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Feeding Vol

This year I got an outdoor wood-burner which turned out to be a good investment with the price of home heating oil sky-rocketing. It's less so because the Winter here in the Midwest has been unseasonably warm - until now that is. February chilled down very nice and the woodburner has been getting much use now. The woodburner has to have wood put into into it twice dailey, in other words: It needs to be fed. As with most important devices in my life I have given the woodburner a name. He is Vol.

Vol, my woodburner, was named from a crappy third season episode of Star Trek the original series. If you were alive back then, or if you are a latter day fan of the series you know that most of the creative minds behind the series had departed that season and NBC was getting stingier and stingier with the money. The actors, too, I think were starting to phone in their performances. The main star, Bill Shatner, you could tell had stopped doing his sit-ups so you could see his velour shirt getting tighter and tighter around his waste. He didn't care so much. Already he was shopping for his curly hairpiece for his next series, T.J. Hooker. (By the way, I'm still a fan of this under-celebrated series)

In the 'Vol' episode the crew transports down to an idyllic planet when they are unexpectedly attacked seemingly by the planet itself. Every crewman with a red shirt buys it in the first two minutes; One is struck by lightening, another steps on an exploding rock and one is shot by darts from a big poinsoned sunflower. I can't remember if there were more killed off before the first commercial or not, because nobody on the Enterprise bothered to even learn the names of their red-shirted colleagues since they were goners anyways.

The remaining crew is stranded on the planet where they run into the inhabitants who are sort of blond haired Polynesian innocents. The episode, it turns out, is strong on allegory. The simple and pure natives worship Vol, who is a planetwide machine who takes care of them and provides them with food, pleasant weather and everything else good. Vol is personified as a big green dinosaur head thrusting up from the ground with a massive open mouth. Several times a day a gong sounds and the natives gather up fruit and gourds and such in big baskets and throw that down Vol's mouth.

He is their God.

The allegory is clear. This is paradise, maybe even a biblical sort of paradise. Of course, on this planet nobody has sex and they don't even know what it is, so I got to wonder what kind of Paradise this is supposed to be. Oh, wait. Christian paradise. Unfortunately for the Vol-ians part of the crew that got stranded there is that Russian sex machine in a bad wig, Checkov. Checkov just can't help himself and before you know it he's teaching one of the simple native girls how to - gasp! - kiss. All hell - mataphorically, allegorically - breaks loose from here.

Vol can't have his worshipers kissing, you know, so he instructs the head blond to have Kirk et al. slaughtered. Heavens knows why he doesn't have a sunflower spray darts at them, or a explode a rock or have a lightening bolt strike them from the sky. I don't know, Vol must have run out of exploding rocks, lightening bolts, and sunflowers. The crew turns the tables on Vol's disciples and stops everyone from feeding Vol, while the Enterprise phasers him into submission and Vol dies because he's too weak from hunger. While this is going on and Vol's gong sounds insistently as the pathetic leader whines: 'But Vol hungers.'

The whole question of the origin of Vol has been thoroughly un-addressed. Like, how come nobody on the Enterprise even thinks to ask how this God-like planet controlling machine came into being. Did Vol create himself? Not likely, I would think ... but then that gets you into the tricky theological question of how God on planet Earth came into being, and I don't want to go there yet.

Or did some race of super beings plant Vol on the planet and then equip the machine with his own crew of humanoids? These humanoids only purpose in existence is to feed Vol, and worship him, too, I suppose. But this brings up two questions in my mind.

First of all: Why humanoids? If you were going to make creatures just to feed Vol, they sure don't need all that brain power to do the job. Something much simpler and dumber would foot the bill - monkeys, or wood chucks or koala bears. Humanoids can think of reasons not to obey and bring you your dinner every night.

Then: Is this the most efficient method for Vol to get energy? He has to wait for his subjects to bring him baskets and baskets of vegetables and fruits and throw them down his mouth. What about solar cells? How come Vol never thought of that? It would be much more effective and since he controlled the whole planet and could make the sun shine all the time it would work one hundred percent of the time. Or windmills. Same argument. He's Vol he can make the wind blow whenever he wants.

Kirk and Spock end this dreadful episode by musing on the similarities to the biblical story of Adam and Eve and Satan getting them thrown out of the garden of Eden - in case it wasn't friggin' obvious enough already. That was pretty much the whole last season of the series, really simple minded allegorical stories.

Here's how my woodburner is like Vol: He's big, and he's green and he sticks up out of the ground with a massive open mouth. I need to feed him multiple times per day.

Oh, and he's my God.

About the Author: Steve Sommers is the author of Breakfast with the Antichrist. His new novel, Rexroi, along with the best of Australian Science Fiction - is available as an ebook at, OR if you ABSOLUTELY need to turn pages when you read - at

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