Friday, July 05, 2013

Secret Star Trek: Meet Your New Gods

Just as we learned that something very much like the Council of Nine predates Andrija Puharich's contact with them, so may the presence of the Nine inside Trek prefigure Gene Roddenberry's involvement with Lab-9 in 1975. 

In fact, not only are themes directly relating to the Council of Nine showing up in the first season of the original series, they are not doing so out of whole cloth; there's a smoking gun connection to the Round Table and The Nine inside the doors of the production studios of Star Trek itself, under Roddenberry's nose...

When Paramount worked up a new Star Trek series after Deep Space Nine and Voyager ended, they had no choice but to go back in time. Why? 

Because a sequel to DS9 would no choice but to have the Federation converting en masse to the Bajoran religion.

Not only did the Prophets prove themselves to be real, they demonstrably saved the Federation from destruction by the Dominion and they made a demigod of an important Starfleet officer who also played a crucial role in the defeat of the the most serious threat the entire Alpha Quadrant ever faced.
"Roddenberry Future" or not, human beings don't suddenly stop being human just because of Gene's latter-day fantasies about human behavior.

Michael Piller said Roddenberry rejected a script because he said children wouldn't mourn for their dead mothers in his idealized future, which shows that perhaps a plot had been lost along the way somewhere.

But to speak of the Prophets is to speak of The Council of Nine, whether directly or by inference. It can be argued that the title Deep Space Nine is a double entendre, referring both to the space station and to the Prophets themselves of whom there seemed to be nine

And as we've seen, to describe the Prophets is to describe the Nine:
In normal space, the Prophets can only physically communicate with outsiders by possessing a body and using it as a vessel. The host is conscious of what is happening but has no control over its actions. 
The Prophets have no sense of linear time, so it is likely they live outside of the normal space-time continuum; however their existence has been recorded on Bajor for at least 30,000 years.- Memory Alpha
And then of course there's the fact that the star of Deep Space Nine uses the same title - "Emissary" - as the lead figure in the Council of Nine:
I am the beginning. I am the end. I am the emissary. But the original time I was on the Planet Earth was 34,000 of your years ago. 
I am the balance. 
And when I say "I" - I mean because I am an emissary for The Nine. It is not I , but it is the group. We are nine principles of the Universe, yet together we are one.
But as we'll see this is nothing new. Outsiders see Gene Roddenberry as the end-all/be-all of Star Trek, but insiders most certainly do not.

If you've read Joel Engel's rather unflattering biography (or are generally familiar with the Trek gossip mills), you'll recognize the real Gene Roddenberry in the revised Zefrem Cochram in the best of the TNG films, Star Trek: First Contact. 
Roddenberry was in pretty rough shape by the time ST:TNG came into being, suffering the effects of years and years of drinking and drug abuse, as well as any manner of sexual issues. 

Whatever demons plagued him, Roddenberry was still a visionary and proved lightning could strike twice, a feat seldom repeated in TV history. And so we see the same in this unacknowledged but glaringly obvious tribute. But he had a lot of help. He always did.

In this installment, the TNG crew (made Nine by the addition of the aforementioned Lt. Daniels and one Lt. Hawk, seriously, I kid you not) chase the Borg back in time to protect Cochrane so he may successfully build Earth's first warp drive (the "Phoenix"- subtle stuff here) and hence attract the attention of the Vulcans. Only one problem- Cochrane is a drunk and a general fuckup and needs a lot of help.

The mind reels; elusive travelers in time and space acting as silent partners as mankind reaches for the stars?

Cochrane has an indeterminate relationship with a black woman played by Alfre Woodard (who does the Mithraic/Enochian routine on the Enterprise), lending yet another clue to the his secret identity as Roddenberry's doppelganger.

So who then is the Enterprise crew?

Before you answer, note also that we see several variations on the Stigmata discussed in the previous installment.

The crazy old coincidence here - because we all know the plot for First Contact was a historical inevitability since before the dawn of time -- is that Zefrem Cochrane was first introduced in an episode ("Metamorphosis") that by sheer happenstance presents us with a Nine-like non-corporeal alien of immense power with a generic name (the "Companion"), a remote and primitive planet, and a female channel/psychic medium.

Note that Cochrane looks nothing like James Cromwell here at all, another clue to decoding First Contact.

All fiction is allegory.

So now we're well into TOS territory with our basic Nine bullet points and we're barely into the second season. But we're just getting started with our parade of invisible space gods...

"The Gamesters of Triskeleon" borrows liberally (again) from The Outer Limits' "Fun and Games" but adds not only the omnipotent, generically titled, disembodied aliens ("the Providers") but also some fascinating symbolism on loan from the Process Church (the Triskelion modified-swastika logo and the general ambiance) but also the Church of Satan (the Anton Lavey lookalike bad guy is named Galt, a reference to LaVey's claim that he offered people Ayn Rand with naked lady altars). 

Note this fascinating detail from Memory Alpha:
The original title was "The Gamesters of Pentathalon" on the first-draft script from 1 May 1967.

Then there's "Return to Tomorrow," in which Orbs enter the equation as abodes for omnipotent/invisible space gods, though here we see only three and not Nine (budgetary concerns, surely). Bruce Rux called this as a replay of the Isis/Osiris/Set drama and I'm not inclined to argue with that.

The three noncorporeal gods here are named Sargon, Henoch, and Thalassa, all names of figures from our own history and/or mythology- and all of whom tied to the doings of the ancient gods. 

So again we see the shadow of the Nine looming large over the Star Trek studios, whether upper management was aware of it or not.

Speaking of The Outer Limits, an actor on loan from one of the most disturbing episodes in the entire series - an episode that retains its power to shock even today - guest-stars in "Who Mourns for Adonais?", one of mass culture's first ancient astronaut narratives. 

But this isn't spaceships-'n'-rayguns Ancient Aliens fodder, this is a much weirder serving of the brew, with an alien Apollo powered by a mysterious force within his temple.

The actor in question, Michael Forest, starred in "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork," a story either plucked out of Joseph Stefano's most paranoid nightmares or a real-life horror story Leslie Stevens heard from the high-echelon mwilitary grapevines he was plugged into: a Southern California physics lab murders its new employees and revives them so it can totally control them using a remote control pacemaker. 

The work being done is serving an noncorporeal energy being created doing God knows what kind of quantum voodoo. It's all just insane enough to be based in truth.

The Outer Limits/Star Trek connection is germane in this discussion because it's this writer's opinion that most of the black budget work that's been done since the Manhattan Project is considerably more ambitious than mundane goals such as mind control or eugenics. And weirder and more dangerous than we dare dream.†

And, of course, one of those projects brought us The Nine in the first place.

I don't believe the stories in The Outer Limits were made up of whole cloth ("Expanding Human" came straight out of the Harvard Psychedelic Club scandal and guest-starred James "Scotty" Doohan) and I believe the show was being used to gauge the public's reactions to reports of "abductions" and contacts and other incidents that were often classified, whatever your opinion as to the actual nature of those incidents may be. 

The fact that there was such a line of continuity from that series into Star Trek is extremely important in the context of this discussion.

Speaking of weird, "Adonais" had a sequel of sorts in the extremely strange and challenging Star Trek: The Animated Series called "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth." 

Strangely, its author called it a "tribute" to Star Trek producer Gene Coon, author of "Adonais." Or maybe not strangely, as we will very soon see. Instead of handsome Apollo, the space god in "Tooth" is a fucked-up fever-dream of a feathered-serpent playing Kululkan.

Like all episodes of ST:TAS, "Tooth" is trippy as a Fillmore West poster.  By the time it aired, Puharich had released his even-trippier Uri Geller "biography" and ancient astronauts were everywhere.

Then there's "The Paradise Syndrome." Kirk loses his memory on a planet populated by relocated Native Americans and is worshiped as a god (shades of "Who Watches the Watchers?"). The action revolves around deciphering the text on this malfunctioning alien obelisk, left by yet another generically-named omnipotent race:
The Preservers were a highly-advanced alien race who passed through the galaxy rescuing primitive cultures in danger of extinction, and seeding them on other worlds where they could be allowed to grow and thrive. Their activities accounted for the large number of humanoid species in the galaxy.

Among the cultures rescued by the Preservers were several Native American tribes from Earth, who were transplanted to a planet nearly half-a-galaxy away. In addition, they terraformed the planet so as to replicate an Earth-like environment, reproducing a large number of vegetation.  
As the planet was located in close proximity to a number of asteroids, the Preservers, whom the Native Americans referred to as "the Wise Ones," placed a large, obelisk-like asteroid deflector on the surface, and instructed the appointed medicine chief in its operation.
This episode was written by trailblazing screenwriter/author Margaret Armen, who also brought us the semiotically-loaded "Gamesters of Triskelion" and other interesting stories... of which was for the animated series and was jam-packed with-- you guessed it-- more semiotics. In this case we have an amphibious race strongly reminiscent of the Nommo (this was shortly before the release of The Sirius Mystery), lots and lots of Atlantis imagery and some Egypto-pagan-Christian mashups that surely confused the show's preteen audience as much as its title ("The Ambergris Element"). 

This episode also features a "sur-snake."

It's a big sur-snake.

Covering much the same ground as "Return to Tomorrow" is "The Lights of Zetar," in which a female crew member (Lt. Mira Romaine, played by Jan Shutan) is possessed or channels an entire race of noncorporeal space-beings.

Speaking of Big Sur, the episode itself may not be remarkable but the authors most certainly are: TV legend Shari Lewis and her husband, New Age publishing heavyweight and Esalen board member Jeremy Tarcher of Tarcher/Penquin fame.

Well, here we are yet again; back at Esalen's gates.

We saw The Nine's well-documented and considerable connections to Star Trek and the The Nine's well-documented and considerable connections to Esalen, now we see an Esalen heavyweight writing a script that foreshadows a major episode in the Institute's history, albeit an episode no one wants to remember and everyone is trying to erase. 

Disembodied space aliens channeled through a young woman? That's Jenny and the Nine.

But there's just one problem: all that happened ten years after "The Lights of Zetar" was written. But that's par for the course. There's something that strikes me as very temporally-fluid about all of this, which is all part of the enigma.

For instance, as I write this I also received a comment from the future telling me I forgot a very important piece of this puzzle, a piece that will connect all of the dots we've been making here. It's from a "9Tom9", and he says this:
Hey Chris, great post. Don't forget the very first entry in the Nine Trek sweep-stakes- "Errand of Mercy," which ties together Dick Price's ETI and Michael Murphy's KGB. 
Keep it up, Tom DiNuno.

Oh yes, "Errand of Mercy," taking us back to the first season of Star Trek. In which Kirk and Spock beam down to yet another agrarian planet (Organia) and meet with yet another "Council" (of Five, those budgets again) of blissed-out aging hippies to warn them that the Klingons (re: the Russians) are coming to occupy their world. And oh yeah, a war is brewing between the Klingons and the Federation.

The Council couldn't care less, and the people of Organia continue to be organic. Kirk and Spock dress in local garb and meet the Klingons, whose leader seems to kind of have the hots for Kirk. Spock's another matter: he gets the "mind-sifter," a completely unnecessary and never-seen bit of plot pointery that seems to exist only to throw alien mind control into the soup. 

This and that happens and finally the shooting is about to begin between the Federation (the United States) and the Klingons (the Soviet Union), ushering a new and terrible galactic war. With the fate of the planets in the balance, the Council reveal their true identities and they are-- wait for it-- non-corporeal, omnipotent, godlike beings who transcend time and space! What are the odds?

Let's listen in:
KIRK: What have you done? 
AYELBORNE: As I stand here, I also stand upon the home planet of the Klingon Empire, and the home planet of your Federation, Captain. I'm putting a stop to this insane war.  

KOR: You're what?  
KIRK: You're talking nonsense.  
AYELBORNE: It is being done.  
KIRK: You can't just stop the fleet. What gives you the right?  
KOR: You can't interfere. What happens in space is not your business. 
AYELBORNE: Unless both sides agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities, all your armed forces, wherever they may be, will be immediately immobilised. 
KIRK: We have legitimate grievances against the Klingons. They've invaded our territory, killed our citizens. They're openly aggressive. They've boasted that they'll take over half the galaxy. 
KOR: Why not? We're the stronger! You've tried to hem us in, cut off vital supplies, strangle our trade! You've been asking for war! 
KIRK: You're the ones who issued the ultimatum to withdraw from the disputed areas!  

KOR: They are not disputed! They're clearly ours. And now you step in with some kind of trick. 
AYELBORNE: It is no trick, Commander. We have simply put an end to your war. All your military forces, wherever they are, are now completely paralysed.
You know, all this sounds so familiar. Where have I heard this kind of talk from godlike aliens before?
We'll silence the atomic weapons of the world. Whoever produces them, they will have no effect. Let them go on producing. You see, just as sound could be produced, it could also be silenced; just as light could be burned, it could be extinguished. 
The method of production is the method of destruction obversely applied. There is a kind of immunity, physical immunity - just as there is an immunity from diseases. Matter has potential for counteracting almost anything that has taken shape. 
So, supposing we manufacture a silencer of atom bombs - and one silencer would be enough let Russia go ahead producing atom bombs in endless quantity.
Oh, right- from the sessions with Dr. Vinod and the Round Table. The Nine. Again.

There's also this, from 1947.
You have lately achieved the means destroying yourselves. Do not be hasty in your self -congratulation. Yours is not the first civilization to have achieved- and used- such means. 
Yours will not be the first civilization to be offered the means of preventing that destruction and proceeding, in the full glory of its  accumulated knowledge, to establish an era of enlightenment upon the earth.
Another interesting detail about "Errand of Mercy," that brings us back to The Nine, not in a thematic or tangential way but again in a very direct and unambiguous manner? This credit:

John Newland* was a big-time director in the TV racket but he was also the creator, producer and director of One Step Beyond, a show often confused with The Twilight Zone, but was very, very different.

You see, powerful men often-- maybe usually-- believe in things that powerless neckbeards scoff at. Where Rod Serling had his alien-obsession (which we'd see in the 70s when he'd put out one alien/AAT documentary after another), John Newland had his: Psi.

The purpose of One Step Beyond was not just another mystery anthology, it was centered on dramatic explorations of psychic phenomena. 


One other little detail that separated Newland from Serling? He took psychedelic mushrooms on national television. And who was his initiator-slash-babysitter for this remarkable experience? 

Why, none other than Andrija Puharich.

Puharich was an old hand at this by then and this is a pretty astounding half-hour of television, even today. Newland and Puharich spent several weeks together in the wilds of Mexico, looking for potent fungi and testing shamans.

All of this was filmed because as I would argue, people within the power structure were just crazy enough to believe that the best way to win the Cold War was to create a super-army with psychics and children who communicated with aliens and who the hell knows what else.

Puharich then did some creepy, MKULTRA-looking stuff to Newland while he was tripping and tested him and if the results are to be believed, Newland did pretty well. I love the symbolism of the final image that Newland was tested with.

Now, given Newland's obsession, meeting a man who'd show him the dream he'd been obsessing over would be a pretty enticing motivator for, you know, other things...

Given that the basic points of The Nine story were all introduced in the one Star Trek episode Newland directed, and that it introduced themes that would come to define the franchise with Deep Space Nine, and that Roddenberry was ceding control to other producers at the time such as Gene Coon, it's a pretty safe bet that Puharich got a foot in the Trek door through Newland long before anyone at Lab-9 ever even talked to Gene Roddenberry.

It could well be that Roddenberry was inaccessible or too high up the food chain at the time and Puharich and John Whitmore waited until he hit a career lull, but "Errand of Mercy" couldn't be more of Nine showcase if Puharich had written it himself.

The chances that an evangelist like Puharich didn't mention The Nine to Newland are between zero and much less than zero, given their long weeks together in the middle of nowhere. Coon was so overworked he would have certainly listened to a heavyweight like Newland if had some ideas to share (like the totally extraneous "mind sifter").

But the facts are clear- if you're wondering why there's this weird crossover of ideas from The Nine to Star Trek from very early on, we have a smoking gun here.

Oh, by the way- that character up top from Deep Space Nine who channeled one of the Prophets? The actress also played a pulp science fiction writer on the show. Who wrote under a male pseudonym.


† I don't think it's coincidence that MKULTRA kicked off in the wake of the Washington Nationals.

*Newland was a veteran of the Army Air Force and also had Peter Hurkos on One Step Beyond.