It’s Federation Day!

SOLAR NEWS NETWORK HARD COPY EXTRACT 10.11.2161
IT’S FEDERATION DAY!
5 sign new UFP Constitution
SAN FRANCISCO, Earth (SNN) – Declaring it a landmark day in the history of each of their worlds, five envoys today breathed life into the fledgling United Federation of Planets with the signing of the new organization’s Constitution amid much pomp and circumstance.
“We are truly entering a brave new world of peace, exploration and security with the establishment of this Federation, declared Earth ambassador Thomas Vanderbilt, whose remarks were echoed by representatives from Vulcan, Andor, Tellar, and Alpha Centauri.
“Following the end of your world’s war with the unseen Romulan enemy, such a union as we create here today is the most logical course of action any of our peoples can take,” added Ambassador T’Jan of Vulcan.
UESPA Maj. Gen. Georges E. Picard, an aide to Vanderbilt, noted afterward the irony of the conference – which met in exactly the same fashion as the founders of the Earth’s old United Nations, who came together only 215 years earlier in the same city in the aftermath of the horrors of another costly war.*
“What is occurring here today is one sign that some good can come of such a scourge,” Picard noted.
“We defy anyone, even the Romulans, to test our resolve now for collective security,” declared AmbassadorNatha Kell of Tellar, while Sarahd of Andor spoke of future greatness for the infant union and predicted rapid expansion. Ambassador Titus Oleet signed for the newly independent Centauri system.
Today’s events were but the ceremonial endgame for the often-tumultuous negotiations, which began in earnest after the defeat of hostile forces at Cheron effectively ended the Romulan War only a little more than ayear ago. Even today, some sources reported a later fracas involving the Tellarite Kell and Sarahd.
Although those taking part today waived off revealing many specific details, the five after signing immediately convened the first-ever meeting of the UFP Council long enough to elect Vanderbilt as president, with Sarahd as vice president.
Also, the Council sources unanimously voted to continue meeting in San Francisco, with an all-new building in the design stages near the historic old Presidio fort and Golden Gate Bridge. Council sources predicted at least three months would be needed before the fledgling UFP bureaucracy would be ready for business.

Star Trek Voyager : Time and Again 1.04

Woo-boy!

Voyager doesn’t waste any time getting to the stupid stuff, does it?

Okay. Maybe that’s not totally fair. Voyager doesn’t waste any time getting to the stupid time travel stuff, does it?

There was a lot wrong with this series, the lazy writing probably being the most egregious and damaging problem. The worst of the storytelling problems, (including bad characterization, wasting characters, crummy dialogue, etc) is the mismanagement of time travel as a narrative tool. The final episode was ruined by this. The threat of time travel literally hung over entire seasons for me. (“Might they just pop out of this to the moment before the episode began?”)

The reason they overused time travel is because they really made it work well once or twice. Year of Hell is fantastic, for instance. I even like the one where they go back to Los Angeles in 1996. And so they just wouldn’t let the concept alone.

Think I’m exaggerating?

This is the third story of the show. And it’s the second time travel story.

Anyway!

Investigating a recently decimated world, Paris and Janeway are thrown back in time to just before the disaster happened. Instead of the dead world they beamed down to, they find themselves in a lively city.

They reckon they have a day before the planet’s destruction. So the episode chronicles Paris and Janeway’s adventures on the planet on the day before D-Day. The crew of Voyager is also working on finding their lost captain and crewmate. In a literal race against time, Voyager’s efforts and Janeway’s efforts collide in an explosive conclusion.

The Voyager crew’s attempt to rescue Janeway and Paris is exactly what triggered the planet-killing explosion. They were cutting a hole through subspace (or something) and it was nearly hitting the polaric conduit. So Janeway shoots her phaser at the fracture, forcing it closed.

This protects the polaric conduit from being hit. It sends Janeway and Paris back to their proper time and place. And it makes everybody forget what happened.

If only it could do the same for the viewers.

I’m only kidding. It does seem like Trek series generally have weak freshman seasons though.

Anyway. It’s not all bad. The twist at the end is pretty interesting I think. The idea that their attempt at saving themselves was exactly the cause of the very same disaster they are attempting to escape from is clever.

It’s theologically correct too. (Of course I went there. This is Geeks of Christ, after all). If we look at this story as an illustration for a theological truth, we’ll find one. No character in the Bible ever traveled back a day in time to save an alien planet. None that I know of anyway.

The parallel to the Biblical story here is in the failure of the rescue attempt. The crew of Voyager was trying to save Janeway and caused her destruction – and the destruction of the planet she was on. That’s exactly what goes wrong for our race. We try to fix it ourselves and the result is destruction – for us and our world.

It’s like being stuck in a hole and trying to dig your way out. You just get yourself in deeper and covered in more dirt. Unless someone comes along to pull you out, you’ll be stuck there.

Man’s biggest problem is our separation from our Creator. Our rebelliousness and selfishness keep us apart from Him. And whenever we try to dig ourselves out of this relationship mess, we just get deeper.

We try to be good and that just gets us in deeper. We start feeling confident that we’re doing life well, but the problem hasn’t been solved. We’re still not with God, no matter how good we’re being.

We do the Atticus Finch thing, thinking that we just need to be more educated, then everything will be better. Well, it might be better for a time, but the problem still persists.

No matter how smart or good we are, we’re still not on good terms with our Creator. We just dig ourselves further into that hole – just as Janeway’s problem was getting worse with every step of her rescue.

We have to be lifted out of the hole. Janeway had to surrender and admit she couldn’t do it on her own. She phasered her only known means of escape (echoing her action in the first episode when she destroyed the Caretaker array). Giving up, she was rescued for real.

Star Trek Voyager : Parallax 1.03

Parallax

The Voyager crew is united for one purpose: to get home.

They come from wildly different political and social backgrounds. Their personal histories vary. Torres carries hurt from growing up among humans as the only Klingon. Tom Paris was just released from prison for a one-off space mission that’s stranded him on the other end of the galaxy. Tuvok has a wife and family at home. Chakotay worries about his mission with the Maquis. Harry Kim is just a kid, graduated from the academy and lost on his very first mission. Janeway’s first command trapped her far from home, and far from her beloved fiancé Mark.

These people not only have their own stories that compel them to get home, they also have reasons for the trip becoming unpleasant. Some of the crew are Starfleet. And some of the crew are Maquis. There is great mistrust. They’re not always as efficient or helpful because of these differences.

But they are united in that single goal of getting home.

This is the Church.

This capsule of humanity united in a purpose. Even united in the same purpose; the Church is filled with people on their way home.

Christians have a home that is not here yet. We’re looking forward to it, expecting it to come. We’re on board with people who all have different backgrounds. Even different philosophies and politics. But we’re united in our mission to get home. Whether we’re peasants, kings, soldiers, teachers, truck drivers, or whatever – we’re going home.

Where is home?

It’s not earth. Not for Voyager, not for the Church. Earth is the setting for home in both cases, but it is not home. The most important question isn’t where home is or what’s there for you. How are you getting home isn’t even as important as this, which has haunted me my whole life: Who?

Who is home? Janeway wants to be with her man. Harry misses his girlfriend and his parents. The Church wants to go home to be with its King, Savior, Redeemer, Creator. I don’t care where we are together, as long as we’re together. And since I’ve been brought into His family, nothing can stop me from getting to be with Him. I’ll go round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares maelstrom and round perdition’s flames before I give him up!

He went much further to attain me.

Stowaways

In this metaphor, I’m not really Janeway or Tuvok. They were at home, left, and are now going back. I’ve never actually been there. I’m only looking forward to it. In that sense, I’m more like Neelix or Kes. They heard of the wonders of home and joined in. Eventually, they’ll get another stowaway in Seven of Nine.

Until they get home, they’ll be spreading peace and justice everywhere. Even though the crew and their stowaways have a long way to go, they need to be acting like they’re already there. They need to stand for the same principles that they would stand for at home.

I had a whole thing about the holodeck being like prayer. Skip that. I’ll just rest on this thought: Who is home?

***

Star Trek Voyager: Caretaker 1.01

Caretaker

Star Trek Voyager tells the story of a ship (and maybe a sci-fi franchise) getting lost and finding home in surprising places.

Newly installed as Captain, Kathryn Janeway (who must be named after Katherine Hepburn, right?) takes her ship Voyager to capture members of the Maquis, a rebel group unhappy with the Federation’s dealings with the Cardassian/Bajoran conflict. (Which is a confusing back story thing that’s explained in a crummy, Star Wars-style opening crawl and has little to do with events of the series.)

The rebels from the Maquis and the Starfleet officers on Voyager are both thrown suddenly into the Delta Quadrant, further than any Starfleet ship has gone before. These two crews will have to work together, as one crew, since the Maquis ship was severely damaged in the journey.

Together on one ship, the two enemies must unite first to discover how they arrived in the Delta Quadrant, and second to return home. The leaders of both crews, Janeway and Chakotay, form a truce and order their people to honor it.

They determine that they’ve traveled 70,000 light years by the work of a powerful alien satellite array called ‘Caretaker.’ They can use Caretaker to return home. There’s an ethical wrinkle: it’s discovered that it had been protecting a defenseless species called the Ocampa for all these years. The Ocampa had been forced underground by the thuggish Kazon. Without Caretaker, the Ocampa would not have access to any of the planet’s limited water supply and the Kazon could take it all. Ocampa extinction.

Voyager‘s crew finds that Caretaker is dying and so they must act fast. Janeway’s dilemma is pretty tough: use the Caretaker to get home or destroy it so the Kazon can’t use it to terrorize the Ocampa.

Janeway decides to destroy the Caretaker, trapping Voyager 75 years from home but protecting the Ocampa from being overpowered by the Kazon.

And thus begins the journey home…

*********

Voyager is a show that is openly maligned by many Trek fans. Fairly. There are some very weak years of this show. The ending is not only unsatisfactory, it’s offensive. Characters go for years saying little more than, “Aye, Captain.” The show had promise, as evidenced by Janeway’s fantastic speech above, but it quickly wasted it on weird stories, Seven of Nine overload, and no clear direction.

But the promise of this show was bright. I remember when it first aired, a year after Deep Space Nine. I loved it. It had a feel to it that Star Trek hadn’t had in years: it felt wild, rickety, and untamed. The old show had that feel too. Enterprise occasionally had this kind of old west mood. But TNG and DS9 definitely did not.

Voyager, on the fringe of Trek’s interior universe (the Delta Quadrant) and on the fringe of Trek’s exterior universe (UPN), there is the sense that anything could happen. The benefits of being the fourth-born (or fifth, if you count The Animated Series). This show could do good weird stuff like bring a Borg on board as a regular crewman, or go back in time to fight with Ed Begley Jr. The freedom given this show could also lead to bad weird stuff like turning Janeway and Paris into a lizard couple, or dully explaining the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, or pretty much  anything in the third season.

We’re here at the start though.

We start with a farewell to the Alpha Quadrant. All its comforts and all its dangers are summarily waved goodbye to as Star Trek the franchise leaves the political closeness of Deep Space Nine and the philosophical wanderings of Starfleet’s flagship Enterprise-D. With Voyager, the franchise returns to Kirk’s destination: “Out there.”

Voyager, ship and crew, are on their own. There are no starbases they can dock at, no subspace they can call home with, no shore leaves they can count on. And the world created by The Next Generation and explored for another seven years on Deep Space Nine is gone.

Spiritually though, Janeway leads her crew in maintaining the ethical standards of Starfleet. Her standards are tested right here as the mission to return home begins. She has a way home. But this way will endanger another group of people.

The right thing to do is obviously to inconvenience – even endanger – yourself so that those endangered will not be put in danger.

Picard or Kirk may have faced similar situations. Given the repercussions of this decision, it could almost be compared to a Kobayashi Maru scenario. Janeway and her crew won’t die…immediately. But they would be banished to the Delta Quadrant, likely never to return home. Unlike her predecessors, Janeway’s decision to do the right thing is not followed by a trick so that everybody gets what they want. There’s no last-minute fix so their warp engines kick in at just the right time.

They do the right thing and are stuck for it.

As the show goes on, they use plenty of quick fixes to get out of jams. That kind of Star Trek technobabble is very well represented on this show.

The repercussions of this first decision are not fixed by a quick ‘polarity reversal’ or a ‘rephasing of the tachyon emitter.’ The decision is made and they all have left is to deal with it.

The reaction of the crew is what I want to talk about. The crew is comprised of explorers (Starfleet) and freedom fighters (Maquis). Before being suddenly sent to the far side of the galaxy, both groups are ready for the rough life, away from home. They’ve signed on for it. None of them joined Starfleet or the Maquis to be comfortable or expecting to visit home frequently. Just like people today wouldn’t join the military or the mission field or Greenpeace to be comfortable or visit home a lot.

Once their situation becomes known and they set about the actual work of returning home, the crew’s main desire shifts from taking sides in the Cardassian/Bajoran conflict to daydreaming about the homestead.

********

The philosophies of our species roughly correspond to the missions of each Star Trek series. Believe it or not. Real quick:

Explore this world – Star Trek

Examine it – Next Generation

Manage it – Deep Space Nine

Go back to where we started, see what went wrong – Voyager

In the days of our ancestors, whose thoughts have all dried up, spreading out was the goal. Leaving this place because the next might have more food. As God put it, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it… I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” Exploration of the whole earth was expected.

The world that the great philosophers of Ancient Greece inherited wasn’t offering the same kind of politically free exploration as their forefathers in the Garden of Eden enjoyed. This world was limited by the complicated dealings with other people and nations. This world needed taming, as the phase of The Next Generation also served to tame and refine the galaxy they were exploring.

I imagine every nation reaches a point where looking at itself and examining itself no longer keeps its people existentially fed. And so the nation decays; its strings can be seen and its people and neighbors are tired. And so the job of managing comes to the front. Keep the bad guys out, sort out the differences between those two groups, keep the peace, hope you don’t get fired. That’s what Deep Space Nine broadly represents. Management replaces examination which replaces exploration.

We come now to the phase of thought that Voyager reflects. This is the Renaissance. Things are working, but they’re also not working. The people are being fed; the politics are being managed; the wars aren’t happening as frequently. And nobody seems to care about the beauty of this world. Who does care? The people of the past cared. Just as the people of the Renaissance looked back to the ancients for guidance in seeing the beauty of the world, so did Voyager find its place by looking back.

Just with less style.

The crew wanted management. They were pursuing the political dissidents of the day. They got exploration instead. And they found their feet again. By spending years away from their known world, they reclaimed the wonder of exploration.

To go out, you must come back in. The passion to return home is what opened the eyes of the crew of Voyager. The desire to see the familiar in a world unrelentingly alien awakened the true heart of the explorer: Not only to boldly go where no one has gone before, but to bring something back to share.

“And as the only Starfleet vessel assigned to the Delta Quadrant we’ll continue to follow our directive: to seek out new worlds and to explore space…But the primary goal is clear…Somewhere along this journey, we’ll find a way back.