That’s not the voice of god, that’s just a ring modulator

Skip to content

L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. K. Jones
    March 16, 2015 @ 8:52 am

    Yes, this is very much the opposite of all those "missed opportunity" episodes preceding it. This is an episode where no opportunity was wasted. It's so good an ensemble episode it even brings in the lower-tier crewmates to partake in it. It's handily the best Doctor Crusher, and "Doctor Crusher, Science Officer" episode so far, but probably her best fit role in the entire rest of the series as well.

    The added bits of John's home society's authority persecuting people like him could have been heavy-handed but actually feels right for the story. That old "fear of the unknown" again. But in the form of an established institution stifling creativity that leads to enlightenment. That precise thing that Star Trek: TNG should be medicine for. And I even like their militaristic ship design!

    This episode is notable for two other things for me, too. The first mention of O'Brien's "always offscreen, oft-referred to" hobby of kayaking rapids and constantly hurting himself. And of course the special effect of the transcendental John Doe costume.

    Seeing him as a being of golden light is a lovely concept. I remember when I first saw this episode, on a big old tube TV, it was like a humanoid made of light was walking around. Whenever I watch it now on high resolution screens I do tend to giggle. The light effect is somewhat marred by seeing the wrinkles and nooks and crannies of his spandex. But of course, it still holds up, we can forgive that minor bit of cheese.


  2. Daru
    March 16, 2015 @ 9:07 pm

    This is what TNG was always about for me, and it allowed me when I was younger to kind of forget all the ho-hum episodes as when I watch this it still blows me away with its beauty.

    The way the concept of transformation is embraced in this episode effectively inspired me for much of my life. Through meditation and visualisation techniques, of deity we realise that we are deity. Or deity realises it has been sleeping in a cocoon. Vajrayana Tantra, the diamond vehicle.

    "Ascension. Transformation. Transcendence. Regeneration. Behold the event horizon that lies at ego-death and the end point of history. Behold the card of death, which means not death but the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. But know also that any true form of transformative change will by necessity entail shock: The Singularity looks like the apocalypse from below. See also the card of the tower, for one world is about to end so that another may begin."

    Beautiful. And yes.


  3. Daru
    March 16, 2015 @ 9:11 pm

    Just thinking also that John Doe's act to transform and then return to his planet to devote his time and energy to work for the transformation of the populace there is akin to the concept of the Bodhisattva, or the Chinese Immortals who are beings that have attained enlightenment and devote their lives thereafter to assisting the enlightening of humanity as a whole.


  4. Froborr
    March 17, 2015 @ 10:37 pm

    I have zero memory of this episode. That's BIZARRE. I've seen every episode many, many times. How can there be one I don't remember?


  5. Froborr
    August 12, 2015 @ 10:07 am

    Finally got around to rewatching this one. I can see why I had no memory of it–I found it a pretty bog-standard Christ narrative. I'm pretty meh in general on stories of humanity evolving into some new form of whatever, because to me that's inherently counter-utopian–it's saying that we can't build a better culture without first making better people, and we can't actually do that, so… I guess we should just wait around to evolve?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.