|Posted on October 24, 2012 at 7:30 AM|
Isn’t it strange how often the word “devil” pops up in sci-fi? Usually it’s a general term for a variety of other negative things.
1) In “Shore Leave,” Captain Kirk called his old tormentor Finnegan “my own personal devil.” 2) “The Doomsday Machine” had Commodore Decker claiming the conical weapon which had destroyed his starship was the devil. 3) Captain Pike in “The Menagerie” was sent to a “legendary” place that looked like a human concept of Hell. 4) NBC had feared Spock’s appearance looked too much like a devil; the fact that fans endeared to him proved them wrong.
5) Khan in “Space Seed” compared his exile to Ceti Alpha V to Hell, even quoting Satan’s words in Milton’s Paradise Lost. 6) The conclusion of a series of episodes in Deep Space Nine ended with the diabolical Gul Dukat fighting Captain Sisko in a fiery cave. 7) The animated episode “The Magicks of Megas-Tu” introduced a devilish character named Lucien.
But perhaps the fullest treatment of the topic is found in Next Generation’s “Devil’s Due,” which I will cover next week—right on Halloween itself!
For today, I’m going to consider a number of “devils” (actually monsters) who live underground. Doctor Who has plenty of them. Typically the TARDIS grinds to stop in a cavern or a rocky passageway, where people are drilling, mining, or spelunking. Invariably when a Who episode starts this way, you can bet some creature is about to rack up a body count. Creatures which are sometimes referred to as devils.
For example: 1) “Doctor Who and the Silurians” is the first appearance of the reptilian monstrosities, which have become a staple in Who-lore. The workers here are running a nuclear plant below the surface when the creatures appear.
2) In “The Green Death,” mining for diamonds in a cavern leads to the assaults, as they unwittingly unearth bright green maggots. Miners drop like flies—er, maggots—upon coming in contact with them. They turn bright green themselves, before they eventually die.
3) “The Caves of Androzani” features an underground society where a robotics expert feuds with the administrator. Every once in awhile, a fearsome magma monster appears and burns men to cinders.
Hmm, the last one sounds a lot like the Trek episode, “Devil in the Dark.” (There’s that word again!)
I remember feeling disappointed when I first saw this episode, because the monster-in-the-cave idea had already been used numerous times. But as the story progressed, I realized Star Trek was doing its own peculiar take on such stories. Rather than show a monster that pops out of nowhere, with no history, “Dark” gives the horta a realistic reason for attacking.
The foreman of a pergium mining facility on Janus VI puts in a frantic call to Starfleet, and the starship Enterprise answers. Mr. Vanderberg explains to Captain Kirk how frightened his men are: “When that creature appears, men die!” It doesn’t so much burn its victims, but corrodes them in acid. To top it off, the thing takes a generator vital for keeping the air fresh in the mines—apparently without corroding it as well.
The horta, as it comes to be called, doesn’t just crawl on the cavern floor; it can bore holes with smooth walls into solid stone. As Spock says, “It moves through rock as easily as we move through the air.” Yet we don’t leave a vacuum behind us, so the comparison is flawed. What’s more, if the horta makes enough tunnels under Janus VI, wouldn’t they weaken the entire planet and make it collapse? And considering the speed of its attacks on men, it doesn’t make sense it would move so slowly when finally confronted.
That said, there is one fact I learned about “Devil in the Dark” that impresses me every time I think of it, though it’s not related to the plot. The scene where Kirk sits on a rock and faces the horta was filmed right after William Shatner learned his father had died. Whatever else we may think of him, this does show his professionalism as an actor. I can’t detect one emotional flaw in the lines he delivers to the monster.
When Spock comes up and Kirk stops him from shooting, the horta etches a brief message in acid and moves away: NO KILL I. “What is that?” says Kirk. “A plea for us not to kill it? Or a promise that it won't kill us?” Carefully Spock uses his mind meld on it and learns it’s only an angry mother protecting her silicon eggs. The very silicon nodules the miners had been digging up and destroying.
“There’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal,” says Kirk.
Several differences may be found between the horta and other subterranean killers. It is said to be the last of its race. (Funny how animals are called “races” while humans are “species.” ) It’s not a mindless organic machine, but it possesses intelligence—enough to formulate a plea in English. It’s protective of its children. It agrees to help the miners mine pergium, once they understand the truth.
Why do sci-fi producers put so many monsters under the surface? Probably because there’s not much room to run from a charging enemy. Maybe because most people are afraid of the dark, and without some kind of light, caverns are pitch-black. Whatever the secular reasoning is, I have a theory about the real reason.
In spite of all denials, perhaps they can sense the reality of Hell and the real Devil. Since Hell is usually assumed to be located deep under the earth, perhaps this is also a factor.
I have long suspected that when men make up seemingly unbeatable monsters, they’re responding to the reality of Satan in their lives. In an as-yet-unpublished story of mine, another sequel to Savage Worlds, April Riegel says this: “The very fact evil exists proves there’s a Devil. Our people [Christians] sure could not invent these crazy ideas.”
To salve their need for a Savior, the speculators find a way to defeat the monster by material means only. The idea is to convince themselves that indomitable human will is all that’s needed.
At least, this is my theory.
“Your enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 ).. Doesn’t that sound like an unleashed creature on a rampage? A lion roars only when he’s hungry, but verse 10 gives a solution: “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ … will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”
In the fifth example of Trek mentions of Satan above, I noted that Khan quoted from Paradise Lost. It is a great poem, considered a literary classic by even the secular world. I don’t doubt that John Milton was a Christian, due to his mostly accurate but fictional portrayal of Satan’s fall.
Originally he was a brilliant angel named Lucifer. Then for reasons unknown to us, he got a big head and tried to usurp God’s throne. “I will ascend to Heaven. I will raise my throne above the stars [i.e. angels] of God. I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds. I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14).
Doesn’t his conceited declaration sound like a lot of humans today? When we virtually shake our fist at God, we’re no threat to Him. We’re like a mouse shaking its fist at humans; what does it matter what a rodent thinks? Due to Lucifer’s braggadocio, he was kicked out of Heaven with one-third of the angels, those who followed him. Today we call those angels demons, and they are to be avoided at all costs.
Because the problem of Satan is spiritual, not material, nothing we can do on the outside can keep him at bay. But by invoking the Blood of Jesus—which I myself have successfully done, so I know it’s true—we can “resist the Devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7b).
Those of you who like horror, I’m not saying you should never watch it again. Only that when you do watch it, bathe your soul and spirit in the Blood of Jesus so your discernment cannot be influenced by fear. “For there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment” (1 John 4:18 ).
“We love Him because He first loved us” (verse 19).
Oct. 24: Carol Peterson at From Carol's Quill
Oct. 26: Joseph Lalonde at Joseph Lalonde
Oct. 27: Traci Bonney at Tracings
Oct. 30: Toni Star at Pathways That Lead to Christ