For Christmas my wonderful wife gave me every second of every Star Trek original series, movie, and Star Trek: The Next Generation series on DVD. It was a truly beautiful gift. Since then, we have cobbled together enough time to watch all of the original series and the original six “Captain Kirk” films. It is all a part of my plan to assimilate my daughters into the nerd collective.
As I watched the original six films again—starting with the Motion Picture, Khan, Spock, Whales, Awful, and the Undiscovered Country’s Ode to Shakespeare I was struck by some profound philosophical and moral teachings that I could hang my hat on. Here are some of my observations.
- 1. Each of the films has a plot or sub-plot of “our past comes back to haunt us” motif. In the Motion Picture it is an old satellite that returns home. In Star Trek IV it is the extinction of humpback whales and in Star Trek VI it is age-old prejudice and bias. Yet beyond this, there is also the “son I never knew” or the “loss of command” that always haunts the characters. Even though Star Trek V is arguable the worse ever in terms of storytelling, it develops this theme more fully on the personal level than any of the others.
- 2. The Kobayashi Maru might just be the most eloquent and simple way of stating an important part of life. We learn in Star Trek II that the Kobayashi Maru is a simulated test for officers in which there is no way to win. We also learn that Kirk cheated by changing the simulation and therefore never faced death. In each film though, Kirk has to face death as his friends and family die. I know I’m just more sensitive to it right now because of some things I’m working through in our church, but I’ve come to realize life is filled with no-win situations. Life is a giant Kobayashi Maru. Other people make decisions or respond to things that inevitably force us to act and the result is no one wins. Everyone loses.
- 3. In the original Star Trek films, the notion of change is always a negative thought. This is often represented by “training crews” or “refits” of the Enterprise. It is noted in Khan’s world changing as well as the political change brought about in Star Trek VI with the Klingon-Federation peace talks. The cold war was over, and change is on the horizon. In each film, change is always viewed as negative. In one of them, Kirk even says, “I liked my old chair better.” The Enterprise is threatened by the improved Excelsior, the Genesis planet is a bust, and no Vulcan can ever be another Spock. Is it okay that, as I get older and life gets more complicated that I’m beginning to think that change is not so good? I hope so because that is the way I am starting to feel. I am about the age right now that Kirk was in the first movie.
Okay okay, its Star Trek for crying out loud. Its not Kant or even Kafka. Nevertheless, human nature faces these issues and I find they pop up even in our most mindless art.
- My past is always with me even when I ignore it.
- Sometimes I just can’t win no matter what I do.
- The world around me is changing, and quiet honestly I don’t like it.
Its at this point I turn the television off and come back to reality—the Scriptures.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17—in Jesus I am a new creation.
- Romans 8:37—even though the situation is tough and I often lose, in Christ Jesus eventual victory is mine.
- Hebrews 13:8—I have an anchor in Christ. He never changes.