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Re: Good Bye Star Trek Voyager?

By Gary F. Zeolla


The following message was posted in the "alt.tv.star-trek.voyager" Newsgroup.

I would like to thank everyone who responded to my post Good Bye Star Trek Voyager?" I received many comments both in this Newsgroup and via e-mail from those who checked out my Web site.

The comments have come from Christians, atheists, and others. So I really received a wide variety of responses. They have been mostly considerate, thoughtful, and very helpful (with an occasionally snide comment, but I expected that).

I have tried to respond to as many of the comments I received as I could. But they started to get too numerous. So to bring a closure to this discussion, below I am going to try to summarize the main comments I have received (in quotes), along with my responses.

First, to summarize my original post for anyone who missed it, I was commenting on "Mortal Coil." My "take" on the episode was that it was a direct assault on the idea of life after death. I believed it contradicted previous episodes of Star Trek where it appeared there was life after death in the ST universe, along with episodes that seemed to say there is a distinction between our material and immaterial selves.

As a Christian, this perceived assault, along with previous unchristian viewpoints presented in ST, had left me in a somewhat of a dilemma. I was not sure if I could in good faith continue to watch ST, and especially Voyager.

Now for the summarized comments and my responses.

1. "Star Trek is just fiction. It’s entertainment. Don’t take it so seriously."

True ST is fiction and mainly designed to entertain. And it is entertaining. But fiction, and especially science fiction, can be a strong medium to promote a worldview.

As Shatner wrote in Star Trek Memories - "Roddenberry realized that if he were to write a thinly veiled and substantive societal commentary within a less obvious and somehow more acceptable framework like fantasy or science fiction, he might be able to actually speak out on some fairly important, even controversial topics" (p.26).

So ST, from the start, was intended to be more than just "fiction." Roddenberry specially designed ST as a means of propagating his worldview. Roddenberry even once received the "Humanist of the Year" award from the American Humanist Society for his efforts.

2. "In real life, some people have ‘experiences’ when they have been dead and revived, and some don’t. So ST is just reflecting this diversity of experiences in sometimes presenting after-death experiences and sometimes not."

This is a good point. TV shows such as the "Learning Channel" show of "Life After Death" that I referred to in my post like to present the stories of those who have had "near death experiences" as it makes for good TV. It would be rather boring to have a show about the people who have been revived and reported experiencing nothing.

Another possibility is it that ST has been around a long time, with many different writers and producers over the years. So maybe the difference viewpoints presented reflect the beliefs of whichever writer/ producer worked on the particular series or episode.

3. "’Mortal Coil’ was not necessarily saying there is no life after death. Chakotay did indicate that maybe Neelix had not been dead long enough. Or maybe, he did experience something but did not remember it."

This is possible interpretation of the episode. But 18 hours is a long time to have been dead without nothing happening. And it is always possible that Neelix (along with people in real life who report experiencing nothing after being revived) simply have forgotten what they did experience. But I have a feeling that a die-hard atheist would say that this "reaching" just a bit.

4. "The episode was not necessarily anti-Christian. It could be interpreted in a manner consistent with Christian beliefs."

Thinking it over, I can see a couple of ways in which "Mortal Coil" could be interpreted in this way.

First off, if Neelix had reported having an after-death experience, it most likely would not have been a "Christian" viewpoint of life after death. When Picard "died" he met "Q" in the afterlife who gave him a "second-chance" ("Tapestry" - TNG). Meeting a being like "Q" and getting a second chance is not exactly what most Christian have in mind when they think of the afterlife.

Second, the Christian belief in an afterlife is not based on any after death experience, other than that of Jesus Christ. The belief is based on what the Bible teaches. So having or not having an "experience" should not matter to a Christian’s viewpoint. As Chakotay pointed out to Neelix, he should not let one "anomalous incident" change a lifetime of faith.

5. "Your life will not be less if you don’t watch Star Trek." Alternatively, "It is doubtful that you will suffer in the afterlife if you do watch Star Trek."

Both points are very true. I could live without ST; though I would miss it some if I stopped watching it. But I think I would miss being able to participate in Newsgroups such as this one even more than the show itself.

Also, I do not believe my "position" in the afterlife will in any way be affected if I continue to watch ST. But, as a Christian, I do have to evaluate whether watching ST is hurting or helping my walk with Christ. In some ways ST has helped me to better understand, or at least provided an incentive to think through, my own Christian beliefs (as the articles on my Web site which I referred to in my initial post will demonstrate).

6. "If your beliefs cannot handle being exposed to alternate views, then they must be rather fragile."

As I indicated in my original post, I do spend quite a bit of time reading materials that I disagree with. Anyone browsing my ministry’s Web site will see that I am familiar with the beliefs of a wide variety of different groups and viewpoints. I quote from the literature of many such groups.

Also, I am constantly getting e-mail from people disagreeing with the positions I present on my site. I read every e-mail I receive though I am not always able to respond in detail to everyone as the volume is getting too large. Plus, when I am able, I participate in a variety of Newsgroups, where every viewpoint imaginable is presented.

So I do not "shelter" myself from alternative views by any stretch of the imagination. But constantly reading and yes watching stuff that is opposed to my beliefs can get rather emotionally and spiritually depressing. So in my ministry I have learned to balance the reading and watching of such stuff with the reading of Christian literature with which I do agree.

7. "I agree with you. I am also a Christian who enjoys Star Trek (and other Sci-Fi or fantasy shows) but I struggle with some of the unchristian elements presented."

Or conversely, "I am a Christian but I don’t agree with you. I can watch shows like ST, Star Wars, or Xena even though I know there are non-Christian elements presented. They make you think; which is much more than can be said for most other TV shows."

Christians, and everyone else for that matter, need to have limits as to what influences we allow into our lives. Each person will draw the line at a different place. For instance, last night I started to watch Hercules. I have watched the show in the past and generally enjoy it. But last night’s episode was simply getting too violent and "dark" for my tastes; so I shut it off about a third of the way through (the episode was "Mercenary." The previews for it from the previous week even advertised that it would have a "great evil" in it.).

But wherever one draws the line, be it with ST or any other entertainment, I would say that we all need to realize that we can be influenced in our thoughts and beliefs by what we watch.

As several have pointed out, what makes ST, and science fiction in general, different from most of TV is it makes a person think, or at least it should. And for me, one of the things I think about is what worldview is being presented in a program. If I can identify it, then it will not unconsciously influence me. I can consciously and deliberately evaluate the value of the viewpoint being presented.

Moreover, I do believe that discussing what worldview is being presented is appropriate for a Newsgroup such as this one. In other words, to discuss whether ST teaches there is life after death, and if it does, what that life entails would be appropriate for this group. But I do NOT believe it would be appropriate to debate in this Newsgroup whether in fact there is life after death. Such a discussion is important but belongs elsewhere.

So I do hope that I have not "offended" anyone in this or my previous post with all the talk of Christianity. But when ST raises "spiritual" questions I do think it is appropriate to discuss what "answers" ST is giving to the questions, be they Christian, atheistic, or whatever.

So, will I continue to watch ST or not? Well, I have not watched Voyager since "Mortal Coil." But it has been nothing but reruns anyway. This week will mark the first new episode. My TV Magazine says the name of the episode will be "Waking Moments." It does not provide a description as it usually does; but the name sounds intriguing! So I’ll probably not be able to resist. But I will be watching it "critically" to see what, if any, viewpoints are being presented.

Thanks again to all who responded to my post. Your comments have really helped me think this whole subject through!

><> Reepicheep <><

Re: Good Bye Star Trek Voyager. Copyright 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian).

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above message was posted on this Web site
and in "alt.tv.star-trek.voyager" Newsgroup in January 1998.

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