Sunday, June 21, 2009

Star Trek--"The Omega Glory"

A few reviews back, I said from here on out there were going to be many episodes with bad ideas poorly executed. As far as the second season goes, “The Omega Glory” is the the epitome. It is by far the worst episode of the second season and in the bottom three with “The Way to Eden” and “The Alternative Factor.”

The Enterprise encounters a completely abandoned starship for the second of three times. The entire crew has been drained of water and left as crystals. The captain left a recorded message that he fled to nearby planet Omega IV. The planet has some sort of immunity properties, so he has survived the disease that caused the rapid dehydration of his crew. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and cannon fodder Galloway beam down to Omega IV to learn there is a longstanding conflict still going on among the iron Age Khoms and the seemingly primitive Yangs. Tracey has violated the Prime Directive, becoming involved in the conflict so he can determine the immunity properties and take them for personal use.

There are two big problems with “The Omega Glory.” First, it cannot decide what it wants to be. Second, the mess is based on such an awful pun, it is embarrassing to watch.

The episode has elements of Joseph Conrad‘s novel Heart of Darkness. The are probably more familiar with Francis Ford Coppolla’s adaptation Apocalypse Now which transferred the story to the Vietnam War eleven yearsafter “The Omega Glory.” Believe me, this was not the inspiration, but tracey has a lot of Col. Kurtz in him. But Tracey is searching for a Fountain of Youth allegory rather than just building his own kingdom. It is difficult to tell exactly what wear supposed to take away from the basic plot.

But the second problem with the pyun, overshadows any of that concern, so what difference does it make. “The Omega Glory’ is a heavyhanded comment on the cold war conflict. Yangs represent Yankees or the West. Khoms is shorthand for Communists. The Khoms are all Asian, so they are presumably Chinese or Vietnamese.

You might think with that the story is about Tracey exploiting the resources of smaller powers in the name of his ideology, but it actually winds up an implausible promotion of jingoism instead. The Yangs value freedom above all else. Their holy texts incredibly are the Pledge of Allegiance and the Constitution of the United States.Um, yeah.

I understand Gene Roddenberry embraced the idea all planets with humanoids would develop similarly to Earth. Anthropology was not his strong suit. It is forgivable in some episodes where it only has a light touch. This is not one of those episodes. If Roddenberry wanted to do something like this, he would have been better served to make it a time travel story with a possible far future Earth. Then it would have served as the patriotic morality tale he obviously intended, but could not pull off.

I have to pile on a little more over prime Directive hypocrisy, too. Tracey wants Kirk to supply the Khoms with phasers so they can finish off the Yangs. Kirk refuses, saying it is a violation of the Prime Directive even though he armed a faction in “A Private Little War.” In that episode, Kirk sided with the more primitive culture against the more advanced. He eventually does the same here by allying with the Yangs. While he does not arm them, he does define their holy texts for them, thereby effecting their development, as spock points out. Kirk, of course, explains why hehas not violated the Prime Directive. As usual, it boils down to anyone else imposing their values is bad, but kirk is always right on the money.

As a Christian, I have to make a personal observation. Roddenberry was an avowed atheist who possessed an open contempt for religion. He tempered his disdain to stay in tune with the mores of ‘60’s society, but let it run wild the first season of TNG. When he wrote about religion, he was often awfully clueless. "The Omega Glory" was one of the rare examples he inadvertently supported a fundamental (not fundamentalist) Christian idea--that God is the Ultimate Creator from which freedom comes. You could argue that the many planets existing similar to Earth is proof of Intelligent Design. You culd also argue that sinceAmerican principles developed so overtly on omega IV, inalienable rights do come from God rather than society as atheists believe. You could also argue that terrible rumbling sound is Roddenberry rolling over in his grave at the thought.

Rating: * (out of 5)

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