I must admit to have been a Trekkie — for the series with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. But I’m not ashamed to admit that I never missed an episode, and still enjoy the reruns, although now I think some of the razzle dazzle technology a bit outdated, with the except of the tricorder (first smartphone?) and beaming people up and down and all around — no better way to travel.
Despite being popular culture, there were some episodes that had a real contemporary edge to them and a strong message. I remember one where there were two races on this planet who hated each other with a visceral hatred that they could barely contain. They were in mortal civil war at each other’s throats when the Enterprise showed up to mediate the conflict. What was truly brilliant about this episode about racism was that the two races were in fact almost identical except for one seemingly trivial difference. One race was all white on the left side of their bodies and all black on the right side. The other race was the reverse — all black on the left side and all white on the right. That ridiculous difference was the basis of their intense hatred. The episode, simply but eloquently, showed just how ludicrous it was to hate someone else for their skin color, and, with this little bit of imagination, the message hit home.
The show definitely had a strong moral center, as witnessed by the “Prime Directive”. This was the guideline set down by the United Federation of Planets (i.e., headquarters) for any of its Starfleet vessels in their interactions with other cultures in the universe. The Prime Directive (also known as Starfleet General Order 1) prohibited Starfleet personnel from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations. How enlightened that was when you compare it to United States foreign policy since World War 2 where we have done nothing but interfere in the internal development of other nations — e.g., Vietnam, Iraq, etc.
But there was one episode where Mr. Spock has a long soliloquy about what it means to be a human being that bordered on Shakespearean, in my mind. I don’t remember the plot of the episode at all or any of its other details other than Spock conducted a mind meld with a human and for the first time experienced what it was like to be totally human instead of Vulcan and human. Frankly, I am still bowled over by his words. I am bowled over by them because they ring so true yet also profound: “How compact your bodies are. And what a variety of senses you have. This thing you call… language though — most remarkable. You depend on it, for so very much. But is any one of you really its master? But most of all, the aloneness. You are so alone. You live out your lives in this…shell of flesh. Self-contained. Separate. How lonely you are. How terribly lonely.”
The Bard of Avon would be envious.
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