|And this is where our story begins. And so it continues.|
There are very few Star Trek episodes you could point to and identify as moments where everything about the franchise simply changed, mostly because there are very few actual moments like that anywhere. History does not divide neatly into clean, compartmentalized bits: It's a constantly unfolding tapestry of intersecting lives and events.
“The Magicks of Megas-Tu” is one of those moments. Magick is real.
In the time of the First Ancestors, when the world was new, there was a Spark at the beginning of All Things: A barely-formed thought that dared dream. The Dream the Dreamer Dreamt was the mortal plane, the idea that things continued and shaped themselves as they would. In this Dream, divinity existed within and between each individual. And this was a very dangerous idea.
Conventional cosmological wisdom holds that the further away we can look into space, the further back in time we see. This is because the speed of light is a constant, thus the light we observe from a fixed location has taken us an equal amount of time to reach us as the distance it is away from us. Thus, the furthest, most distant objects are by definition the oldest. This is the line of thought Captain Kirk muses on as the Enterprise travels to the centre of the galaxy, supposedly the region of space closest to the origin point of cosmic history.
Star Trek fan lore perports that the entire franchise takes place within the boundaries of the Milky Way Galaxy, with very few excursions beyond (the events depicted in “By Any Other Name” and the two “...Have Gone Before” stories are the most frequently cited: “Beyond the Farthest Star” is typically not accounted for in this accounts). Even Star Trek Voyager, as removed as it is from 24th century politics, still only takes place at the other end of the galaxy, not somewhere outside it. The Star Trek universe, then this version of events holds, encompasses only the “known space” of the Milky Way Galaxy.
There is a certain line of thinking within cosmology that the universe simply could not have come into being out of nothing during the Big Bang, as the idea of something spontaneously emerging from nothing is simply incomprehensible. A more helpful thesis, this account goes, is that the Big Bang is the dividing point between two universes, and that universes exist in a constant, repeating cycle of expansion and contraction.
The Enterprise and her crew approach the center of the galaxy. The closer they get, the more and more the laws of physics seem to break down. All the ship's systems cease to function.
Current quantum physics theory posits there are at least eleven dimensions of space-time. This hypothesis is a response to a kind of particle behaviour known as “quantum tunneling”, where particles appear to disappear from one location and reappear in another. The theory goes they're not phasing in and out of existence, but travelling in higher dimensions that humans cannot measure.
At a certain point quantum physics ceases to behave like physics as humans comprehend it.
At the centre of the galaxy, the Enterprise discovers a solitary planet. They are greeted by a being named Lucien, and he calls himself friend to humans. This planet is called Megas-Tu, and it is from where all the magick in the world came. Magick that Lucien uses to repair the Enterprise, and that its crew soon learn to master themselves.
This is a tale from when the world was young. The Megans wander the universe and live in harmony with it. They are a good people, and are eager to help anyone who might share their philosophy of wisdom, spirituality and inner peace. The Megans discover Earth, and make friends with many Earth people. They like living on Earth, and offer their knowledge and support to any Earth people who wish it. It is in this way the Megans come to be seen as trusted advisers. But the Earth people are jealous and distrustful and covet power for themselves. It is in this way the Megans become hated and feared and are banished from Earth forever. And this is how magick departs our world.
Lucien is the rebel of the Megans. He maintains his love for and fondness of humans long after the Megans are banished, and this puts him at frequent odds with his kin. He is a jovial fellow, with the legs and feet of a goat, the torso and head of a man distinguished only by a pair of small horns. He goes by many names. Christians of Earth seem to remember him as Lucifer the Trickster and Deceiver, though Kirk and Spock remain uncertain that this is his true identity. He is far more reminiscent, both in appearance and personality, of the one known to the Greeks as Pan and the one known to the Celts as Cernunnos.
It was a reoccurring joke in the original Star Trek to point out the superficial similarities between Spock and the stereotypical conception of Satan, namely the fact both have pointed ears. In “The Magicks of Megas-Tu”, Spock is referred to by Lucien as an Elf.
This is a scene familiar to all of us. The entire Enterprise crew stands trial, accused of the crime of being representatives of a grievously savage race by the Megan Asmodeus, who takes the form of an inquisitor in a recreation of Salem, Massachusetts as it appears during the infamous Witch Trials. Asmodeus fears that the reappearance of humanity means that the sanctuary of Megas-Tu has been tainted by evil, and further declares that Lucien is to be punished for his role in cultivating it. Spock plays the role of defense attorney as he, being Vulcan, has a unique perspective on human culture. Spock calls Kirk to the witness stand, who claims that the human society he and the rest of the Enterprise crew represent are different from the ones known to the Megans on Earth.
Kirk posits a hypothesis unthinkable to Asmodeus: That humanity is capable of improvement and is always learning and growing and has already moved beyond the hatred and fear the Megans experienced, and invites him to peruse the ship's record banks as evidence. Asmodeus is convinced by Kirk's compelling case, but maintains Lucien must still be punished. Kirk refuses and stands firmly by Lucien's actions, even if he is Lucifer. As a display of his empathy, Kirk states that he is prepared to give his life for Lucien's. To him, Asmodeus is now no different from the humans he claims to despise and fear. A great magickal war rocks Megas-Tu. The primordial forces of the Old/New Cosmos cry out in the singular horrific moment of Knowing. It is at this moment everything dies and begins again.
The Enterprise lies afloat in the afterglow of the birth of the universe. Spock wonders aloud if Lucien really is Lucifer. Kirk asks him why it matters. Spock says that if he is, this is the first time Lucifer has been saved.
Ultimately, what “The Magicks of Megas-Tu” does is finally live up to the potential Star Trek has forever tantalizingly been hinting at, most notably in third season scripts like “The Tholian Web”, but really dating all the way back to Robert Bloch introducing sorcery to the Original Series in “Catspaw”. This is no longer “telepathy” or “mental sciences” or non-corporial energy, this is literal, actual magick in the cosmic microwave background radiation of the universe. Adrift on the cosmic tide, the Enterprise has travelled along its own lineage back to its own Big Bang and discovered magick at the heart of the universe, and at the heart of Star Trek. Most importantly, its crew have learned how to be wizards themselves.
And it all begins once more.
And this is where our story begins. And so it continues.