Turning inner space into outer space

February 27, 2015

We are living in the Age of Spock

Joan Collins as Edith Keeler and Willliam Shatner as Captain Kirk in The City on the Edge of Forever, from the original Star Trek series.
Leonard Nimoy as Spock in the same episode.

The death of Leonard Nimoy is a reminder that the era of the original Star Trek, and its idealistic vision of the future, is sliding ever further away.

In one episode, The City on the Edge of Forever, Captain Kirk travelled back in time to the Depression era of 1930 and told a character played by Joan Collins that 100 years from then Earth would begin a transition to peace and unity.

“Let me help. A hundred years or so from now, I believe, a famous novelist will write a classic using that theme. He’ll recommend those three words even over I love you.”

We have only 15 years left before that prediction can come true, but as we settle into never ending armed conflict, there are few who would believe in it.

As it turns out, in order for the future to unfold as it should, the Collins character, a pacifist named Edith Keeler, must die. And Kirk, even though he is in love with her, must be the one to allow this to happen.

“But she was right,” Kirk says. “Peace was the way.”

With cold-hearted logic, Spock replies: “She was right, but at the wrong time.”

And later: “Jim, Edith Keeler must die.”

In the end, Kirk follows Spock’s advice and stops Dr. McCoy from pushing Keeler out of the way of the car that strikes and kills her.

McCoy is stunned.

“You deliberately stopped me, Jim. I could have saved her. Do you know what you just did?”

It is Spock who answers: “He knows, Doctor. He knows.”

It seems we are now living in a age of Spock — where we have set aside idealism so we can deal with the reality of economic challenges and terrorist threats.

If the Star Trek crew had landed on a planet where a group was beheading innocent people in videos, how would they have reacted? They might have negotiated a truce that allowed the group its own little country in return for living in peace with the rest of the world. Bombing the hell out of them would not have been a option.

Here in the real world, bombing the hell out of them is the only option.

Maybe we’re just going through a necessary phase, where we make sacrifices in the hope that eventually things will get better. We seem all too willing to forego our freedoms and privacy for anti-terror legislation that we’re told will protect us.

It could be that we suppose these are temporary measures and that we can one day regain what was lost. We will always believe in peace, but it will never be the right time.

Even Spock, for all his logic, would never have wished that.