|Posted on September 5, 2012 at 7:20 AM|
One of the most unique wars I’ve ever seen is in original Star Trek’s “A Taste of Armageddon.” As usual when biblical names and phrases show up in a title, it has nothing to do with its biblical counterpart—in this case, the final strike against the Jews by the Antichrist’s forces (Revelation 19). Rather, it concerns a pair of sister planets who wage war solely by computer.
I said it was unique, not reasonable. Let’s start at the beginning.
The Enterprise has been sent to investigate the loss of the USS Valiant somewhere in this system. Against warnings from Eminiar VII, and on Ambassador Fox’s insistence, Kirk, Spock, and a handful of others beam down. Anan 7, apparently in charge of the entire planet, decries the horrible loss of life due to attacks from Vendikar. Yet there’s no physical evidence of a war taking place—no bombs nor rifles nor grenades, et cetera.
Come to find out, Eminiar’s computer interfaces with Vendikar’s computer to wage a digital war. And it’s been this way for the past 500 years, thanks to a “treaty” both worlds had signed. (Whoever heard of a war treaty?) Thus, those who are deemed “dead” by the computer are required to report to disintegration chambers to be killed for real.
One thing I’ve always wondered: How did this system evolve? Whose idea was it, and how did they sell the public on the idea? Seems to me that having one’s life subject to a machine’s random decision would be more terrifying than exploding bombs or droning planes. But since I’ve never lived through an out-and-out war, much less a computerized one, I can’t be sure.
Shortly after beam-down, Eminiar’s digital brain decides the Enterprise has been utterly destroyed by a fusion bomb, and Anan demands that Kirk order all of his crew down for disintegration within 24 hours—but it’s not clear whether he means Earth hours or Eminiar hours. What’s more, why should a society force their own customs on visitors? Especially in a matter of life or death. This sounds unconscionable to me.
Of course there has to be a girl for Kirk to care about. Her name is Mea 3, who has grown up in this climate and knows no other. She’s also been counted as a casualty, so to spare her, the macho captain gets Spock to help him phaser all disintegration chambers out of commission.
Ambassador Fox, meanwhile, in his stiff-shirt pompous manner, believes the only way to settle a war is by diplomacy. So he and an aide beam down, and are promptly usher toward a chamber.
When Kirk and Spock find him and blast it, Fox demands: “What are you doing, Mr. Spock?”
Evenly the Vulcan says, “Practicing a peculiar variety of diplomacy, sir.”
At every turn, Kirk tries to convince Anan and his people that this form of war is ultimately useless, no better than the other kind. “Death! Destruction! Disease! Horror!” cries Kirk. “That's what war is all about. That's what makes it a thing to be avoided.”
With this I fully agree. However, his solution sounds idealistic. “We're human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands, but we can stop it. We can admit that we're killers, but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes. Knowing that we're not going to kill … today!”
Really? Frankly, I don’t know a single case where somebody talked himself out of committing murder. More common is the anger that defies reason: “I’ll pay him back for what he did to me!” War and conflict may be natural for humanity, but when we align with the Prince of Peace, we have a way out of our self-destructive nature.
No idol can do this, which I think was demonstrated in another episode, “The Apple.” From the moment Kirk, Spock, and McCoy arrive on planet Gamma Trianguli VI, there are numerous lines comparing the beautiful place with the Garden of Eden. Yet if you step on the wrong rock, it explodes. If you get too close to a certain flower, it shoots poisonous thorns. And the sky can gather clouds and emit deadly lightning at a moment’s notice. Therefore the comparison with Eden is seriously flawed.
Most of all, they meet Vaal, a fearsome lizard head projecting from a rocky cliff. The natives, led by Akuta as their recognized priest, worship the head as a god, feeding it energy rocks and bowing to its wishes. Again, the secret of Vaal’s existence is the computer deep inside, so this idol does much more than your average ancient deity. But I wonder: if the natives are so primitive, who built the computer lizard?
Conversations with the natives are equally puzzling. When Kirk explains to Akuta about love, the priest shakes his head. “Love?” He chuckles. “Strange words … children … love. What is love?”
Yeoman Landon tries to explain: “Love is when two people are …”
“Ah, the holding, the touching. Vaal has forbidden this.”
McCoy rolls his eyes. “Well, there goes paradise.”
And there goes reason, right out the hut window. Even the pagan idols relied on sensual love to interest their subjects, though their doctrines also involved fright to keep them faithful. God’s love is far purer; not only does He not forbid love, He encourages it. Side note: I also wonder where these “replacements” for children come from.
Regarding love, Apostle John has a lot to say. “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18 ). He also wrote, “Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is Love” (4:7-8 ).
But here, when Chekov and Yeoman Landon kiss, two natives (the man being played by David Soul of Starsky and Hutch) notice and try it for themselves. Immediately Vaal thunders against them, and decides to take drastic action.
When its comes to computers declaring war, both Eminiar’s machine and Vaal make a point of murdering all who upset the status quo, like mainframe dictators. Though Gamma Trianguli is supposed to be peaceful, Vaal passes instructions to Akuta on how to kill the strangers. Taking a big stick and a coconut with orange meat, Akuta says, “You come up behind the strangers … and do this.” One swipe, and the coconut severs cleanly in two.
Of course, the single-swipe method is no match for the Enterprise crew’s fighting skills. But the fact this would be considered, much less attempted, tells me the planet is neither peaceful nor another Eden. The idol-run planet did nothing to curb man’s tendency for violence.
To live a truly peaceful life, we don’t necessarily have to remove all conflict. When at Jesus’ birth the angel announced He would bring “peace on Earth and goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14 KJV), he didn’t mean all wars would stop from then on. He meant we’d have peace in spite of conflicts.
Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man's enemies will be the members of his own household’” (Matthew 10:34-36, quoting Micah 7:6).
Because many of our family members are unbelievers, they will challenge us. That’s what brings the symbolic “sword”; insults hurt as badly as any blade. Yet still we can have a measure of personal peace. How?
“I will listen to what God the Lord will say; He promises peace to his people, His saints—but let them not return to folly. Surely His salvation is near those who fear Him, that His glory may dwell in our land” (Psalm 85:8-9). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
It’s abundantly clear sci-fi producers don’t get it, in spite of their imaginative stories. Nor can we expect them to, since all they know is the human life where wars prevail right and left.
So when they try to invent “peaceful planets,” they don’t know how to do it without introducing violent elements, like the rifles in “A Private Little War.” Or the stick-and-coconut attacks of Trianguli natives. Or the less messy war fought on Eminiar VII.
We’re not heading toward disintegration chambers. We’re heading for reintegration chambers (mansions) in Heaven, just because we believe in Jesus.