Landru: Star Trek Revisited

An episode of the original Star Trek television series takes our attention. "Return of the Archons" story by Gene Roddenberry and teleplay by Boris Sobelman.

A major theme running through this episode, like many fantasy/sci-fi shows, is about the fear of mechanization, the fear that through technology, and the fear that through religion/cultism, an icon is somehow created that eventually rules the society is was designed to assist; sort of a "benevolent despotism."

This particular episode began gaining significance within our memory while evolving this website. We remembered something about an orderly society, very prim, proper, respectful and tidy; but when the clock struck six bells, social order went out the window. In short, men grabbed women off the street and ravished them and the ladies did not protest; men picked up clubs and began breaking storefront windows; men and women looted the stores and set fires through the town, and much more is implied. When the clock struck six bells again, order was restored. (The episode does not make clear who cleans up the mess, what explanation is offered, or whether counseling is available to anyone who experienced or actively participated in this planned community mayhem.)

What brought this episode to memory was certain contemplation regarding some of the abusive effects of hypocritical Christianity, and how in some cases people who behave perfectly decently at church, at work, and other places where they know they'll be recognized, they are models of virtue. We refer to the people who devoutly believe they have been saved and that they serve the purpose of the Lord, yet are the same ones who practice racism - including violence - towards people not of their faith, color, or economic background.

We are not discussing those Christians (or any faith) who truly embody the creeds of their faiths - many of which are rather universal; we are referring to those who use their faiths as a cloak, justification, and get-out-of-jail-free cards to commit atrocious acts upon their fellow men who deny personal responsibility by saying it is the will of the Lord, or Allah, or Satan.

What we remembered about this episode, before viewing it again, is that it actually seemed logical. If we all agree that every human has a certain "dark shadow" within his soul, then wouldn't it actually be convenient if we could have a festival, say, once every three or six months, where for a 12-hour period, we could just turn people loose to get all their rage, hatred, pettiness and meanness out of their systems?

Actually, we believe humans do have cycles in which they respond to their baser needs, and most have excellent control over their lesser instincts. But too many people refuse to have any kind of control, and those tend to be the random fanatics that scare all of us, including those Christians who live up to their name. Christians, too, have a vested interest in this subject, and in the episode we're referring to, because societal madness is a universal problem that is continuing to divide us all.

The pleasant concept suggested in this Star Trek episode is the idea that "random madness" (or the physical demonstration of it) can be controlled - legislated, if you will - to insure that everyone who must "go crazy" will do so at a designated time, and anyone who wants no part of it can just "go to the valley" during that particular period of darkness.

Following are some of the distinctive lines in the Star Trek episode "Return of the Archons":

Captain Kirk's team has just landed in this (what seems to be 1870's American, Earth) society where everyone is polite, gracious, and as Mr. Spock says, the citizens seem to be "mindless, vacant."

A passerby on the sidewalk smilingly says "Joy to you, Friends" and pleasantly inquires, "Come for the Festival, have ye?" He goes on to say, "It's almost the Red Hour" and suggests they find a place to rest after the Festival is over. Advice is given regarding lodgings, and then the clock rings six bells. The pleasant passerby is the first one to grab the nearest woman and carry her off.

Later (after six bells have struck again) a devout citizen has reported Captain Kirk's party to the proper authorities of Landru, and a couple of guys dressed like monks show up, brandishing tubular constructions designed to be alarming. Everything that is done is justified by saying "It is the will of Landru." The monks say to Captain Kirk, "You are not of the Body. You will be Absorbed." They then point the alarming tubular devices at Captain Kirk and his companions, but Captain Kirk basically says something like, "I don't think so" and the monks, unused to disobedience, sort of go into static freeze-frame mode.

Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock have a whisper-in-the-corner moment and observe that all the people on this planet seem to be responding to "compulsive involuntary stimulation."

The monks go away, and Kirk's crew are taken to a safe-house outside the village. Only nothing is really safe, because Landru is everywhere. It's like a metal detector at the airport; sooner or later every bobby pin, set of nail clippers, under-wire bra, and can-opener is detected by the omnipresent Landru.

A hologram of Landru appears upon the wall in the safe-house and says, after a brief preface:

"You will be Absorbed. Your individuality will merge into the unity of Good. And in your submergence into the common being of the Body, you will find contentment and fulfillment. You will experience the Absolute Good."

KIrk attempts to reason, and then to argue to persuade the figure on the wall, but Spock assures him it's pointless. Shortly after this, the tube-wielding monks show up again and take Dr. McCoy away, and when he returns, he is mindless and vacant. He utters platitudes left and right, until Kirk shakes him and says, "Don't you know me?" 

McCoy properly responds with, "We all know one another, in Landru."

Kirk and Spock do some more analysis, have a few adventures, until Spock surmises, "This is a soulless society. It has no spirit, no spark. All is indeed peace and tranquility. Peace of the factory, tranquility of the machine. All parts working in unison."

It turns out, in the end, that Landru was one of the original Archons (a random term from Roddenberry's debate team in school) had programmed a computer that had the ability to control society, and the computer apparently regulated emotion and excess to keep everything orderly and mechanical. Kirk and Spock, naturally, burn out the wall with their fazers and destroy the machine, because "choice, and creativity, are infinitely better than order and the slavery it demands."

We agree whole-heartedly, yet we admit we are slightly attracted to the idea of letting repressed people get their anxieties and hang-ups out in a concerted, designated time period where they can be monitored and managed, at least, to keep from doing greater damage to themselves as well as others.

Thus, this television episode raises some interesting questions regarding human ideas of perfection, regulation, order, and also deification and modification of behavior through symbolic idolatry.

For all the people who believe that there has been, or will be, a messiah, what is the quantitative relationship between their moral subjugation to a higher being, and their sense that this higher being has a direct intermediate interest in their individual, minute actions? (In short, if God wasn't watching, would you still be so good?)

Our intention is not to encourage people to be bad; it is simply to say that we prefer that people be good because this is their genuine motivation, rather than fear of punitive action from a higher being. And, for those genuinely good souls - which we believe are the majority - we sincerely wish that love, rather than fear, was your motivation.

But there seem to be too many good souls infected with a degree of naughty corruption that, like Cain, who ran from the Light, when the Light would not have "exposed" his weakness - but transformed it. These particular types of "bad people" are for the most part not nearly as bad as they think they are. It is usually abusive situations in their past that have taught them they are worthless, ineffective, corrupt, and doomed.

These people are a prime example of those who are not "inherently evil" yet have been programmed to be bad, because they were told they were worthless - generally by people who felt worthless, themselves, and felt better about projecting their own sense of weakness and helplessness on someone they saw as being as even more weak and helpless than themselves (and infinitely more vulnerable. Sort of like "kick the cat" - find a weaker being than yourself to take out the humiliation that's been dumped upon you.)

Christianity, in its flawed construction, has given Humanity two choices; to be righteous and strong, or to be weak and bad. We do not believe Humanity, nor Christianity for that matter, began with two flavors. We do not believe that Choice resides within a simple Yes or No vote, or Good and Evil, or Right or Wrong resolution. (It would be nice if it did, to make it easy on all of us. But it hasn't been easy, has it? There's more than one question to be asked, is there not?)

Then, what to do with "crummy Christians" that are an embarrassment to us all....

Instead of merely tolerating them, to say a weak Christian is better than no Christian, start confronting the weak Christian to start defining himself, and to committing himself to higher purpose. Make that weak Christian quit riding around on Jesus' back or the glory of his name and make him start living up to the name he claims. A fellow (and true) Christian would know better than anyone what criterion was actually expected, and how to tell the difference between a real "player" and a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Having brought up the wolf in sheep's clothing, it is our belief that the next phase in the Christian wars is not the distinction of Christian and heathen or pagan, but the distinction between the true Christian and the pretender that masquerades in its image.

The modern Christians, particularly of America, are about to be placed in the uncomfortable position of having to distinguish differences internally, rather than externally. They will see that the international situation we are experiencing is a home-front division issue, one that cannot be fought by pagans, heathens, and others considered "outworlders" by Christians - because the war in Iraq is not a Christian-Muslim issue, but a Christian-Christian issue.

It is the Christians of President Bush's administration who have business ties in Iraq. It is they who sit on boards of directors in publicly traded companies that are in Iraq, who received contracts without bids. These people may swear they may not be motivated by dollars, and this is actually plausible. It is also plausible that these Christian businessmen may truly be motivated to save the "heathen-Iraqi" - but there is no arguing that Christian imperialism, and the moral justification of superiority that goes with it, will surely multiply the dollars in the coffers of these so-called static Christian funds or proselytizing accounts.

In the Star Trek episode of "Return of the Archons", as embodied in Landru, we see a machine running an orderly society with a minimum of violence, carnality and depravity. We also see an absolute lack of creativity and personal expression. It might be called the "Christian dream, and the pagan nightmare." We also believe that for true Christians, such a reality would also be a nightmare for them. If we lived in a static society, for instance, how would a true Christian have the opportunity to create a vista of Light and Love? Which frankly, we all depend on? They are as much "age of Aquarius" as the rest of us. The question is, "What will they do with it?"

We believe, as heinous as it sounds, that there may actually be another "holy war" - this time between the good and bad Christians.  Frankly, we had come to the conclusion that Christians weren't much good at doing anything other than being Christians, but while exploring this realm of thought, we began thinking of the Christians we happen to know who are effective, outspoken, and adamant in their beliefs. They are also educated, and sensitive. They may have have solutions we haven't thought of yet.

We'd like to see what our Christian friends can do. Many of them rebel at the idea of machination and programming just as much as we do. It makes sense; they can speak others' language. The beauty is that, those who've made friends with us can speak our language as well.

We, as Druids, have very little left in terms of manifest power in this world. This is also something we agreed to (however begrudged.) We became angry after the Exile created by Saint Patrick, and basically condemned the Earth (and all upon it) to our silence. But we're still here, eavesdropping, and ready to drop tips to any listening incarnate wizard within earshot.

But we still have influence with wizards who incarnate as Christians to change the system from within. And, as long as they are doing their jobs, supporting Christianity from honestly pure or correct motives, then it is in our interests to support their efforts.

Granted, we've been fooled before. But this time we'd like to do the fooling - swap the bad Christians for the good Christians and let them go after each other. If the bad Christians win, we eat them; if the good Christians win, we congratulate them, and move on to the next plateau.

That's our vote.

Love, Galadriel