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Life Arts    H3'ed 4/27/09

Star Trek--Religion and Politics as Sci-fi

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            The new Star Trek movie is due to open in about a week.  Yes, Trekkers have been all a-Twitterin’ about whether the film will remain true to “Great Bird of the Galaxy” (and god of Trek’s legions of fans) Gene Roddenberry’s vision.  Or, will JJ Abrams’ “re-boot” boot the philosophical constructs of Roddenberry’s universe “to kingdom come”, and replace peace with war, exploration with imperialism, and optimism with apocalypse?  For the price of a ten dollar ticket, we shall find out soon.


            Meanwhile, as we wait breathlessly for online advance ticket sales, my family and I have been using our Spring break as an opportunity to catch up on our reading—with science fiction and fantasy classics a prominent part of our “plate” and palate.  Cult masterpieces from Tolkien and CS Lewis, re-read through my adult eyes, clearly communicated philosophies and themes that supported the basic tenets and values of mid-century Anglican Christianity and British Empire.  Madeleine L’Engle’s much-praised “Wrinkle in Time”, required reading in my sons’ school, was much less a young girl’s quest than I had remembered, but an articulate prose version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, resonating with Cold War paranoia and terror of the “evils” of communism.  


            Fortunately, I did find some books that, as a progressive mother, I could recommend in good conscience among the “Arthuriana” that has been translated into fantasy for generations of youth.  Jonathan Stroud’s wonderful series, “The Bartimaeus Trilogy,” shined a harsh light on fascism as a sophisticated “Harry Potter”.  The picaresque progression of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” books by the late, lamented Douglas Adams provided an anarchic and cynical antithesis to the awed religiosity of most space opera.  And, we were charmed and enthralled by a new young adult/adult book, “Where Angels Fear to Tread, The Zygan Emprise”, by Yolanda Pascal, that combined exciting adventure, surprising plot twists and turns, likeable and funny characters, delightful humor, and, under the surface, intriguing questions about life’s purpose and the perils of blind religious fervor and fascist dictatorships.


            I know my teens have read and will be reading books that won’t always present a liberal, compassionate perspective, that won’t create a universe of peace, long life, and prosperity such as was born of Gene Roddenberry’s dreams.  The Bush years writ large a more classic tale, the artificial battle between God’s side and Satan’s side--pick a team, and no matter who wins, we all lose.  I will not venture to speculate on which team our former President played—he and his cronies won as long as the game was being played.


            The original Star Trek series yielded to requisite action scenes, fights, and battles, but tried to balance the ratings-grabbers with Obama-esque “negotiations” with enemies, aliens, and hyperintelligent computers.   (Off topic:  is it just me, or does our new President have a distinctly Shatnerian cadence in his verbal style?)  I sincerely hope that the new film salutes Gene Roddenberry with all its fingers, and gives us old Trekkers and millions of new viewers a view of the future that decries rather than glorifies imperialistic violence, i.e. a “change we can be proud of”. 

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Jill Jackson is a practitioner of kindness and common sense. Unlike her cat, she prefers to think out of the box.

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