Pavel Chekov is a Russian ensign in the original TV series Star Trek (1966-69), played by Walter Koenig. He was portrayed favorably in the midst of the 1960s Cold War between America and Russia. With the inclusion of an international crew, the series’ creator Gene Roddenberry hoped to eradicate this and many other forms of prejudice. While the original Star Trek may seem sexist from today’s standpoint, in many ways it was groundbreaking for late the 1960s.
Roddenberry also wanted Star Trek to appeal to teens, so thought a young, fresh face would do the series good.
Walter Koenig appears not just in the TV show, but in the first seven Star Trek films. In the eleventh Star Trek film, Anton Yelchin depicts Chekov as a likeable math whiz who’s a bit hard to understand because of his Russian accent.
Chances are Pavel Chekhov is named after the Russian doctor, dramatist and short-story writer, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904). The people behind Star Trek had a knack for recasting famous names and ideas into Sci-fi. This arguably helps the show resonate within viewers’ collective unconscious.
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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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In a compelling TNG episode, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise is captured and electronically tortured by a chief Cardassian. Picard finds underneath the tyrant’s powerful exterior a frightened, abused little boy with a massive inferiority complex.
The tyrant gives Picard a choice: If he agrees to say there are five floodlights beaming in his face when actually there are only four, his torture will stop. If he holds to the truth, his torture will continue. Fortunately, Picard is rescued by his crew before caving in and betraying the truth for the sake of comfort.
Toward the end of the episode, however, Picard admits to Counselor Troy that he was about to “say anything” to stop his electronically induced torture. And, perhaps most interesting, Picard adds that, after suffering intense and prolonged abuse, he really began to believe that he saw five lights instead of four.
This is a telling psychosocial comment about how perceptions can change with the oppressive influence of an evil power that’s not in a person’s best interests.
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An essentially slug-like Trill, Dax has lived several past lives in different humanoid hosts of both genders and currently resides in a female body.
Trill hosts voluntarily join with a symbiont, but once joined, both Trill and symbiont become biologically interdependent.¹
Dax is noteworthy in the Star Trek universe and in pop culture because s/he is inherently neither male nor female and openly bisexual in his/her current female form.
The Star Trek franchise has always championed human rights, addressing issues like racism, cultural imperialism, ageism and sexism, and the Jadzia Dax character seems to be Deep Space Nine’s way of challenging those who maintain that same-sex attractions are unnatural or ungodly.
¹ Trill – Xenobiology Database » http://www.geocities.com/Area51/nebula/4156/infirmary/xeno/trill.html
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Commander Data is an android science officer played by actor Brent Spiner aboard the starship Enterprise in the science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Data’s character evolves during the course of the series. At first he’s mostly an amusing and capable robot, much like C3PO in the original Star Wars film. As the story cycle evolves, however, we see Data wondering who he is, what it’s like to have feelings, parents, children and if he would enjoy sex.
Through various tricks and turns Data eventually experiences human emotions and activities, to become a sort of mythic representative for the idea of AI rights, a theme followed up by the holographic doctor in Star Trek: Voyager.
This might seem fanciful today but as computer technology advances at warp speed, in the not-too-distant future ethical concerns about AI could be headline news. We see this possibility in the science-fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, which illustrates the potential dangers of an intelligent machine (the HAL 9000 computer) gone wrong.
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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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HAL 9000 is name of the paranoid supercomputer in Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The alphabetical letters immediately following each of the letters in Hal’s name are IBM, suggesting that Hal represents the dark side of computing.
Hal is a clever, if violent and strange, machine. After murdering the Jupiter-bound astronaut Frank Pool during a spacewalk and attempting to murder his colleague Dave Bowman in a space pod, Hal rightly suspects that the sole survivor, Bowman, is about to disconnect his higher processing functions. He tells Dave:
“I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over.”
Later, while being stripped to his basic functions, Hal laments “I’m afraid, Dave.”
The film indirectly poses the philosophical question: Do machines possess consciousness? Only recently have philosophers of science considered the possibility that artificial intelligence (AI) may be not only sentient but also alive.
Apart from this issue, Hal arguably represents what writer Erich Fromm and C. G. Jung saw as the mass or “mechanical” aspect of mankind. Mechanical men and women follow the herd, do not express individual aspirations, and are always eager to blame their personal moral defects on someone else.
However, the HAL story becomes more complicated in later novels like 2010 (also a film), 2064 and 3001, where the literary device of retroactive continuity. Some plot and setting details are modified by Clarke but not at the expense of a greater, more holistic sense of coherence. For instance, in the sequel film 2010 we learn that HAL was told to lie by Washington, which was incompatible with HAL’s programming.
So the computer’s sinister ‘malfunction’ in 2001 becomes something more of an unavoidable (and forgivable) psychosis, ultimately caused by human error, as HAL ironically indicated in the original film.
3001 explores an intriguing idea where Dave Bowman (consciousness of human origin) unites with HAL (a computer program) to create a new kind of hybrid being named Halman.
Dave Bowman and the HAL 9000 from Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) 1968)
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Luke displays many of the qualities of the mythic hero, as outlined by Carl Jung and, later, Joseph Campbell. He’s born of humble origins and grows up with a missing father. He’s invited to embark on a dangerous quest or mission, on which he receives paranormal help from a spiritual teacher (i.e. Yoda) and a wise old man (i.e. Obi Wan Kenobi).
Also, he has a female helper (i. e. Princess Leia) with whom he perhaps falls in puppy love until realizing she’s his sister.
Moreover, he undergoes a spiritual transformation, enabling him to succeed in overcoming evil (i.e. the dark side of “the force”) within and without. And he becomes a select knight of goodness possessing supernatural powers (i.e. Jedi).
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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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