As one of the Maquis peoples, Chakotay is often sought for spiritual assistance, usually in the form of guided meditation based on Native American beliefs and practices, such as controlled dreaming.
The Maquis descend from a Native American tribe which, hoping to preserve its traditions, departed from Earth to settle on the planet Trebus. Chakotay was born on Trebus several hundred years later.
Chakotay, for the most part, plays a supportive, nurturing (yin type) role as confidant to the willful and strong (yang type) Captain Katherine Janeway. But once in a while he’ll challenge her command decisions if he believes he’s in the right, especially with regard to the Maquis crew members aboard the Enterprise.
This character dynamic between Chakotay and Janeway was interesting in the 90s (when the show first ran) because it inverted traditional sex role stereotypes. Sure, Cagney & Lacey were around in the 80s and The Bionic Woman in the 70s, but a “feminine” man standing behind a “masculine” woman was, perhaps, something of a first for big time TV.
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Darth Vader is a character and a personification of evil in the Star Wars films.
Darth Vader originally was Annakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker’s absent father. Annakin was also a Jedi knight, which made him a righteous freedom fighter with mystical powers called the force.
But Annakin always had a chip on his shoulder which contributed to his choosing the dark side of the force. Afterward, he became a kingpin for the evil Emperor Palpatine, spreading interstellar death and destruction.
In essence, Vader is devoured by his own choice to follow the evil Emperor. A machine – a full-body suit – keeps him alive in a state of psychopathic evil.
The ending of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi finds the hero of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker, in a very bad situation. After mercilessly trying to kill Luke for some time, Vader sees that Luke is about to be killed by the Emporer’s lightning bolts. If not for Vader’s sudden change of heart and helpful intervention, Luke would have been killed.¹ As summed up at Wikipedia,
Palpatine attacks him [Luke] with Force lightning. Moved by the sight of his son’s suffering, Vader turns on his master and redeems himself by throwing the evil Emperor into the Death Star’s reactor shaft, killing him.²
Vader then dies but his benevolent action in finally choosing good over evil redeems him and he earns a place in Jedi heaven (we later see him smiling at Luke as an afterlife apparition).
The hopeful message is that even the most hardened sinner still possesses free will and the potential for compassion, good deeds and redemption.
¹ Readers following this blog for a few years may have noticed that the original version of this entry incorrectly stated that Darth Vader, and not Palpatine, was about to kill Luke before Vader had a change of heart. I was never a die hard Star Wars fan and wrote the original entry from memory after seeing the film many years ago. Since then, I’ve watched the films again and corrected the error. No excuse really… just an explanation! Here’s a good summary of Vader’s death: http://www.moviedeaths.com/star_wars_episode_vi:_return_of_the_jedi/darth_vader/
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The Jedi are a sagely band of warrior-knights in George Lucas’ Star Wars films. Imbued with a high concentration of ‘the force,’ a bio-mystical power permeating all existence, Jedi’s work to liberate their galaxy from an oppressive empire and more generally, to keep the the force in balance.
In much of the Star Wars films, the empire is ruled by an evil emperor and his No. 1 minion, a Sith Lord. The most famous Sith Lord is Darth Vader, who himself is a fallen Jedi.
Jedi Masters normally belong to a Jedi Council. And at death a Jedi becomes immortal and honored, not unlike the ancient Greek heroes who, through their outstanding valor, escape the bonds of the shadowy underworld to enjoy eternal life on the blessed isles.
As with the religious sinner, a fallen Jedi, even a Sith Lord, may be redeemed by a significant act of kindness or self-sacrifice. Darth Vader, for instance, realizes that, without help, his son Luke Skywalker would perish. At a critical moment when Luke is about to be destroyed by the evil emperor, Darth’s humanity is rediscovered and he turns to fight the emperor. This guarantees Luke’s survival at the cost of Darth’s physical but spiritually redemptive death.
Also similar to most ancient myths, the Star Wars films exhibit subtle variants. For instance, in the original release of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, the redeemed Darth Vader appears in spirit form, played by actor Sebastian Shaw. But due to the popularity of Hayden Christensen’s subsequent portrayal of a youthful Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader’s name before he became a Sith Lord), in a 2004 DVD release of the film Shaw was replaced by Christensen as the resurrected Vader. And over the years, other scenes have been altered, added or expanded upon due to artistic choice and also the enhanced technologies which became available.¹
The word Jedi was added to The Shorter Oxford Dictionary in 2002.
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Captain Kathryn Janeway is the first woman starship Captain to regularly appear in a Star Trek TV series.
Kate Mulgrew plays the role in Star Trek: Voyager, which ran for seven seasons from 1995 to 2001. Interestingly, her faithful male sidekick, Commander Chakotay, plays a traditionally ‘feminine’ role by providing emotional support for Janeway’s traditionally ‘male’ command decisions.
The creator of the Star Trek series, Gene Roddenberry, attempted three decades earlier to counteract traditional sexism by casting a woman first officer (“No. 1″, played by Majel Barret) in the original pilot episode. Network brass demanded big changes, however, and William Shatner, Deforest Kelley and James Doughan were respectively brought in as ship’s captain, doctor and engineer. Leonard Nimoy (Spock) replaced Barret as “No. 1.” Barret was recast less prominently as Nurse Chapel, a female role deemed more socially acceptable for mid-1960′s America.
Something of a compromise was reached, however, when a female voice (Barret’s) was used for the ship’s talking computer. Barret, who was to become creator Gene Roddenberry’s real life wife, played in two Star Trek feature films. She also returned in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation as ship counselor Deanna Troy’s flamboyant mother. Also, her voice is heard again in later series’ as a female sounding computer.
The success of Katherine Janeway as Voyager’s captain suggests that the time was ripe for rethinking traditional sex-role stereotypes not only in America, but in most culturally progressive societies around the world.
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After the show’s early demise in 1969 and before its resurrection on film in 1979, William Shatner, the Canadian-born actor portraying Kirk, did various film and TV jobs, including supermarket ads for Loblaws, a Canadian supermarket chain.
Since then, Star Trek and its various spin-offs arguably have created a global mythology. It’s also proved to be a lucrative franchise. Among other things, Captain James Tiberius Kirk embodies the victory of human freewill over societal and religious tyrants and their oppressive demands for slavish obedience.
Kirk was always the ladies man and the original series seems sexist from a contemporary perspective. But its creator Gene Roddenberry made efforts to overcome this pitfall in the pilot episode, which included a woman first officer to the original captain, Captain Christopher Pike (played by actor Jeffrey Hunter).
After completing the pilot episode, TV network brass made some changes. They brought in Shatner to play Kirk because Jeffrey Hunter didn’t want to film another pilot for the Pike character. They also moved to a less significant female presence on the set. Majel Barrrett now played the character of Nurse Chapel instead of No. 1 to (the departed) Pike.
More recently, Shatner authored and acted in the less commercially successful but innovative TV series, Tek War. He also appears as a befuddled lawyer in the TV program, Boston Legal. And he starred in the 1980′s TV program T. J. Hooker.
While many actors quietly disappear in their golden years, Shatner has remained in the spotlight. He’s still doing ads and spoke at the 2010 Olympics closing ceremonies. Also, he’s the host of the Discovery Channel television series Weird or What? and can be seen on his own show, “Shatner’s Raw Nerve” on the BIO channel. His continued success might be partly due to ability to not take himself too seriously, and partly due to that same charisma that landed him the role as Kirk, back in the ’60s.
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Lexx is a Canada-Germany-UK science fiction series in which a motley bunch of societal byproducts and emotionally underdeveloped freaks sojourn through the universe in a vessel that, itself, is alive—that is, a biological organism.
After a shaky first season, the series returned with a new female lead, better graphics and scripts, and ran for four years total.
Like William S. Burroughs‘ Naked Lunch, Lexx explores the grotesque and absurd to an extent perhaps not previously achieved on television.
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Obi Wan is the only character to appear within all six Star Wars films. He’s played by actor Ewan McGregor in the Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005).
While many say the Prequel Trilogy isn’t in quite the same class as the Original Trilogy, it does reveal the early development of Obi Wan’s benevolent character.
In Jungian thought, the Alec Guiness version of Obi Wan portrays the archetype of the wise old man. Although one could say that Obi Wan’s miraculous ability to manipulate “The Force” for good purposes would also qualify him for the archetype of the Sacred Warrior.
The popular mythologer Joseph Campbell argued in the PBS TV series The Power of Myth (1988) that the original Star Wars films are a modern myth. And Campbell said this well before pop culture regarded science fiction as a type of myth.
The fact that audiences see Star Wars as a mythic tale, par exellence, isn’t surprising. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, says that Campbell’s work influenced the original trilogy’s mythic patterns, helping them to resonate within the hearts and minds of moviegoers worldwide. » Bhagavad-Gita, Yoda
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Reflecting attitudes of the late 1970s, Leia is cast as something of a feminist. Male chauvinism, however, pervades the script.
Han Solo, for instance, condescendingly says he knows, despite the Princess’ apparent disgust at his sexual advances, that she “really wants it.” And Leia’s role in the film arguably evokes more of a traditional female sex role stereotype than a male one.
As noted in a sidebar at Wikipedia:
Leia wearing her iconic golden “metal bikini” slave outfit at Jabba’s palace. Leia’s appearance has been voted one of the most memorable swimsuit moments of cinema history.¹
This is hardly a showcase for feminist sentiments at the time. But as with most progressive movements, things usually do change for the better, if slowly.
Today, the actor Fisher occasionally introduces films at Turner Classic Movies with host Robert Osborne.
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In the science fiction universe of the American Star Trek franchise, the Prime Directive is the overriding regulation of Star Fleet. Star Fleet represents an alliance of “good guys” belonging to the United Federation of Planets, as opposed to the “bad guys” made of up species like the Cardassians and the Borg.
Star Fleet is concerned about right ethics, so the Prime Directive stipulates noninterference with another species’ normal planetary development. This applies to space exploration and time travel. And to violate the prime directive apparently results in court-martial, except in the most extenuating of circumstances.
A problem with this idea relates to the criteria for defining “non-interference.” Some religious and New Age believers, for instance, maintain that humanity is invisibly influenced by a variety of advanced beings within the universe, heavens and throughout time. If so, would not the crew of a Federation starship have a moral responsibility to help primitive but eligible species develop better ways of solving problems?
Despite its lofty sounding ideals, the Prime Directive’s doctrine of non-interference is breached quite often. After all, moral dilemmas are good for TV ratings and, as St. Paul and others have indicated, life’s problems are usually better solved through the spirit instead of the letter of the law.¹
Another problem arises with The Prime Directive and the fictional idea of temporal paradoxes. The Star Trek writers never satisfactorily answer the following problem: How could a time traveler going back in time be certain which of many possible actions would be the correct ones to choose?
¹ While often associated with St. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3:6, the idea has other applications. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_and_spirit_of_the_law
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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.