|Posted on July 4, 2012 at 7:15 AM|
Today we Americans honor Independence Day. To celebrate, I’ve chosen to talk about what independence means to us, both as Americans and as Christians. This is one of the few topics where I agree with Trek’s opinion; two others are the bane of racial prejudice, and the value of seeking peace above war.
Kivas Fajo in Next Generation’s “The Most Toys” is one of the most playfully sinister villains I’ve seen; his uniqueness is a big part of the appeal that drew me into the story. He belongs to an interplanetary collector’s guild, whose members trade treasures with each other.
The explosive the Enterprise-D is transporting between ships is so volatile—similar to loading several nuclear bombs, I take it—it’s Data duty to make the three trips required. Just before he exits Fajo’s ship for the final trip, Fajo’s assistant Varria shorts him out and places him in a museum of curiosities. She launches the pod into space, rigged to explode on its way.
Naturally, Enterprise personnel assume Data was destroyed, so a good share of the episode shows them mourning their loss. In a way, it seems silly to miss a mechanical object, as though mourning over a toaster that fails to work. On the other hand, as an android, Data was far more personable than a toaster. And we humans do have a predilection to mourn over objects which have given us emotional stability.
However, we find Data is “alive” and well. When Fajo meets him, he is beside himself. “Oh … wondrous! The detail, the balance. Was I not right, Varria? Oh, my … what a remarkable piece of work.”
For awhile, he ignores Data’s plea to know why he was here, then he explains. Fajo is only interested in rare treasures, preferably one-of-a-kind items that would make his fellow collectors jealous, and to demonstrate his high status. Since Data is the only android serving Starfleet, Fajo openly—and childishly—rejoices in his newest acquisition.
But this acquisition has a mind of his own. At every turn he resists Fajo’s requests to his change clothes and sit in a chair like an impersonal exhibit. But Fajo has ways to make you sit. He throws acid on Data’s uniform, making it begin to dissolve. (Though Fajo says it would dissolve his clothes in seconds, it stops bubbling on his chest.)
Data finally gets his way when Fajo eagerly shows him off to a fellow collector, Palor Toff (with three nostrils and various other facial openings), but Data stands like a mannequin, and just as responsive. He tumbles over the central couch and onto the floor.
“He falls well,” says Toff, scoffing.
Varria had said, “I obey Fajo, and so does everyone on this ship. … You won’t find anyone on this ship who will help you escape.”
Yet when Fajo threatens Varria’s life in an effort to control Data, she changes her mind—and is killed for it. The message is clear: Nobody has the right to imprison others against their will, without cause.
It’s the same message projected in my book, Pirates from Gnorlon. The reason these pirates are evil is not that they wear funny hats, have a parrot on their shoulder, drink rum, and make enemies walk the plank. Instead, my pirates are clean-cut, wear bright colorful patchworks, seem hospitable when you meet them, and run an interplanetary zoo under Gnorlon’s surface.
But because their leader, Marz Plontra, sees all hominids as animals (aside from his own race), he also imprisons people in this zoo. Against their will, without cause. He captures most of the clannet (the Saternis crew) as well, and it’s up to two young people on the outside to rescue them.
In both stories, a love for freedom and an abhorrence to being caged clearly plays out. Here is how Trizta explains it to a pirate patrolman named Onratz Faxila.
“What if I told you we’re all created in God’s image? As equals to each other, not one race overlording others. Unless a crime has been committed, no man or society has the right to hold other men prisoner, especially to be gawked at like freaks at a carnival.”
Unlike other pirates, Faxila is responsive to her message (again, bucking the stereotype that all members of an evil society must be evil). Trizta learns he’s not alone, either; many of his friends would also like to get out from under Plontra’s thumb.
“You have to know what working for the man means,” explains Faxila. “Any error in judgment, even the smallest infraction, can have deadly consequences. Beatings, demotions, even a final visit to the [cannibalistic] Bedimems for supper—these are among his punishments. I know because I used to work in the tower. I was lucky; he only demoted me. Why? Because I recommended straw instead of hay for the equines.”
Isn’t it interesting that Varria in “The Most Toys” says much the same thing? “I obey Fajo, and so does everyone on this ship. … Kivas finds ways to get what he wants. His rewards for loyalty are lavish; his punishment for disloyalty are equally …” she touches her chin, apparently recalling a past pain “… lavish.”
Six or seven years separate my story from this episode, each independently written, yet similarities abound. Their personalities may be different—Plontra is scarcely playful—but he and Fajo share the same values. Power, greed, and disrespect for others. Unless, of course, he can profit from another race.
All men should be free. Roddenberry and I fully agree on this. But we have different ideas about what freedom means. Many are the Trek episodes in which devotion to God and spiritual matters are counted as slavery; they say we must break from all vestiges of religion to have total freedom. Of course, we know the reverse is true. We’ll never have true independence unless we let God in on it.
“To the Jews who believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. … So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’” (John 8:31-32, 36).
Why can’t people see how free we are? To struggling Christians in sin-soaked Corinth, Apostle Paul wrote, “Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
The veil referred to is the one Moses wore over his face after communing with God. Just as knowing a friend for a long time makes one take on his/her qualities, so Moses’ relationship gave him God’s qualities: a glory too bright for sinful man to look at. To keep from blinding his followers, Moses wore a veil, but in context of the Corinthians passage, Paul says it’s the sinners’ faces that are veiled, not allowing them to see the value of serving God.
Then there’s the “law of liberty,” a totally confusing concept to unbelievers. Apostle James introduced this idea: “For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues [in it], and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:23-25 NKJV).
This law of liberty is not the freedom to do what we want. It is not, as one religious group teaches, an excuse for not evangelizing, assuming everybody is predestined for either Heaven or Hell, anyway. Instead, it is based on our evangelism! We cannot have liberty without doing something about it.
In the bulk of “The Most Toys,” Kivas Fajo appears to be free to collect anything he wants. He forces the sentient android Data to sit on display, despite that Data objects to his confinement. Similarly, Marz Plontra in Pirates from Gnorlon doesn’t care that he’s limiting the clannet and other aliens’ freedom by keeping them.
In anti-Christian countries, the same happens all the time, to limit or incarcerate—even execute—those best equipped to help the world. They did it with Jesus and Paul and other disciples, they’re still doing it today.
Let us rejoice and celebrate our freedoms while we have them.