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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spock Must Fear!

In the Star Trek pilot episode The Cage, Captain Pike was kidnapped on Talos 4, and the aliens have just reached out across space and snatched-away Number One.  This confirms Mr. Spock’s suspicions that the Talosians’ tremendous mental powers are not planet-bound.  Worse, their action places him in effective command of the ship. 

At least he is not alone.  Before deciding how to proceed, he apparently visits Sick Bay to ask Dr. Phil’s advice.  Both are men of science, and have consistently warned Number One that any attempt to rescue Pike could provoke significant Talosian retaliation.  While we are not privy to their conversation, we see the result.  Mr. Spock walks stiffly onto the bridge and takes the command chair.  Dr. Phil follows him from the lift and stands directly behind as Spock, with clipped diction, switches on the ship-wide channel and announces: “This is the acting captain speaking.” 

The manner in which he sits, as if the seat of the captain’s chair has been strewn with broken glass, makes clear that he has no wish to abandon Captain Pike or Number One.  Yet, presented with unwanted responsibilities, Mr. Spock utters these painful words.  “We have no choice now but to consider the safety of this vessel and the remainder of her crew.  We’re leaving.”

We may not be responsible for the lives of hundreds of people, but events in our lives often call into question our long-term goals.  The old adage “Quitters never win and winners never quit,” reflects the understandable desire to never surrender, but we must temper its application with the knowledge that we cannot expect to win every battle we undertake.  To pursue goals we have no reasonable hope of achieving is to sacrifice the accomplishment of other worthwhile tasks more suited to our abilities. 

Giving into fear, or opting for the easy path, is no more laudable than blind loyalty to a hopeless cause.  Periodic reassessment demonstrates wisdom, and persistence is a necessary component of winning long and difficult struggles.  But once you realize that a given situation has deteriorated beyond your ability to save, an immediate escape is advisable.  Or, like Mr. Spock, you may find the lights fading around you, your power systems draining away, and that you have become trapped in a situation from which extracting yourself is no longer possible. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

We Are What Our Deeds Make Us: Number One

In the Star Trek pilot episode The Cage, Number One serves as second-in-command aboard the Enterprise.  After Captain Pike is kidnapped by the Talosians, she finds herself responsible for the safety of the Enterprise and her crew.  When the sensors detect the location of an underground community, she knows the landing party runs the risk of materializing inside solid rock.  But she could hardly expect that the coordinates were actually for Pike’s cell, or that the Talosians would only allow herself and the yeoman to beam down.  Most surprising of all had to be the revelation that the Talosians planned to breed a community of humans with Pike playing the role of Adam, and that if she played her cards right, she might be Eve.

While surprised, she is not deeply shaken by this development.  Remember how, in the ship’s briefing room, when one bridge officer insisted that Pike was in danger and must be rescued immediately, she did not rebuke him for making such an unsubstantiated assertion?  Nor was she swayed by Dr. Phil and Mr. Spock’s fears of how the Talosians might use their superior mental powers against the ship, should a rescue be attempted.  She merely assessed her options, then ordered they pursue the most feasible course.  Later, when the laser cannon failed to grant them access to the Talosian underground, she ignored Dr. Phil’s “I told you so” advice, and continued looking for ways to rescue Pike.  Unlike her captain, she does not react with anger at this new manipulation of the Talosians.  Neither does she worry that command of the Enterprise has passed onto Mr. Spock, an officer who, despite how he strives to live his life accordingly to logic, still fears to act against the Talosians.  Instead, she immerses herself in the present situation, and acts in the dependable manner which Pike has grown to rely upon.

The Talosian leader’s offer to Pike, that he might choose her as his life-mate, is not worth her contemplation.  While Pike values her as his “most experienced officer”, his comments earlier on the bridge could only affirm what experience has taught her: that he does not see her as desirable.  She might fantasize about a life with him, but just like Pike’s erotic dreams of green animal slave women, a driven, experienced officer know the fallacy of mistaking dreams for reality.  Furthermore, Number One possesses an elevated position in the bridge crew.  Pike’s earlier comments about women on the bridge, and the relative lack of female crew of high rank aboard the Enterprise, suggests that she has had to work hard to achieve her present position.  Even if the Talosians could somehow “make” Pike love her, why should she desire a life with a man “made” to love her by their alien captors?  So unlike Vena and Pike’s yeoman, Number One remains focused upon her goal of rescuing Pike.

“Shall we do a little time computation?” she asks Vena.  “There was a Vena listed on that flight as an adult crew-member,” she says in reference to the ship that crash-landed on Talos 4.  “Now adding eighteen years to your age then....”  Finishing that thought could have been a mistake, but the Talosian leader’s entrance saves her from committing it.  Number One recognizes this, and guards her future thoughts and words accordingly.  She alone in the cell is capable of seeing the situation as it is, rather than how she would like it to be.  Thus, she alone in the cage remains centered, holds her cards to her chest, and calmly waits for the appropriate opportunity to act.

Friday, May 13, 2011

We Are What Our Deeds Make Us: Pike’s Yeoman

In the Star Trek pilot episode The Cage, the Enterprise crew have suffered tragedy.  Captain Christopher Pike blames himself, believing he somehow should have prevented an attack which resulted in injuries and deaths, and cost his previous yeoman her life.  He arrives at Talos 4 with an eager new yeoman from whom he constantly attempts to distance himself.

After the Talosians capture Pike, his crew strive to free him.  The ship’s sensors detect readings suggestive of an underground generator.  But when the landing party assembles in the transporter room, only Number One and Pike’s new yeoman dematerialize.  The women arrive neither near the generator they had believed they had located, nor do they materialize in the aliens’ underground community.  Instead, they find themselves trapped in Pike’s cell, along with Vena, the sole survivor of a scientific survey team who crashed on Talos 4 eighteen years ago.

Pike, angered by their capture, vows to fill his mind with such murderous hatred as to forever sour the Talosians’ hopes of his submitting to their control of his mind.  When Vena counsels him against this course, Pike’s new yeoman grabs her arm and commands her to leave Pike alone.  The yeoman doesn’t know what the aliens have planned for Pike, but she knows what Pike has suffered and is intent upon protecting him against this woman who aided the Talosians in his capture.  She quickly assesses the situation, both from Vena’s references to offspring and the Talosian leader’s declaration that Pike may choose either herself or Number One instead of Vena.  By the time the alien mentions the factors in her favor (namely youth and unusually strong female drives), she understands that the Talosians intend to mate Pike with someone in order to breed a human community, and dares to hope that someone might be her.

The new yeoman is young, and her lowly rank suggests this is her first tour aboard a starship.  To have such unimpeded access to her captain must have come as a surprise; to suddenly be responsible for meeting his personal needs must have intimidated her.  But to see him so depressed, so plagued with self-blame, must have aroused the maternal aspects of her “strong, female drives,” making her figuratively (if not literally) wish to hug him tight, assure him that everything would be all right, and protect him from all pain and disappointment.  It is easy to see how she could have deluded herself into believing that Pike needed her, and that this new role might even evolve into a deeper, more meaningful relationship.  What she fails to understand, due to her inexperience both in Starfleet and as a human being, is that deep depression and forging long-term relationships do not go together.  Just as Pike must battle the Talosians for control of his mind, so must he take the time, on his own, to resolve the issues and feelings that bind him.

Ironically, in her desire to protect and care for him, she reveals how little she understands him, and thus demonstrates her inability to meet his current needs.  In time she will no doubt learn the delicate balancing act of caring for others while still allowing them to retain their independence.  Perhaps, by this time, she will be as experienced and capable as Number One, the woman whom Pike trusts and esteems so highly.  She will certainly find someone to love and who will return that love.  But right now, she is incapable of understanding her incapability of meeting Pike’s needs.  She may be smart and a quick-learner, but she nonetheless lacks the necessary wisdom that only experience and maturity can instill in her.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We Are What Our Deeds Make Us: Vena

 In the Star Trek pilot episode The Cage, a space ship crashes on Talos 4.  Amid the wreckage, the Talosians find one survivor of the scientific survey team, an Earth woman named Vena.  The Talosians once traveled the galaxy and brought back specimens of intelligent species; they repair Vena’s injuries and place her among their collection.

The Talosians ceased to build, create, and travel because they found experiencing the dreams of their specimens more fulfilling.  Using their advanced mental powers, they similarly invade Vena’s mind, forcing her to relive moments from her past or dreams born of repressed wishes.  At first she fights their efforts, but they keep battering down her defenses and punish her for disobedience.  Eighteen years after her arrival, the Talosians lure the Enterprise to Talos 4 and kidnap Captain Christopher Pike. 

The surface of Talos 4 lies barren, long ago devastated by a war that drove the survivors underground, where they developed their mental powers.  The Talosians wish to make it habitable again, but their numbers are too few, and their populace addicted to vicariously living out the dreams of their specimens.  So they make a deal with Vena, who long ago submitted to their control.  If she can convince Pike to become another willing human specimen, and get him to love her, then they will make the couple the Adam and Eve of a new race of Talosians. 

Yet Vena, in giving into the Talosians, seems to have lost whatever capacity for judgment she once possessed.  She fails to understand what motivates Pike.  She goes along with the Talosians when they force him to relive his fight with a Kaylar warrior, as if he were a brute who would revel in killing a foe or protecting a helpless damsel.  Instead of finding arguments that might sway him, or inspiring him with the nobility of making a barren world habitable once more, she tries for pity and sympathy during a dream-picnic.  When this fails, she acts out his most erotic dream, as if Pike would give up command of his starship for a life of great sex.

When the Talosians realize that Vena may not be the tool to win Pike over, they trick two women from the Enterprise into beaming into his cell.  Vena, feeling betrayed, pleads with the Talosians to let her finish.  She then seeks to defend her perceived territory, inferring that descendants of Pike’s yeoman would lack intelligence, and Number One’s would be little more than computers.  But arguments that belittle members of his crew will sway Pike no more than her “Resistance is futile” message, and the capture of two more of his crew only make him more determined to resist the Talosians.  Vena huddles in a corner of the cage, knowing she has failed to win over Pike and thus, her only hope for future happiness.

It would be wrong to be overly harsh with Vena.  After all, how many of us could keep fighting the Talosians year after lonely year?  But in ceding control of her mind, by agreeing to spend each day living out dreams, she has grown incapable of making the judgments which real-life events require.  In continually envisioning a future according to her wishes, she forgets that reality does not allow us to win every battle, and that those victories we win will not come easily. 

By all means, dream about the better future you would build for yourself, and don’t give into those who proclaim your dreams unrealistic.  Just make sure that you constantly find ways to tie in what you achieve each day with the future you ultimately hope to craft for yourself.  Otherwise your dreams are destined to crash at your feet, just as they do, not only for the Talosians, but also for poor Vena.

Friday, May 6, 2011

We Are What Our Deeds Make Us: The Talosians

In the Star Trek pilot episode The Cage, Captain Christopher Pike is captured by the Talosians, who impose upon him a series of dreams either drawn from his recent experience or his repressed desires.  He returns from his latest dream to find not only Vena in his cell, but also his personal yeoman and Number One, his second-in-command.  As Pike discovers that their communicators and phasers don’t work, the aliens’ gift of two more potential mates makes no meaningful impact upon him: rather, their presence just gives him another reason to resist the Talosians’ mind control.  But their action reveals noteworthy aspects of the Talosian species.

Pike continually fights his attraction to Vena, apparently even resisting her seduction during the erotic dream of her as a green animal woman slave.  So the Talosians pluck two females from the Enterprise with whom he works closely.  The aliens suggest that either could serve Pike as an alternative, life-long mate.

Once the Talosians traveled between the stars, and captured representatives of the various species they found on habitable planets.  When war made their surface uninhabitable, they built a fabulous city to live in.  They concentrated on developing their minds, and perfected such fantastic powers as telepathy, creating convincing illusions, and the ability to force their subjects to live out specific dream-scenarios. 

In its proper place, entertainment can relieve stress, lighten our spirits, and inspire us.  But overexposure to its delights can dull us to reality.  No doubt, when the Talosians traveled among the stars and built their underground city, the ability to vicariously experience the dreams of their captives served some benefit to their society.  Yet, at some point, the easy access to the thrills such dreams offered proved too alluring.  As a species, they stopped traveling, ceased to build and create, and contented themselves with the vicarious experiences they imposed upon their specimens.  In the process, they no longer enriched themselves through travel or experience, and thus lost both the will and the ability to create a better future for themselves. 

One day, some small awareness of their decline awoke in their leaders’ minds.  But it came too late.  Their species was dying: they lacked sufficient numbers and the requisite abilities to survive.  Then one of them hit upon a plan.  If they could use their captives to breed a servile race who could rebuild their world for them, perhaps the Talosian species could survive.  Through a process of selection, they determined humans as the race that could serve them best.  But they only possessed Vena, and would need to capture a mate for her.  Unforeseen in their desperate plan was the unsuitability of the kind of man whom Vena would feel most attracted to.  Their dulled sensibilities could not conceive that a human capable of interstellar travel would not accede their purposes.  Nor could they envision that Vena’s choice of a man such as Pike, one who had dedicated his life to completing tasks of great importance to his race, might resist their plans with every fiber of his being.

Through our technological creations, we have instant access to information and communication that can enhance our understanding of how to more readily accomplish our daily tasks, as well as how to achieve our long-term goals.  These devices also offer us an infinite variety of entertainments and diversions, which, when used to excess, can dull us to the present and blind us to the potential futures we might create.  To what purposes we marshal the varied riches available to us determine not only our individual worth, but also the future of humanity.