Alright. I admit it. The last Trekkin was a bit of a phoning it in situation; the time that stood between myself and those episodes was too vast for me to properly intellectually engage in anything beyond rudimentary observations… I mean, it probably could be done but then, well, that would’ve been inauthentic – posturing for the sake of it, no bouncing off of the Trek material just bouncing off of my own bullshit faux intellectuality… and that, friends, is not what this blog is about (nor what I’m about, before Bif says anything) (Damn, he got there first – Bifur) besides… it was more of a statement, a ‘I can get back in the game’ piece. An affirmation of the fact that I have suddenly gained a little more ability to watch Star Trek
Any hoo, I managed to get through the next three episodes today whilst typing up stuff for work, multitasking like a boss, and I thought “Why not try and write it up fresh?” so, without further ado
LET’S GET TREKKIN’
Lets kick things off with…
This episode is one which I have mixed feelings about. Although I feel mixed about most episodes of TOS, as I think these articles fairly ably demonstrate.
Why do I feel mixed? Well, the usual stuff… it’s derogatory to women :
NOMAD: That unit is defective. Its thinking is chaotic. Absorbing it unsettled me.
SPOCK: That unit is a woman.
NOMAD: A mass of conflicting impulses
silly premise, poor execution .. blah blah, all that jazz
On the flip side of all this negativity is a huge swaggering mass of excellent TV – it was a fun episode to watch, I was intrigued and the camera angles produced a sense of ominousness that I doubt had ever been thrown onto screens back in the 60’s/70’s… and, oh yeah, there are a ton of interesting philosophical quandaries.
So plot-wise we have the Enterprise thrown into a sector of the galaxy that should be inhabited and is now completely devoid of all life… there’s no sign of intergalactic struggle: no left over radiation, nothing. Just a sterile expanse of planetary bodies.
Into this we throw a bright green super energy that starts wailing on the ship as the crew stand around full of perplexity… turns out this is emanating from a space probe called ‘Nomad’ and Nomad speaks in maths. OK, so here I find myself querying language as a structure. The game of language can be laid out in myriad different possibilities, in each one of these possibilities we see both reduction and expansion of meaning – I’m sure we’ve all heard about that Inuit snow thing. Subjectivity feeds into the quest for sharing of volition and language is something which can never quite fully open a subject into a mutuality of full understanding; that’s life. Mathematics, in its attempt to solidify complexity into wholly contingent facts, poses an interesting move for language – it can create a base of dialogue quite unlike anything else as, in theory, it cannot be misunderstood… apart from the fact that it is clearly bollocks as mathematics cannot codify human experience. Here we face the boundary artificial intelligence has to get over – how do machines think when they are based on mathematics? They can compute blunt facts but can they understand the nuance of subjectivity… this episode of star trek says no as it turns out this ‘perfect’ space probe is looking to destroy all life because of some kind of space accident it had and it cannot understand the value in the space between the integers, the outliers, the illogical and non-computational.
Maybe Star Trek is wrong, maybe quantum computing can accurately synthesise the evolutionary paths that have allowed our chemical brains to pursue artistic being…
To be honest, though, why do we value the outliers so much? We are imperfect, wouldn’t the machine world live in balance and harmony? Should we exist? Do we have the right to perpetuate our sporadic outbursts?
Star Trek, thanks for pushing some nihilistic thoughts on me – at least it brings me back into glorious frivolity as after the intensity of machine v man (and silly images of a space probe floating around a starship – ugh ). Kirk lightens the mood…
SPOCK: The destruction of Nomad was a great waste, Captain. It was a remarkable instrument.
KIRK: Which might well have destroyed more billions of lives. It’s well gone. Besides, what are you feeling so badly about? It’s not easy to lose a bright and promising son.
KIRK: Well, it thought I was its mother, didn’t it? Do you think I’m completely without feelings, Mister Spock? You saw what it did for Scotty. What a doctor it would’ve made. My son, the doctor. Kind of gets you right there, doesn’t it?
Ah, good ol’ Kirk; he faces down potential complete and utter destruction with ease (to be fair, it was clearly too easy… why didn’t that probe just wipe Kirk out as soon as it figured it was meant to! TV…. WHY DO YOU DO THESE THINGS?) and then wise cracks harder than any other cracking wise unit in space… maybe that’s why we get to exist, our innate absurdity in the face of cold, brutish nothingness…
Quick, before I get all Camusian again, it’s time for…
Shit… I think, my friends, something special has just happened.
I think I’ve just seen the best ToS episode ever produced…
I’m not sure if I’m all hyperbolic because of the schlockyness of the last episode but, well, I feel massively affected by this one…
Here’s the premise – another planet, beautiful flora and fauna everywhere- genuinely stunning shit. To the point where the crew compare it to the Garden of Eden (which Chekhov asserts is just outside Moscow… Putin, get doing some learning here man; that ain’t just fake news, it’s fake-fake history, or meta historical inaccuracy, or … truth??? ).
As we all know, however, beauty is a path to death… I’m not sure why or how we all know that, but I’m sure we do…
Redshirts get killed left, right and centre by a weird set of plants and then… oh fuck, there’s a tribe here…
BAM! Kirk launches into diplomacy the Kirk way – with a smack to the face
Fast forward – turns out this tribe have no violence, no drives of raw emotion; nothing except a cowing to a great omniscience known as Vaal…
Can you see where the whole Garden of Eden analogy is going here??? Uh Huh, that’s right folks – it’s time to analogically kill God by killing the worshipped deity of this tribe…
Do Kirk and the crew have any right in deciding the fate of the tribe in relation to their worship of a seemingly all mighty and all knowing being? It’s a tough one, but ultimately I found myself feeling a little dirty whilst watching this episode. Mainly because I felt vehemently opposed to Kirk’s drive to ‘free’ the populace from the benevolent dictator from beyond their realm… now, the whole Satan in the Garden of Eden thing is expressly referenced by Spock at the end of the episode
SPOCK: Captain, you are aware of the biblical story of Genesis.
KIRK: Yes, of course I’m aware of it. Adam and Eve tasted the apple and as a result were driven out of paradise.
SPOCK: Precisely, Captain, and in a manner of speaking, we have given the people of Vaal the apple, the knowledge of good and evil if you will, as a result of which they too have been driven out of paradise.
KIRK: Doctor, do I understand him correctly? Are you casting me in the role of Satan?
SPOCK: Not at all, Captain.
KIRK: Is there anyone on this ship who even remotely looks like Satan?
(McCoy and Kirk walk around Spock. McCoy is gazing intently at his ears.)
… Lord knows (ha, see what I did there) that I empathise with the Satanic premise; I’m atheistic to the nth degree and absolutely support the notion of the ‘rebellion’ as an innate human drive pushing us further into the reaches of understanding but… well… this whole thing wasn’t a rebellion
What’s more is it isn’t something rooted in allegory or complete oppression by collapsed hierarchical beings… God, religion and all of that stuff has definitely been used to oppress people BY PEOPLE (I won’t go into all the good stuff its done, that would belie the point of this discussion – but so you all know, it has done some good stuff in my opinion). Any upsurge against the principle of religion has come from within the populace – maybe it’s been spearheaded and kicked off by someone of true force (a’ight Nietzsche) but, still, ultimately they are society.
In this episode of trek Kirk is an outsider- he’s basically Cthulhu turning up to fuck people over in this instance; yeah, he thinks he’s got a better way but the folks on Vaal worship Vaal and genuinely get a good deal – sure they don’t fuck but, maybe the trade-off is OK for plentiful food, idyllic existence, peace, harmony and – even if it knows no name – a genuine, all-encompassing love for one another.
Who is Kirk to decide that it’s better for them to fuck, fight, toil and ultimately die?
If we apply this to our daily lives I think it’s important to understand we are allowed to push our rebellions and to try to forward our beliefs and knowledges but not to outright go out of our way to stop people following what they want to believe – create a convincing argument; that’s the only way to truly kill God. Not through violence and oppression… and hey, it pays to listen to other folks; we could be wrong and even if we’re not it’s worthwhile having something out there to keep us engaged in thinking about our own beliefs
ooooo check this, another good episode which follows a bit of a theme that the last episode started.
A Transporter malfunction leads to Kirk and a few of his compatriots turning up on an alternate Enterprise which is an envoy of a warring intergalactic Federation – an empire. They’re evil…
Evil Spock has a beard (that’s a prog bands name by the way). Which is a good look.
The extent of this episode is Kirk and cronies trying to get back to the good timeline. It’s a slow paced plodder but throws out a lesson to Kirk…
That lesson is…
Dude, you are hanging out with some pricks now… if you don’t want to be a prick you don’t have to.
A shame this didn’t happen before he turned up on Vaal ..
There’s some interesting ideas here beyond that stuff – what is culture, is there a persisting personality within the self which, given societal structures, still exhibits itself but finds voice through other means? Does this annihilate what we believe to be the self but reduce us to a set of base volitions?
It’s pretty cool and I think follows through on some interesting existential points regarding the circularity of self.
To be honest though my brain is hurting so I’m going to instead say this…
I know that this is another exhibition of the stuff I find abhorrent woven into this awesome show, but… fuck! Uhura has some awesome abs!
Seriously, I feel like I’ve got to go do some serious amounts of sit ups now- humans are biological mechanisms and, the mechanistic sense of working to peak performance, definitely is a pull…
Freud judges those that don’t do sit ups