Gods Aspiring to be Human, Humans Aspiring to be Gods

Gods Aspiring to be Human, Humans Aspiring to be Gods January 12, 2013

This post will focus more on Fringe than Doctor Who or Sherlock Holmes, but this quote that came to my attention is relevant to a key element in the show. The original words of the quote in their exact form are:

Sherlock Holmes is a human being who aspires to be a god and the Doctor is a god who aspires to be human.

The source of the quote is a Q&A session Steven Moffat participated in. It seems like a throwaway remark in the context, but there is something worth reflecting on in it nevertheless. Human stories about the desire to be something else – a toy that wants to be real, a human that wants to be a god, a mermaid that wants to be a human – pervade and permeate our history, and continue to feature prominently in our storytelling. It is worth reflecting on why.

It is also worth discussing whether and to what extent this accurately reflects the two shows. I won't comment, especially as I have not watched Sherlock Holmes – yet.

But we saw the theme even in last night's episode of Fringe, with September having been “punished” by having his Observer tech removed, so that he is now a human being like all others, and goes by the name Donald. He doesn't view it as much of a punishment, given his longstanding appreciation of life in the 21st century. That whole story arc is full of theological resonances, as symbolized in the episode's featuring of a Bible on Donald's desk, as well as music. But the explicit story also focused on the fact that human beings reached the point the Observers did by beginning benignly, sacrificing jealousy to make room for increased intelligence. It was only later that other emotions like love were sacrificed.

And that is the importance of the boy, now referred to as Michael, who is in essence September's son, as he was the source of the genetic material used to produce him. He is indeed an anomaly – he has all the intelligence Observers do, but without sacrificing the emotion. And that is why “the boy is important.” The plan, we have now learned, involves sending the boy forward in time to when the breakthrough is made that takes humanity down the path to becoming Observers. It is hoped to show that it is possible to achieve greater intelligence without sacrificing emotion. Becausing in becoming more “godlike” in one respect, we had become less than human in others.

And it is, of course, classic J. J. Abrams with rewriting timelines.

But for someone interested in religion and science fiction, the boy known as Michael is particularly fascinating. Precisely by having achieved intelligence, emotion, and empathy at a level not previously known to or experienced by human beings, he cannot communicate with others, and others cannot fully understand him. Through empathic connections a glimpse can be gained. But he transcends even time to such an extent as to represent a very different sort of existence.

That is the usefulness of shows like Fringe for those reflecting on theological matters. If we imagine a human being of the future who transcends us, and their thoughts are not are thoughts, neither are their ways our ways, then how much more so when it comes to talking about whatever Reality transcends and encompasses all of time and space?


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Gakusei Don

    I think there is an interesting difference here between religion and science fiction with regards to “being human”. In Christianity, humans are fallen creatures, prone to evil, struggling to be good, to be in the “image of God”. In science fiction like Star Trek, “being human” is something to strive for, by Data and various alien races.

    I cringe whenever I see the Star Trek movie where Captain Kirk says of Spock at Spock’s funeral: “I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels… his was the most… human”. I always think “Mr Spock would not be pleased by this description!” Spock, like Sherlock Holmes, always put rationality before emotion, and my guess is that this is what most humans would want to be able to do, i.e. not getting rid of emotions, but the ability to think clearly while still having them. That’s not wanting to be god, but to be an ideal human.