Avast! Thar be spoilers ahead!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Child

Women's Rights in the 24th Century

In this episode, Counselor Troi becomes impregnated by an unknown being. The fetus develops rapidly, completing full gestation in two days. The rate of growth seems to increase since the child ages 4 years in the following day. The child later is revealed to be a problem because he emits a radiation that causes a plague virus to grow (the virus is needed to make a cure).

When the captain becomes aware of her pregnancy, he calls a meeting of the heads of staff, Warf, Data, Dr Polaski (Dr Crusher is not on board), Geordi etc to determine what is to be done. About her pregnancy, her pregnancy. A conversation begins about the danger the potential fetus may threaten, if terminating the pregnancy would harm Troi, when they should terminate, what loss to science an abortion would be. Troi, meanwhile, has been forgotten. No one asks her what she wants for her body, her child. Even in a world of acceptable abortion, she is not given a choice. But she takes the choice for herself and decides to carry the fetus to term and raise the child. That is the right to choose, not only to choose abortion but also to choose to carry a fetus to term.

Orientation in Space

I've watched about 8 or 9 episodes during my Next Generation marathon and have only just realized something curious indeed. Whenever the Enterprise encounters another vessel, no matter the species or size or type of vessel or if one or both had been cloaked previously, they are always oriented the exact same way as the enterprise. Is this easier for television? Was this something no one considered? Is there some universally agreed upon direction that is up? Some type of automatic system that senses the orientation of other ships and adjusts even when other sensors cannot detect the ship?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gender Neutrality in the 24th Century

To Boldly Go*

I have embarked on epic marathon of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It seems that our Tivo has recorded 42 episodes of Star Trek over the weekend which is beginning to threaten our ability to record other shows. I actually have only 38 episodes to watch since I saw a few of them recently during my New Years marathon. For every episode, I like to watch the title sequence, even if I already heard it 8 times that day. One of my favorite things about The Next Generation is the subtle change in the sequence, from "no man" to "no one."

I often wonder if people who make fun of trekkies ever know what they are making fun of. Is it the cheesiness or some of the plots or the magic of warp drive? Well, probably not the latter. But I love that science fiction has pressed progress in gender, race, and sex equality. It is a small change but now the opening title, the journey to go boldly into the unknown, includes women. I am sure people will say that "man" is used in the sense of "mankind" but there is no ambiguity in "no one". Star Trek lore also claims that the change was not only for the sake of gender neutrality but also species neutrality.

*Yeah, the split infinitive ("to boldly go" instead of "to go boldly" or "boldly to go") bugs me and my grammar loving, Latin-studying background. Part of me also thinks that he rule against split infinitives is rather an archaic one that is no longer problematic in English.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode: Rightful Heir

Worf, troubled by his lack of faith, journies to Boreth, the spiritual center of the Klingon Empire where the messiah-figure Kahless promised to return. After many days of prayer, Worf has a vision of Kahless that manifests into bodily form. Aboard the Enterprise, the DNA of the returned Kahless is tested against a sample of the original Kahless's blood stained on a knife, which is a match. However, Worf finds this returned Kahless lacking: he does not know what warnog tastes like, he cannot remember details from his life, and he is an inexperienced warrior. The returned Kahless is in fact a clone brought to life, using the blood of the original Kahless. His memory is constructed out of the stories of the original Kahless. Those who brought him back argue that there is nothing to indicate that Kahless would not be back through the cloning process but Worf is troubled. He is unsure if the cloned Kahless means that the real one will not return. However, Worf forces the Klingon council to accept Kahless as the spiritual leader of the people, with the title of emporer, while keeping the political power in the hands of the council. Kahless suggests to Worf that maybe it is not important for Kahless to return because he left his words, which are important.

When Gowron first challenges Kahless's authenticity, he asks ""Have you ever fought an idea, Picard? It has no weapon to destroy, no body to kill."

It is a strange conflict. If Jesus were cloned from blood on his crown of thorns(in France), the bloodstained cloth Jesus was wrapped in after death (in Spain), or one of the many Veils of Veronica, who would accept that Jesus? What if he preformed no miracles? What if he tried to determine which version of his life story is true? Or what if he could not? Doesn't it matter if Jesus if never coming back? Would anyone be a Christian if he would never return?

Data discusses a leap of faith he made when told that he was only an android and chose to believe that he could be more. Which is among the many magical things about Data. I like Data, don't get me wrong. Actually, I love Data and had a pretty big crush on him when I was younger. But I have never believed that he was a robot the same way that I frequently believe that Dorn is a Klingon and not a man in a lot of make-up. I am always aware that he is a man acting like a robot that is trying to be human.

As an atheist, I know what it is to fight an idea. Data's supposed leap of faith has been rewarded by his continual growth, his ability to assimilate new information and algorythems, and advances in technology. His leap of faith was more like a hypothesis that has been regularly rewarded with evidence. Like a true hypothesis, it is an idea based on many facts, that has not met with evidence to disprove it, and thus forms a basis for understanding . . .you know, like evolution. Worf's leap to back the clone is similar in that he does not make an extraordinary claim. He demands that the truth about the clones origins be told to everyone so there is no deception. Furthermore, since the clone is based upon the teachings and legends of the original Kahless, he is singularly appropriate to be a spiritual, but politically impotent, leader. There is not much faith or leaping there.

Clone Jesus is an interesting new componant to Zombie Jesus.