Wow this was more in depth than what I expected. This was a fun one to look at because while the religious connotations are a lot more literal of the surface, but there are still some elements which are well hidden.
One of the key things that I picked up from this was the concept of sin, and how it’s presented and feeds into everything within the story. Throughout the audio drama, the seven deadly sins are presented through the interactions between Murdock and Salinger while inside the kingdom of God. I’ll go through each of them:
Gluttony – Salinger states that the kingdom has enough food and electricity for 500 people for 10 years. He even mentions how there the kingdom has high quality liquor, so not only does he emphasise the amount of resources, but also the quality of the resources. He is fully aware that everything presented in the kingdom is more than enough to satisfy two people in their lifetime - thus gluttony is presented.
Pride – Salinger takes pride in the development of the robots, and how he was able to get around the 3 laws of robotics. He even says ‘Even now I at least think I worked very well for what I was payed.’ He even wanted to test the capabilities of these machines to see if they could be stopped.
Lust – This one was what gave away the use of the sins – from everything I’ve seen so far in the world of planetarian, this is the only time where anything of a sexual nature is implied that heavily, so this stood out to me a lot and got me thinking about why it was included. It’s when Salinger states that if Murdock stayed in the kingdom of God then he could do whatever he wanted with the robots to pleasure himself. He specifically says ‘There are also women you could want. They have such functions. You can choose any of your liking and have your fun.’, so it’s pretty clear that lustful intentions are implied here.
Envy – While discussing how he came about the kingdom, Salinger states ‘It’s been my dream to once visit this nursing home. Half of it was jealousy of the poor though’. Now, while yes there is a subtle difference between jealousy and envy in general, in this context I believe that the words are interchangeable.
Wrath – This is presented when Murdock attempts to burn down the base, turning the kingdom of God into a hellscape. Salinger’s yelling and screaming at Murdock during this is more than enough to emphasise uncontrollable anger and rage, which can be interpreted as wrath.
Greed – It is clear that Salinger wants the power of the robots, and the resources presented in the kingdom of God to himself as that is the entire reason he joined Murdock on the mission – to check the robots capabilities and to go and enter the kingdom, only for it to be sealed off to others later.
Sloth – Given the amount of robots presented within the kingdom, it is clear that Murdock would have many servants to assist him over the years, and given the amount of resources in the kingdom, he would never have to do any work with maybe the exception of robot maintenance. However, given how many robots there are, it wouldn’t make much difference if one broke down – he even states ‘I wouldn’t mind it if you destroyed it when you grow bored’
Now I think the use of sins is significant when you consider the significance of the base. It’s deep underground, very deep underground. One would naturally associate the concept of heaven with the sky and stars, anything above us by beyond our reach, but by contrast, hell is generally presented as being below us, in this case, deep underground, and I think that’s what the kingdom is representing – hell itself. Now, while this point of the kingdom representing hell isn’t entirely new in itself as several other members have already pointed this out, from what I can tell, most people interpret it as the kingdom becoming hell only when the fire happens, and I personally interpret it quite differently. I would like to introduce the interpretation that the kingdom in itself was always hell, and that Salinger is a representation of the devil. First of all, there’s the previously mentioned use of the sins, which are all mentioned or expressed in one form or another by Salinger, but then there’s also the fact that he helped to develop the robots that would kill people. This is symbolic of sin being introduced into the servants of God, making them become fallen angels, and servants of Satan, which is only emphasised by having the robots named after famous saints.
Now let’s consider the kingdom. While in general, the kingdom is presented as a haven for people to live in, the context of how it was established has quite a few unfavourable details. First of all, there was the original religious group that was set up there and bought the robots that were built by Salinger, and they most likely knew they had protocols to kill. As far as I can identify, it is never made clear why the religious group chose to do this, but my best guess would be to punish people for their sin. This introduces the concept of groups of people wanting to do Gods work for him, causing them to punish people for one reason or another, all in God’s name. This argument follows to the robots created by Salinger – they believe they are killing demons in the name of God, but because of the way they perceive what a human is. This is a very extreme argument of why one should not punish in the name of God, because at the end of the day, one’s perspective of sin is only defined by ones perspective of the world. So, to have all these concepts surrounding what is believed to be the kingdom of God only emphasises that while the kingdom may have association with God, it is under a false pretence, which God would most likely disapprove of. This concept extends to the idea of using religion as a false pretence to perform certain actions. A simple example of this is Salinger’s use of rosary, which he originally states is used for protection. While one would naturally associate this with religious protection, in actuality it’s what allows him to be seen as human, so the false implication of religion causes this item not to be questioned, and since it’s that rosary that allows him to partially control the robots actions, this item also emphasises the idea that religion under a false pretence can be used to control the actions of others.
Now I want to discuss how Murdock fits into this entire thing. To me, this story is about Murdock going to the depths of hell, fighting off the devil’s temptation, and Murdock being forgiven by God. Clearly if the kingdom of God is actually hell, then the first part of that structure makes sense. As for fighting of the devil’s temptation – Salinger tries to convince Murdock to stay in the kingdom of God with him since he has taken a likening to him. It is at this point where most of the deadly sins are presented because he’s trying to make Murdock give into temptation, and commit sin. However, Murdock sees Salinger for all the crimes he has committed and refuses the offer immediately. It’s shortly after that the kingdom of God is set on fire by Murdock, which is representative of hell being presented in its true form. While escaping, Murdock manages to fight off Salinger, but he doesn’t kill him, which I believe represents the idea that the devil cannot be killed by the likes of man, since sin will always remain in the hearts of man. However, shortly after, Salinger gets dragged back to the burning kingdom of God, which if you consider Salinger as the devil, it makes sense that he’d get dragged back there, as it is the place where he belongs. I also really like the fact that it’s the rosary that causes him to be sent back there, because I feel like it’s symbolic of God wanting to keep him in hell, which is also fitting considering the title of the part in which this happens is called ‘Bell Chimes and Atonement’. Also, it is around this time when Murdock recites/sings ‘And did those feet in ancient time’. This is the single most contrasting thing in the entire audio drama in my opinion, because while every other use of religion is used falsely, or misguidingly, this is used legitimately by Murdock to give him the strength to keep going. It suggests the idea that even during dark times, one should not give into darkness, and there is a promise land awaiting for you– hence the use of Jerusalem. It is because of this contrast why I think this story is called Jerusalem, because it wants to emphasise the legitimate belief and power of religion when perceived correctly. As for the very end, one of the robots tells him that God forgives all sinners, and Murdock takes this in shock, because he doesn’t believe he can be forgiven for everything he’s done. Now, like I mentioned previously, if one perceives these robots as fallen angels under the devils hand, then it follows that with the devil defeated and sent back to hell, some of the angels are free of his control, so I think this is symbolic of an actual messenger of God telling Murdock that he can be forgiven. This is also emphasised by the use of church bells at the very end, since church bells are used to repel demons and unclean spirits, and in some cases, also cleanse sin. I also think this once again expresses the concept of atonement mentioned in the title of this part of the drama.
This was a really good listen, it had so much to pick apart that it’s almost at the same standards of the original VN in my opinion. Definitely my favourite of the audio dramas.