to see STII used in a court ruling. :D
I’ve indirectly referenced ST in my papers and directly in a presentation on Human Nature.
I really do believe schools should have an ST course. The entire series is filled with morals and the perfect tool to study the theory of politics, psychology, business, design, engineering, and other relevant subjects.
Yeah, I was there in 1982 (age 27) on opening night. We had heard the rumors about Spock, but shrugged them off in our anticipation of a good movie. When the moment came that Spock dies, there was a kind of muffled silence in the theatre……I say muffled because most of the men in the theatre were EMOTIONALLY STUNNED at what they had just witnessed and really didn’t know how to behave OR react. You could feel this wave of grief/shock from the audience that was almost palpable. I, of course, have watched the movie 35 times since then, but nothing will equal that shared experience.
That’s a great story! Unfortunately, I was only one (going on two) when “The Wrath Of Khan” came out. Today, a scene like that wouldn’t get the same reactions since it has been done so many times since then.
Wow, thanks for sharing that experience, Harry. Funny, you were 27 and got TWOK. I’m 27 now and I get… hmmm… well, guess I’ll be pushing 30 when the next Trek movie comes out. :(
But if it’s as good as TWOK… I’ll be a happy 29 year old. :)
it was my pleasure to remember the experience!
I’ve most definitely noticed the difference in formality, in Trek and in other things. The most recent (to me, since I just watched this) striking example is in the Lord Of The Rings movies, where the formality of dialogue is all over the place.
Interesting choices these scriptwriters make…
Great line from ST09, even better because it stands on the shoulder of TWOK:
“Going back in time, changing history? That’s cheating.”
“A trick I learned from an old friend.”
“Are their sandwiches in the future?” and “Can someone get me a towel?” Both immortally spoken by Nu-Scotty.
I like this
“What is necessary is never unwise.”
Sarek to Spock in the Transporter Room after Spock relinquishes command
“I’d like to get my hands on her ample nacelles, if you’ll pardon the engineering parlance.”
Wow, you guys need to get out more often if you think this is noteworthy, even in the realm of Trek.
Star Trek of the Roddenberry and Berman years is like classical music. JJ Abrams Star Trek is more rock and roll.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved the Shakespearian Klingons in Undiscovered Country and “the needs of the many etc…” but at times it was hugely cheesy. Why they used “Saving Grace” for Spock’s “burial” is beyond me so lets not get caught up in the nostalgia of old Star Trek.
Abrams Star Trek is a classic blockbuster for the times we live in just as Wrath of Khan was for it’s era.
Everyone loves rock and roll and hardly anyone who goes to see a science fiction epic really likes Shakespeare.
Really, 37. It’s called having fun. Although some people are critical of one liners, I think that clever one-liners are actually what make or break a movie. Is that not how we talk, make conversation, unless we are giving a speech, an explanation or doing some sort of monologue?
“Saving Grace”? The hymn is called “Amazing Grace” and it was a beautiful part of the film. Check out the movie called “Amazing Grace” and among other things explains the origin of that hymn. It is also one of the best known of all hymns, has a beautiful melody and words. I suspect it will still be played and sung even in Trek times. One can only hope.
Now we can only hope that the new Star Trek crew in the new movies are as lasting 25 years after it is shown as TOS crew has been.
The first quote from ST09 that came to my mind was …
“I may throw up on you”.
– spoken by both McCoy and Kirk.
Sorry if this quote is too political.
I don’t think the new movie has any line as memorable as ‘The needs of the many’, but the opening scene was as powerful as any in all of ST. As a father, watching George Kirk sacrifice himself to save his being-delivered son and wife… Damn, still gets me.
I remember your face from Earths History. It said that Capt Kirk was a great man who would go on to Capt the Enterprise. But that was another Life. A Life Im going to deprive you of like I did your fathers.. That was a great line. It is so kool to live in Texas. Go Rangers!!!!!!!
5–I think that line can apply to most politicians today. I think a brainectomy is required before you are allowed to run for office today. Unfortunately their brains would be useless on Sigma Draconis VI (yeah I looked that up on Memory Alpha).
@28, I saw Nemesis the day it came out, and what you describe sounds like the feeling in the theatre when Data sacrificed himself. While that movie has its obvious flaws, that moment will stay with me as one of those “I’ll never forget when” kind of moments.
Star Trek is an excellant source for a code of civilized behavior. Its about time that we adopted it into our code of behavior. Great show of commen sense. We may not destroy our selvies.
1. Not just a movie released in 1982, it’s Star Trek.
# 3 A couple of statements from Spock prime to younger Spock that is pertinent today….
“Set aside logic, and do what feels right.” – Gotta do that sometimes!
Young Spock – “You lied.” Older Spock – “I implied.” Loved that one!!
“Ee Pleb Neesta!”