THREE STARS - Wholesome
The mythical journeys of Star Trek take us not only into the outer space of our universe but also into the inner spaces of our lives. The various alien cultures explored in “Star Trek: Insurrection” are the conflicts we endure and are in fact projections of our own inner hopes and fears placed in new and revealing settings. One such inner hope is the desire to find a “fountain of youth” to counter our fear of aging.
Reassembling the crew of the most successful of the TV series, “Star Trek: Next Generation,” the story of this film centers on the discovery of a planet with Saturn-like rings surrounding it which have a biologically rejuvenating effect on the lives of the inhabitants of the planet. Many of the inhabitants are vigorously healthful and perpetually young at over 300 years of age.
The Federation has discovered a small colony of 600 Ba’kus on this Eden-like planet who have abandoned the technology which had brought them to the planet only a few centuries earlier, in order to create a slower pace of life and an agricultural, artistic society.
Unlike the Ba’kus who have discovered a natural phenomena which acts as a “fountain of youth” for them, the Son’a are a race of people who have attempted to prolong their lives by the use of a technology which gives them daily and increasingly disfiguring face lifts. Their solution is to use their technology to take the powerful, life-giving material from the rings of the Ba’kus’ planet in order to harness this rejuvenating power for themselves. The only problem is that it would destroy the rings and kill the life on the planet.
This is the central struggle of the myth of the film and it represents one of the primal dilemmas of human existence.
Within the soul of every person is the hope for eternal life. But this sense that we are meant to live forever is daily confronted with the reality of our aging and the ultimate end of our biological existence. So, in an attempt to fulfill our hope, human beings continually search for the power to live forever, or at least, to prolong life.
But in what or who will we place our trust? Is the answer in nature, discovering a fountain, or diet, or lifestyle which will prolong our lives? Or is the answer in technology, with genetic cloning or the harvesting of organs, or the techniques of plastic surgeons? Or is the answer in religion, with the promise of eternal life due to religious practice or after-death resurrection? In what or who do we trust? In whose hands do we place not only our hopes but our fears?
The genius of this episode of Star Trek is in its ability to create an actual conflict in which these issues are presented in concrete form. We are able to imagine an Eden-like paradise in which there is all the time we need to experience life because there are hundreds of years to do so. We might hope that such a place exists and we could accidentally find it as the Ba’kus have done. But is that possible? Isn’t it a naive hope? Didn’t Ponce-de-Leon die trying to find his fountain?
We are also able to imagine putting our trust in technology only to come up against its limits. The temporary solutions of Frankenstein-like methods would turn us into creatures which harvest one another’s or our clone’s organs and recreate us into creatures created in the image of science, having lost our souls in the process.
What is missing, of course, from the film is the religious solution. This is true of most science fiction as a genre and is the implied solution each religious person is able to bring to the film. If both solutions are either unlikely or unsatisfying, then the viewer is compelled to look beyond the film to the answers of religious faith.
The Bible answers this ultimate longing by promising eternal life through spiritual rebirth by faith in Jesus Christ. This hope in resurrection beyond death is based on the actual resurrection of Jesus and is encouraged by the experiences of His presence in the lives of believers.
This transcendent solution is implied by this film when the solution to the conflict between nature and technology is solved through appealing not to expediency, but to transcendent morality. From the beginning of the film, when the android Data (Brent Spiner) is injured and the only system working within him is his “moral and ethical” system causing him to attack the genocidal plan of the Son’as, to the ultimate intervention of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) who risks his own life and the lives of his crew in an attempt to stop the “harvesting” of the rings, there is a higher morality displayed.
This higher morality transcends the answers of science and guides us in our longings for lives which not only are long-lasting, but have lasting meaning as well.
“Star Trek: Insurrection” illustrates our own rebellion against those forces which would dehumanize us. Whether it is naivete or technology, we must transcend both to an ultimate wisdom beyond.