Return of the Archons
October 31, 2019 2:47 PM   Subscribe

I was taught that Star Trek was real.

Amy Rose grew up in a cult which believed that the Galactic Confederation of Planets was opposed by the Archons, which wore skin suits and had taken over the government, and that Gene Roddenberry was "awakened." Rose eventually left the cult, relying in part on lessons that Star Trek taught her. Short cartoon story, My First Contact: Connected to the Truth, illustrated by Ryan Estrada; they're working on a more in-depth graphic novel about Rose's experiences growing up, Occulted.
posted by Halloween Jack (44 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow, this is fascinating. I cannot wait to read the graphic novel when it's done!
posted by suelac at 3:03 PM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


This is so bittersweet.

I wonder which cult it was. It sounds like Unarius, but it may have been a smaller homebrewed affair.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:07 PM on October 31, 2019


Well, I needed another good cry today.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:34 PM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


I hope she has seen Galaxy Quest

srsly tho this is very awesome, glad she was able to get out, using the lessons ST taught no less!!
posted by supermedusa at 3:53 PM on October 31, 2019 [12 favorites]


I used to call this new methodology we're doing at work "The Will of Landru" (because it's come down from on high and I'm not sure everyone gets what it is for) but nobody got the reference. Maybe now that is for the best.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:12 PM on October 31, 2019 [14 favorites]


It does sound like Unarius! I used to work right across the street from them. They had a diorama of Nikola Tesla in the front display window.
Once in a while they would have the upper windows open in the back part of the building, and it was just FULL of chandeliers.
posted by exceptinsects at 4:36 PM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


There’s a sort of Rael vibe but I think they were too big for much direct interaction with the leader in the 90s, I found the publisher referring to it as “The Temple” which with a general area of San Diego/SoCal isn’t super helpful.

Do the unarians(sp?) talk about having a temple?

Of course lots of folks talk about Archons.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 4:40 PM on October 31, 2019


I wonder which cult it was.

Wait.

There’s more than one actual Star Trek cult?
posted by schadenfrau at 5:12 PM on October 31, 2019 [25 favorites]


Oh man, there’s something in my eyes now. That the author can have a healthy relationship with fandom after all that is amazing.
posted by EinAtlanta at 5:21 PM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Weird. It's amazing how uncreative cult leaders can be and still get away with it, cribbing pop culture wholesale.

I think I've told the story before of how when I was about 9 or 10 I told some of my friends that I had a psychic connection to another world where everyone on Earth had a double. According to the lore I told them, everyone could astrally travel to this world, but most people would have no memory of it when they returned. I would "guide" them there and then tell them stories about our adventures there. Of course, I stole most of my material from books I'd read, but because I also wanted to share these books with my friends, I used basically the same excuse that this cult leaders used: some authors also had psychic connections to this world and based their books on their experiences there. In fact, I recall telling them that Susan Cooper, author of The Dark Is Rising, was a particularly high-ranking knight and defender of Good in this other world. I'm pretty sure one of my friends was just playing along as a game, but one of my friends later told me he absolutely believed it for years.

It's kind of scary how easy it would be to start a cult.
posted by biogeo at 5:21 PM on October 31, 2019 [32 favorites]


Also, that was a surprisingly sweet story considering it's about escaping a cult. It does kind of seem like Star Trek, with its messaging about rationality, peace, and curiosity, is kind of a strange choice for indoctrination material. I think Gene Roddenberry would have been proud that his creation helped her question her upbringing and ultimately escape.
posted by biogeo at 5:27 PM on October 31, 2019 [9 favorites]


> I wonder which cult it was. It sounds like Unarius, but it may have been a smaller homebrewed affair.

On a skim of Wikipedia's entry on Unarius, it looks like they've had several schisms (over interpretations of doctrine or distaste with the leadership), so who knows? On the whole it doesn't sound like a particularly tenacious cult if memberships split that freely.
posted by ardgedee at 5:27 PM on October 31, 2019


"The Will of Landru"

For me that was working as a consultant IT guy at a major law firm. We were (allegedly) updating partner's software and giving them new hard drives with it. What we actually did was take old drives, format them, and use them in the next system. Very few people got new drives. Usually older partners. The first and last time I asked about it, I was told, "This comes from high up. You like your paycheck, right?"
posted by Splunge at 5:56 PM on October 31, 2019


Teaching a kid to think "What would Captain Picard do?" is about the opposite result you would want as a cult leader.
posted by demiurge at 6:02 PM on October 31, 2019 [18 favorites]


That was great, thank you. The phasers were apparently set to get me right in the feels.
posted by mwhybark at 6:05 PM on October 31, 2019


On the whole it doesn't sound like a particularly tenacious cult if memberships split that freely.
Isn't that just the same as every major religion though? They split, some parts survive, some of those thrive, they split again.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:24 PM on October 31, 2019


I wonder how things would have turned out had the cult focused on other Star Trek subdomains: TOS, Voyager, or DS-9.
posted by doctornemo at 6:37 PM on October 31, 2019


I’d worship Kira Nerys...
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:58 PM on October 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


Oh, hell, I did worship Kira Nerys...
posted by lhauser at 7:16 PM on October 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


The cartoonist had his own unique experience with the franchise.
posted by BiggerJ at 7:22 PM on October 31, 2019 [32 favorites]


Wait, is Star Trek not real?!? Damn, that was the one thing that was keeping me going.
posted by skewed at 7:39 PM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


It does kind of seem like Star Trek, with its messaging about rationality, peace, and curiosity, is kind of a strange choice for indoctrination material.

Give it a few centuries and a Council of Nicea or two
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 7:57 PM on October 31, 2019 [22 favorites]


Star Trek isn't real, only true.

Infinite diversity in infinity combinations, mic drop!
posted by BeeDo at 8:20 PM on October 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


It does kind of seem like Star Trek, with its messaging about rationality, peace, and curiosity, is kind of a strange choice for indoctrination material. I think Gene Roddenberry would have been proud that his creation helped her question her upbringing and ultimately escape.

I think that fans of Picard, myself included, tend to most appreciate him for his moral leadership, his faithfulness to his subordinates, and his courage and determination to do the right thing in spite of all dangers. Many Christians have asked themselves seriously, "What would Jesus do?" and found that the teachings they grew up with failed to live up to the answer. I think it's no coincidence that Amy Rose escaped the cult that raised her by asking herself, "What would Picard do?"
posted by J.K. Seazer at 8:48 PM on October 31, 2019 [8 favorites]


Often people are asked about where they got their moral compass, and every once in a while serious people will seriously answer Star Trek. The last interview I saw where this happened was with Stacey Abrams.
posted by xammerboy at 9:28 PM on October 31, 2019 [11 favorites]


BiggerJ, thank you! I laughed so hard my wife got out of bed to shush me!
posted by mwhybark at 9:34 PM on October 31, 2019


I mean sometimes I look at the world and I think "What would Sisko do?" but then my mother makes me put down the baseball bat.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:38 PM on October 31, 2019 [13 favorites]


I get my moral compass from my lutheran upbringing, but star trek comes with way less baggage.
posted by MillMan at 9:45 PM on October 31, 2019


As if this cult wasn't nutty enough, it kind of seems like they must not have even watched the episode Return of the Archons. It's about a planet of religious maniacs brainwashed by what turns out to be computer posing as their long-dead leader. The "Archons" were just the crew of the Federation ship Archon, demonized by the cult for resisting the computer. The Archon crew wasn't a bunch of evil aliens wearing skin suits and working against the Federation. They were the Federation, and the sinister alien weirdos were the ones who worshipped a computer and had their own planetwide Purge every night.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:07 AM on November 1, 2019 [7 favorites]


In the 90s we used to jokingly refer to Yahoo!™ as "Landru". Any page missing from the index was "NOT OF THE BODY!!" etc.

It was a time when people starved for clever signature lines would just parrot advertising slogans for some reason, substituting a word. Hell, even the GIF standard had some stupid take on the JIF peanut butter slogan to try and reinforce their mispronunciation.

But for a while some friends of mine put "Do you Landru?" everywhere, just to perplex people.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 1:52 AM on November 1, 2019


Interesting.

I was obsessed with cults for about a year and a half. Mainly Scientology – but others, too. No matter the era, the culture, or the specific trappings of the cult, the same patterns manifest themselves time and time again. The leader, almost invariably, is a narcissist – in fact, "sadistic cult leader" is basically what you get when narcissism is enabled and indulged for years on end. Followers are a bit harder to understand, but there often seems to be a strong element of codependency: their own sense of worth depends on the approval of the leader, and so they'll tolerate almost unimaginable mindfuck and abuse in order to please them.

A cult, then, can be understood (according to my half-assed armchair analysis) as a feedback system between two psychological disorders: narcissism (on the part of the leader) and codependence (on the part of the followers). Given years to fester, and often (deliberately) insulated from outside influences that might disrupt it, this situation can turn into a runaway disaster involving unimaginable cruelty, or even mass suicide.

I don't know much about Unarius, but now I'm curious to learn more. I'm glad that Amy found her way out of this situation.

It's interesting that (from what I've seen) the basic template for "sci-fi religions" hasn't really changed since the heyday of UFOs in the 1950s. Scientology and Unarius were actually founded in the 50s, of course – and then there are Raëlism and Heaven's Gate (both 1974-ish). Are there sci-fi religions based on, like, more up-to-date sci-fi tropes? I'd be very interested to learn about them. "Aliens come to Earth in spaceships and rescue/punish humankind" feels oddly anachronistic in 2019. There's plenty of New Agey nonsense out there about "quantum mechanics" and the like, of course, but nothing (that I know of) which rises to the level of "cult".
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:33 AM on November 1, 2019 [5 favorites]


Obviously, Star Trek is real. I mean, we have Landru's face on the US $20 bill!
posted by jabah at 6:54 AM on November 1, 2019


I’d say a certain amount of my moral compass plus a large part of my political leaning comes from Star Trek and MASH. The power of stories and the media. Sadly, this sorta helps explain Fox News.
posted by double bubble at 7:05 AM on November 1, 2019


Are there sci-fi religions based on, like, more up-to-date sci-fi tropes? I'd be very interested to learn about them.

The Roko's Basilisk thing floating around the LessWrong rationalist sphere shows signs of turning into one.
posted by acb at 8:46 AM on November 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


"There are FOUR Lights".
posted by Faintdreams at 9:00 AM on November 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Singularitarianism more broadly also has a lot of proto-religious elements to it.
posted by biogeo at 9:31 AM on November 1, 2019


This gave me shivers - and I'm also amazed how the attempt to use Star Trek to control her failed, because of what Star Trek itself values.

I’d say a certain amount of my moral compass plus a large part of my political leaning comes from Star Trek and MASH.

I sometimes joke that I must have been conceived after either an episode of MASH, or maybe a Star Trek re-run. Certainly, I can't remember when I first saw either, as I was watching both with my parents from toddlerhood on (well, except for that hiatus after the horta scared me so badly - but now that's one of my favourite episodes).

I feel like it was a pretty good foundation for life. Also, I still love Alan Alda.
posted by jb at 10:17 AM on November 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


I’d worship Kira Nerys...

That's because you have a pulse.
posted by brundlefly at 11:30 AM on November 1, 2019 [6 favorites]


The cartoonist had his own unique experience with the franchise.

Oh my god, that story is amazing. That poor guy must have been going crazy until he figured it out. Folks, you should definitely follow BiggerJ's link.
posted by straight at 7:47 AM on November 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


I mean just the "Spock/Spauk = Space Hawk" is mind-blowingly great.
posted by straight at 7:50 AM on November 2, 2019


My own theory is that Star Trek is responsible for the widespread and frankly cultish belief that we're going to Mars or one of the recently discovered "Earth-like" planets any time soon. But is Elon Musk the Captain, or just the Science Officer?
posted by sneebler at 9:11 AM on November 2, 2019


Elon Musk is a Ferengi devotee of the Rules of Acquisition.
posted by biogeo at 10:59 AM on November 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


You're telling me Elon Musk is committed to principles outside himself?
posted by J.K. Seazer at 2:34 PM on November 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


Depends. Is gold-pressed latinum a principle?
posted by biogeo at 6:06 PM on November 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


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