Monday, 22 July 2013

TOS - 2.2 - Who Mourns for Adonais?

Star Trek - Who Mourns for Adonais?
How many times do I have to to tell you people,
the measurements are in Imperial Units, not Metric !

Zeus! I hit my head when I walk into this temple !

I don't bow when I enter my own temple, you
bow to me, Children of Ancient Greeks !
The Enterprise runs into many odd things as they zip around the galaxy in warp speed. After all, the Universe is an insanely weird place. But then all this outlandish (no pun intended) event aren't unprecedented. Many wooden-legged old seamen regale wondrous tales of monster sea creatures, phantom ships, gremlins and whatnot they encounter in their long sea voyages.

And as I mentioned in the review of the 2nd pilot episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before", Captain Kirk is based on Captain Cook, and the Star Trek voyages are the space equivalence of Captain James Cook's terrestrial exploration of new frontiers and civilisations. James Cook had certainly discovered a number of islands, had close encounters with many different races of peoples, witnessed all manners of creatures great and small, and 'found' the continent of Terra Australis, or better known today as Australia.

After some rather un-officer like, yet delightful banter between the Captain and Bones regarding Scotty's pursuit of happiness in the fairer sex, the Enterprise is stopped by a hand. Yep, you heard it right, a hand. No body is attached to it. Just a hand. I told you space is weird. The strangest thing Captain Cook could possibly encounter is that his ship is gripped by a giant octopus (8 tentacles), but never a hand. As it turns out, it's the hand of Apollo. Not the Space Mission, but the handsome (is there other kind?) Greek god Apollo, son of Zeus and Leto. Who would have thought?

I watch and write these TOS reruns in the same chronological sequence that they were made. I have very little recollection of my original (no pun intended) viewing of TOS as it took place nearly 3 decades ago. When I wrote the review of previous episode 2.1 "Amok Time" that there's a new trend emerging in Season 2, this ensuing episode seems to reinforce that.

In several episodes in TOS Season 1, there're no shortage of the alien races that appear like gods, some in fact, resemble Greco-Roman gods (e.g. the Metron in episode 1.18 "Arena"). They're highly evolved, and they look down on human as savages, unruly brats, whom asking for some lecturing or canings on our backsides.

The new trend emerging from Season 2 turns this human bashing upside down. The new message is now we have evolved, the gods are the silly ones. Captain Kirk comes to realise that the Greek gods in Greek mythology are indeed ancient alien.

The first time when I heard of UFO conspiracy theorists talked of ancient alien in the 1980s, it blew my mind. The ancient theorists suggest that many ancient gods were actually aliens, whom were mistaken for gods because of their powers. To the technologically backward society, these powers they possessed could only be perceived as magic of the gods.

In the Cargo Cult theory advanced by archeologists. When a closed primitive society encounters with a highly technological advanced society, they interpret them as gods, and using their artifacts to build a religion around it.

I suspect the ancient alien theorists didn't get this mind-bending idea on their own. As this episode was written in the 1960s, it's very original (no pun intended), and very ahead of its time. I suspect UFO conspiracy theorists get all their ideas from Star Trek.  I'm increasingly convinced that all original ideas in sci-fi movies ever made after 1960s come from TOS (bear in mind though that some ideas in TOS were borrowed or inspired by older ideas). In short, Star Trek TOS is the mother of all sci-fi movies. Big statement to make, but I don't think I'm way off the mark.

Evolution of our religions accompanied or reflected by the evolution of our societies (and vice versa). I like to think of the ancient gods is akin to our childhood imaginary friends. When we're young, we need them. As we get older, we've outgrown the need for such imagination. We live in the real world, and have real friends. In other words, for better or for worse, we believe in ourselves, in Humankind. Good luck! (or God help us!)

The Greek god, and the only remaining one, in question in this episode is Apollo, in the final scene,

APOLLO: I would have cherished you, cared for you. I would have loved you as a father loves his children. Did I ask so much?
KIRK: We've out grown you. You asked for something we could no longer give.

This 2 simple dialogues capture the sentiment well. From Season 2 onwards (I speculate), a new trend emerges to show that how far human have come, and the more highly advanced aliens are just as infallible. And if these Greek gods is an advanced alien race, they're more passionate for love - in other word more emotional - than modern human. First it was the Vulcan Spock in last episode who acts like primitive brute, and now the very passionate alien in the shape of one of the Olympian gods.

The pantheon of gods are more than imaginary friends. They're more like parents that provides emotional supports just as the Apollo 's dialogue above.

The gods give us emotional comforts that there're something higher, and when we die, and we're not finished yet. So don't fear death. We're soothed by their existence.

Before science, these gods supply explanation for all kinds of natural phenomena. Their existence explained away natural events that we weren't capable of answering or understanding. This satisfied our curiosity and thirst for knowledge. Why do we have day and night? The ancient Greeks asked. It's because Helios drives the sun across the sky in a chariot. Later, or some other places, it was suggested that Apollo is the one who does the deed. This is far more easier to understand than abstract and complex scientific theories involving the Solar System, planetary movements, gravitation, etc.

This playful mythological answer to our ancient Greeks is like when children ask adults about questions that they aren't ready to comprehend, we give them make-believe answers, not real answers. Yes, babies are delivered by storks. Instead of giving them a messy, complex, R-rated answer.

In the time of great emotional needs, we go and pray to them. They pacify us. They even help us to predict the future, which settle our uncertainty about the future.

The list goes on. Our ancestors relied heavily on these pantheon of gods, each performs a specific function, and fulfilled a specific emotional need. They're very useful indeed. The ancients weren't so much superstitous, but were very practical.

They were like parent's hand-holding. When we grow up, we should no longer rely on them. We walk unaided, blaze our own path. We rely on the answers that we've found ourselves, through scientific enquiry, and rational discourse.

Good night! And keep your eyes peeled for Helios or Apollo in the sky.

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