"The Star" was an episode of the 1980s revival of the CBS anthology series The Twilight Zone, centered around an aspect of the Christian Nativity, produced and aired as the third segment of the thirteenth episode of its first season, alongside "Night of the Meek" and "But Can She Type?".

Synopsis

In the future, Father Matthew Karsighan, a Jesuit Priest who is also a physicist and astronomer, is part of a stellar expedition exploring a system that once experienced a nova that is now a white dwarf. He has a contentious friendship with Dr. Chandler, a scientist who wears his atheism on his sleeve. Despite this, the two men gently joke about how, while it is Christmas on Earth, even the priest feels like it has no connection that far out. The expedition, led by Dr. Chandler, finds a planet in that long-destroyed system that unearths a doomsday vault left by an ancient, peaceful advanced Earth-like civilization which met its end. Karsighan sadly assures that, with the next nearest star system too far off, these people could not save themselves. This assertion sparks another philosophical argument with Dr. Chandler over God's will that these people should be lost versus random events, causing Karsighan this time to cite randomness. The planet is as distant, relatively speaking, as Pluto is to Earth's sun, with its deep bedrock tunnels ensuring the survival of its artifacts. With some of the translated facts and figures the civilization took down about the imminent nova, Father Karsighan undertakes a stellar cartography triangulation of the whys, wherefores and the when of the disaster.

Some time after the exploration of the vault is truly underway, and Father Karsighan has provided the ancient date of the nova, Dr. Chandler finds the priest sitting alone on the verge of tears. Concerned for his friend, he moves to ask why finding that the priest did not reveal all the details of what he found in his calculations. Going over his numbers, Karsighan found that the star died in 3120 BC, with its light taking three thousand, one hundred and twenty years to reach Earth. There the nova was sighted at a certain time in a certain location at a certain time, most intensely over a location well known to believer or non-believer.

In short, the nova's light reaching Earth coincides precisely with the birth of Jesus. In effect, the loss of that sun and this great civilization likely formed the event known as The Star Of Bethlehem. Just as Dr. Chandler had before in an agnostic huff, Karsighan now pleads before God as to why these people had to die in order to create a wonder on Earth.

Dr. Chandler, already seeking to apologize for the earlier confrontation, shows Karsighan a poem found in the same vault. It shows people accepting of their fate, asking not to be mourned, and grateful for their time while living. Dr. Chandler argues that this sad event merely meant that this was their time, and if they accepted it with grace, so should they. This helps the priest, who still struggles with why so joyous an event was tied together with one so cosmically sad.

Cast

Actor/actress Character
Charles Aidman (voice) Narrator
Fritz Weaver Father Matthew Karsighan
Donald Moffat Dr. Chandler
Elizabeth Huddle Captain Durant

Notes

  • The poem that acts as a salve for the priest's grief was added to this adaptation. It was not in the original short story, but (according to Wikipedia) was not objected to, by sci-fi veterian Arthur C. Clarke.
  • The priest's calculations allow for the movement and rotation of the planet when fixing the time of the nova's light reaching Earth. He does not seem to take into account the uncertainty about exactly when Christ was born. This seems to be for the sake of the story's theme and revelation.

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