Genesis

Star Trek: Aspiring Toward the Other - Part 5 Coming Full Circle

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Meanwhile, the civilizations of the Alpha and Beta quadrants have formed a vast alliance – except for the Cardassians, who submit to the Dominion, and the newly introduced Breen who join forces with the Dominion as peers. The Federation and the Klingon Empire overcome an initial crisis caused by a changeling infiltrator and finally put aside their differences for good. Worf, the Enterprise’s former Chief of Security, is transferred aboard Deep Space Nine as Klingon contact and expert on Klingon culture. The Romulans must at first be convinced of the Dominion threat but eventually join the alliance as well. Bearing in mind that, in our interpretation, all these species represent inner-personal traits and aspects, this situation marks a culmination point of the imminent internal crisis: said inner traits and aspects – which formerly co-existed with little to no interaction or even awareness of each other – have now amalgamated into two opposing factions.

The Ferengi – whose entire culture is based on greed and who in The Next Generation were invariably portrayed as lubberly mobsters constantly overestimating their own smarts – are astonishingly fleshed out now as a culturally rich species: they believe in the Great Material Flow (everything is scarcely available somewhere and abundantly available somewhere else; the Great Flow provides balance, and navigating it wisely will lead to prosperity) and their “Bible” is comprised of their Holy Rules of Acquisition – seldom has the worshipping of mammon been portrayed more humorously yet profoundly at the same time.

Ruthlessly exploiting his simpleton brother Rom and his nephew Nog, the Ferengi Quark runs the bar on Deep Space Nine’s promenade. His constant involvement in illegal dealings causes an equally constant struggle between him and Odo, the space station’s Constable. What starts out as seething mutual contempt evolves, somewhat grudgingly, into a “frenmity” based on mutual if reluctant respect. Nog, Quark’s nephew, befriends Benjamin Sisko’s son Jake. This friendship enables him to overcome cultural stereotypes and limitations so thoroughly as to become the first Ferengi ever to join Starfleet Academy. This species/inner aspect has now been integrated as well.

At first, however, the alliance seems hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned by the Dominion. Increasingly, the Dominion expands its supremacy over the Alpha Quadrant, pushing the alliance further and further back on the defence. The entire galaxy is on the verge of falling into the Dominion’s hands, more ships coming through the wormhole every day. Deep Space Nine is captured. In an act of desperation, the crew place a vast array of self-replicating mines at the wormhole before evacuating the space station, blocking the passage and putting a halt to the incessant Dominion replenishment.

Rom discovers his talent as an engineer, turning into a master of guerrilla warfare. Meanwhile, back on the Ferengi homefront, the Grand Nagus (supreme leader) Zek enters a relationship with Quark’s and Rom’s mother, Ishka. Soon afterward he retires, much to Quark’s shocked dismay, in favour of Rom – not without signing legislation which turns the early capitalist oligarchy into a romantic workers’ paradise. Thus, greed has been transformed into benevolence (if humorously exaggerated), harmoniously joining the canon of transformed and integrated inner aspects.

Benjamin Sisko is promoted to the rank of Captain, turning from the space station’s commander into a high-ranking leader of the alliance. He is given command of the U.S.S Defiant, a heavily armed prototype equipped with a Romulan cloaking device. At last, a spaceship – a vehicle of the conscious mind – takes a major role in this series. The Defiant being equipped with a cloaking device signifies two things: for one, it shows the newly-found trust and cooperation with the Romulans (the genuine integration of what they represent into the whole). Secondly, it is in clear violation of a treaty in which the Federation had unilaterally renounced the development and use of cloaking technology. Like Dr Bashir and Chief O’Brian procuring the anti-dote for Odo earlier, this is evidence of outdated law-of-the-letter regulations being discarded in favour of pragmatic self-reliance.

Worf acquires a new name when he joins the House of Martok. After several feats of heroism, he finally reclaims his honour by killing the corrupt chancellor of the Klingon Empire, thus winning the title – and immediately passing it on to Martok, the honourable General whose house he has joined.

Worf and Martok remind us of the “Noble Savage” trope. They will transform the Klingon Empire from its archaic, partially barbaric state and usher in an age of enlightenment. Worf himself becomes the Klingon Empire’s ambassador to the Federation. Hailing from the animalistic recesses of the inner self, having been elevated and integrated into the conscious mind long ago, he now returns to his origin, bringing back the refinement and sophistication he has experienced as a mediator. Thus, Worf consummates his own Hero’s Journey.

Heroes and Anti-Heroes

We have extensively covered the Hero’s Journey, recognizing the overarching story of the Star Trek saga as a veritable “layer cake” of closely intertwined Hero’s Journeys. The TV show Deep Space Nine fits neatly into this continuum. But seldom do we find the indispensable counterpart – let’s call it “the villain’s story” told as movingly and in as much detail as exemplified by Gul Dukat.

We first encounter Gul Dukat (”Gul” is his rank, “Dukat” his name) towards the end of The Next Generation supervising the Cardassian occupation of the planet Bajor. He is depicted as a ruthless, cynical despot, consistently portrayed as the “typical Cardassian”, a villainous antagonist from the beginning. After the occupation ends, he keeps returning as a maliciously scheming adversary, bent on revenge for his loss of power. At the same time his personality has so many layers and is portrayed so ambiguously that he quickly evolves from a somewhat cartoonish villain into a complex anti-hero.

Now several things happen simultaneously. When Dukat’s half-Bajoran daughter (her existence hinting at his complexity) dies tragically, he loses his mind. Unleashing the Pah Wraiths (the Prophets’ equally immaterial adversaries who had been magically banished for millennia) he is taken over by them, turning into a villain of luciferian dimensions. Now he is an equal opponent for Benjamin Sisko, the Prophets’ Emissary. Due to Dukat’s initiative, the Dominion manages to disarm the mines blocking the wormhole.

On the other side, in the Gamma quadrant, a giant invasion fleet is waiting to charge into the Alpha quadrant and seal the alliance’s fate. Being the only starship within reach, the Defiant enters the wormhole to make a hopeless stand. Benjamin Sisko asks the Prophets’ help – and his plea is heard. Although the existence of physical beings bound to linear time strikes the immaterial Prophets as alien and incomprehensible, they side with the defenders and annihilate the invading Dominion fleet, thus turning the tide.

Dukat’s second-in-command, Damar, starts out as an unsophisticated by-the-book soldier. Frustrated by the Dominion’s totalitarian rule, he succumbs to alcohol. Later he regains his dignity and becomes the leader of the Cardassian resistance against the Dominion. When he dies a martyr, the Cardassian people rises. At the pinnacle of the decisive battle, the Cardassian fleet switches sides, ensuring defeat for the remaining Dominion and Breen forces.

At the same time, Benjamin Sisko and Gul Dukat meet for their final encounter in the Fire Caves on Bajor, the Pah Wraiths’ former place of imprisonment. Benjamin Sisko seemingly sacrifices himself (another re-occurring element of the Hero’s Journey) to defeat Gul Dukat and banish the Pah Wraiths again. The female Founder commanding the Dominion campaign in the Alpha quadrant – ravaged by disease – orders a genocide on the Cardassian people. Her order is partially set in motion before the command centre is stormed.

Odo, who has been cured from the infection, links with the Founder curing her as well and finally convincing her of the Federation’s peaceful attitude. Odo returns with her to the Founders’ home world where he finally joins the Great Link (the shapeless amalgamation shared by all Founders in their natural state), curing his entire species in the process.

This three-fold victory is crowned by peace. From the ruins of the old military dictatorship a completely renewed Cardassia will rise to take its place among the matured peoples/aspects of the Milky Way/microcosm.

Now the entire Milky Way is discovered, accessed, and pacified. The Hero’s Journey is complete and the story is told in full. During countless adventures, the mind has become whole to the extent possible in this world. We are holding our breath to witness how the story continues in other dimensions.

Three Great Stages

Let us end with a summary of the Hero’s Journey’s three great stages: Departure, Initiation, and Triumph, as exemplified by Star Trek: The Next Generation.

We meet the new starship Enterprise and her young crew when the experienced Captain Picard takes command of the freshly launched ship. On her maiden voyage, the Enterprise is intercepted by Q who forces the crew to prove to him that mankind has matured and risen above its animalist self-centeredness. They manage – and Q releases the Enterprise and her crew, threatening to monitor them closely and put them to the test again in the future. This is the first stage: Departure and initial victory.

The second stage – Initiation and Trial – is marked by the Borg conflict also caused by Q. The Captain’s (ego and will) rescue from the destructive deception by powerful adversarial forces is planned by First Officer Will Riker (bravery, agency) and Second Officer Data (intelligence, knowledge) enlisting the cooperation of everybody else.

The third stage – Triumph and Return – is also initiated by Q. This time, the crew must coordinate their efforts in the present, future and past simultaneously to avert a disturbance in space-time which would otherwise wipe out the entire universe. This is the ultimate trial. Q is content and lets go of the Enterprise and her crew. Occasionally he returns later on, but as a harmless, good-natured nuisance rather than a ruthless adversary. Our heroes even enter the Q continuum towards the end of the saga, helping to pacify the collective and free it of its critical stagnation. Thus, even the existential antagonist locked in eternal denial is pacified and integrated as far as possible.

The Next Generation ends on a moving note when the ever-inapproachable Captain Picard finally joins the senior officers’ regular poker table for the first time. The mind as a whole shows its newly-gained unity and strength. And now things can become playful – because there is yet something to be won.

And the Enterprise continues her mission to boldly go where no man has gone before.

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