I’m a bit of a Star Trek fan. I don’t go to conventions, dress in Starfleet uniform or speak Klingon. But when the programme is on the television in one of its many forms, I do enjoy watching. Unlike some, I particularly like Star Trek Voyager.
The main plot device in Star Trek Voyager is that the crew are far from home and it will take them seventy years to return to Earth. The stories are about the adventures that they have on their journey. They are a mixed-species crew, humans work alongside Vulcans, Talaxians, Ocampans, Klingons and others – there is even a holographic doctor. Established religions for humans are considered past history, humanity has grown beyond that. Although that isn’t consistent as one native American human uses a “spirit guide”. Other species freely practice their own spiritual devotions.
A Familiar Story
Despite the apparent absence of human religions, the Star Trek Voyager story is eerily familiar. A people wandering in the wilderness. They seek the promised land with only their beliefs in a higher power (‘The Federation’) to guide them. They have had handed down to them a set of rules. Some are technical but many are moral and they must obey (‘Starfleet Regulations’). Deviation from them is punished either directly by the Captain, or by some set of circumstances that conspire to make disobedience disadvantageous. The story is, possibly unintentionally, a modern day reinterpretation of Moses and the Israelites wandering in the desert as told in Exodus.
The Star Trek Voyager stories include interactions with other species. Some of them are war-like. There is some interaction with the gods and spirits of other cultures. Some stories are about the victories of the crew over other groups. And some stories are about individual members of the crew who step outside the rules. There may not be direct one-to-one parallels with Exodus, but the stories have a similar basis.
“Let my people go”
The first story in Star Trek Voyager is about how the crew is pulled across the galaxy at the whim of an all-powerful alien. Some of the crew are kept against their will to perform a task for this alien. Captain Janeway intercedes on behalf of her crew. After some attempts where the alien is not convinced to let them go eventually, Janeway gets her wish. The travel of the crew across the wilderness then begins. If this isn’t analogous to Moses pleading with Pharoh to “let his people go”, then I don’t know what is.
The crew of Voyager are quite obviously analogous to the ‘chosen people’. In Exodus 19:2-6, God speaks to Moses. He tells him what to say to the ‘House of Jacob and the people of Israel’.
After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
Maintain the Covenant
This passage makes clear that if the ‘House of Jacob and the people of Israel’ obey and keep the covenant then they will remain God’s people and reach the promised land. Likewise, if the Voyager crew maintain faith with The Federation and continue to obey Starfleet Regulations then they will get back home.
The lesson here? Nothing much probably. But whether you believe in the absolute historical accuracy of Exodus or not, it proves that we need our historical stories of travelling through the wilderness to redemption. We need rags to riches, and the belief that right living leads to reward. It just seems odd to learn that from a self-confessed God-free science fiction show.