Saturday, July 18, 2009

Notes From Trekkies' Quadrant

Most of my friends are taken aback when they find out that I am a Star Trek junkie.

I consume them all, beginning with when Captain Kirk was in captain, on to the Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space 9, and now, Enterprise. I know most characters well enough to provide a personality analysis without much notice; I know what makes their space ships go, and what a big deal it would be if they were to be forced to eject their warp cores. I think it quaint that the characters are trying to break the warp 5 barrier with Enterprise NX in the sub-series set in the 22nd century, when Enterprise NCC 1701-D of the 24th century is easily capable of warp 9! The various quadrants of Universe are also familiar to me, and I have a very clear understanding of the space-time continuum, the laws that govern it, as well as the ways of The Continuum and its inhabitants, a realm beyond space and time.

What I don't understand is my friends' and family's amazement at my obsession. My obsession has always been, and continues to be a story well told, a truthful depiction of the human condition, and themes that all epics address: the nature and exploration of the self, idea of a journey that changes the universe, grappling with varying concepts of possible and immediate realities, the uncomfortable inevitability of death and its meaning, the grey, fluid areas of ideals and morality, and constitutions of the sacred and the monstrous.

I remain intrigued with the race of humanoids Captain Picard meets, whose language is purely metaphoric, so the universal translator falls short, only able to translate vocabulary and basic syntax. At the conclusion of this episode, the protagonist feels compelled to turn to neglected and all-but-forgotten epics, with corner-stone archetypes and metaphors.

It is easy to empathize with the Voyager and its crew, lost in the Delta quadrant with no way of finding their way back home to the Alpha quadrant. An accidental moment condemns the crew to a seemingly endless quest for home in a journey that is precarious and existential at the same time. Throughout that series, there is an unmistakable strain of loss, longing, and nostalgia that all travelers and immigrants feel, the very strain that resonates with us when we try to map the oceans with Odysseus and his crew, or wander through the Dandaka Vana with Rama, Sita and Laxman.

The very delicate balance between dignified, sensible tolerance and unseemly interference needed to maintain some order on Deep Space 9 is very relevant in the contemporary world. The station, perched on edge of a wormhole, rare because it is stable in both, Alpha and Gamma quadrants that it connects, bubbles with activity and strife, a melting pot of races, species, and life-forms that pass through it constantly. What happens here is an external, crystallized, symbolic version of the conflicts that have haunted our race since before recorded history.

Our deep set fears of being reduced to non-humanized automatons whose individual consciousness is stripped away, who are assimilated to fit into comfortable cubby holes, can be recognized in the Borg that hunt all the species, a common enemy. The idea of the Borg explores one of the most contemporary issues, a theme that seems to have displaced divine weaponry in present day tales, the relationship between humanity and technology. On the one hand, there is the obscene assimilation of the Borg, who countenance no differences, and on the other hand, we are presented with the ideal of such a relationship in the character of Data, a figure which forces us to closely re-examine what exactly it is that makes us human, or even organic!

I dedicate this entry to the same idea I have dedicated my blog to: the story that tells of us, that outlasts our little lives and helps define us in relation to the ever-expanding world that we find ourselves in.

In a nutshell, then, Star Trek embodies two quintessential, timeless, unchanging wishes we all have: to boldly explore the new, and to live long and prosper.

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