This is an excerpt from my latest Bible Study: An Unofficial Star Trek: The Original Series Bible Study. It is currently available through Lulu.com only…. I hope you enjoy it!
This study requires you to watch the episode. While I will describe it in enough detail for you to get by, it will ultimately be better if you watch the episode first. Warning: Higher definition TVs and advancements in technology make a few scenes a bit more cheesy…
Topic One: Women in Society:
This episode is interestingly titled “The Man Trap.” While the creature represents a woman, who is the love interest of Professor Crater, Dr. McCoy and Crewman Darnell, it is not the romantic entanglement that is the issue…. While Star Trek did advance the position of woman, there are still a few stereotypes left over from the time the series was made that are included in this episode. Among them are: Professor Crater discussing his love for isolation, but Nancy’s need for socialization with the phrase, “but for a woman, you understand of course,” implying that women have a higher degree of social need than men. Uhura then states to Spock, “But I am an illogical woman who has become too much a part of that communications counsel.” While this is said in jest, it does reflect the thoughts of the time. Janice Rand is harassed by crewman in the hall, and one crewman states, “How would you like to have her as your personal yeoman?” which would be considered inappropriate in a workplace today. Star Trek shows how society’s views of women have changed over the years, and that even a show that fought for women’s rights still held onto some negative patterns, considering them to be so normal that they would exist in the more perfect future as well.
Discuss God’s role for women and how women are to be treated. Here are some more obscure verses for you to consider.
Hosea 4:13-14 (NIV) … Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes- a people without understanding will come to ruin! These verses imply that punishment for prostitution and adultery is not always warranted if the circumstances of the woman’s life are somehow pushing her into it. Discuss how you judge differing situations a woman might find herself in and examine whether extenuating circumstances may be in place that would call for mercy rather than strict justice. 2 Timothy 3: 5-6 (NIV) …holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power, avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. These verses talk about a man who uses his position and preys upon women who are naïve and in a position to be inclined to trust a man who appears worthy, but is not. Discuss what these men look like today, and how to protect women who would be susceptible to their ploys from them both in the church and the workplace. This can be in the form of educating and uplifting the women, as well as how to deal with the men when this behavior is suspected or confirmed. Think about what actions you can take in the situation, with the power you have, and not just from the standpoint of what society should do.
Topic Two: The Rights of the Individual:
Another issue discussed in this episode is whether, or not, it is right to force someone to do something for their own safety. Professor Crater wishes to stay on the planet even though there is obviously something killing the crewmen (notice that the trend of redshirted actors dying has not yet begun!). He also does not wish to have a physical from Dr. McCoy, and especially does not want Nancy to have a physical, for obvious reasons, yet Dr. McCoy insists. This would be considered battery if a medical professional performed a procedure on a person who refused in the civilian world, but not in the military, where there are different rules. As an archeologist, the professor has obviously agreed to some terms in order to stay on the planet. When quarantine orders are issued on the Enterprise, all personnel seemingly comply without question. There are also instances in the Bible when the people of God are told to stay in their houses while a plague is present. (Exodus 9:19-20) The question here is: When is it Biblical to force people to do what is right, and when is it a question of free will, even if you know the person will be hurt by their choice? Today we may keep a person confined against their will if they may harm themselves or others (a psychiatric hold) or if they have committed a crime (jail). We typically do not force a medical procedure onto an unwilling person, even if it will mean their death, but we have, as I type, enacted and enforced quarantine laws for the COVID 19 pandemic. There is a pastor in Florida who was arrested for continuing to hold large church services despite the quarantine. When does the safety of one, or the many, make it necessary to deny an individual the right to not comply?
Topic Three: Animal Rights:
The salt creature is the last of its kind. It killed Nancy, yet Professor Crater felt sympathy for the creature and has kept it alive. His arguments are that the creature is not dangerous if it is fed, it is an intelligent creature, and it needs love. Captain Kirk accuses Professor Crater of keeping the creature alive, not because it is wrong to kill it, but because the creature provides the professor with a wife/harem/idol/slave. It is implied that this is not a proper companion, but an aberrant relationship. (This can be added to the previous discussion, re: what should and should not be considered appropriate in a relationship.) In this case, the salt creature is being compared to extinct species on earth. Kirk argues that the creature is different than the buffalo because it is killing people, and in the end, it kills the professor as well, implying Kirk is right. The creature is ultimately killed when it attempts to kill Captain Kirk and there is seemingly no other choice for Dr. McCoy to make. In the end, Kirk states that he was “thinking about the Buffalo,” indicating that he might not be sure they made the right choice, or that there was some regret regarding their need to kill the creature. (Since it could likely not reproduce as the last of its kind (assuming sexual reproduction), the end of the species was probably inevitable at some point…)
When is it right to kill an animal, and when is it not, and who gets to decide?
When is it the owner’s decision, and when does society get to set the rules? When does the local society make the rules, or can the international community enforce their standards on another country?
Here are some animal rights verses for further discussion:
The welfare of animals is important, even if they are your enemy’s animal.
Exodus 23: 4-5 If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.
Animals are not to be overworked and deserve a day of rest as well.
Exodus 23: 12 Six days you are to do work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from your labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest…
Do not deprive an animal. Allow him to eat the crops he is helping to bring in.
Deuteronomy 25:4 You shall not muzzle an ox while he is threshing.
You shall not put an animal in an uncomfortable situation where they might get hurt.
Deuteronomy 22: 10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.
God punishes people who are cruel to animals.
Genesis 49: 6-7 …And in their self-will they lamed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel. (NIV)
Topic Four: Civil Rights:
Lt. Uhura is on the bridge in a position of authority. This was a big deal at this time as the civil rights movement was coming to a head. Nichelle Nichols was treated poorly by ‘fans’ and almost quit. Martin Luther King Jr spoke with her and encouraged her to stay on the show, stating that Star Trek was one of the only shows he allowed his children to watch, as it was one of the few shows depicting an African American as a regular person, and not in a traditionally black role. Nichelle stayed and became a very beloved character in Star Trek fandom.
Many Christians at this time believed that slavery and/or racial segregation was Biblical and cherry-picked verses from the Bible to prove their point. Examine your beliefs. Are there any times you have considered a person to be ‘less than’ and not fit for a certain position? Make sure your criteria is actually Biblical. Some things may disqualify a person for a position, such as it is not wise put an unrepentant thief in charge of the money. (Though ironically Jesus did put Judas in charge of the money bag even though He knew Judas was stealing from it… John 12: 6) God has put many imperfect people into high positions. Discuss the Biblical leaders you are aware of in scripture, and think about why God chose them (David, Paul, Peter), and why others were disqualified from service (Saul, the rich young ruler, some of the pharisees). Often the factors we think of as important are not the criteria God uses.
Things you may wish to google: Nichelle Nichols’ interview discussing her meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (It brought tears to my eyes, so you may want to grab the tissues!)
Women in church positions is also a current ‘hot topic.’ Discuss your views on women in ministry and their place in society. CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) has resources which may aid your discussion. I also have a book entitled Living Biblically: Women in the Bible that you may find helpful.
Biblical references: There is also a reference to God in this episode, when McCoy says, “Lord, forgive me,” as he is put in the difficult position of killing the salt creature. While some maintain that Star Trek promotes humanistic and atheistic beliefs, you will find many references to God in the episodes by Gene Rodenberry. I will attempt to note them as they occur.
Whew! Pat yourself on the back! Episode one was packed with difficult topics, but hopefully you got through this relatively unscathed with a deeper understanding of why you believe as you do…