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Faith In Action: Star Trek Film Series, Workshop 18: Humanism — Just Us... And Everything Else

In "Building Bridges," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Star Trek DVDs
  • A DVD player and TV or monitor and projector

Preparation for Activity

  • Some reading that might guide you in a discussion about Star Trek and humanism are Drones, Clones, and Alpha Babes: Retrofitting Star Trek's Humanism, Post 9/11, by Diana M.A. Relke (Calgary, Alberta: University of Calgary Press, 2006), Everything I Need to Know I Learned From Star Trek, by Dave Marinaccio (New York:Three Rivers Press, 1995), "Star Trek Made Me an Atheist" in Humanist online magazine, and a blog entry by smellincoffee "Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek, Humanism, and Me". An online search will lead you to many others.
  • Test your electronic equipment.

Description of Activity

Participants offer the community a chance to explore humanist themes in the media.

After the release of the Star Trek movie produced in 2009, interest in the original television series was renewed. Consider offering a discussion session based on some of the more humanist-themed episodes.

Look at the episodes in light of the seven points discussed in the Opening:

  • proogressive = adaptive, changing
  • life = here and now
  • science and reason
  • ability and responsibility
  • ethics = human welfare
  • personal fulfillment = service of ideals
  • good of humanity = no one's an island

Here are some facts you might contribute to the conversation:

  • Nichelle Nichols' Uhura was one of the first regular black characters on TV who was not a servant. Nichelle tells the story that she thought of leaving the series after the first year, but was urged not to by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who told her she was an inspiration to young people and was opening a door that, once open, would never be closed.
  • In 1991, Roddenberry was awarded the AHA's Humanist Arts Award. Roddenberry was a member of the Association.
  • Star Trek's famous opening lines ended with "To boldly go where no man has gone before." Even in the sixties, there were protests about the word "man." In 1987, when Star Trek: The next Generation aired, the line was changed to "... where no one has gone before." At the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Kirk says, "... boldly going where no man... where no one... has gone before."
  • NBC was fearful of the interracial kiss in Plato's Stepchildren, so they required the director to film an alternate scene where the kiss does not take place. William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols purposefully flubbed the alternate take.

Suggested episodes:

  • Plato's Stepchildren (first interracial kiss on a scripted television show)
  • Where No Man Has Gone Before (two crew members develop god-like powers)
  • The Cloud Minders (deals with classism)
  • Turnabout Intruder (deals with sexism, though not in the most advanced way)
  • Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (deals with racism)
  • A Private Little War (written as commentary on the Vietnam War)
  • The Corbomite Maneuver (the dangers of irrationality and fear)
  • Taste of Armageddon (the dangers of a technology that distances us from the horrors of war)
  • The Empath (sacrifices of the individual for the good of society)
  • The Return of the Archons (mindless following of a cult-like figure)
  • The Apple (ignorance is not bliss)
  • The group should decide if they will offer one workshop or a series. Talk to the person in the congregation who coordinates such workshops. Advertise extensively. Divide the work amongst participants. Who will secure the DVDs? Who will lead discussions? Will you serve popcorn and drinks? If so, how will you secure funds to purchase? A congregational committee might be able to help support this activity.

For more information contact web@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Monday, September 16, 2013.

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