22009 "The Magicks of Megas-Tu"

(airdate: October 27, 1973)

Writer: Larry Brody
Director: Hal Sutherland

Lucien: James Doohan

Asmodeus: Ed Bishop

Stardate: 1254.4

Captain's Log: The Enterprise travels to the center of the galaxy, hoping to observe the creation of new matter there. They are pulled into a different universe where the normal physical laws do not apply. The ship begins to shut down, but they are saved by a being named Lucien, who informs them that this universe runs on magic. Lucien shows them his home planet, Megas-Tu, but the other Megans are less pleased to see humans; they had visited Earth long ago and been persecuted for their use of magic. The crew of the Enterprise is thus put on trial, with Spock defending. Kirk and Spock are able to argue that humanity has changed since the Megans last visited, and not even the revelation that Lucien is in fact Lucifer will prevent Kirk from defending the rights of sentient creatures. The Megans are pleased; this was in fact a test to verify that humanity had indeed changed, and they passed. Humanity is now welcome to visit Megas-Tu.

Whoops!: We realize that stardates in general bear little relation to any sort of reality, but why is this one so much lower than all the surrounding episodes, most of which are in the 5000s?
     There's a consistent problem of using the word "galaxy" when they mean "universe", with the Milky Way having been created from a giant explosion, and with the creation point described as the center of the galaxy and the center of "everything". [Let's ignore the idea that the universe even has a center.] The idea that matter is constantly being created is also odd. It actually bears some resemblance to the steady state theory, which postulated that the universe simply always was and had been, and that, while the universe is expanding, it must remain the same density (according to the perfect cosmological principle) - so therefore new matter must constantly be created. But steady state theory assumes no initial explosion (proponent Fred Hoyle famously disliked this explosion theory, referring to it derisively as the "big bang" - hence the term), unlike what's happening here. This therefore seems to be a muddling of the two cosmological theories. [The steady state theory was fairly decisively shot down in 1964, with the discovery of cosmic background radiation, so it's independently a little strange that any of these ideas show up in a show from 1973.]
     Why are there Spanish conquistadors in the Megans' representation of 17th-century Salem?

Library Computer: The center of the galaxy is an area where matter is still being created. (Kirk calls it the "creation point".) It's an area that looks a lot like a yellow-orange cloud, with lots of colorful stars and clusters close together, along with a lot of swirling energy, while explosions go off around them. There is a "matter-energy whirlwind" there that can pull in starships, accelerating them to tremendous speeds (Sulu announces they've reached warp 10). In the center of this whirlwind is a gateway to another universe that's "not in time and space as we understand it". In this universe the laws of science no longer apply, and everything on the Enterprise ceases to be functional - even the chronometers. [Pretty much all of this will be later contradicted by Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but we'll discuss this more under that entry.] Fortunately, a being named Lucien arrives on the ship and restores power using magic before the crew suffocates. Lucien appeared to the Enterprise crew as a Pan-like figure, with goat legs, a bare human chest, a goatee, and two small horns growing out of his forehead.
     This alternate universe contains a red-and-white striped planet named Megas-Tu, which is home to an intelligent species, the Megans, who are the only native life forms in this universe. The principles of this universe were based not on science but on belief, channeled via magic, and people there could essentially will things into being. Each Megan barring Lucien specialized in their own particular form of magic, and thus they engaged the services of each other when they wanted things (such as philters and buildings) that their own magic couldn't provide. Lucien described himself as a generalist, not tied to any specific form of magic, and also a troublemaker. He was drawn to humanity because they, like him, were drawn to ask questions and continue learning, unlike the other Megans who were content to remain in their own areas of understanding. Maintaining bodily integrity was considered unnatural to the native Megans, and doing so was difficult, according to Lucien.
     The Megans sought companionship and eventually made their way into our universe, where they encountered Earth and its inhabitants. They acted as advisors to humanity, drawing the powers of their own universe to aid people, but some people invariably tried to convince the Megans to use their powers solely to serve their own selfish ends, and when the Megans refused these people would declare the Megans as witches and warlocks and turn the other humans against them. The Megans finally had enough and retreated back to their home universe. Their last encounter with humanity was in 1693, in Salem, Massachusetts. [Spock says 1691, but the Salem witch trials ran 1692 to 1693.] The lead Megan here, Asmodeus, acts as the prosecutor of humanity in a new version of the Salem witch trials, with all the Megans dressed appropriately. Asmodeus is appointed because he's a specialist in the ethics of magic. Spock acts for the defense. The Megans create this situation ostensibly to charge humanity with the same behavior and fears they'd experienced centuries earlier, but in actuality to make certain that humanity had indeed changed, and that the computer records aboard the Enterprise were accurate. Not even the revelation that Lucien was in fact Lucifer could shake Kirk's sense of justice and compassion, and so humanity was ultimately welcomed by the Megans.
     Many of the magic rituals found on Earth had their origins in Megan science. Spock was able to use a pentagram to help focus magic energy, moving a Vulcan chess piece (similar-looking to Earth chess, although a bit more abstract) with it, while Kirk is able to draw on belief to fight Asmodeus in a magic battle.
     General Order 1 states that no starship may interfere with the normal development of any alien life or society. [In other words, General Order 1 is another name for the Prime Directive.]

Final Analysis: "My readings indicate we are not in time and space as we understand it." An attempt to "explain" magic in the Star Trek universe, "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" is also another clear example of the advantages of animation over live-action. Pity the actual story is rather dull.

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