Thursday, May 16, 2013

"These Are The Voyages..." and How Stories Impact Us


              Here we go. Day four of Bad Shakespeare’s ode to Star Trek, which is slightly better than Data’s Ode to Spot. While both have great literary merit, I think it’s best if we explore the non-feline version of odes.
                We’ve explored stories that that don’t end as neatly as we expect with “City on the Edge of Forever.” Picard learned how to play the flute (and how stories need to be passed down) in “Inner Light.” And Voyager’s Doctor was a “Living Witness” to how stories can get twisted around. But, what can we do with those stories?
Star Trek: Enterprise – “These Are The Voyages…”
Archer, Picard, Kirk: "Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange, new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before."
                The last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise was met with a lot of negative reviews. A lot of people weren’t happy that Riker and Troi from The Next Generation “stealing the spotlight” so to speak, of a crew that they’d grown to love over the years. Some even argued that Enterprise had found it’s voice, and this took it away. Me, personally, I enjoyed it. I thought it was kind of the perfect ending for a prequel series that didn’t really need to be prequeled.
                Star Trek was a brave new vision of the future. We really didn’t need to see Dr. Sam Beckett and his backwards adventures of pre-Kirk, moving slower and finding all the alien races we’ve already grown to love. Or tolerate, in some cases. But towards the end of the series, it really made it work. I hated seeing it go when it was just getting good.
                But that’s part of the point of the last episode: it’s the prequel to everything we’ve seen before. Meaning, in the history of the show, Riker when to Starfleet Academy and learned all about the adventures of Captain Archer, Trip Tucker, T’Pol… all those people who came before him. (presumably. Maybe he just failed history?) He learned their stories. So when he’s given a difficult choice, given within the framework of the Next Generation Episode, “Pegasus” it would make sense that he’d go back to those stories to draw strength and find inspiration.
                “These Are the Voyages…” (I really shouldn’t be writing this so short after my Voyager post, I really want to keep typing “These Are the Voyagers” which would have been a cool name for an episode. Why didn’t they get on that?) features Riker having to make a bold choice: rat out the Admiral that had him do something highly illegal, or be honest. He goes back to the stories of Archer and the founding of the Federation and watches it in Holograph form. At one point, he watches the sacrifice that Trip Tucker would ultimately make, and was able to ask him about it. It’s actually a fitting sendoff for the show.
                But it also concerns itself with the idea of stories, and how we can draw inspiration from them. As we know, Riker would eventually ask that he be put under arrest, along with the Admiral, for his actions. Now, the original episode didn’t feature anything Star Trek: Enterprise. At this point people were more concerned with creating Voyager, so it does require suspension of disbelief that he would have time to go and do all of this during the original “Pegasus.” However, once you believe that we have starships that visit alien planets with green skinned women, well… you have to start accepting other things. Riker had to focus on his belief in stories (or history… I’m going with stories. I’ll be honest with you, when I started this I’d hoped to focus on literature, but ended up focusing on stories. Literature is tomorrow.) to find what he wanted to do.
                “City on the Edge of Forever”, “Inner Light,” “Living Witness”, and “These are the Voyages…” all showcase an aspect of stories that are important. Whether it’s the idea of a twist ending, or how we pass on  stories, or how those stories can get changed, or finally, how stories change us, they all focus deeply on what it means to have a story, or be a storyteller. Star Trek is a series that understands that. It uses the idea of stories to its advantage. Deep Space Nine even has an episode called “The Storyteller” and focuses on the importance of that role. It’s not just green skinned alien girls and phasers. It’s real people, affected not only by the stories they’re creating, but also by the stories that have come before them. Not bad for a series that started out being cancelled after two seasons, revived, then cancelled again.
                Tomorrow: We discuss Deep Space Nine… the Star Trek series ahead of its time, and one of the more literary things to grace our television. You’ll note, I’m not going to be discussing one episode. I’ve been looking forward to discussing Deep Space Nine for a while now, and considered following Breaking Bad Shakespeare Fridays with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Fridays. I still might.
                Some point in the future: this isn’t a movie blog, but what the hell, a review of both Star Trek Into Darkness and The Great Gatsby are on their way for you. The last one isn’t Star Trek related.

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