Star trekI believe most movie critics are actually evil Klingons in disguise. That would explain why most of them have not been hot about the latest Star Trek movie, “Nemesis.” In truth it is the best Star Trek movie ever.

The main protagonists of “Nemesis” are Picard, captain of the Starship Enterprise, and Shinzon, leader of the Romulan Empire and Picard’s clone. The movie comes out clearly on the side of nurture, in the nature-nurture debate. While Picard and Shinzon may share the same genetic make-up, they end up as very different people because of their vastly different formative experiences. (The movie “The Boys From Brazil” made the same point with Hitler’s clones but that’s another story.)

However the movie also makes it clear that we are not the prisoners of our histories either. Shinzon has a “Gollum moment” when he is challenged to rise above his horrendously destructive childhood and to choose the path of peace. We see Shinzon’s struggle and we weep when he chooses not to become a better person.

But the “man” that steals the show is Data, the android who has been a key character in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” TV series. He is a machine, a man- made creation. But throughout the TV series he seeks to be truly human. Viewers were amused and supportive as he grew in his ability to understand things like emotions and humour. In”Nemesis” he gets to sing.

Data’s journey towards true humanity climaxes in the last reel of “Nemesis” when he gives his life to save his friends. How Christian can you get?

The original “Star Trek” TV series had hints of a Christian ethical framework though Captain Kirk was a randy intergalactic playboy. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was a truly a product of a postmodern era. There was not even an attempt to posit an overarching ethical framework. In a vast universe there were many truths and many ethical frameworks. No one had the corner on truth.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised that Data’s journey to true humanity climaxes with a heroic sacrificial act. I believe the movie had different writers than the TV series. Still, it was really cool to see true humanity defined as the ability to give one’s life for others. Especially in a movie that contains some of the best fight scenes in the Star Trek franchise.

Of course “Nemesis” is good old escapist fantasy entertainment but it is good to affirm truth wherever we find it. Indeed in an hour when wars are raging all around the world — Iraq, Kashmir, Rwanda, — choose your channel, it is good to be reminded that to be truly human is not about hatred and killing. It’s about choosing to give ourselves for the welfare of others. For that is the spirit of Christ.

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15 : 13 NRSV

In that regard let me close with a real life example. The papers today reported that two people in Singapore had died from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused by the mystery bug that has the world health community puzzled. The two who died were Joseph Mok, the father of Esther Mok, “one of the three women who brought SARS to Singapore…, and Simon Loh, a 39-year-old pastor who had gone to the hospital to pray for Esther Mok…” (The Star, 27th March, 2003). Pastor Simon leaves behind a wife and two young children. He literally gave his life for ministry.

Life is not fair. Life is also defined by the choices we make. “Nemesis” shows us two types of choices. Shinzon models one sort of choice — choosing to give in to the evil in life by returning anger for anger, hatred for hatred. Data shows us another type of choice, choosing to give our lives for the sake of others, in Christian parlance, to embrace the life of the cross.

Your brother, SooInn