Click here to listen to UCP Audio Commentaries for these films.
It could be argued that talking about the Resurrection midway through Holy Week is a bit like shooting off fireworks on June 29th. But, as I mentioned in the Star Trek III audio commentary, these films are like Scripture jazz. All of the elements are there, but sometimes they’re rearranged.
In Star Trek III we have, in many ways, a very different picture of the resurrection from the one depicted in the Gospels. In fact, one YouTube commentator said that the Spock-as-Christ metaphor “falls apart completely” in this film because “Jesus Christ rose from the dead under his own power…whereas Mr. Spock needed a whole lot of help from his friends.”
She’s right, of course, that Spock’s resurrection doesn’t match up with the gospel narrative in some significant ways. But that doesn’t mean the metaphor “falls apart completely,” just that it’s been remixed. There are two events in the film that closely resemble the resurrection narratives in the Gospels – the discovery of McCoy in Spock’s quarters, where the seal has been broken and two guards stand silent and David and Saavik finding Spock’s empty torpedo casket with his grave clothes left behind. It’s as though Biblical imagery is used twice to denote two parts of the resurrection – the spiritual and the physical.
And, in a very real sense, Spock is alive at this point in the film. His body and soul are not joined, but he is alive. Of course, we need some kind of adventure to take the Enterprise crew through another movie and it would be too easy for a sci-fi story to just have Spock show up and say, “Hi.” So, things are remixed. But, since they are, let’s ask what value that might have. If the story in Star Trek III doesn’t directly reflect the events immediately following the resurrection of Christ after a certain point, what does it reflect?
As a mysterious girl called Erin points out in these three videos, the film mirrors where we are now, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ. In my last post, I said that the cross transforms how we deal with both death and life. Star Trek II is about how we deal with death in light of the gospel. Star Trek III is about how we deal with life.
The Genesis effect, in these films and in a Biblical worldview, is “life from lifelessness.” In the same way that this effect, which Kirk calls “the power of God,” has regenerated Spock, so God’s power has regenerated Christ and all those who put their faith in him. The resurrection is the living result of Christ’s sacrifice. But it’s not just something that comes after physical death. It’s a renewal that comes to our hearts right here and now.
Because of Spock’s sacrifice, Kirk and company are now willing to give up everything, even their own lives, in service to him. Spock asks them to do this, but he cannot force them. They must choose for themselves. Similarly, Jesus calls us to obedience, but he does not call us to earn our salvation through our actions. He has won the victory for us and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. So, it can be easy to decide that it doesn’t matter what we do because Jesus has our sins covered.
But it does matter.
“We love because [Christ] loved us first,” John’s writes in his first epistle, “If anyone says ’I love God’ and yet hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” How we live is important because it demonstrates where our hearts are oriented. If we truly understand that Christ is our Savior, he will also be our Lord. To live in grateful response to the redemption he has won for us is to, like Kirk and the Enterprise crew, devote ourselves completely to him at the expense of all else, knowing that our truest fulfillment is found in him.
But it’s not something we do to earn a prize or escape punishment. It’s simply the only logical response. As Erin points out in her video: What if, when Admiral Morrow told Kirk that he’d lose everything if he went after Spock, Kirk had capitulated? What if he’d told his crew mates, “Morrow’s right. I can’t risk my career for Spock.” The audience would have been incredulous. Why? Because no one who has received the kind of love that Spock showed would be expected to just walk away. Kirk has to give everything for Spock. He simply has no other alternative.
“What I did,” he tells Sarek, “I had to do.” When Sarek questions Kirk about the cost, including Kirk’s ship and even his son, Kirk replies, “If I hadn’t tried, the cost would’ve been my soul.” Or, as Paul says in Philippians 3, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”
And, if we read further into the symbols of the story and beyond the literal events, we see that Kirk and company are journeying to rejoin Spock’s body with his eternal spiritual essence. In the same way, we as Christ’s Body (the Church) are ultimately rejoined with the eternal Christ. On Vulcan, we have a picture of communion with Christ in a heavenly place, a joyful reunion as one body with the one we’ve risked everything for.
The rewards at the end of a life of faithfulness are great. But our focus must not be on crowns in glory. If we chase after doing good works for our own gain, we miss the point entirely. Our focus must be always, only on Jesus. It is him we seek above all else because he is the one who loved us first and has saved us for himself. We are not saved by what we have done, but by what he has done for us. Because of this, our “first, best destiny,” as Spock puts it, is found in him. Therefore, in gratitude, we pursue him, seeking to honor him with our lives with the kind of devotion and dedication the Enterprise crew show Spock in Star Trek III. It is then that we are fulfilled. It is then that we are fully alive, fully human. It is then that we truly “Live Long and Prosper.”
For more on Spock as a Christ figure in these films, you can read my essays in Spockology. You can even get a signed, personalized copy!