I was delighted to have the chance to make a guest appearance in Steven Schweitzer’s class on theology and science fiction at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana. Steve is working on a book about theology and science fiction, as well as teaching a class on the subject, and it was a real delight to get to spend several hours talking about this topic – focusing mostly on Star Trek.
One line of conversation in the class will, I think, lead to an article, hopefully in collaboration with a student in that class, who suggested that Guinan might be the de facto chaplain on the Enterprise in The Next Generation. I think that is interesting not least because her formal role seems to bartender. And yet she offers a kind of conversation that one doesn’t get from most bartenders, and that one wouldn’t expect to get from Counselor Troi, either. And so I think there is something worth exploring there.
The doctor – sorry, Emergency Medical Hologram – on Voyager also came up often. And so I found myself thinking about a holographic chaplain and what one might or might not be able to offer. What do you think? Would a holographic chaplain be better than nothing when no human clergy are available? Sometimes better than a human chaplain? Always worse? That too could be an article, or part of the same article.
When this came up in the class, the words that were uttered seemed to me to call out to become a meme. And so here they are. Please do share one or both of them. Let me know which you like best. Or make a better one. But more importantly, please do share your thoughts on the topics I mentioned above. Is Guinan for all practical purposes the chaplain on the Enterprise-D? What does it say that Gene Roddenberry was adamant that Starfleet starships not have chaplains, and yet the scripts and characters called out for someone to fill that role? And on the other hand, what does it say that the characters sought a spiritual and insightful bartender rather than an official religious figure of some sort?
This has the makings of a great article, doesn’t it?
Also related to the class discussion (and featuring an image I was sorry I did not have somewhere in my Powerpoint):