Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Star Trek Observation

I caught an episode of the original Star Trek the other day. Spock and the rest of the crew got sprayed with spores from some kind of space flower. The parasitc spores inhabited their hosts,convincing them the planet was paradise. The crew eventually mutinied in order to beam down for an eternity of floral bliss.

Kirk was left alone with a flower specimen. In the midst of his agonizing over what to do, he got showered with spores. Before joining the rest of his crew, he resists the power of the spores and discovers anger will negate their effects.

I remember this episode from childhood. I loved it because Spock and Kirk get into a fight at the end. Kirk beams the Vulcan up and insults him (Your mother was an encyclopedia!! Your father was a computer!!) until Spock becomes enraged and is freed from the effects of the spores.

Over the last year or so, I've become more of a Trek fan. This episode illustrates perfectly what I like about it, especially Kirk. The best Trek episodes explore such basic human longings that they seem almost like fairy tales. Trek does this much better than the Star Wars saga which has gotten weaker as it has progressed.

In the spore story I described, we see the crew wrestle with a longing for Eden, for a world better than the one we inhabit. This theme comes up in many ways across the Trek episodes and movies.

What makes Kirk admirable is his integrity in refusing to give into false paradises. He seems to sense that holding out for the real thing, even at the price of some short term suffering, is important.

We're all Captain Kirk somteimes. How many times a day does some illusory Eden beckon? We all long for a better world and our longing leaves us vulnerable to seduction. At our finest, however, we resist, knowing the world we long for lies somewhere yet up ahead and, like the crew of the Enterprise, go boldly on.

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