In my ongoing quest of watching all 79 episodes of Star Trek – The Original Series (TOS), I have stumbled on a rather unusual one. An anonymous friend once characterized TOS as “banal American optimism”, comparing it favourably to its successor series’ Evil Nietzscheanism. There is a lot to be said for banal optimism, American or otherwise, for emotional-anaesthesia and/or gently-rinsing-one’s-brain-at-the-end-of-the-day purposes. Therefore, I like Star Trek best when it does not focus on deep philosophical contents, because when it does, it usually, and not surprisingly, gets it  wrong (Although, to be fair, the general rule of Narm Charm holds even here: when Star Trek is good, its is good; when it is bad, it is usually So Bad it’s Good).

The episode in question is ‘Bread and Circuses’, and has been generally rated as rather mediocre (possibly justified, though there are far worse), and, interestingly, as sort of  betraying what Star Trek stands for. The script is written by no less than (Star Trek inventor) Gene Roddenberry and (inventor of Klingons, Prime Directive, and much more) Gene L. Coon. Kirk , Spock and McCoy beam down to a hitherto uncharted planet to find it a planet of Space Romans – Romans with -us names, the Roman deities, slavery (albeit more humanized), arena fights (circuses!) – and Earth 20th century technology. For the first time, we even get an explanation why all these suspiciously Earth-history like planets are not just a ruse to make the most of pre-existing scenery and costume in a low-budget production: it is due to Hodgekins’ Law of Parallel Planetary Development. As I said, science explains everything.

Anyway, Kirk, Spock and McCoy first run into a group of runaway slaves drawn together by a sun (?)  worship with ideals of brotherhood, non-violence even in the face of cruel treatment (i.e., they are the goodies of the episode). McCoy is confused, as he does not know of any sun worship amongst Earth Romans, and everything on the planet is just so plausibly transformed-into-20th-century Romanism. However, everyone is far too busy being imprisoned, threatened, made to fight in the arena, consoled by pretty half-clad blonde alien females, and the like, to bother about that detail. Happily back on the Enterprise, they pick up this thought again, and Uhura is able to clarify things: She has been listening to the Space Romans’ radio programme, in which they tried to ridicule that religion of the protesting slaves, without success. It turns out they do not worship the sun, but the Son: Christ. And Kirk is blithely intrigued, wishing it was possible for him to “see it all happening again” – confident that slavery and arenas will soon disappear on this (unimaginatively named) Planet 4 of star system 892 through the rise of Christianity.

Given this:

Bread_and_Circuses_046

They are peaceful Christionas and won’t use this gun on Kirk & Co.

this:

shirt

might be a cool nerdy Christian witness T-shirt. You could have bets who among your pious friends gets it.

This could be a good place to discuss the questions of  a) whether, theologically, we can exclude the possibility of intelligent non-human life out there somewhere, b) whether, if there should be intelligent non-human life out there somewhere, they are either not fallen, and have a natural end, or fallen, and unredeemed, or fallen, and redeemed by Our Lord, or what. It could also be used as a justification of wasting one’s time with watching Star Trek, because, hey, it is after all, sometimes, and awkwardly, sort of Christian, isnt’ it?

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