Online Edition: Spring 1999

The Double Vision of Star Trek

Half-Humans, Evil Twins, and Science Fiction

Mike Hertenstein

Cornerstone Press ($14.95)

by Rudi Dornemann

In The Double Vision of Star Trek: Half-Humans, Evil Twins and Science Fiction , Mike Hertenstein offers a Christian deconstruction of Star Trek. He establishes his Trek credentials early, opening his acknowledgements section with a humorous reference to the Vulcan mating season, and as he explores various contradictions and paradoxes in Star Trek , his command of the oeuvre is never in doubt. Nor is there any question where Hertenstein's argument will lead. We know that, as an editor of Cornerstone , a magazine published by the Jesus People U.S.A. organization, he will eventually bring things back to the domain of Christianity. What we don't know is exactly what route he'll take.

Hertenstein avoids the easy traps. He knows that since the series has undergone 30 years of collaboration between various producers, directors, writers, and casts, a single monolithic work cannot emerge. While creator Gene Roddenberry is a key figure in his analysis, Hertenstein resists reading him as an outright auteur. He does not lean too heavily on any one phase of the Trek franchise, but draws examples from all its various television and movie incarnations.

In the course of the book, there are a number of high points--an interesting bit on teleportation and the nature of the soul, and some intriguing discussion of Trek's multiculturalism and multi-speciesism in light of how the future society it portrays seems to owe so much more to the Western Europe than to any other terrestrial cultural heritage. Perhaps the book's finest moment is its penultimate chapter, a wide-ranging treatise on poetry, science, religion, the unknown and--most of all--wonder.

Hertenstein occasionally glosses over his subject matter a little too quickly, however, as with his treatment of religion on Deep Space Nine. While he's right to point out that one of that Trek series' major religious characters is a cardboard fundamentalist and another is a fuzzily drawn New Ager, some of DS9's numerous religion-themed storylines also offer instances of characters who act on strong religious convictions--and are portrayed not only respectfully, but even heroically. Considering some of these more positive portrayals of religion in Star Trek more closely probably wouldn't have changed the conclusion Hertenstein reaches, but it would have enriched his analysis along the way.

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Spring 1999 Table of Contents