|Posted on May 2, 2012 at 6:50 AM|
Part 5 of 6 on the “next generation” of space travelers.
As a child, did you have an imaginary friend? Many children do; it’s perfectly normal for a kid who has difficulty making and keeping real friendships. I don’t recall making up friends as a boy, but I did cut out the models’ pictures from old catalogs and make them act out the stories in my immature head. Though I was teased about “playing with paper dolls,” I believe it was the genesis of my ability to keep track of my characters.
In the case of Clara Sutton in The Next Generation’s “Imaginary Friend,” her mother had died and her father’s Starfleet assignments have been taking her from ship to ship, and from one space station to another. So she invented a buddy who would always stay with her, someone to share her secrets with. Thus, Isabella was born.
Clara describes her as a beautiful blonde girl in a blue dress with white buttons in front. Counselor Troi has been working with Clara and her dad to understand what’s happening, and seems to have things well under control—until the Enterprise-D encounters a nebula which has formed around a neutron star. Geordi LaForge says it contains “elevated quantities of hydrogen, helium, and trionium,” the latter of which is an invented gas.
Unknown and undetected by anyone, a tiny bit of red light enters the starship and searches through computers and consoles, trying to understand this gigantic visitor. It enters a plant and briefly duplicates a leaf, then a flower.
Clara Sutton is in her garden planting seeds when the light finds her. It passes through her head while she’s humming “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” and the next thing she knows, another voice hums with her. Looking up, she’s delighted to see her friend Isabella, in the flesh. But this Isabella never smiles, except once when Clara encourages her to.
The entity uses the image of Isabella to find out more about these people, which results in her wanting to go places where children are not allowed. Against regulations, she wants Clara to take her to Engineering where Clara’s father works, to the cargo bay, and to Ten Forward. The downside of this is, in adult eyes it makes Clara look rebellious. When Clara truthfully says, “Isabella wanted to go there,” they think she’s using Isabella to excuse her own behavior.
The upside is, when the Enterprise-D experiences a malfunction due to the nebula, it seems to correct itself. The crew doesn’t realize the Isabella entity had fixed the problem while not visible to Clara.
However, the downside gets even downer when Isabella finds herself consistently denied and scolded for invading forbidden areas. Seeing it through a child’s eyes, she thinks adults are mean and gradually grows meaner herself. She has determined the adults must die, all but her “friend” Clara. When Clara becomes frightened and resists, the thing also threatens her.
“I thought you were my friend,” says Isabella, pouting. “I thought we shared secrets together.”
Eventually, however, adults do spot her. While running through the corridor, Clara and Isabella almost crash into Worf. Deanna Troi humors Clara by searching through her bedroom to prove Isabella is not there, just as a parent might convince a child there are no monsters under the bed. As Deanna rifles through the closet, Isabella appears behind Clara. Deanna turns, sees her, and Isabella zaps her unconscious.
Soon Captain Picard and others see her as well, and realize what she really is. Carefully and compassionately Picard explains that adults restrict children to protect them.
I love this episode because it contrasts the innocence of a young girl with the apparent brattiness of her imaginary friend; and because Isabella is very pretty. It’s interesting to watch the crew figure out something they can’t see—something Isabella doesn’t want them to see: herself. She fixes the problems her “people” have caused, which is a good thing.
But it’s hard to imagine the speck of light as a living being, or that it’s one in a society of specks. The explanation makes me wonder: Don’t these things have children? How do they reproduce? Aren’t there things they’d rather not let children do because an immature person could endanger themselves or others?
On February 23, 2011, I blogged about “The Enemy Within,” an original Trek episode where Captain Kirk was split into two personalities: one harmless and the other wicked. I mentioned that both sides are so intertwined in all of us, it’s really infeasible to consider them separate personalities.
“Imaginary Friend” is a better illustration of what I was talking about. Rather than one person split into two, Isabella is an extension of Clara’s mind. In effect, she’s an object lesson paralleling Romans 7:19-23.
“19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's Law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the Law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.”
This would seem to be a self-contradictory passage, until you study it closer. Clara is a good girl, obedient to her father, but troubled by his lifestyle. The Isabella in her mind is also good, until the speck thing transforms into her. Then Isabella causes Clara to do things she doesn’t want to do, and normally would not think of doing.
That’s how our inherent sin nature works, too. We want to follow God, we want to obey Jesus’ commands. But there’s a little voice in our head which makes us turn selfish. It doesn’t help that most TV commercials feed this side of us. And just as Isabella threatened Clara and her crew with death for not allowing her free rein, so our selfish heart results in death—spiritual death at first. Should we die physically in this condition, it would be too late to come back to God.
I’ve heard people say, “I want to live my own life. I don’t want to be tied down to a bunch of do’s and don’ts.” These people regard biblical Law as restrictive, just as Isabella thought rules against going to certain areas was also restrictive. But God doesn’t deny us because He’s mean, He denies us because it’s dangerous. Should the rebel deliberately sin, in spite of the Law, often he wonders, “Where was God when I got in trouble?” God was far behind him, right where the rebel had left Him!
Children naturally don’t know as much as their parents; they don’t realize certain activities could result in trouble. It’s the same with us as God’s children. We don’t know as much as He does, for we don’t have His overview of the world to guide us. We don’t realize some of our actions can bring us trouble.
Yet the tendency to break the law is strong in each of us. How do we resolve the problem? Look at Romans 7:25: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's Law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” In chapter 8, Apostle Paul goes on to contrast our sinful nature (the flesh) with our godly nature (the Spirit).
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the Law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). In spite of our propensity toward wrongdoing, Jesus’ blood literally saves us from ourselves.
Categories: Next Generation