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Good Bye Star Trek Voyager?

By Gary F. Zeolla


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

I have been a die-hard Star Trek [ST] fan since the days of TOS [The Original Series]. I have seen every episode of every ST series and movie, several times. When I first logged onto the Internet over two years ago, the first Newsgroups I checked out were the ones related to Star Trek. And this Voyager Newsgroup has been the main ST Newsgroup that I have occasionally participated in (though not as much as I would have liked given time and other restraints.)

So Star Trek has been a very big part of my life for most of my life (I was born in 1961 and TOS began in 1966. And I do believe I started watching it way back then. At the very least I saw it in re-runs in the early ‘70’s). Though I have not been as "fanatical" about it as some. The only ST paraphernalia I own is "The Star Trek Encyclopedia" by Okuda, Okuda, and Mirek.

An even more important part of my life is my Christian faith. I have been a Christian for about 12 years. And there has always been a "tension" between the two. Not that they have been totally incompatible. There are many aspects of the ST worldview that fit in nicely with the Christian worldview.

For instance, many of the values of the Federation I can agree with, such as an emphasis on friendship, loyalty, respect for authority, honesty, and the like. But there are also "values" promoted that I would disagree with, such as the "free" sex practiced since the wild days of Captain Kirk.

When it comes to "theological" questions, though, is where it really gets interesting. First of all is human nature. Are we just material beings, or are we materials beings with some kind of immaterial self? In many episodes, ST has seemed to teach the latter.

For instance, the last episode of TOS was "Turnabout Intruder." In it, an old "flame" of Kirk’s, Dr. Janice Lester, used a "life-energy transfer" to switch her consciousness with Kirk’s. So Kirk’s "real" self was now inside of Lester’s body, and vice-a-versa, as Spock confirmed with a Vulcan mind-meld.

This subject then ties in with the next. If we have some kind of consciousness (or "soul") that is distinct from our body, then what happens at death? If we were solely material beings then the answer would be easy. We cease to exist. But if our "real" self is immaterial, then the question is a quite a bit more difficult. And ST seems to have had problems answering it.

There have been a couple of episodes that seem to confirm that there is some kind of life after death. First was the "Tapestry" episode of TNG [The Next Generation]. In it, Captain Picard is apparently killed by a phaser blast to his artificial heart. He then meets "Q" in the afterlife. Q gives him the chance to re-live the experience in his younger years that led to him getting the artificial heart. He then sees what his life would have been like if that experience was avoided.

Now, if I remember correctly, it was not clearly established if Picard had actually died or not. But the apparent implication was that this was some kind of "near death experience."

Then comes Star Trek Voyager. The previews for an episode which aired back in March of 1995 asked if the viewer had questions on life after death. The episode promised to "answer" these questions.

The name of the episode was "Emations." In the episode, Harry Kim and a couple of other crew members are investigating a moon that has dead bodies in its caverns. Harry is then "transferred" to the planet where these bodies come from.

The inhabitants of that planet put their dead into "pods" and then transferred them to what they thought was the next life. Harry somehow got caught up in this transfer.

In any case, the inhabitants are dumbfounded to find out that the bodies they have been transferring are simply decaying. Their belief in the afterlife appears to be wrong.

However, at the end of the episode, Captain Janeway, I believe it was, notices that each time a body is transferred to the moon, some kind of "energy" is released and joins other "energy packets" orbiting another moon. So maybe there is life after death for the inhabitants of the planet; but it consists of an immaterial existence, not a material one as they thought.

Now, in all of these episodes I could find some agreement between the ST worldview and the Christian one. Both seemed to be teaching that our "real" self is in some way distinct from our bodies. Moreover, both seemed to be teaching that this immaterial self in same way continues to exist after death.

But ST seemed to do a big about face with the recent Voyager episode "Mortal Coil." I know this episode aired about three weeks ago (12/17/1997); but it has taken me a little bit of time to "digest" the implications of it. And it has created a bit of a dilemma for me. Unfortunately, for health reasons, I was not able to log on after the show aired to check out the discussion on it. I’m sure I missed some interesting comments.

In any case, as I am sure you all know, in this episode Neelix dies; he is dead for 18 hours. But using Borg technology, he is brought back to life. And when he is, he is distressed, to say the least. There was no afterlife as he had always thought. His departed relatives were not waiting for him. There was simply nothing.

He proceeds to plan on committing suicide. But at the last minute, Commander Chakotay (with a little help from Neelix’s "godchild") talks him out of it. The "message" of the episode is obvious: there is no life after death; but there is still a way to find meaning and purpose in life.

What has taken me time to digest is why this episode was aired. First off, it seemed inconsistent with previous episodes, as outlined above.

Secondly, why did the producers of Star Trek take it upon themselves to purposely offend Christians, and every one else who believes in some kind of life after death? If ratings were their main concern it seems to me they offended more people than not as the majority of people, I do believe, believe in some kind of afterlife.

Interestingly, the same week that "Mortal Coil" aired The Learning Channel aired an episode of its show Life After Death titled "The Near Death Experience" (12/22/1997). It detailed the experiences of real life people, not imaginary characters like Neelix, who have been clinically dead and were revived. In every case, the people have reported experiencing some kind of life after death The show said that some 8 million people in the USA alone have had such experiences.

The show did say that some try to explain such experiences as just being "brain-based experiences." In other words, the people are not really experiencing life after death; but the experiences are simply some kind of bio-chemical reaction being created by neurons dying in the brain.

I really don’t know what to make of such experiences myself. They would not necessarily be described as "Christian" either. But still, it does show that people who have been clinically dead and lived to tell about it, do report experiencing "something" that they interpret as being life after death. So it is interesting that, despite this evidence, the producers of ST would have Neelix reporting that there was nothing.

Now, I do not expect Star Trek to actually promote Christian beliefs. I realize that the Federation is for all intents and purposes atheistic (as a Bajoran Vedek pointed out in "In the Hands of the Prophets" on DS9). And Janeway, more than anyone else, has demonstrated this atheism. Remember how she immediately recoiled at the idea of prayer when the holodeck figure of Leonardo da Vinci suggested it?

But still, I do not expect my Christian beliefs to receive a full-frontal "attack" as I felt this episode was doing. If I want that, I will participate in any of the "Christian" Newsgroups. I watch Star Trek for entertainment. And yes, to be mentally challenged. I have always preferred Sci-Fi to other kinds of TV as it generally makes you think; it not mindless entertainment as most of TV is.

Moreover, I am not one to avoid anything that promotes ideas that I disagree with. As references in various articles on my Web site will demonstrate, I do spend time reading publications promoting non-Christian viewpoints. But still ST is supposed to be entertaining. And I do know of many Christians who have long since stopped watching ST due to the unchristian values sometimes presented (such as the rather slick promotion of homosexuality in "Outcast" of TNG. I know of Christians who stopped watching ST after that episode).

But as I said at the beginning, I am a die-hard ST fan. So my dilemma is, if ST is going to go from simply promoting non-Christian ideas to all out "attacks" on Christian beliefs, can I as a Christian in good faith continue to watch or even enjoy the show?

My first reaction after "Mortal Coil" was that’s it. ST has gone far enough. I won’t be watching it anymore. But it is hard to give up sometime I’ve been watching almost my entire life. Or maybe, I should just give up on Voyager but continue to watch DS9 and any future movies. At least DS9 shows some respect for "religion" with the Bajoran influence on the show.

So that’s my "take" on "Moral Coil." Possibly some of the above has already been hashed out in this Newsgroup. But, as I said I was not able to check it out after the show. But I wanted to post my thoughts, even if they were somewhat belated.

><> Reepicheep <><

See Re: Good Bye Star Trek Voyager? for a follow-up to the above Newsgroup Post.

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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