Paradise Lost

Posted: September 27, 2013

Rural Pen

This week, while on my bicycle cresting a hill that gives way to the most beautiful view in the Valley, I was dismayed to see it marred by the construction of a huge turkey house. I wondered about the differences in what people see.

From this hilltop, I see cornfields, pastures, woods, a few silos, the river, and beyond, the Blue Ridge Mountains. A scene that never fails to calm and nurture me. From this hilltop, others saw a place to erect a large metal building, to expand their business, to make more money.

On this same ride, I passed a subdivision of houses, all built in the same style. In each driveway was a white or silver car; on the wooden deck was a shiny gas grill; on the front porch was unused white furniture.

My thoughts turned to corporatism, consumerism and conformity. It was through this contemplative lens the other night that I watched “Star Trek Voyager.”

In this episode, entitled “Bliss,” the lost crew detects what they think is a wormhole that leads to Earth, but is really a bio-organic mass that can read their minds. They all want to get home, to reunite with loved ones, to settle into idealized lives. All except for Seven, who cannot remember Earth, and Naomi Wildman, who has never seen it.

At first, Captain Janeway realizes it’s a deception, but her desire lures her in. We see the moment of her capitulation when she enters the astrometrics lab and, on the megatron-size screen, sees the image of planet Earth.

Seven tries to warn them of the deception to no avail. So, Voyager heads into the anomaly and the deceived crew members lose consciousness.

Seven makes contact with Qatai, whose ship is also trapped inside the anomaly. Qatai reveals that the creature consumes starships by telepathically tricking their crews into their hearts’ desires and altering their sensor readings. He has been trying to destroy the creature for years, after it killed his wife and family.

Seven, Qatai and the Doctor (an emergency medical hologram), come up with a plan to force the creature to eject both ships by igniting some of Voyager’s antimatter with Qatai’s weapons. They execute the plan and it appears to work. Sensors indicate that both ships are free of the creature.

But Qatai knows they are really still inside the creature, that their escape is what Seven desired and the creature is now influencing her. Even the nonconformist has an exploitable desire: to escape from conformity. Ha!

The creature is the corporation, which has a need to gobble spaceships in order to continue its existence. Right or wrong is not debated. It is the very nature of the creature/corporation.

The crew is the consumer, which has a desire to return home, a desire which is exploited by the corporation. As crew members see the sensor readings and images of what they want, their desire turns into action. I must have that. Now.

Their capitulation turns into conformity. They all view the same image. They are united in their desire for this counterfeit product. They all start acting the same way. Bliss.

Of course, Voyager escapes the anomaly. Qatai convinces Seven that the creature has now deceived her. Seven must make a decision: to believe that the images and sensor readings are real, or believe that Qatai knows what he’s talking about. She resolves to ignore what her eyes are telling her and to trust him. Thus, she saves the consumers from conforming to the corporation’s exploitation.

Sigh. Would that there were more Sevens in this world.

Luanne Austin lives in Mount Sidney. Contact her at, on Facebook or care of the DN-R.

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