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Religious Overtones in Star Trek

Updated on September 11, 2010

Religious Overtones

Star Trek has several religious overtones in it. I think this is due to the simple fact that two of the greatest characters in Star Trek were Jews. Captain James T. Kirk played by William Shatner and Spock the Vulcan which was played by Leonard Nimoy in the Original series and the first 6 movies. Their roles are what established the foundation of the Star Trek universe.

If we take the race of the Vulcans we can see several similarities to the Jewish people. The first and most obvious to any religious Jew is the sign that Spock signals when he says, “Live long and prosper”. This sign is shaped in its unique manner to signal the Hebrew letter Shin, which looks like a W in Latin characters. It represents the word El Shaddai, which in Hebrew means G-d Almighty. The signal is made with both hands when a Cohen says a blessing over the Jewish people every day in Hebrew and on every High religious holiday for the Jews that do not live in the Holy Land.

Religion in the Movies

The following is a short review to show the religious links to Star Trek Motion Picture Movies.

The second Star Trek movie – The Wrath of Khan is specifically about creation, in this movie it is about the creation of a world. There is a concept in Science Fiction known as terraforming. In this movie the son of Captain Kirk tries to accomplish terraforming. However, what the movie really teaches us is that man cannot be the Creator, because it is not his place to be the Creator. The ultimate end of mans folly is the destruction of the Genesis’ Device which causes the terraforming to be a possibility and then in the follow on movie the ultimate destruction of the planet that was created, and the death of one of the most beloved characters in the Star Trek Universe. However, it also teaches the love of sacrifice as Spock gives his life to save everyone else. This is Spock’s solution to the unwinnable scenario.

The third Star Trek movie – The Search for Spock, carries on in that it speaks of resurrection of the dead. This is one of Rambam’s (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon) thirteen principles of faith, which could be found in pretty much any Jewish Prayer Book after the morning prayers. It states, “I believe with complete faith that there will be a resuscitation of the dead whenever the wish emanates from the Creator, Blessed is His Name and exalted is His mention, forever and for all eternity.” There is another concept which is the story of the Devayk. Leonard Nimoy speaks of this concept and how he specifically incorporated it into this movie. His commentary can be found in the special features of this movie. The Devayk is basically the concept of one soul inhabiting the body of another. In this case Spocks soul or what they refer to as a Katra in the Vulcan language inhabits Dr. McCoy’s body. However, in this case the imagery of the transferring of the soul to the body which resembles more of a Buddhist image, which was of course adjusted for this story.

In Star Trek Five – The Final Frontier the story is basically a search for the Almighty. Each alien group is convinced by Spock’s brother to join in the journey to find what they believe to be G-d. Although, each alien refers to G-d in their own terms they are united to find the Almighty. They are summoned through Spock’s brother to the center of the Universe to find a very powerful alien. No matter what their perspective is the search was the same, and this alien does not turn out to be the Almighty. This movie is not one of Star Treks better movies. It has so much potential but fell short in the end do to time, budget and story writing.

In Star Trek Nemesis the story deals with a concept of the Yetzer HaRa (the evil inclination), and the Yetzer HaTov (the good inclination), and how they war against each other. Captain Picard is representative of the good inclination and Shizon represents the evil inclination, and this is accomplished because Shizon is a clone of Captain Picard. It is not to say that both men do not have both inclinations it is to say that Captain Picard is ruled by his Yetzer HaTov and Shinzon is ruled by his Yetzer HaRa. It is a battle for the soul and mind in each person on how they will live their lives and in the movie it is played out between Captain Picard and Shinzon.

Next Time I will discuss more about the Culture and Religion of Star Trek Aliens

Star Trek Movies


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    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

      I kinda thought Spock was more of an episcopalian, with Zen overtones?