Search Results for trickster
In Native American mythology the trickster is a spirit responsible for, as the name suggests, trickery.
In Amerindian myth and legend, the trickster is usually symbolized by the coyote or fox.
Often comic, deceptive or crude, the trickster motif has been the object of scholarly study due to similar but certainly not identical appearances in most world mythologies and religions.
Carl Jung designated it as an archetype and suggested that its quirky energy may erupt from the unconscious in interpersonal affairs.
When this happens the trickster’s various hoax’s and capers serve the important psychological function of balancing the sunny side of human nature with an equal and opposite edge of mischief and darkness.
If, for instance, someone at a cocktail party makes a faux pas and unwittingly insults another through a slip of the tongue or naivete, the insult may serve the positive function of compelling the other to take stock of a problematic aspect of his or her personality, actions or life situation, which otherwise would remain unconscious or ignored.
This view presupposes a meaningful connection among of all living beings.
To make this essentially spiritual perspective on life more accessible, Jung formulated the concept of the collective unconscious.
The trickster is also regarded as a necessary catalyst in human history.
» Aesir, Archetype, Balder, Culture Hero, Evil, Hero, Loki, Parapraxis, “Parapraxes, Accidents and Necessary Mistakes,” Q (in Star Trek), Shadow, Shapeshifter, Siva, Unconscious
On the Web:
- Excellent entry at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trickster#Tricksters_in_various_cultures
- A Cree story about the trickster, Wesakecak…
Add more, fix errors, suggest edits or voice your opinion by commenting
Also known as Baldur or Baldr in Norse mythology, Balder was a noble, gentle and yet powerful god. Much loved by all, he was son of Odin and Frigg.
Reminiscent of Achilles, Balder was invulnerable to harm, except by the mistletoe. He was mistakenly killed by the blind god Hodur, who’d been duped by the trickster Loki into piercing him with a dart crafted from mistletoe.
The roots of the his name are somewhat unclear. Wikipedia has a good discussion here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldr#Name.
- Norway returned to worship pagan gods like Odin and Balder (ivarfjeld.com)
- When did gods become immortal, infallable and immaterial? (richarddawkins.net)
- Odin The All Father (theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com)
- Ásatrú (ayearandadaywicca.wordpress.com)
- Odin Part 1 (theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com)
- ‘Loki’s Wolves’ is coming in May (eyeblinkfiction.wordpress.com)
Clairaudience is the alleged inner hearing of sound different from, or beyond the range of, normal human hearing. Rosemary Ellen Guiley notes that the term comes from the French, “clear-hearing.”¹
The spiritually inclined see clairaudience as a phenomenon common to saints, mystics and seers throughout the ages.
The recently canonized Catholic Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-38) writes in her Divine Mercy Diary that she often heard a quiet inner voice, accompanied with a feeling of grace. This synchrony lead her to believe that the voice was from God.²
St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431) heard voices which prompted her to masquerade as a man and enlist in the French army. She was eventually declared a heretic by the Catholic Church and burned at the stake at age 19 under a politically predetermined trial. Not until almost 500 years later did the Church canonize her in 1920.
St. Teresa of Ávila provides a more intellectual assessment of hearing voices, which she calls “locutions.” In her spiritual classic, Interior Castle, she says one must learn to discriminate among locutions that are from God, from the devil, and from the imagination. Locutions from God, she adds, are usually quite simple and accompanied with a strong and undeniable feeling of peace.³
In the Biblical Old Testament the voice of God tells King Solomon of his great wisdom. In the New Testament Christ beseeches Paul from the heavens, “Why do you persecute me?” Both of these example could be interpreted as instances of clairaudience.
Other possible examples of clairaudience are found in the religious and even philosophical literature. Plato’s Socrates, for instance, has a daimon hovering about him, forever cautioning him what not to say.
The Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo writes of a voice which lead him to establish an ashram in the French settlement at Pondicherry, India. Aurobindo also speaks of “false voices.” These, he says, come from dark beings, called asuras, which forever try to distract and deceive spiritual seekers.4
The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung writes of a “ghost guru,” whom he called Philemon. Philemon apparently guided Jung via clairaudience until Jung got tired of his direction and stopped listening, at which point Philemon went away.5
The British scholar of religion Evelyn Underhill writes that mystics must apply rigorous logic and sincere self-analysis to ensure that inner voices are not products of the imagination or evil spiritual entities.6
With regard to the possibility of auditory hallucinations, contemporary psychiatry distinguishes between unhealthy hallucinations and healthy beliefs that are in keeping with one’s religious tradition. Psychiatry, however, still cannot fully explain how the brain creates hallucinations, leaving room for hypotheses concerning an interplay of biological, developmental and evil spiritual influences.
Concerning the notion of evil spiritual influences, practically every religious tradition in the world suggests that evil spirits actively deceive (or impart partial truths cleverly combined with lies), while Godly spiritual beings always tell the truth.
Along these lines the gospel writer of Matthew says that one may judge alleged prophets by their deeds—that is, by their fruit.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew NIV 7:15-20).
While many fundamentalists uncritically latch onto this passage, for thinking people, some methodological issues do arise. For instance, how long must one wait to determine whether a prophet’s utterances are true or not? For that matter, will a prophet’s truth be realized within a given lifetime?
According to the Christian tradition, Jesus Christ, himself, spoke actual words that the people around him did not understand. And it wasn’t until after his death that the subtlety and power of his prophesying was realized. For example, Jesus’ words “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19 NIV) is often interpreted to refer to Jesus’ own death, descent to hell and resurrection, a sequence of events which, according to scripture, lasted three days. But in his day, many would have supposed that Jesus was simply talking about a physical building.
With a misunderstanding like this arising from real, spoken words, it seems that ordinary people could be even more confused by inner voices.
¹ Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience, 1991, p. 109.
² Saint Maria Faustina Helena Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul, 2nd edition, Stockbridge Mass.: Marian Press, 1990.
³ St. Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers. Image Books, 1961, pp. 138-148.
4 Aurobindo Ghose, The Riddle of This World, Calcutta: Arya Publishing House, 1933, pp. 56-57.
5 See more details here: http://www.bodysoulandspirit.net/mystical_experiences/read/notables/jung.shtml
6 Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (New York: The New American Library, 1955 ), p. 361.
- An example of my Medium, Clairaudient and Claircognizant work (kevinhunter.wordpress.com)
- A shout out to Evelyn Underhill and her wonderful book (carlmccolman.com)
- Review – The Trickster and the Paranormal (Hardcover Book) (epages.wordpress.com)
- From language games to mysticism – Allan Watts and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (stottilien.wordpress.com)
- A brief summary of the unitive state (supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.com)
- Channeling (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- St. Teresa of Avila, “a woman extraordinarily gifted, both naturally and supernaturally…” (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- “St. John of the Cross” by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Celibacy (earthpages.wordpress.com)
The definition of evil is informed by one’s core beliefs, and different kinds of arguments try to explain its existence.
Some materialists and scientists scoff at the idea of evil as if it were an antiquated legacy from a superstitious past.
Violent criminals are usually described in the news in psychiatric terms. Murderers are often reported as having a mental illness instead of being possessed by the devil. However, sometimes callous murderers are called “monsters” so the idea of evil can creep in to our essentially scientific worldview.
Meanwhile, savage tyrants and warlords are often viewed through a historical or, perhaps, political lens.
Evil in Christian theology
A basic theological distinction exists between natural evil and moral evil. Natural evil includes “acts of God” such as floods, earthquakes and avalanches. Moral evil is a conscious human choice to turn away from God’s will and participate in some action harmful to self and possibly others.
Duns Scotus classified “intrinsic evil” as acts that are inherently evil and accordingly prohibited. But intrinsically evil acts are not evil because they are prohibited.
In Christian theology evil is often seen as a necessary component of God’s plan of salvation. Here one accepts as an article of faith that God permits evil for some greater good, beyond the comprehension of mere mortals (see Isaiah 55:8-9).
A Christian school of thought, begun by Irenaeus and popularized by John Hick, argues that evil is permitted, but not caused, by God. Why, one might ask, would an all-powerful God permit evil? According to the Irenian school, the answer lies in the idea of ‘soul making.’ A soul freely choosing to abstain from evil is of greater value than one that automatically avoids evil like a programmed robot. The free soul apparently better glorifies God than would a sinless automaton.
Although evil may ravage, test and torment good souls living on earth, the true goal of our finite, earthly life is to be made worthy of eternal heavenly life. According to this perspective the evils of the world act as a crucible. Souls not succumbing to but resisting evil are purified and strengthened toward the good. Evil, then, is necessary. It acts as a kind of hammer that pounds out the soul’s impurities.
God permits some evils lest the good things should be obstructed.
Another Christian argument, influenced by Plato‘s idea of the Forms, is given by St. Augustine. Augustine sees evil as a privatio boni—the absence of good. According to this view, since God is good, evil must be where God is not present. Therefore God doesn’t create evil. It’s a choice. But the theological debates get complicated here, and some ask whether Augustine’s theodicy holds up for both natural and moral evil.
Different branches of Christianity hold different views about what happens to evil souls in the afterlife. Some Churches damn sinners eternally. Martin Luther, for instance, believed that some souls are predestined for hell. Meanwhile, some contemporary Christians pray for the liberation of souls in hell while others do not.¹ And the Catholic Purgatory is neither heaven nor hell, but a difficult preparation for heaven.
Evil in non-Christian religions
Evil in Islam is similar to that of Christianity. But for Muslims it is evil to suggest that Christ is one with God (John 10:30). And the prohibitions in the Koran differ from those of the New Testament. Notably, killing is permitted in the Koran in some circumstances (see http://www.yoel.info/koranwarpassages.htm and http://www.islamreview.com/articles/jihadholywarversesinthekoran.shtml), whereas the very thought of killing is denounced in the New Testament. Many branches of Christianity do, however, entertain the idea of a Just War.
In Hinduism a different view of evil is presented. Evil is permitted to maintain a proper balance of sacred heat or power (tapas) within the universe. Aspects of Hinduism speak to the reality of hell for evildoers. But evil in Hinduism is mostly viewed in terms of personal ignorance and spiritual development, making hellish punishments temporary instead of eternal.
According to this perspective, the evil soul reincarnates on earth until it is cleansed of the ignorance that influenced it to commit bad deeds. This differs dramatically from the Catholic view that souls in hell are eternally damned and, strangely enough, would never want to leave. Unlike the Christian, the Hindu aspires to transcend apparently relative ideas about good and evil through an experiential knowledge of universal truth.
Accordingly, the goal of Hinduism differs from both Christianity and Islam. For the Hindu, heaven is a halfway house on the road to ultimate realization. The reincarnating soul may enjoy periodic visits to different heavens but, though the round of rebirth, it eventually transcends all heavens and ultimately achieves the greatest good of the Brahman. A similar but in some ways different view of evil is presented in Taoism.
An interesting but often overlooked question is whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu heavens and hells are identical in character. The celebrated Romanian scholar Mircea Eliade notes that heavens and hells are described differently among world religions. But do they all feel the same? We can’t really know but my guess is NO.
Most cultures around the world at some point in history have seen evil as a cause of mental or physical illness. This view is prevalent in Shamanism. And some religious writers, such as the Catholic, Michael Brown, say they feel the presence of evil almost anywhere.
And on the inferiority of evil as compared to good, W. H. Auden writes in A Certain World:
Good can imagine Evil; but Evil cannot imagine Good.
¹ See this excellent discussion: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=329730
- The freewill defense (St. Augustine of Hippo): Part 1 (thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com)
- One’s Good and the Other is Evil (conservativetickler.wordpress.com)
- Why God Won’t Allow Me to Heaven (ichosethebluepill.wordpress.com)
- A Scene from “Doctor Faustus” (alyssajmammano.wordpress.com)
- Medieval Good (ideasandotherstuff.wordpress.com)
- What is evil? (andrewejenkins.wordpress.com)
- Random Musings: the concept of a ‘just war’ (jmatthanbrown.wordpress.com)
- A reading from the Church Fathers: Love the Sinner Hate the Sin (gingerjar2.wordpress.com)
In depth psychology and New Age publications we often hear about the Hero. This kind of usage isn’t referring to a Martin Luther King, Neil Armstrong or Terry Fox. While these individuals certainly were heroic, and heroes by the usual definition of the word, they weren’t necessarily heroes from the perspective of depth psychology or New Age spirituality.
The psycho-spiritual idea of the Hero is really talking about an archetype of the Hero. And the notion of the archetype can be traced back to the Greek philosopher Plato and his theory of Eternal Forms or Perfect Ideas. After Plato, the idea of the archetype was remixed by various medieval thinkers. We need not go into their complicated theories here.
What’s important for us is how the Swiss psychiatrist, C. G. Jung, adapted the ideas of the Archetype and the Hero into one concept—namely, the archetype of the hero. The Jungian archetype differs from the Platonic formulation, most notably because Jung’s archetypes involve eternity but are grounded in the human body. Plato’s archetypes are just “out there.” They are imprinted in the eternal soul and have some kind of relation with matter but they are not grounded in matter.¹
For Jung the archetype indicates the psychological contents of a proposed collective unconscious. He says the archetypes are inherited patterns encoded in the body, universally shared by mankind. Not unlike the gods and goddesses of ancient times, archetypes apparently have a psychic life of their own that extends beyond everyday consciousness and concerns.
According to Jung, when the conscious ego encounters the archetype, the individual experiences a sense of the numinous. This encounter may be psychologically constructive or destructive, healing or disorienting. The type of effect that the numinous has on consciousness depends on the psychological stability and maturity of the individual, as well as the character and intensity of the numinosity, itself.
Visible manifestations of the archetypes appear as archetypal images. Jung distinguishes these recognizable images from the archetype proper, which Jung says can never be fully known. So the archetypal image of the Hero may appear in many different forms, but there’s only one Hero archetype.
Joseph Campbell built on Carl Jung’s idea of a hero archetype in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949). Campbell says that the idea of the hero’s journey to the underworld (and return to everyday life) is found throughout world myth and religion.
Typically, the hero is born into a problematic setting. Two biblical examples would be the infant Moses and Jesus Christ. Moses was abandoned as a baby, left in a basket to float down the Nile river. Jesus Christ was born in a manger because his parents were forced to flee the paranoid anger of King Herod “The Great” (c. 73-4 BCE) who hoped to kill the infant Jesus by ordering the killing of all children in Bethlehem under age two.
Campbell says the next phase of the budding hero’s life is a “call to adventure.” The hero usually doesn’t want to be a hero but is slowly drawn into his or her historical, perhaps sacred role. At this stage he or she may exhibit some kind of superhuman powers and insight.
A definite turning point in the hero’s journey is precipitated by some kind of crisis. The hero is either sucked into a whale’s belly (e.g. Jonah), dismembered (e.g. Osiris), abducted (e.g. Sita, Eurydice), abandoned (e.g. Joseph), hanged (e.g. Odin), sent on a ‘night sea’ voyage (e.g. St. John of the Cross) or a strange journey (in literature, Alice in Wonderland), forced to fight a threatening dragon (e.g. St. George, Beowulf), drawn into battle with relatives (e.g. Arjuna) or demons and monsters (e.g. Gilgamesh, Hercules), all of which point to a passage from the everyday into a supernatural world of danger and magic (again, in Jung’s terms, the collective unconscious).
At this time the hero encounters mythical beings and beasts. Some are helpers, others are tricksters, and yet others are enemies. In learning how to discern among these mythical creatures, the hero faces a series of life-threatening tests (e.g. Odysseus binds himself to his ship’s mast to prevent the Sirens from luring him to his death; Jesus rejects the temptation of Satan in the wilderness, in the holy city and on the mountain).
The hero’s journey continues to the inner depths of an abyss, a dragon cave, a bottomless ocean, a deep underworld pit or, in modern myth, a Death Star or a Borg cube. At this point the hero hopefully discovers what the alchemists call the lapis (philosopher’s stone or inner human). There may be atonement with a father or a father figure, a sacred marriage, a theft, or perhaps a bargaining for the elixir of immortality.
Having found the proverbial Holy Grail within, the hero gains profound insight into the eternal, infinite connections among life, death, space, time, heaven and hell. But like Theseus after slaying the Minotaur at the center of the labyrinth, the hero must return to the world of day to day living. After his or her return to everyday life, he or she is symbolically reborn.
Concerning the journey to and from the underworld, the Hero understands well Plato‘s comments from his famous Cave Analogy about entering and exiting the cave.
The eyes may be confused in two ways and from two causes, coming from light into darkness as well as from darkness to light… the same applies to the soul.²
In practical terms, the hero’s quest is often confusing due to the sheer magnitude of fast paced change that’s involved. Not everyone finds their way out of the collective unconscious. Some simply go mad.
In myth and religion, Theseus found escaped from the labyrinth because he’d unwound a ball of thread that Ariadne had provided in advance. Moses and the persecuted chosen people were delivered from the Egyptians by the miraculous parting (and subsequent closing) of the Red Sea. And Jesus, after his death, descended to hell for three days before ascending to heaven.
Parallels among mythic and religious stories about the hero obviously differ in important details. In fact, the content of hero stories often varies quite radically. And each story arguably has a qualitatively different effect on those who invest their energy into them. However, Jung and Campbell contend that all the Hero stories display a basic structural similarity.³
In psychological terms hero stories point to a circular passage from ego → archetypes → self → archetypes → ego. On returning, being rescued or resurrected, the hero is transformed. He or she may reclaim former elements of the older personality but these are put to a new purpose, integrated within a new sense of self.
On the social level, the hero brings to society various boons of wisdom, and possibly miraculous abilities, gained from the underworld.
¹ For an unusually good summary of Plato’s theories about the soul, see Herschel Baker, The Image of Man: A Study of the Idea of Human Dignity in Classical Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance (1961).
² G. M. A. Grube (trans.), Plato’s Republic, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1974, p. 170 [par 518a].
³ Campbell notes that the film Star Wars is a contemporary reenactment of the hero myth, rendering ancient stories and motifs into images that speak to people today.
- ‘Immortals’ Mondays: Henry Cavill’s Theseus Revealed (moviesblog.mtv.com)
- Superheroes in Myth (juliansbooks.wordpress.com)
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- IMMORTALS – Behind the Scenes Video Featurette – Theseus (geektyrant.com)
- Review: Immortals Looks Really Awesome, But That’s About It (wired.com)
- Henry Cavill On Playing Heroes Theseus & Superman: ‘You Get To Win’ (omg.yahoo.com)
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- Tarsem Singh’s Immortals (updated) (satyamshot.wordpress.com)
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- What are the 10 most important events that occured in the greek myth Theseus and the Minotaur (wiki.answers.com)
- Immortals (mercifullyshortreviews.wordpress.com)
- San Diego Comic-Con 2011: A Pair of New Immortals Images (dreadcentral.com)
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- Why does Theseus have to kill the minotaur (wiki.answers.com)
- Greek Beasts and Heroes: The Monster in the Maze by Lucy Coats – review (guardian.co.uk)
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- ‘Immortals’ Versus ’300′: Pound For Pound (splashpage.mtv.com)
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- Unravelling the Rumors of Henry Cavill of Immortals (2011) Movie (boh86.wordpress.com)
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- Jung, Carl Gustav (earthpages.wordpress.com)
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- The archetypes are gods: Re-godding the archetypes, by John H. Halstead (humanisticpaganism.wordpress.com)
- The Four Archetypes of the Mature Masculine: Introduction (artofmanliness.com)
- The Four Archetypes of Mature Masculinity: The Boyhood Archetypes (Part II) (artofmanliness.com)
- ‘Matter of Heart: The Extraordinary Journey of C.G. Jung’ (dangerousminds.net)
- The World of Opposites (thejungian.com)
- Heaven (earthpages.wordpress.com)
In Norse myth Loki is the son of two giants and confounded the gods with various tricks until, after bringing about the death of Balder, was fastened to a rock. On the day of Ragnarok Loki will break free and lead the giants into a terrible war against the gods.
The American scholar Bergen Evans sees Loki as an evil god in Norse myth with parallels to the Old Testament Satan as depicted in the Book of Job. Others see Loki more as a trickster and as a reversibly transsexual shapeshifter.
Loki (or Lokai) is also a TV character in the original 1969 Star Trek episode, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” a classic episode dealing with the inanity of racism. Loki is a non-human who’s half white and half black. Meanwhile, another non-human character, Bele, is also half white and half black but in the reverse symmetry to Loki,
Like Lokai, Bele is half black and half white, with the color divided by a line through the exact center of his face. However, the sides of Bele’s black and white skin are reversed from those of Lokai, a difference which seems inconsequential to the Enterprise crew but of great importance to Bele, Lokai, and, apparently, their civilization. The difference is pointed out by Bele to a perplexed Captain Kirk who asks what is the difference between them, to which he replies, “Isn’t it obvious? Lokai is white on the right side. All his people are white on the right side.”¹
As mentioned in other Think Free entires, part of Star Trek’s popularity arguably rests on its liberal use, reinterpretation and reimagining of mythological characters and their names. Possibly this elicits a kind of numinous resonance within viewers, perhaps even if they don’t consciously know about the mythology in question. As C. G. Jung and Joseph Campbell suggest, mythic ideas and sounds may resonate within the viewer’s subconscious or unconscious mind.
- New Thor images show off Loki’s mighty headpiece [Loki] (io9.com)
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- Journey Into Mystery #622 – Loki (manodogs.blogspot.com)
- Science fiction round-up – reviews (guardian.co.uk)
- History of Mistletoe (brighthub.com)
- Myth (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Big Spoilery THOR Story Details Revealed (geektyrant.com)
- ‘Thor’ Trailer: From Destroyer To Loki, Here Are Our Five Favorite Moments (splashpage.mtv.com)
The Q is a fictional group entity in Star Trek TV spin-offs and films, residing in an eternal field of space-time called the ‘Q-continuum.’
Like most deities found in mythology, the manifest aspect of the Q uses supernatural powers to baffle, vex and test human beings to the point of distraction.
As with most otherworldly pantheons, there is a faction of rebellion within the Q-continuum, consisting of those tired of being “good” and politically correct at the expense of enjoying their free will and vitality.
These dissenters are prohibited and disciplined through punishment by the Q moral majority.
As outlined in the entry for Star Trek: The Next Generation:
And then there was “Q,” played by actor John de Lancie, who was something akin to a classical Greek god in that he had powers and knowledge extending beyond our normal conception of space and time. Also like the Greek gods, he often abused these powers in childish ways and even challenged the authority of the Q Continuum (the ruling body of the Q, representing its status quo), resulting in his frequent punishment.
Star Trek: The Original Series
American science fiction television program created by Gene Roddenberry that ran for three seasons from 1966-1969.
Although the starship Enterprise’s five year mission to explore new worlds was cut short by poor ratings, the ship and crew didn’t dematerialize quite that fast.
Devoted viewers clamored for more. And as the fan mail piled up, the show’s uniqueness was soon realized and a series of successful movies were produced throughout the 1970′s to 1990′s, along with several new Star Trek TV spin-offs, closely following the format of the original program.
While a few second-rate academics might still scoff at the idea, Star Trek TOS and its offshoots have taken on a mythic status. Instead of Sumerian gods carved in stone, Star Trek provides gods etched on film. And there’s arguably not all that much difference between the two.
Trying to be progressive in its day, the original Star Trek pilot episode featured a female first officer. But due to poor ratings she was replaced by the male Vulcan, Mr. Spock.
The revised cast boasted a host of international characters at the command center, which for the mid-1960′s was virtually unheard of.
In the episode, “Plato’s Stepchildren” (1968) Captain Kirk and the black Lt. Uhura are forced by telekinesis to kiss, a controversial first for fiction characters on U.S. TV. And in the episode Balance of Terror (1966) Kirk scolds his navigational officer Styles for making a racial slur:
Leave any bigotry in your quarters. There’s no room for it on the bridge.
Some say that the whole Star Trek phenomenon has all the earmarks of a religion because it exhibits the following characteristics:
- A social component (Star Trek conventions are periodically held around the world)
- The Star Trek ‘creed’ (the Prime Directive)
- A general goodwill ethic
- Implied transcendental ideas
In 2009 the hit movie Star Trek, directed by J. J. Abrams, brought the popular character Spock back into the spotlight. This time he’s both an elderly (played by Leonard Nimoy) and young man (played by Zachary Quinto). The fact that Leonard Nimoy is showcased in this blockbuster film while William Shatner (who played the original Captain Kirk) isn’t is perhaps telling as to Spock’s ongoing cultural significance in the 21st century.
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Star Trek : The Next Generation
This is the first and extremely successful remake of the original Star Trek TV show.
The Next Generation ran for seven seasons from 1987-94.
The captain of the new and beefed up United Federation of Planets starship Enterprise is played by the British character actor Patrick Stewart.
Many new characters and innovations such as a holodeck – where entire environments are created through light imaging – were added. Also noteworthy is the fact that the Klingons are no longer arch enemies of the Federation. In fact, Lt. Commander Worf, a Klingon, serves on the Enterprise.
And when the crew felt unhappy or estranged by its various space adventures, a psychological counselor, Deanna Troi, was now available.
Another memorable character is Lieutenant Commander Data, an android who, like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, wanted to know what it was like to be human. And then there was “Q,” played by actor John de Lancie, who was something akin to a classical Greek god in that he had powers and knowledge extending beyond our normal conception of space and time. Also like the Greek gods, he often abused these powers in childish ways and even challenged the authority of the Q Continuum (the ruling body of the Q, representing its status quo), resulting in his frequent punishment.
Perhaps the most formidable new enemy of the Federation was the Borg, a horrid collective of cyborgs who sucked the life and technological knowledge out of any living creature deemed worthy of its cold malice.
These and other innovations made TNG rival the original Star Trek series in terms of sheer creativity. This isn’t surprising because Gene Roddenberry, the producer of the original show, was directly involved in TNG.
TNG’s immense popularity attracted the film star Whoopi Goldberg, who played the super-intuitive bartender and wise advisor Guinan. Goldberg apparently approached the producers of Star Trek TNG, expressing her desire to be on the show.
Several films based directly on the TV series were released at theatres: Star Trek Generations (1994); Star Trek: First Contact (1996); Star Trek: Insurrection (1998); Star Trek Nemesis (2002).
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