What does Karen Armstrong’s book “The Battle for God” have in common with Star Trek?
Actually, very little. Karen Armstrong’s book ”The Battle for God”, is a brilliant (like all her other books) inspection of the rise of fundamentalism in the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As she is describing different Christian Millennialist movements across Europe and the US right before World War I she brings up a very interesting fact as a side-note. Apparently, a lot of the contemporary literature at the turn of the nineteenth century reflected destruction on a global scale. Peoples? minds were preoccupied with The End. The end of civilization and of humanity for that matter. And funny enough look what happened – two world wars!
So what does this have to do with Star Trek? Quite a bit actually! I saw a documentary once about Star Trek that tracked (pardon the pun) the plots of the various TV shows and movies and drew analogies to the political and contemporary ?mood? of America at the time each show was filmed. The Original Series debuted in 1966 smack in the middle of the Flower Power movement. In TOS humanity had found a way to unite and with the Prime Directive at hand, was going where no sexist men had gone before. The galaxy was ours, just like your mind on LSD. The optimism continues in the Next Generation reflecting the optimism caused by the end of the Cold War. Same in the beginning of Deep Space Nine where a former slave industrial complex in space became the strong-hold of peace and optimism for two races at war for generations. But then there is a break with the optimism and DS9 along with Voyager and Enterprise become dark places with almost unimaginable challenges to overcome. Kinda like the disillusionment a lot of us are having with the Free World side having won the Cold War. (Of course there are a bunch of movies in there as well and you can try to fit them into the puzzle yourself should you wish to do so.)
And then a break. Rumours that Star Trek is gone and will never be back surface. And along comes 2009 with a new movie Star Trek the Future Begins. And what happens in the movie? Well the writers and directors take the original series and completely destroy Gene Roddenberry?s original ideas and ideals. They spend a whole movie re-writing history and in essence wipe clean the Star Trek universe creating a whole new concept. The name is still the same, the characters have a bit of their characteristics still in them, but the story – the story is changed forever. Once again, the Enterprise crew has saved Earth from total annihilation but beyond that we only know that Vulcan is gone. The “force” that has been withholding “human technical evolution” in the original Star Trek universe, by only giving humans access to technology at the pace that they saw fit, is gone. And actually we know nothing of what the future holds in this new
Can you feel it? A sense of loss, what is going to happen to us? We just barely evaded a global financial meltdown, what will happen next? Any resemblance?
Since the movie actually gave no clues about the new Universe I am very much looking forward to the next movie to find out what the contemporary West’s existential understanding stands.
In the meanwhile – HAPPY THOUGHTS FOLKS! Remember what happened when the people of Europe and the US were caught up thinking about annihilation all the time?