(Air Date: Week Of 04/02/97)
Did it really come as a big surprise that Star Trek turns out to have figured in the Heaven's Gate theology of UFOs and salvation? Sure, you go to a convention and most of the folks there are perfectly fine upstanding citizens indulging in a little harmless role-playing. But there's always the fringe element that you suspect may be taking this all a little too seriously and by that I mean they may not know that this is make-believe.
Many thanks to Mad Professor Mike Marano for drawing our attention to the current speculation that there was a specific episode of ST that planted this very, very bad seed. I speak, of course, of episode 51, "Return to Tomorrow". For those of you not familiar with the canon, the plot line went a little something like this. Kirk, Spock and attractive guest crewmember Diana Muldaur encounter three survivors of an extinct civilization who currently exist as pure consciousness. These disembodied entities have whiled away the eons in specially made spheres, that can double as mood lighting in a pinch, as they waited patiently for just the right starship to happen by and help them out. It seems that they need to borrow a few containers. The containers, and I just know you're way ahead of me here, are, of course, human bodies. Non- corporealness, while easy on the life-support systems, doesn't allow for projects such as building robot bodies for themselves. In exchange for the loan, they promise the secrets of their highly advanced technology and the return of the containers in good condition. Naturally things go awry when, after inhabiting a crewmember, one wayward entitiy remembers that bodies are also good for, among other things, nookie. As a result, and because they are superior beings after all, they decide on permanent bodylessness and bid a fond farewell to the Enterprise in order to pursue an endless, drifiting tour of the universe.
Do, Ti and all the other musical notes couldn't glom onto the episode with the tribbles. Uh-uh. The worst consequence of that might been a global run on mohair, but no, it had to be this one. Hey, wait a minute. Episode 51? Area 51? Coincidence? Hmmmm. You be the judge.
The cult was also inordinately fond of the X-Files, but as yet I've discovered no direct connection between a particular episode of that show and what happened. On the other hand, I can't help thinking about H.P. Lovecraft's short story, "The Thing on the Doorstep", which also addresses body hopping personalities, but in a far more insidious fashion. Lovecraft was always going on and on about things coming from beyond the stars. And they weren't friendly things, either, so now I've begun to worry about what other cults might be out there, taking the whole Lovecraft thing way too seriously.
Mostly, though, I can't help thinking about poor Gene Rodenberry, or, as he's known to his flock of Trekkers, The Great Bird of the Universe, whose ashes are orbiting out there even as I speak. If he weren't already dead, this Heaven's Gate thing might well have killed him.
Copyright 1997 Andrea Chase
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