Sunday, May 31, 2009

Star Trek--"Who Mourns for Adonais?"

Like in “Return of the Archons,” Trek safely takes on the death of religion, this time while dealing with the Greek pantheon. It would be easy to notice the fate of Apollo is a commentary on humanity’s outgrowing of religion even if the final exchange between Kirk and McCoy did not beat you over the head with it.

A giant, green hand grabs the Enterprise and holds it fast. A being claiming to be the Greek god Apollo. He threatens to crush the ship unless a landing party meets him face to face. Kirk beams down with McCoy, Scotty, Checov, and an anthropologist named Carolyn Palamas. She will, of course, catch Apollo’s eye.

Apollo claims he and the other gods once traveled to Earth. There they reveled in the worship of the people. But soon, people stopped believing in them, so they began to lose power. They eventually headed out to deep space to wait until people started worshipping them again. It never came to pass, so all dispersed themselves but Apollo. He remained, impatiently waiting.

He now demands the Enterprise crew worship him. Apollo offers them a peaceful, happy life if they do so, but is an arrogant, petulant tyrant Apollo uses his powers to punish disobedience as though all should cater to his whims. Apollo represents the stereotypical argument against the Christian God, even down to the humorous idea God uses lightning bolts as punishment. As the atheist perspective goes, God demands you unequivocally love Him or He will make your life miserable on earth, then send you straight to hell.

Spock and company onboard the Enterprise eventually figure outr Apollo’s temple is the source of his power. When he is in a weakened state because of the landing party’s rejection, Spock destroys the temple. Apollo has to disprse himself across the stars just like his brethren. I assume we can take from that if we stop believing, we can destroy brainwashing churches, and the bonds of theism will be released, allowing human progress. At least that is what kirk says when he notes Apollo’s fate was sad, but necessary, because humans do not need him anymore.

It is not a terrible episode, but it does not break any new ground, either. We already know the philosophy of trek is that religion impedes progress. “Return of the Archons” did the plot better, in my opinion. It will not be the last time the idea is dealt with, either. The portrayal of Palamas is also insulting. She is an intelligent, strong academician just like McIver in “Space Seed.” But like McIver she falls hard for the biggest macho jerk she has ever encountered. Surely women like those two would have higher standards. Come on, guys do not alwaysfall for the bimbo. why should the women? Is it too much to ask to break the mold a bit?

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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