As if the crew of Voyager weren't diverse
enough, the ship encounters a number of different species with their own sets of
beliefs. Making first contact is not new in the Star Trek universe, but in the case
of Voyager there are a number of more spiritual encounters or conflicts that
arise over religious or cultural ideas. Considering the ways in which the crew
interact with these cultures is telling of the way they treat alternative
religious beliefs or ideas.
"Caretaker" is the first episode of Voyager, features certain ideas and
comments that are of a religious
nature. The premise of the actual episode is somewhat complicated. Voyager is
sent to chase down a Maquis vessel on which one of Captain Janeway's officers is
serving. In the process both Voyager and the Maquis ship get flung into the
Delta Quadrant. Shortly after arriving the two crews find themselves on a planet
inhabited by the Ocampa, a kind, rather simple alien species. They soon find
that the thing that brought them to the Delta Quadrant is an entity called the
Caretaker, an explorer from another galaxy that accidentally turned the Ocampan
planet into a desert with his technology. He has been bringing people into the
Delta Quadrant in the hopes that he could find a suitable match so he might
procreate and have someone to complete his work. He is unsuccessful, and
although the Caretaker's Array is the only way Voyager and the Maquis have to
get home, Janeway chooses to destroy it so that the Kazon, a violent race that
lives on the surface of the Ocampan planet cannot use the Array against the more
innocent, protected Ocampa.
Religious ideas come up because the Caretaker is, in many ways, a god for the
Ocampa. The Ocampa don't know the truth of what the Caretaker is, they simply
know he provides for them and keeps them safe. They live below the surface and
never choose to go above it, because it's a desert and they have everything they
need where they are. In Janeway's discussion with the Caretaker, he explains
it's important to procreate because the Ocampa are children that can't care for
themselves. Janeway tells him children need to learn to grow up. The entire
conversation could be a veiled argument about the futility and falseness of
religion. After all, the false god premise is certainly not new to Star Trek.
However, Janeway chooses to destroy the Array to fulfill the desires of the
Caretaker and keep the Ocampa protected that much longer.
"False Profits" is a third season episode in which Voyager discovers that two Ferengi
who have found their way to the Delta Quadrant have co-opted a planetŐs religion
and altered it to make themselves appear sacred.
The Ferengi are an Alpha Quadrant species that prize wealth above everything. In
their belief system commerce is encouraged as is making a profit at any cost.
When Ferengi die they believe they will be judged according to their
accumulation of wealth. Those that have been financially successful can bribe
their way into the Divine Treasury. Those that have failed to find wealth are
sent to the Vault of Eternal Destitution.
Considering these beliefs, it's hard to cast too much judgement on the rather
resourceful Ferengi that founded a religion in the Delta Quadrant. Voyager
didn't see it that way, however, and Janeway decides to stop them from taking
advantage of these people. While the initial plan fails, the crew of Voyager is
eventually successful in removing the Ferengi from the planet while not
contradicting the beliefs of the people on the planet.
This episode involves Janeway and her crew rejecting the belief system of the
Ferengi (or at the very least insisting they practice their faith in a different
way), while refusing to uncover the planet's beliefs for what they are.
That is most likely not the intended message of the episode. The Ferengi are
always portrayed rather satirically, more around for comic relief than anything
substantial. And Voyager's acceptance of the alien religion stems from their
disinterest in violating the Prime Directive. However, the Prime Directive does
not apply to Federation citizens, thus the Ferengi were not in violation of it.
In fact, Voyager violates the Directive by interfering with the Ferengi's
interference. Thus, the episode seems to suggest that there's not a problem with
belief so long as it's not easily proven incorrect by Starfleet and Federation
"Blink of an Eye" considers the origins of mythologies and religions and what to do when
the truth is finally discovered.
In "Blink of an Eye" Voyager discovers finds itself trapped in the orbit of a planet.
Voyager's presence there appears as a bright glowing star and causes seismic tremors
on the surface. Interestingly, on the planet, time
passes much faster than on Voyager: roughly 1 second on Voyager equals a day on the planet.
The longer Voyager spends in orbit of the planet, the more engulfed the ship becomes in the
planet's mythology and beliefs. "The Sky Ship," as the planet's inhabitants begin to refer to Voyager,
is also a point of scientific curiosity, and one of the primary thing that led the planet to develop
space travel was so they could solve some mysteries regarding the Sky Ship.
Eventually the citizens of the planet learn enough to find their way to Voyager.
The pilot that safely transitions to Voyager's time is the first of his people to learn
what the Sky Ship. Considering he prayed to it as a child and everyone believes it's been in the sky
for millenia and is now just learning it's only been there a few days, he takes it very well.
However, there's a problem in this story. Voyager has become trapped in the orbit of the planet and
have been unable to find their way out of it. They want the alien pilot to go back to his planet, tell
his people what's going on, and try to help Voyager get free from the surface. He's apprehensive.
Almost all advancements on the planet have come because of curiousity and beliefs regarding
Voyager. The pilot is afraid that once his people know that Voyager is not that different from
themselves, progress will end.
Attacks from the planet cause the pilot to make up his mind and go back to his planet. Eventually
he convinces the planet to stop firing, and due to technological advancements that take minutes in Voyager
time, the planet is able to free the ship from its orbit and Voyager goes on its merry way.
This is one of those "false god" premises that were so popular in early Trek, but with a few
differences. For one, Voyager was the false god. Secondly, there was no great uncovering. The
planet was not deemed silly for being so interested in Voyager, and the Doctor, after spending some
time on the planet, comes to love and appreciate the people and their culture and respect the role
Voyager has played in the planet's progression.
It's also interesting to note that there was fear the planet would no longer advance was they knew
the truth. Of course, that proved to be false as the people continued to help free Voyager and would likely
be interested in advancing to the point that one day they might explore space in a similar manner.
Overall, the episode provides a different perspective on the "false god" idea while keeping with the more
accepting and religiously curious tone of Voyager.
In "Prophecy," Voyager learns B'elanna is not the only Klingon in the Delta Quadrant.
It turns out a small sect of Klingons who believed the Klingon Empire had lost its way
left on a voyage to find their savior.
When Kohlar, the captain of the Klingon Bird of Prey meet B'elanna and notice she's pregnant
he asks to immediately return to his ship. A commercial break and destruction of a ship later
we learn the reason behind his curious behavior. He believes B'elanna Torres' baby is the Kuv'a'magh
and the scrolls insist that when they find the Kuv'a'magh, they should "cast off the old ways
as soon as they found the Kuv'a'magh," so they take up residence on Voyager hoping that it,
and the unborn baby, will lead them where they need to go.
Problems arise, however, when the rest of the Klingons meet B'elanna and discover she's
not fully Klingon. Even more trouble arises when they discover the baby's father isn't Klingon
Soon it's discovered that Kohlar doesn't know whether or not the baby is the Kuv'a'magh,
but he's sick of travelling and knows his people need to settle down. He thinks
if he can convince his followers that the baby is, in fact, the messiah, they can be convinced
to finally make a home.
Kohlar asks B'elanna to help him convince the other Klingons that her baby is the Kuv'a'magh
by "stretch[ing] the truth a little." For example, the scrolls say, "the mother of the Kuv'a'magh
will be an offworlder" and she "would live a life of solitude and endure many hardships." It also
says she would "have won a glorious victory at against an army of 10,000 warriors." B'elanna
Kohlar points out she was born on Kessick IV, a Federation colony, not the Klingon homeworld.
She also lived the life of an outcast as the only Klingon on the planet. When it comes to the 10,000
warriors she was supposed to have defeated, well, she did help destroy some borg cubes.
In the end, however, the discovery that B'elanna and the baby have contracted a virus
leads the Klingons to the conclusion that they have not found the Kuv'a'magh and they attempt to take
over the ship. Luckily, the Doctor is able to synthesize an antivirus using the fetus' hybrid
stem cells. Because the infant saved their lives, literally, they come to believe she is their
savior and Voyager is able to lead them to a satisfactory home.
Some could argue that this episode is somewhat antagonistic towards religion. The idea that the scrolls
can mean whatever you want them to could be applied to all sorts of religious beliefs. However,
there's lots of positivity. It is never determined whether the child is or is not the Kuv'a'magh.
And although Kohlar is willing to be rather flexible with his interpretation of the scrolls,
he does not disregard the possibility that the baby is who insists she is.
There's also an interesting scene in which B'elanna prays with Kohlar, and is reminded of her
prayers as a child. Now, as an adult, she seems to find a new appreciation.
In the end, B'elanna witnesses a Klingon who doesn't take his faith to extremes,
but who still believes passionately, and she is inspired by his example, and develops a respect
for a faith she still has great trouble accepting, and once again, Voyager portrays religious
adherents without making any value judgements. Because both the good guys and the bad guys
come from the same group, the beliefs of the sect are not judged, but rather the way they
go about believing. Once again, it's suggested that rationality, and consideration of the many
possibilities religious teaching hold, is the best way to approach belief.