In the American TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Borg are a disturbing species of cybernetic organisms whose sole purpose is to increase their alleged perfection by assimilating the intelligence and technology of weaker life forms throughout the galaxy.
Their technology enables them to psychically connect to a collective like a termite colony. Individuality is unknown and the Borg exist in a dark synchrony of de-individualizing amalgamation.
Among other things, they arguably represent the Orwellian extreme of unreflective political, corporate and religious yesmen and yeswomen who do whatever they’re told by authoritarian figures without heeding their own conscience.
The Borg image is particularly effective as it recasts previous Frankenstein and zombie myths within a futuristic scenario of techno-gloom. An interesting and optimistic twist, however, appears with the character Seven of Nine (played by actor Jerry Ryan and introduced in Star Trek: Voyager) who was once abducted by the Borg but is gradually re-humanized among the supportive crew of the Federation starship Voyager.
In the feature film Star Trek: First Contact (1996) we’re introduced to the hideously compelling Borg Queen—again, not unlike the Queen of a termite colony. She’s a frightening but, for some, darkly attractive creature who in the TV series Voyager is jealous of Captain Katherine Janeway, arguably a symbol of American drive and determination. Indeed, heroic Federation starship captains like James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard and Katherine Janeway represent the very opposite of the Borg’s chilling refrain: “Resistance is Futile.”
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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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Dreamtime refers to the Australian aboriginal belief that all animal and human life exists in a complex set of interrelations, ultimately connecting to primal ancestors existing in the Dreamtime, a place beyond or behind the apparent distinctions made in our daily lives.
Generally the idea of dreamtime forwards a threefold map of the
- Human World
- Physical World
- Sacred World
These three realms are said to be closely interconnected, with innumerable divisions and sub-divisions.
The idea of Dreamtime loosely corresponds to the notion of the Q-Continuum as found in the science fiction TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation. And some try to explain various types of mental illness through an inadequate biological filtering and coordinating of these three realms in everyday life.¹
¹ See for instance, The Metaphysical Origin of Attention Deficit Disorder by David Almeida. I should note that I haven’t posted this article at Earthpages.org because it seems a little too influenced by the author’s personal beliefs. Still, taken with that caveat, it does offer a perspective seldom found in contemporary psychiatry. Along these lines, the Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung once noted that the brain is like a radio receiver—i.e. limiting some ‘frequencies’ of reality while receiving others.
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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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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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The fact that their physical appearance changed over time was explained in 2005 with the literary device of ‘retroactive continuity.’¹
A member of a fictional humanoid alien race featuring in the U.S. television series Star Trek and in subsequent associated series, films, publications, etc.
Although not in common use, the Klingon language is learned and spoken by die hard Star Trek fans, known as Trekkies. Learning is facilitated via instructional audio tapes such as “Conversational Klingon.”
¹ “A canonical explanation for the change was given in a two-part storyline on Star Trek: Enterprise. The two episodes, “Affliction” and “Divergence“, aired in February 2005.” (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klingon#Explanation_and_theories).
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The Matrix is a 1999 science fiction film written by Andy and Larry Wachowski, starring Keanu Reeves as Neo.
The Matrix is part of a trilogy. The first film gained the attention of pop culture theorists through its depiction of the world as a deceptive computer program (called ‘the matrix’ by those in the know) designed to enslave human beings.
The majority of humanity exists in a state of comatose slavery, plugged into a master computer which, through cyber connectivity, creates the illusion of everyday life. Essentially, people are nothing more than dreaming ‘batteries’ for the matrix, living in a horrendous vault and living on a liquid that itself is the product of the dead.
Neo apparently is “The One” destined to free humanity from this mass cybernetic deception. His mentor Morpheus (and other awakened liberators) believes in his special status and liberates him. As it turns out, Morpheus is right. Neo really is the one.
However, Neo wouldn’t have made it if not for the love of Trinity (played by Carrie-Anne Moss), who at one point literally brings him back to life with a kiss.
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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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