STAR TREK: GENERATIONS

THREE STARS – Thought-provoking

The genius of the Star Trek phenomenon has been a combination of excellence in science fiction and the exploration of the deepest human issues.  In the movies, perhaps even more than in the TV series, the issues most often explored are spiritual.  From the question of boundaries of the universe to questions of man/machine symbiosis,  the movies ask haunting questions about our existence and offer us answers to ponder.

            This opportunity is once again ours in “Star Trek:  Generations.”  Situated in the 24th century, the ENTERPRISE is once more caught in a problem which compels us to explore questions of human destiny.

            In  this ingenious bringing together of Captain James Kirk (William Shatner) and Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), “Star Trek:  Generations” allows each person to identify with both the disappointments and primal motivations of two well-developed fictional leaders.  In a moving scene in which Captain Picard is explaining to his ship’s counselor the pain of losing his nephew, he explores the question of “Career Versus Family” with all the pressures, disappointments and uncertainties of both.  In a later scene in which Captain Kirk and Captain Picard are debating career fulfillment, Captain Kirk gives some reflective counsel about the lack of fulfillment  promotions can give a person, removing a person farther and farther from “the action” where a person’s life  “can make a difference.”

            But the central spiritual discussion has to do with the intoxicating experience of a phenomenon, never fully explained, called the NEXUS.  The NEXUS is a ribbon in the time-space continuum of intense power.  To a space ship it is destructive power.  To a human being it is “nirvana” - the power to give ultimate rest and pleasure.  Within the NEXUS a human being can have everything and anything he or she may want.

            The difficulty, however, with this goal of human existence is that it is neither real nor fulfilling.  To know that everything around you is only the projection of your own self-centered desires is the opposite of being surrounded by real “OTHERS” who choose to LOVE you, just as you choose to LOVE them.

            Malcolm McDowell,  playing an unrelenting, obsessed scientist, is an example of a disciple of the NEXUS.  The spiritual fruit of his quest is ultimately experienced with the death of not only the ENTERPRISE crew but a world inhabited by hundreds of millions of people.  The fact that he was willing to destroy others to reach his “eternal bliss” is the opposite of the Biblical concept of heaven.

            A Christian understanding of heaven defines it not as a place of ultimate self-centered pleasure, but rather as the place in which Love reaches its ultimate development.  Heaven is a real place where love is both the means and the goal of existence.  Love is not a final ‘getting everything we ever wanted’ but is rather the final ‘giving everything we are.’  The focus of heaven for the Christian is not on the self but on the Other and others.  It is in that giving of the self that one finds ultimate meaning and purpose.

            The creators of “Star Trek: Generations” portray the nature of this choice  through the actions of Captain Kirk.  Compared to the “disciple of the NEXUS” who would kill millions for his own pleasure, Captain Kirk willingly jumps to his own death in order to save the lives of millions.  This is the core spiritual struggle:  will we live for self by taking from others (even their lives), or will we live for others by giving ourselves for them?

            When Ronald Moore and Brannon Braga in writing the screenplay for “Star Trek:  Generations” NEXUS, (which means “core” or “center”), as the name of the choice, they were presenting the truth that this is the central, core spiritual issue of life.  

              Heaven, the real and lasting place of Love, is found in the heart of every person who makes peace with God, themselves and other people, and gives themselves in love.