‘Star Trek’ Ethics

Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures
A still from the episode “The Measure of A Man,” one of the “Star Trek” episodes that will be discussed.


Space – the final frontier. Just because humans in the futuristic society of the “Star Trek” universe have headed into the stars doesn’t mean they have escaped grappling with the same issues we Earthbound humans deal with every day. Issues that include what is right, how to behave in certain circumstances and what constitutes being a “good person.” Through the lens of this universe, we see ourselves and the issues that we encounter from another perspective. St. George’s Episcopal Church invites guests to watch a few specific episodes of “Star Trek” with the hope that it will foster in-depth discussions of the moral implications of each story and how they relate to us today.

“It’s kind of like water cooler talk. After an episode of a popular show, a lot of people used to talk around the water cooler,” said Rev. Anthony Keller, who will lead the facilitated discussion along with Rev. Amy Pringle. “And we think ‘Star Trek’ is a cool way to discuss [these ethical issues].”

Beginning on Tuesday, Oct. 10, the church will open its doors to screen one episode each week over the next six weeks. The episodes have been chosen from the original “Star Trek” series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Voyager,” and each one will have an ethical theme central to the plot. The first episode will be “The Measure of A Man,” an episode from TNG in which Lt. Commander Data, an android, is to be turned off and decommissioned. He has to go to Starfleet court to argue that he is a new kind of life form and deserves all the rights of any other sentient being. Viewers will gather to watch the first half of the episode, break for dessert, coffee and a short discussion, and then finish the episode. They will then discuss more fully the moral dilemma posed in the episode and how it was resolved versus how the attendees would have handled it.

“It’s up for the group to decide or discuss what the dilemma is. Amy and I are there as facilitators, not really instructors. We just hope to open up a discussion,” Rev. Keller said. “The idea of treating everybody with human dignity, of course, is part of our baptismal covenant in the Episcopal Church, so that may come up, but I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll let the group dictate it. That’s what a facilitated discussion is; we’re not there to tell people what to think, we’re there to offer them the opportunity to think.”

The screenings and discussions will be begin Oct. 10 (Stardate 95377.47) from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St George’s Episcopal Church, 808 Foothill Blvd. in La Cañada. There will be a donation request at the door of $5 per meeting or $20 for the full run of six meetings to cover the cost of the desserts provided.