A recent episode of “CSI”, entitled “CSI: A Space Oddity”, celebrated sci-fi television and “Star Trek” with a respectful parody of the original series. While off duty, Hodges (Wallace Langham) attends a sci-fi convention, the 4th annual WhatifitCon. He is surprised to meet co-worker, Wendy (Liz Vassey), dressed as Yeoman Malloy, a lead character from the cult sci-fi series, “Astro Quest” [read that as, “Star Trek”]. Wendy “stuns” him further by confessing that Astro Quest is her favorite show.
Mimicking the unique phenomenon of “Star Trek”, “Astro Quest” is revealed to be a popular sci-fi series from yesteryear, which spawned a massive fan base who practically worship the show. They don costumes and make-up to look like the Astro Quest starship crew and its various alien characters. They purchase facsimiles of the show’s high-tech weapons and equipment. Some of them even act out scenes and speak in character dialogue, speaking about their “mission” and protecting their “crew”.
As with real-life “trekkies”, their extreme devotion to the show’s fantasy world gets a little scary.
It threatens to become even scarier soon afterward. For the highlight of the convention, TV producer Jonathan Danson (Reg Rogers) addresses the crowd with the highly-anticipated sneak peek at his new series: a revival of the old “Astro Quest” and its heroic captain, Artemis Bishop. He builds up to his presentation by walking among the fans, and asking them directly, “Why don’t we see anyone like Artemis Bishop today? Are there any such heroes among us?”
He then shows his clip, in which the familiar heroes of “Astro Quest” are presented with a horrifying predicament. Captain Bishop faces off against a hostile alien who has taken a crew member hostage. The captain assures the captive woman that everything will be all right. But then the alien kills her, bringing Captain Bishop to his knees in misery. The alien tells Bishop that nothing will be “all right” ever again, as he dictates terms of Bishop’s enslavement.
The stunned crowd watches for a few seconds, as if unsure of what they have witnessed. Then an angry fan shout at the director, “You suck!” (Side note: the critical fan was played by Battlestar Galactica’s producer Ron Moore, who similarly “re-made” a darker version of that original series.) The rest of the viewers join in, building to a near-riot against Danson’s “vision”.
Actually, it was Danson who never really “got it”. That became apparent when he started asking his rhetorical question about why there no heroes like “Artemis Bishop” today. He had based his question on a false assumption that no such heroes exist.
Danson had apparently never heard of Mahatma Ghandi, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or Abraham Lincoln. People who made sacrifices in order to fight for a higher goal or to free an enslaved people. Danson must have missed the reports of heroism that followed the devastating attack on New York City’s twin towers on 9/11. He also seems to have ignored all military history, that tells of soldiers who sacrificed their own comfort and risked their lives to rescue comrades and innocent bystanders. Since Danson failed to notice these obvious examples, he would probably never even consider the friends and family members who demonstrate personal heroism on a regular basis, by the way they encourage us, sacrifice their time for us, and inspire us by their example.
The reality is that no heroes exist in Danson’s soul.
Those heroes of history are not lofty ideals to which no one can attain. They’re all real people, and most of them never planned to become heroes, let alone legends. They simply did what they felt was necessary at the time. They became heroes by placing the needs of others above their own. The same kind of self-sacrifice that was demonstrated frequently in the original “Star Trek” series.
What is to prevent any one of us from doing the same things? By making small sacrifices for others in everyday life, we can prepare to make greater sacrifices when called to do so. No one can know if he or she will be called upon to do something that will impact history, stretching for centuries beyond our own lives. Any one of us can – and some of us will – be called on to become the next Lincoln, Ghandi, or King. But it starts with simply believing that you can make a difference, however great or small.
When Danson is found murdered a short while later, Hodges calls in to report the homicide to Captain Brass (Paul Guilfoyle), delivering Dr. McCoy’s classic line, “He’s dead, Jim.” Given the hostile response to Danson’s new version of the beloved “Astro Quest” series, the CSI investigators wonder whether one of the fans killed the misguided producer.
When asked if Danson’s alternate vision could disturb fans enough to provoke murder, Archie (Archie Kao) comments that “people don’t like it when you mess with their heroes.”
People also don’t like it when cynics claim that heroism itself doesn’t exist.
While struggling with his growing attraction to Wendy, Hodges re-thinks the way their team is viewing the evidence. He and Wendy work together to uncover a vital clue to unraveling the case, and they both feel a sense of pride in their accomplishment. A little bit of hard work, creativity and passionate commitment paid off, helping bring a killer to justice. But for Hodges and Wendy, it’s nothing heroic. Just another day of doing their routine job. It’s how they do it – their devotion to doing the job well for the sake of those counting on them – that makes a difference.
People who commit their lives to a higher purpose, living for the benefit of others, bring us hope for creating a better tomorrow. The same ideal that fictional TV series like “Star Trek” presented. The same ideals that inspired future poets, astronauts, rescue workers, doctors, and many other real-life heroes. Believing in heroes, and heroism itself, inspires us to create a better world for future generations.
Whether it’s on the job, at home, or out with friends, there actually are heroes like Artemis Bishop today.
One of them could be you.
Thursday, May 28th, 2009