|Posted on September 26, 2012 at 7:10 AM|
AUTHOR NOTE: For the past two weeks, I’ve been unable to log onto Facebook because the Wi-Fi administrator at my new place has blocked all access. With the help of others, I’m trying to get it back, but it’s a battle. Please pray for me.”
It’s interesting how often science fiction deals with one or two people, all alone in a strange world. In The Twilight Zone’s “Two” (August 12, 2009), familiar 1960s actors Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery play two nameless soldiers from opposite sides. Everybody else has been destroyed in the foregoing battle, so this pair has to learn to get along.
Lazarus in “The Alternative Factor” must literally fight himself to keep two universes safe (May 6, 2009).
“The Mark of Gideon” has nothing in common with the biblical hero, but more with the planet where overpopulation has become a problem. It’s said the world’s scientists have eliminated all diseases and the people live longer now. I think it’s supposed to be a commentary on the contemporary fear of too many people on Earth in the future, but the whole situation feels contrived to me.
In the article I wrote before about the types of disease sci-fi suggests (August 1 this year), I wondered how this world managed to stop all diseases in their tracks. On Earth, several ailments have been cured, or at least slowed down to manageable levels. How did the Gideons get around the curse that affects our overall health?
But the crux of the episode that affects this article is Captain Kirk being alone on a mockup Enterprise, with a Gideon lass named Odona. They are the only living creatures on board, but they hear an overwhelming sound of heartbeats. A screen shows crowds of people passing each other, people who say not a word to each other. Of course, Odona acts like a scared little girl, so Kirk can coddle her and assure her everything’s all right.
The appeal of being alone in an empty world is simple. It’s haunting to have no one to relate to. Even with one person to relate to, as with Bronson’s character and with Kirk, things can get tough. No counselor to go to, no friends left, no family. By nature, humans are social creatures; we need interaction with others to feel fulfilled and lead meaningful lives.
But it’s all the more haunting when your only companion is your enemy. It’s easy to imagine they eventually become friends, as in “Two,” but it’s not always easy in practice. Original Trek’s “Let That be Your Last Battlefield” stands as a case in point.
Here, the starship Enterprise interrupts a chase. Lokai, who has stolen a Starfleet shuttlecraft; and Bele, an enforcement officer who has been pursuing him across the Universe. They’re both from the embattled planet Cheron, and the unique thing about these two is their coloration. They’re white on one side and black on the other, following a straight line down the middle of their faces.
As far as the crew can tell, they are of the same race, yet accusations and racial slurs abound. When Captain Kirk challenges him, Bele haughtily explains they are of different races: “I am black on the right side.”
Kirk remains puzzled: “I fail to see the significant difference.”
Impatiently Bele says, “Lokai is white on the right side. All of his people are white on the right side.” No doubt this is a commentary on how stupid interracial conflicts are.
Lokai’s prejudice even extends to the crew: “You monotone humans are all alike. First you condemn and then attack!”
When the combatants struggle with each other, electric charges engulf both of them. Kirk wants to take them to the nearest starbase and let them duke it out (so to speak) in front of an arbiter. But Bele wants to return his prisoner back to Cheron to “face justice.” With his mind he controls starship functions and alters direction, until Kirk initiates a self-destruct sequence. It’s canceled, but later the self-destruct is disabled. I guess you could say Bele has a single-minded goal.
This story does not have a happy ending. Arriving at Cheron, they discover the entire planet is devastated, for everybody had killed each other off. Flaming buildings and charred rubble litter it wherever they go. In spite of the logical end of hatred, however, the Cheron chase continues. First Lokai, then Bele, beam down unauthorized, forever enemies until one eventually kills the other.
It’s a great commentary, and that’s a big reason why I like this episode, though it takes a few illogical turns. I used to think the straight-line dual color was one of the bobbles, until recently when someone posted a cat picture with a similar straight marking, separating its black right half from its calico left half. Had I had money for a pet, I’d love to own such an unusual cat. But somebody’s already beat me to it.
I draw my main spiritual point from a conversation between Chekov and Sulu at the helm.
Chekov says, “There was persecution on Earth once. I remember reading about it in my history class.”
“Yes,” says Sulu, “but it happened way back in the 20th century. There's no such primitive thinking today.”
Idealistic? Without Christ’s influence, certainly. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:18 ).
All through the New Testament, where was an ongoing feud between Jews and Gentiles. Jesus did not share the view, for repeatedly He wanders into Gentile territory to do what He set out to do: Save mortal men from their sins.
The Phoenician woman. The demoniac among the tombstones. The woman at the well. In fact it was a Gentile, Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry the crossbar to Golgotha. Another Gentile, Joseph of Aramathea, contributed his cave to give the Lord a decent burial.
Apostle Paul did not share the prevailing prejudice, either. “Is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too” (Romans 3:29). “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 6:9-11).
Christianity is an outgrowth of Judaism, bringing to the old laws Christ’s redemption, so the rules of the law changed some. No longer do we practice animal sacrifices, worship God on Saturday, or in most cases, circumcise baby boys. If the latter is done, it’s for health reasons rather than a religious ritual.
In Romans 6, the Jews come first because Judaism came first. In Moses’ day, foreigners did not have all the privileges the Hebrews enjoyed, not like today when were grafted into the same olive tree with Jews (see Romans 11:17-24). A merging of races into one family—His family—is God’s dream for mankind.