How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth: to face the unabsolving truth

You know how when you see a quote you recognize kicking off something you’re about to watch and then the thing you watch falls short of what the quote conveyed?

This episode really missed the mark on what the episode’s authors intended.

Intention: For a god-like being to view humans as its children and be mad when they aren’t falling all over themselves to worship him, only to be convinced by Kirk to recognize they are no longer the “children” of ancient civilizations.

Leaving aside this overused trope (god-like beings who were worshipped by ancient humans and then left for whatever reason) which when carried to the extreme means Humanity Isn’t At All Responsible For Any Of The Progress We’ve Made, there are a few plot-holes pointing to a more “tragical” tale (as Anne Shirley might put it).

The Being isn’t terribly logical. It has immense power all on its own yet doesn’t seem totally in the loop of what it means for any species to be technologically advanced; and, considering how he is perpetually hovering in the air, the interior of ship doesn’t seem built as a home for his anatomy. Couple this with the fact he says he’s “always been alone” much like the Capellan power-cat that’s been in captivity since its infancy and I can’t help but think his own back-story is that:

  • Once upon a time, an advance species abducted him in his infancy.
  • Like the Capellan power-cat, he’s not easy to keep in captivity (let alone get into captivity) and he manages to escape.
  • Overpowering his captors he takes control of the ship and finds himself alone, unaware of anyone in the universe being like him.
  • He stops at Earth (perhaps other less-advanced planets) and early humans worship him.
    • Everywhere on Earth there are civilizations too young to see him as anything as a god-/parent-figure.
    • He teaches humans what he can that he thinks will lead them to making the whole planet a suitable planet for him (and anyone else he may meet like him).
    • Knowing his “Barbie Dream House” is being built, he goes back out into space looking for someone/anyone like him so that he won’t be lonely anymore.
  • By the time he interacts with humans again (a.k.a. meets Kirk) he has so much built-up trauma from his childhood abduction, years of solitude, lack of peer-to-peer companionship, etc. that he doesn’t know how to “play nice” with the humans he’s now meeting. He knows only how to repeat the traumatizing behavior that was modeled to him in his formative years.

Then Kirk (along with a Comanche ensign by the name of Walking Bear who’s studied Ancient Mesoamerican cultures and doesn’t get nearly enough credit for this knowledge and isn’t allowed to solve Kukulkan’s riddle because he isn’t white the captain) somehow talks this incredibly traumatized being of unknown and incredibly powerful race to … just … not feel abandoned by the humans who previously Adored Him and who were supposed to be building his Dream House.

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth
it is to have a thankless child.

William Shakespeare’s King Lear, Act 1 Scene 4

The ending of this episode, using this quote to title this episode and wrap up Bones’ and Kirk’s thoughts on the ordeal … it just doesn’t sit right with what the episode actually contains.

What child is this you call a brute
when torn too soon from mother's breast?
Surprised are you he won't stay mute
when you've supplied such lonely rest?
He is not yours and so arose
seeing none but the surest foes;
unworthy of the cold of space
so kept — instead — in secret case,
while he gives chase to what he dreams;
a place where he is held and loved,
and something sweet as kin is proved
a just reward for all his schemes.
How sharper than a serpent's tooth
to face the unabsolving truth.