Reflection

Star Trek: Aspiring Toward the Other - Part 4

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Stages of Completion

The adventures within the Star Trek universe can be interpreted as encounters between the human consciousness and the countless forces and traits rooted within the human being’s psychic structures. The Milky Way with all its inhabitants is an image of the incomprehensibly vast, cosmic “inner space” – of which every human being is a part, a microcosm. Deep within the unconscious, the remnants and results of ancient past, both collective and individual, continue to persevere – aspects and characteristics that can be depicted as fantastic, often alien yet strangely familiar entities. Within the human being, the cosmic and the internal meet, playing major parts in our lives. These forces and principles are a lot more than mere energy manifestations; they are alive and radiant, belonging to a vast spectrum, influencing the human being so as to be recognized and realized within us. Hence the countless struggles in our lives, where whatever we perceive on the outside is but a mirror of what is within. A new consciousness is supposed to emerge, the likes of which we do not yet dream of – once everything is integrated into the unified entity called The Human Being.

In Star Trek, the Milky Way is divided into four quadrants: the known species’ territories are located in the Alpha and Beta quadrants, the domain of the Borg is situated in the Delta quadrant on the far side of the galaxy, tens of thousands of light years away. This is where Q/”Mephisto” spirits the Enterprise to demonstrate to Capt. Picard that the crew of the Enterprise (the conscious self of the personality) is not even remotely prepared for what the Milky way (the undiscovered expanse of the microcosm) has in stock for them.

The Delta Quadrant: Encountering the Adversary

As stated already, we interpret the Borg as a megalomaniacal, deluded imitation of the Divine by physical means. Borg ships are shaped like gigantic cubes, representing a mind structure that has reached a certain perfection within its limits but cannot transcend them to proceed toward the divine-spiritual. Also, for a space-worthy vessel, the cube is a physically demanding, problematic shape not used by any other space-faring species. This signifies the Borg’s technological superiority as well as their cold, arrogant hubris toward other species. Upon first contact with the Borg, the Enterprise turns out to be hopelessly outmatched. Our heroes barely manage a narrow escape, only because Capt. Picard yields his pride and begs Q to return the Enterprise to the Alpha quadrant. But the damage is done: now the Borg know of humanity. And they will not rest until humanity is assimilated or the Borg themselves are defeated.

Due to the vast interstellar distances, years pass until a Borg fleet enters Federation space (Federation technology would have required decades). The Borg set a course for Earth, leaving a wake of destruction. Starfleet gathers to make a stand – and is practically obliterated, not least due to Starfleet Command’s self-complacent ignorance.

At the battle’s climax, Capt. Picard (ego and willpower, the personality’s core) is abducted and assimilated. Now the Borg have his entire knowledge about the Federation. They turn him into their figurehead but fail to completely erase his individual consciousness – there are dimensions to it that elude the Borg. Finally, a dramatic rescue mission is staged. While, outwardly, Capt. Picard seems to make a full recovery, the horrible experience leaves him heavily traumatized and filled with hate against the Borg. Despite the circumstances, this is another blessing in disguise: having been part of the Borg collective, Capt. Picard – and, by extension, the Federation at large – now has complete knowledge of the Borg collective as well. The lethal menace can be averted, but it remains for the time being.

Beaten, Injured – and Thus Initiated

Interpretation: a powerful force attempting to restrain the human being to the material plane of existence has overshadowed the conscious mind, nearly damaging it beyond recovery. This has led to a temporary amalgamation, imprinting on the mind an inextinguishable knowledge of this lethally adversarial force. In time, this traumatic, devastatingly humiliating experience will turn into a blessing, because it is this knowledge that will make the adversary’s defeat possible. It becomes part of the Hero’s initiation, his “voyage through Hell”, the second important phase of his journey. Only much later, toward the end of the fourth series, Star Trek: Voyager, will Capt. Kathryn Janeway (the “female” aspect to the core personality who has accidentally been flung to the far side of the galaxy) manage to exploit time paradoxes (relative, temporary freedom from the restraints of space and time), confront the Borg Queen, and neutralize the Borg collective for good.

Deep Space Nine: The Other Side – The Gamma Quadrant

During the transition from The Next Generation into the following TV show, Deep Space Nine, a stable wormhole is discovered near the Bajor star system which is, at the time, suffering brutal occupation at the hands of the Cardassians. The wormhole connects the Alpha and Gamma quadrants of the galaxy. Now the final, as of yet undiscovered quarter is within reach. After the Federation exerts diplomatic pressure on the Cardassians to end their occupation of Bajor, they leave behind a space station which is rechristened “Deep Space Nine” and moved out of orbit toward the wormhole’s terminus. Upon exploration two things become obvious: for one, the wormhole itself is home to immaterial, intelligent beings whom the Bajorans have been worshipping as “prophets” for millennia. Second, the entire Gamma quadrant is ruled by a mysterious faction simply and aptly called “the Dominion”.

The faraway, unknown half of the galaxy, comprised of the Delta and Gamma quadrants, symbolizes a hidden part of the microcosm – and, by extension, of creation at large. In many stories, this “realm beyond the veil” can be entered through a portal (a mirror, a rabbit hole, a closet, a train station platform, a rupture in spacetime, etc.) and is usually ruled by a hierarchy whose power lies in deception, imitation and manipulation. To maintain their existence, they influence the beings on “this side” of the veil, posing, for instance, as gods, arch angels etc.

With the prophets and their equally immaterial enemies, the Pah Wraiths, Deep Space Nine comes about-face compared to Star Trek’s strictly rationalist, utopian world view, introducing entities which are, at first, regarded as alien species but, for all accounts and purposes, indistinguishable from supernatural entities. As it turns out, they even facilitated their Emissary’s incarnation: Benjamin Sisko, the Starfleet officer taking command of the space station.

In the show’s pilot we meet him commanding a starship during the battle with the Borg. His ship is destroyed and his wife dies in battle, leaving him a broken man and a single father. When he is ordered to take command of the station Deep Space Nine, his briefing is relayed by Capt. Picard of all people. Whom Sisko knows, tragically, only as Borg figurehead, blaming him for his wife’s death. His origin, his unique role as “Emissary” to the quasi-divine “Prophets” and his eventual ascension into the immaterial make him a messianic figure, signifying that the show has – beyond the numerous, intertwined Hero’s Journeys, started to appropriate universal motives from the world’s religions which it has, seemingly, outwardly, been holding in mild contempt.

The Dominion is an authoritarian cast system ruled by the mysterious Founders, a species of shapeshifters. They can adopt any shape or form, imitate any material, but on their home world they exist in a liquid state of collective conflation called the Great Link. Originally researchers and explorers, they met with so much distrust, prejudice and animosity from the “solids” (species bound to one physical form) that, in an unparalleled overreaction, they took control of the entire Gamma quadrant with the help of genetically designed servant races: the Karemma are the traders, the Vorta take care of administration, and warfare falls to the hyper aggressive Jem’Hadar who, by design, are addicted to a control drug. All these races are genetically programmed to worship the Founders as gods.

The aforementioned Borg exert power by imitating the divine with material means and assimilating anything and everything they encounter. The Dominion goes much further than that: the Founders have artificially created entire populations to be served, protected, feared, and worshipped by them. The shapeless Founders themselves, devoid of a form to call their own, defiantly having adopted the slur “changelings”, imitate anything and everything – their opposite, the divine, creation as such.

Odo, the space station’s morose Chief of Security, is soon revealed to be a founder – albeit one with no connection to his people and no knowledge of his origin. As it turns out, he was one of hundreds sent into space as infants, like living probes, in time to return with knowledge about the universe. By now we know that Odo, like just about everybody else in the series, will embark on his Hero’s Journey and find the way back to his origins. In doing so, he will play a vastly significant role.

At first, however, the Dominion considers the Federation’s advances into the Gamma quadrant as hostile acts, refuses any diplomatic negotiations, and goes on the offensive – not openly, but through subterfuge, deception and manipulation: the Vorta feign diplomatic openness, the Jem’Hadar put up an intimidating display of military strength and battle prowess, and the Founders themselves infiltrate the peoples this side of the wormhole by replacing key figures in their opponents’ hierarchical structures with changelings, gathering intelligence, sabotaging, sowing discord.

Almost throughout the entire Dominion conflict, Odo is in contact with the Founder in charge of Dominion activity in the Alpha quadrant. Repeatedly, the two of them “link” with each other. These inklings of his natural state cause such rapture in Odo that he temporarily shuts out his former friends completely.

Unbeknownst to anybody at this time, Section 31, an autonomous, top-secret branch of Starfleet, has made Odo the unsuspecting carrier of an artificially created virus which now infects all the Founders. Over and over again, the administrative and command hierarchies of the Federation and Starfleet are depicted as an overarching, authoritarian structure mindlessly imposing rules and regulations by the book without empathy or intuition, only to throw the rules out of the window whenever the ends are required to justify the means. They symbolize a powerful microcosmic principle, a “higher self” of sorts, both in charge of and depending on the personality with its various aspects, as personified by the crews and their senior officers. Practically, this old state of mind has become obsolete: the starship commanders and their crews out in space habitually ignore rigid regulations, following their consciousness, their empathy and intuition instead. After trying in vain to find an antidote for weeks, Odo’s condition constantly worsening, Dr. Julian Bashir, the Chief Medical Officer of Deep Space Nine, teams up with Chief Miles O’Brien, the station’s Chief Engineer and an old acquaintance from the Enterprise. With considerable criminal energy, the two of them manage to procure the vaccine.

 

(to be continued)

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