Monday, March 30, 2015

Cult-TV Theme Watch: God(s)

A god is a divine being or entity, or a supreme being. A god is known for omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence.  And a god is also the primary or central figure of most organized religions, a point of worship and prayer.

Perhaps because of the "science" in science fiction, cult-television has often featured divine or supreme beings in its programming.  But usually, Gods are revealed in such stories to be false in the sense that they are not divine; merely highly advanced beings that we mistake for being infallible or all-powerful. In other words, they are beings more advanced than we are, with technology that, at our stage of development, seems god-like.

The original Star Trek (1966 - 1968) made it a regular habit to question those beings who claimed to be God. In "Who Mourns for Adonis," The Enterprise encountered an individual claiming to be the Greek God, Apollo (Michael Forest), for instance.  In the second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," a crew-member -- Gary Mitchell -- is endowed with God-like powers but as his friends discover, he hasn't yet come to possess the wisdom we expect and demand from a deity. This post is about cult-TV, but the fifth Star Trek motion picture, The Final Frontier (1989) returned to the idea of the crew encountering "false" gods.

Space:1999 (1975 - 1977) both followed the pattern laid down by Star Trek, and established its own. In the Year One story, "Black Sun," for instance, the Alphans encountered a god-like being inside the event horizon of a black hole. It was childlike and curious, but not a corporeal being as we understand it.

A more traditional God-imitator, Magus, appeared in the Year Two story "New Adam, New Eve."There, Magus was not a deity himself, but an advanced genetic scientist obsessed with developing new life.

The Fantastic Journey (1977) episode "An Act of Love" involved a culture in the Bermuda Triangle that worships a volcano as a god. Dr. Willaway (Roddy McDowall) sets the culture straight with his typical bluntness and wisdom. "You are trying to make deals with volcanoes... leave superstition behind."

On the original Battlestar Galactica (1978 - 1979), from Glen A. Larson, the Galactica encounters beings who are like Gods and devils, angels and demons in "War of the Gods."  The forces of good -- god-like beings in white robes -- inhabit the Ship of Lights.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 - 1994), an early episode called "Justice" pits Captain Picard against the orbiting God of the Edo people.  That God is actually a space vessel of some type, but its inhabitants are never revealed, or explained.

On Deep Space Nine (1993 - 1999), the wormhole entities, who exist outside linear time, are believed by the Bajoran people to be Gods called prophets.

A brilliant later-season episode of The X-Files (1993 - 2002), "Improbable," concerns numerology, and Burt Reynolds portrays God himself, who likens the universe to a casino where we're all gamblers.

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