Monday, October 20, 2008

A Brief 'Trek' Through the Abortion Debate

In one episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, the creative trustees of the Gene Roddenberry vision gently yet imaginatively tackle the issue of abortion. The tact it assumes is a sensitive if predictable one.

In The Child (Season 2, Episode 1) Counselor Deanna Troi has become pregnant but not the old fashioned way. An alien life force in the form of a glowing speck of light engages Deanna in a brief, futuristic kind of intimacy while she is asleep and suddenly she is nurturing a new life within. Owing to the inexplicable nature of her pregnant condition, Captain Picard calls for a conference of senior officers to consider the situation.

As he always does, the Captain carefully listens to the comments of each of his underlings. Worf, the Klingon security administrator, not surprisingly advocates strongly for termination of the pregnancy citing, as one might expect, the security concerns of the Enterprise and its crew. After everyone has had his say, Deanna makes the pronouncement, "Do what you must to protect the ship, but know this: I am having this baby." Acknowledging that the decision is ultimately hers to make, the Captain adjourns the gathering saying, "It would appear, then, that this meeting is over."

Thus, in one succinct exchange, a very enlightened solution appears to have been made. The principle of choice is upheld, and Deanna's decision adheres to what the Roddenberry vision demands: the near-absolute respect for all living creatures. The question is, which part of this scenario is meant to prevail, the principle of choice or the affirmation of life?

Not to be lost in this dilemma is another of this episode's wider considerations. Ian, the young alien offspring who wondrously attains mid-childhood age in only a few short days, is the mysterious source of radiation that is allowing a plasma plague to endanger the lives of those on board. When the young boy realizes this, he sacrifices his human self in order to save everyone on the Enterprise, then reverts to his original light-beam state and disappears.

Not surprisingly, the powerful ideal of affirming life whenever possible seems to be the overriding Roddenberry message, and yet he does not shrink from symbolically depicting the complex nature of the entire pro-choice/pro-life debate.

In a clever sort of duality, there is something for each side of the debate in this well-crafted morality play. Maybe it's precisely what Gene Roddenberry had in mind.


  1. I saw that -- it was a powerful episode. I just wonder how many viewers realized its point. Never mind -- I think I know. Sigh.

    Thanks for stopping by my place -- I really appreciate your supportive comment.

  2. For as much as I am a Trekkie (Have an Email with a Trekkie dominance) I did not pay attention to many of the things that Roddenberry was trying to tell us. I know these things now, for I have heard so much about the man and what he said he was trying to do.

    That is one of my favorite episodes. In fact, all of season 2 is my favorite. I still have the entire Next Generation on VHS...I know I know, time to get the DVD's on Box set.

    Anyhow, back to Trek. I too (now that I know) love how Gene intertwined hidden messages to thee unsuspecting public. Many of your *cough cough* old-timers knew that every single episode, for the most part, had something with a hidden agenda.

    I could watch Trek all day long. But what most folks cannot get past is that it is Sci-Fi. All they see is stars and plasma injectors, and yes it is there, but if you dig just a bit deeper, Gene had a message to tell the world.

  3. I'm jealous, Red. I'm a total Next Gen nut. I would love to have the complete box set of the entire series. Hopefully ...

  4. I also appreciated Star Trek. There will never be a show like the original Star Trek again.

    I have also been to a Star Trek convention. I didn't dress up though.