The One With A Year Of Star Trek, A Calendar, And My Mea Culpa…

Well, my deadline (January 27) for finishing The Prolific Trek came and went without much fanfare. I didn’t quite make my goal, despite allowing myself ample time to do so in December and January. Frankly, I seemed to run out of steam when I started Enterprise (Enterprise is definitely not my favorite of the series), and with life being busier than ever, it was easy to slow down on my journey.

I’m not giving up… just extending my deadline of bit. Season 4 of Enterprise and 3 TNG movies lay ahead of me. I’ll finish before the end of February because, ultimately, I’ve really enjoyed this rewatch immensely.

What happens when I finish my Prolific Trek? Well, my intention is to continue blogging. I still owe some reflections on Voyager and Enterprise. Plus, it has been pointed out to me that I haven’t actually watched all of Star Trek. Discovery, the series currently in production, is still hanging out there in the ether. So, I’ll need to watch it and blog about it.

Anyways, that was a really roundabout way of saying I’m not done.

I didn’t come here just to tell you all I’m still here. I also have some Star Trek to discuss (my one fan breathes, “About damn time!”).

For 2016, I got a Star Trek version of one of those desk/box calendars where you pull off a page a day. At first, I just threw the pages away, but at some point, I started saving the ones that spoke to me in some way.

So, I’m going to use this post, created on the one-year anniversary-ish of my Trek’s beginning, to reflect on these pages.

The first page that I saved was the cover of the calendar, and it can really only be seen with a picture. Since Star Trek first aired in 1966, the phrase “to boldly go where no man has gone before” has been the guiding principle. Exploration is the key to Star Trek, but I do find it interesting that they used the TOS version of the phrase. TNG claims that it is going “where no one has gone before.” A bit more politically correct and gender neutral, eh?  The funny thing is that, because I grew up with TNG, the TOS version always sticks out like a sore thumb to me.

Tuesday, February 9:

Spock: Captain, our Prime Directive of Non-interference.

Kirk: That refers to a living, growing culture… do you think this one is?

–Star Trek: The Original Series, The Return of the Archons

According to the rest of this calendar entry, this episode aired on February 9, 1967, and marks the first time the Prime Directive was mentioned in Star Trek. I haven’t talked about the Prime Directive during my Prolific Trek much. This strikes me as strange because I’d originally tapped the Prime Directive as one of the topics most in need of a good discussion. I’m guessing that is precisely the reason I held this calendar entry aside. I wanted to have something to spark a discussion about the moral and ethical dilemma that is the Prime Directive. Most importantly, I think a discussion regarding its inconsistent handling on the various shows warrants thorough analysis. Hopefully, as I continue this blog, I can find a place for such a discussion.

Wednesday, February 10:

“They used to say if man could fly, he’d have wings… but he did fly. He discovered he had to. Do you wish that the first Apollo mission hadn’t reached the moon, or that we hadn’t gone on to Mars and then to the nearest star? That’s like saying you wish that you still operated with scalpels and sewed your patients up with catgut like your great-great-great-great-grandfather used to. I’m in command. I could order this, but I’m not. Because Dr. McCoy is right in pointing out the enormous danger potential in any contact with life and intelligence as fantastically advanced as this. But i must point out that the possibilities, the potential for knowledge and advancement, is equally great. Risk. Risk is our business. That’s what this starship is all about. That’s why we’re aboard her.”

–Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek: The Original Series, Return to Tomorrow

This is probably my favorite quote from Captain Kirk. Unlike Captain Picard, Kirk certainly isn’t known for his rousing speeches. But occasionally, he does find the ability to truly give a great monologue. I’m not going to discuss this quote further because I’ve apparently already addressed and analyzed Kirk’s monologue and its representation of the Rodenberry vision in my Season 2 recap.

Saturday, February 13:

“The character of Flint in the [TOS] episode Requiem for Methuselah was a nearly immortal human who took on many different identities during his millennia of existence. Among the many roles he played in his long life, Flint claimed to be several famous historical figures, including Leonardo Da Vinci. When the hologram of Da Vinci became a recurring character on Voyager, Captian Janeway would note in Concerning Flight that Kirk had once met the famed artist and inventor, which was a callback to this episode.”

So, not all of the calendar entries are quotes from the series. Some are facts. Some, like this one, are kind of dull. Even after a bit of reflection, I’m still not completely sure why I saved this one. The only reason I can come up with is that I wanted to pay attention to Janeway’s reference in Concerning Flight and see if I caught the reference.

I didn’t.

Thursday, February 25:

McCoy: I don’t see no points on your ears, boy, but you sound like a Vulcan.

Data: No, sir. I am an Android.

McCoy: Almost as bad.

–Star Trek: The Next Generation, Encounter at Farpoint

Ah, Bones… Bones was almost certainly my favorite character on TOS, and I loved his bitter, sarcastic jabs toward Spock and Vulcans. Seeing that his opinions haven’t changed nearly 100 years later when TNG begins just seems so appropriate. Also, I’m sure I saved this entry specifically because I was in the middle of watching Season 3 of TOS at the time, and I couldn’t contain my excitement regarding Bones’s cameo on the TNG pilot.

Friday, February 26:

TOS: By Any Other Name (Romeo & Juliet); Dagger of the Mind (Macbeth); The Conscience of the King (Hamlet); Wink of an Eye (The Winter’s Tale); All Our Yesterdays (Macbeth); Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Hamlet)

TAS: How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth (King Lear)

TNG: Thine Own Self (Hamlet)

DS9: Past Prologue (The Tempest); Once More Unto the Breach (Henry V); The Dogs of War (Julius Caesar)

Voyager: Mortal Coil (Hamlet)

Okay, so this isn’t a direct quote from the calendar, but the calendar entry for February 26 discusses By Any Other Name, the first Star Trek episode to use a Shakespearean title. It then provides the complete list of Star Trek titles with Shakespear connections. When I reviewed Star Trek VI back in October, I talked pretty extensively about Star Trek’s relationship with Shakespeare.

Notably, Enterprise does not have a single episode on this list. Even The Animated Series, with its minimal 22 episodes, managed a Shakespeare reference. I’ll blog about this more extensively at some point in the near future, but there are times when Enterprise really doesn’t feel like “Star Trek.” At this moment, I can’t really put my finger on exactly what it is, but there’s just a certain quality that makes it stand out from the five other series. So, perhaps it is fitting that Enterprise is the only series to not pay homage to Billy Shakespeare.

Friday, March 18:

Spock Prime: There are so few Vulcans left, we cannot afford to ignore each other.

Spock: Then why did you send Kirk aboard when you alone could have explained the truth!

Spock Prime: Because you needed each other. I could not deprive you of the revelation of all that you could accomplish together, of a friendship that will define you both in ways you cannot yet realize.

–Star Trek 2009

Anyone who has read much of this blog, understands my love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with the JJ-verse, and I certainly had a lot of criticism for Star Trek 2009 when I blogged about it in July. But Leonard Nimoy’s appearance in the film is the absolute highlight. As I said in my blog, Nimoy “grounds the film. He makes it feel like a Star Trek film because he gets Star Trek, and he understands the characters within the universe.”

Saving this page from my calendar was a clear recognition of the strength of the Nimoy performance in the film. Additionally, I think it is a great critique on the Kirk/Spock relationship in general. Its clear, especially through the movies, that the Kirk/Spock relationship is something special. And to hear the half-Vulcan science officer describe it simply as “a friendship that will define you both in ways you cannot yet realize” is a testament to how much Kirk ultimately means to him.

Sunday, April 10:

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory, LLAP.”

@therealnimoy

This calendar entry is headlined “Trek Trivia” and is a discussion of Leonard Nimoy’s activity on Twitter and a tribute to his death. It finishes with the quote above. This would be Nimoy’s final tweet, taking place just five days before his death. Its a beautiful tweet, and I’m sure, knowing that the end of his fight with COPD was near, Nimoy took great pains in crafting a perfect message. He may not have known it would be his last, but it is certainly fitting.

I also adore the final four letters on the tweet: LLAP. Live Long and Prosper were the words made famous by Nimoy, and the Vulcan greeting is probably one of the most quintessentially Star Trek things in existence. Nimoy may not have coined the phrase. He probably didn’t even coin the LLAP acronym. But he did use LLAP to sign off every single tweet he makes. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but I’ve signed off every post of The Prolific Trek with #LLAP as a tribute to Nimoy.

Sunday, April 17:

“I’m going to tell you something very–I never thought I’d hear myself say–But it seems I’ve missed you. I don’t know if I could stand to lose you again.”

–Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

The odd-numbered movie trope held true when I reviewed Star Trek III in May, but this quote is still worthy of recognition. Bones is a bit of a crotchety old man, and he loves giving a hard time to the half-Vulcan first officer. Any astute viewer, however, will notice that their relationship goes much deeper than the snarky comments they make back and forth. And Bones’s recognition that he did, in fact, miss Spock and doesn’t want to lose him is a nice homage to their relationship.

Face it. I’m a sucker for anything relating to Bones and Spock.

Monday, May 2:

“Friendship must dare to risk, Counselor, or else it’s not friendship.”

–Captain Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Conspiracy

I know. I’m as surprised as you are that it took me until May to save a Picard quote. (I kid I kid). Anyways, it is somewhat fitting that this quote would have been one I saved because I have been thinking a lot about friendship and what friendship means lately. For Picard in this episode, friendship means trusting his friend and investigating his friend’s suspicions even though such trust could come at a great professional price. And I suppose, in a way, that is sort of the essence of friendship. It’s not friendship if you don’t trust or stick your neck out for the other person.

Monday, July 18:

Spock: … Where would you estimate we belong, Miss Keeler?

Edith Keeler: You? At his side, as if you’ve always been there and always will.

–Star Trek: The Original Series, City on the Edge of Forever

Of course, The City on the Edge of Forever is one of my favorite TOS episodes. I even went so far as to describe it as “damn near perfect” in my review. It is an episode that so perfectly captures and focuses on the characters on screen, developing ideas and a memorable love interest for Kirk in a way that very few episodes of Star Trek (or television in general) are able to do. But this line is a recognition that Kirk and Spock have had a relationship that feeds off of each other from very early in the series. This episode comes at the end of season one, and the writers of the show already recognize that Spock belongs at Kirk’s side. They can only exist together.

Monday, July 25:

Bethany: You must think we’re barbaric. All the things humanity’s accomplished–building ships like this, traveling to other worlds–and we’re still down there shooting each other.

Archer: The progress on earth, it didn’t happen overnight.

–Star Trek: Enterprise, North Star

Thursday, August 11:

Travers: There’s still war in the future?

Archer: On earth–between human beings–war has been eliminated. BUt the galaxy’s a big place, with thousands of species. Not all of them have the same values we have.”

–Star Trek: Enterprise, Storm Front: Part II

It’s fitting that the next two pages I saved were Enterprise quotes regarding the same topic: the progress of humanity from a violent and turbulent time. Without getting too political, it is hard to look at society today and be very positive. As a nation, we’re divided. As a species, we’re seeing huge amounts of global turmoil. Frankly, it doesn’t look good. But Star Trek has always been about hope. One day, humanity will reach the Rodenberry vision of exploration and personal growth, moving past violence, hatred, and all sorts of other horrible qualities we suffer from currently.

Sure, it’s fiction, but I’m going to take solace in the hope espoused here by Archer.

….

And it’s at this point that I realize this is going to have to be split into two posts. I apparently kept far too many calendar pages throughout the year, and I’m not going to be able to reflect on them all here. Well, I could, but then no one would read them.

Anyways, thanks for taking this Prolific Trek with me. I’ll be back soon with another post, and in the meantime, I’m still watching Star Trek.

#LLAP

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The One That Isn’t About Star Trek (But Is About Hamilton!)

I hope you all will indulge me for a moment as I transition away from Star Trek for a post. I know it has been a while since I posted anything on this blog, and I promise those Voyager posts are coming. Things like NaNoWriMo and real life have gotten in the way of progress, but I’ll be back soon enough.

Instead of Star Trek, I have the burning need to write (like I’m running out of time) about my experience watching a matinee performance of Hamilton: An American Musical last Saturday, November 12, at The Private Bank Theatre in Chicago. Plus, I think I’ve already proven that Hamilton and Star Trek can be related.

It took me a little while to get into Hamilton. I first heard whisperings about the musical a year or so ago, and I did try to listen to it initially. But my general distaste for rap and hip hop dissuaded me from getting immersed into the musical. Something changed in April, and I started listening to the musical through Amazon Music. Before I knew it, Hamilton was the only thing I had listened to while at work for weeks (I listen to music quietly all day).

Now? Six months later? I finally started branching out and listening to alternatives over the last month or so, but Hamilton is still 95% of what I listen to.

I mention this for two reasons:

  1. 1. If you’ve listened to Hamilton and it’s not your thing, it’s not too late. It can be an acquired taste; and
  2. To say I have the Hamilton soundtrack memorized is an understatement. So, when I went to see the show on Saturday, I was completely familiar with the Original Broadway Cast recording down to the musical transitions. So, my expectations were high, to say the least.

Briefly, let’s take a little trip to how this whole thing got started: I spent hours the morning the tickets for Hamilton: Chicago went on sale refreshing TicketMaster and desperately trying to get a ticket to the show. I nearly gave up several times (but my Mom’s help encouraged me to keep going), and I finally managed to make it through the server when I downloaded the app on my phone and had it searching for available tickets while I drove to lunch. Lo and behold, they were better tickets than I had dreamed of: first row of the Mezzanine on the aisle. The biggest bonus was that all I had to pay was face value for the tickets! (Spoiler Alert: The experience would have been worth paying substantially more than face value)


Here’s me walking into the theatre with the Hamilton sign behind me.

I was nearly shaking as I walked into the building to see the play. I’ve wanted to see Hamilton so badly for months, and my excitement was high. My seat was perfect, and the fact that there was no curtain hiding the stage from view only increased my anticipation.


This is the simple set that every single scene from Hamilton takes place on. This was the view from my seat. Yes, it was an excellent view. 

The staging for Hamilton is genius. As you can see in the photo above, it is largely just an open area with a higher level to give some depth to the scenes. It isn’t exactly clear from the photo, but there are two circles in the middle of the stage (like layers of a bullseye). Those two circles can be used to move independently and provide intrigue and complexity to the choreography.

Having one single, simple set was a genius move by the folks on Broadway. Lyrically, Hamilton is a really dense and complex musical. Most of the words come out so quickly, it can be difficult to understand. During Guns and Ships, Lafayette raps at an outstanding and mind-blowing pace, and even when the words aren’t coming out at a breakneck pace, the plot is complex as well. Lin Manuel Miranda has shoved the entire life of a founding father into a 2 hour musical. You’d have to darn near be a history major to have already known every plot twist and detail in the musical.

So, the simple staging really works. It allows the director to draw the audience’s attention to the relevant portions of the story and action without detracting (or distracting) from the brilliance of the language. The presence of the occasional writing desk, chairs, or other props more than makes up for the lack of backdrops or intricate sets. Instead, the focus is almost exclusively on the wonderful acting and the intelligent words of Lin Manuel Miranda.

I’d like to think that anyone who has listened to the soundtrack even once understands how powerful the language of Hamilton is. On the PBS documentary regarding the show and its phenomenon, one of the talking heads compares Lin Manuel Miranda to William Shakespeare. I’m not sure Miranda and Shakespeare is an apples to apples comparison, but Miranda can do things with language that very few individuals have ever been able to do.

As Miranda noted once on Twitter:

“When are y’all going to realize I’m playing chess, not checkers?” –Lin Manuel Miranda

The musical itself is just so smart and full of clever quips you might not get on your first, second, or even third listen to the soundtrack. I was pleasantly surprised that those moments generally garnered a laugh from the audience. The staging, choreography, and acting all complemented the written word so well.

Although I was giddy with excitement at the prospect of finally seeing Hamilton, I have to admit that I came into the musical with a little bit of trepidation. I can’t listen to the musical on CD (as opposed to listening to it on my iPhone or streaming via Amazon Music) because there is a slight lag time in between the tracks, and I know Hamilton so well that those disruptions to the transitions create an uncomfortable cognitive dissonance for me.

So, I couldn’t help but be a little wary about attending the show live with an entirely different cast than the voices I’m used to. I think it’s a natural human instinct to compare things you’re familiar to no matter how hard you try not to. I love to see my favorite musicals on stage, but any time I’ve seen Sound of Music or Fiddler on the Roof, I’m always—at least subconsciously—comparing the leads to Julie Andrews or Topol. With as fresh in my mind as the Original Broadway Cast recording of Hamilton was, I knew that tendency would be going forward full throttle.

Those worries were mostly for naught.

The Cliff Notes version: Hamilton was wonderfully transformative, and it somehow managed to exceed my ridiculously high expectations. I would gladly pay money to go see it again and again.

My favorite character in the musical is Aaron Burr. He’s the narrator of the story, and his “straight man” routine to Hamilton’s exuberant character is amusing. He’s deliciously noncommittal on every issue (“Jefferson has beliefs. Burr has none.”), and he plays the perfect foil to the character of Hamilton. Leslie Odom, Jr. originated the role of Burr on Broadway, and I’m convinced his rendition of “Wait For It” could top the radio charts as a smooth love ballad.

Burr was played by Joshua Henry in Chicago, and he absolutely lived up to my expectations. Henry had a wonderfully expressive face. It was so easy to see when he was less-than-amused by Hamilton’s antics. I lost count of the number of times that I giggled when all he did was raise an eyebrow. It was a performance that totally lived up to my expectations.

Henry also brought an emotional touch to the second act that I was not expecting. “The Room Where it Happens” is an interesting song in the second act where Burr laments not being in the room when Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton conducted some deals relating to the establishment of the government (Hamilton got his financial plan, and Jefferson got to choose the location of the nation’s capitol). I’ve listened to the song thousands of times by now, but it has never really struck me as anything more than a series of clever puns about food, etc. However, the way Henry played it, “The Room Where it Happens” ended up being a turning point for Burr. At this point, Burr realizes how he will always be on the outside, and he blames Hamilton for that fact. His anger and emotion as he finished the song gave me goosebumps, and I finally saw this as the moment that truly would lead to the duel at the end of the musical. Going forward, I know I’m going to experience this song differently.


(]My new Hamilton shirt. Yes, I probably have a T-shirt problem.

Some of the biggest shoes to fill in this play belonged to the original cast’s Daveed Diggs who played the Marquis de Lafayette in the first act and Thomas Jefferson in the second act. Diggs won a Tony for his larger-than-life and perfectly distinct performances of these two characters. As far as the acting went, Chris De’Sean Lee played these two roles in a way that truly played homage to the roles Diggs originated, and he was delightfully ridiculous in his giddiness during “What’d I Miss?” and “The Reynolds Pamphlet.” His rapping ability paled in comparison to Diggs, and that was apparent in “Guns and Ships.” Also, Miranda has indicated that Diggs ad libbed a line in “What’d I Miss?”:

Madison: Hamilton’s new financial plan is nothing less / Than government control / I’ve been fighting for the South alone / Where have you been?

Jefferson: Uh… France?

–“What’d I Miss?” Hamilton: An American Musical

It is an absolutely hilarious line when delivered by Diggs, and it has slowly become one of my favorite moments of the Original Cast’s soundtrack. Not to take anything away from Lee’s performance, but “Uh… France” is apparently a line that needs a little Diggs’ flair to make it work as intended.

That’s not to say I spent the entire time comparing Lee to the man who invented the role on Broadway. Lee was fantastic, but his performance certainly showed why Diggs was so amazing in his role. The moments where the comparison came to mind were few and far between. Ultimately, I found that I enjoyed Lee’s Lafayette and Jefferson just as much as I expected and hoped I would. One only needs to watch “The Reynolds Pamphlet” to love the Hamilton version of Thomas Jefferson.

Speaking of show-stealing roles on Broadway, I challenge anyone to listen to Jonathan Groff’s three songs as King George III and not laugh. King George sings in a over-exaggerated and totally fake English accent. Early in the play, he is exuberant about his knowledge that England will triumph over the colonies:

“I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.”
–“You’ll Be Back,” Hamilton: An American Musical

Then, once he realizes he’s lost, King George comes on to remind us how difficult it is to actually govern a country:

“When your people say they hate you / Don’t come crawling back to me!”
–“What Comes Next?” Hamilton: An American Musical

Then, upon learning that John Adams will be replacing George Washington as the second POTUS:

“That’s that little guy who spoke to me / All those years ago / What was it, eighty-five? / That poor man, they’re gonna eat him alive!”
–“I Know Him,” Hamilton: An American Musical

If you aren’t already laughing reading these ridiculous quotes, go take a couple of minutes to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack. I showcase these moments because they are all hilarious, and when you’re listening to the soundtrack, the Brit-invasion tunes sung by King George provide a wonderful juxtaposition to the rap and hip hop that dominate most of the other songs. Any person who plays King George has big shoes to fill and a huge task to undertake. All of King George’s songs take place when he’s the only person under a spotlight on a dark stage, and he is wearing an absolutely ludicrous costume. Alexander Gemignani did not disappoint as the King. His singing ability did not quite match Jonathan Groff’s, but he more than made up for any shortcomings with a wonderfully exaggerated voice, great facial expressions, and hilarious delivery.

I could go on and on dissecting the performances of every individual who was on the stage, but I’m not going to. If I did, it would probably be just more of me gushing over wonderful performances and comparing them to the Original Broadway Cast. That said, there are two roles that any discussion of Hamilton would be remiss without mentioning.

Karen Olivo was given the unenviable task of taking on the role of Alexander Hamilton’s sister-in-law and intellectual equal, Angelica Schuyler. Renee Elise Goldsberry won a Tony for her origination of the role.

I have to think Angelica might be the most difficult role to play. She has to steal the show in the feminist ballad “The Schuyler Sisters.” Then a few song later, Angelica breaks the collective hearts of the audience in “Satisfied.” It is a beautifully high energy song where Angelica laments that she must give up Alexander Hamilton, a man who she has instant chemistry with and who is clearly her intellectual equal, to her sister Eliza. In the Hamil-tome book (Hamilton: The Revolution), Miranda notes that someone playing Angelica doesn’t need to just speak her lines quickly. She has to “think” quickly. This woman is smart and at the top of her game, and the audience needs to believe she is so intelligent that she thinks as quickly as Hamilton does.

Olivo was simply wonderful in the role. She inhabited the character of Angelica Schuyler perfectly. She was quick on her feet, and every single line fell from her lips in a way that let you know she was a brilliant individual. Her chemistry with Joseph Morales, who played Hamilton at the matinee I saw, was also off the charts.

Speaking of Morales, he is not the principal actor cast to play Hamilton in Chicago. He isn’t quite an understudy, but he is simply listed in the program as the person who will play Hamilton at certain performances. I suppose the technical term would probably be the alternate. Of all the actors on the stage, he was the one that most clearly reminded me of his equal on the original cast recording.

Morales embodied Miranda in every sense of the word. His voice was similar. His mannerisms were similar. His appearance was uncannily similar. And yet it never once felt like he was mimicking Miranda. Instead, it was apparent that this was someone who embodied the originally conceived idea for the character of Alexander Hamilton absolutely perfectly.

I’d be interested to see how someone who is not just like Miranda plays Hamilton, though. I’ve heard wonderful things about Javier Munoz’s performances on Broadway, but every review makes it quite clear that Munoz has an entirely different view of how Hamilton should be played.

Here’s the cast at curtain call.

Long story short, seeing Hamilton was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I eagerly anticipated finally seeing this show on stage for months, and it lived up to every single expectation I had. In fact, it exceeded every expectation I had.

Hamilton is smart. Hamilton is entertaining. Hamilton is full of real human emotions. I love this play, and I firmly believe it is worth every penny of a trip to New York or Chicago to see it. It’ll change your life.

Anyways, I’ll be back to Star Trek soon.

#LLAP

(And don’t throw away your shot!)

The One Where Spock is a Descendant of Sherlock Holmes and the Klingons Quote Shakespeare…

My undergraduate degree is in English Literature. So, as far as Star Trek movies go, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country holds a special place in my heart. The alternate title for the movie really could have been “The One Where The Klingons Quote Shakepseare.” For an English nerd like me, this movie is a lot of fun.

Star Trek has a long and storied relationship with Shakespeare. The franchise’s two most iconic captains (Picard and Kirk) are played by Shakespearean actors, and plenty of episodes pay homage to Shakepeare’s great works through either their titles or direct quotes from the plays. But I’m not sure there’s a clearer or more direct connection between Shakespeare and Star Trek than this film.

One of Undiscoverd Country’s earliest scenes involves a tense dinner between the Enterprise crew and Klingon Chancellor Gorkon’s attaché. Gorkon surprises Spock by quoting Shakespeare in his toast, and this leads to one of the most iconic lines in all of Star Trek lore:

“You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original* Klingon.”

–Chancellor Gorkon, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

This is such a fun line, and for the audience, it appropriately cuts through the tension of the dinner between sworn enemies.

The Klingon fascination with Shakespeare comes back at the climax of the movie. General Chang (played by Christopher Plummer) stalks the Enterprise in his cloaked Bird of Prey, and he quotes Shakespeare while firing on the Enterprise.

Of course, it ends with, perhaps, the most iconic Shakespeare line of all:

“To be or not to be.”

–General Chang, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

I love this use of Shakespeare throughout the film. It is, first and foremost, entertaining, but it also shows us a different side to Klingon culture. Klingons are generally portrayed as a bloodthirsty warrior race. While they are focused on honor pretty significantly, that honor is tied exclusively to their capabilities as warriors and in battle. So, showing that Klingons have an affinity for Shakespeare makes them seem a little less one dimensional. They apparently appreciate art and literature, and it’s nice to see a little more to this race that captures so much of the Star Trek pantheon.

And now for some non-Shakespeare thoughts on The Undiscovered Country:

  • It turns out that Spock is a descendant of Sherlock Holmes. I know this will make Sherlockians like my friend Diana scream about how Sherlock never had children in canon, but I absolutely love when Spock quotes one of his ancestors:

“An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

–Spock, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

  • I love the scene where William Shatner’s love affair with himself is mocked. Martia, the shapeshifter, turns from a sexy woman into Kirk, and the exchange is glorious:

Kirk: I can’t believe I kissed you!

Martia (as Kirk): Must have been your lifelong ambition.

–Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

  • This movie has one of the greatest lines regarding the philosophy of the future and the world Star Trek creates:

“Let us redefine progress to mean that just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that we must do that thing.”

–Federation President

  • This movie might have the worst closing line in history (And this is coming from a HUGE fan of Peter Pan):

Chekov: Course heading, Captain?

Kirk: Second star to the right. And straight on ‘Til morning.

–Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

I had originally ranked The Undiscovered Country pretty high in my preference list for Star Trek movies, but after this rewatch, I’m not sure it deserves such a high ranking. I enjoyed it, clearly, but it ultimately struck me as middle of the road. It has its strong moments, but overall, it drags just a little too much to be in the discussion of films like Wrath of Khan.

*In case you were wondering, you can buy a copy of Hamlet in Klingon. Full title: The Tragedy of Khamlet, Son of the Emperor of Qo’noS.

The One Where We’ve All Been The Scarecrow and My Review of Voyager Season 2…

It seems to be quite the common theme that I start my blog posts apologizing for the long drought in between. This has almost certainly been my longest time in between posts this year, but I’m still watching Star Trek as always! Life is busy, and when it comes to watching or writing, watching is winning out lately.

Also, procrastination also played into my delay in posting this one. I like to use this section of my Season Review post to muse on some aspect of Star Trek that struck me over the course of the last season. Of course, there are some times where that doesn’t quite work out, and I resort to things like sorting Deep Space Nine characters into Hogwarts houses.

That said, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to talk about for season 2 of Voyager. The obvious choice would have been to discuss my feelings on Janeway’s choice at the end of Tuvix. I’m pretty sure the moral and ethical dilemma in Tuvix have been discussed ad nauseum across the interwebs. It feels predictable, and frankly, I’m so firmly ensconced on Janeway’s side that I can’t really discuss any “dilemma.”

So, let’s talk about immortality.

Generally, when a Star Trek fan (or a Star Trek character) mentions Q, they’re referring to the “trickster” alien portrayed by John DeLancie. From the pilot episode of TNG, Q has been showing up on Star Trek to introduce a little chaos to the ship. He’s never quite good and he’s never quite evil. I’m not a gamer, but I think he’s what you’d call “Chaotic Neutral.”

But actually, the Q is an entire race of omnipotent (sort of) and immortal beings who inhabit the Q Continuum. As a general rule, the race and each individual within the race is simply referred to as The Q or Q. Until Season 2’s Deathwish, there was very little exploration of the “other” Q in the Continuum (except for one largely forgettable episode in TNG).

However, Deathwish introduces us to the Continuum itself and to Quinn. Quinn is a unique Q in that he seeks asylum on board Voyager for one simple reason: he wishes to die.

It’s an interesting request. As mortal beings, our primary instinct is to prolong our lives for as long as possible. But Quinn doesn’t present immortality as something to strive for. Instead, he equates immortality with cruel and unusual punishment. Living forever is torture. When we finally see the Continuum, it’s a long dirt road with a convenience store straight out of the Great Depression. Quinn explains:

Quinn: I traveled the road many times, sat on the porch, played the games, been the dog… Everything! I was even the scarecrow for awhile.

Captain Janeway: Why?

Quinn: Because I hadn’t done it.

Q: Oh, we’ve all done the scarecrow, big deal.

–Star Trek Voyager, Death Wish

Life has so many possibilities, but when life is infinite, those possibilities become finite. Quinn explains that the Continuum was once a space for lively debate and discovery and humor, but now there is no more dialogue:

“Because it has all been said. Everyone has heard everything… Seen everything. They haven’t had to speak to each other in ten millennia. There’s nothing left to say.”

–Quinn, Star Trek Voyager, Death Wish

Janeway is an explorer. She embraces the Starfleet ideal of seeking out new life and new civilizations. So, as she must make her decision regarding whether to grant Quinn asylum, Janeway sees that his living conditions are terrible. She ultimately declares them intolerable.

But there’s one issue. Quinn seeks mortality and asylum on Voyager for one purpose: suicide. He’s explored everything there is to explore. Discussed everything there is to discuss. He wants to end his life, and Janeway is very clear that her principles find suicide abhorrent. However, she finally decides that “immortality forced on an individual by the state” is intolerable. It’s an interesting way to compare immortality with capital punishment.

And once Janeway has granted asylum, it is Q who assists Quinn in his suicide, explaining:

Tuvok: You assisted his suicide?

Q: Illogical, Tuvok? I don’t think so. By demanding to end his life, he taught me a little something about my own. He was right when he said the Continuum scared me back in line. I didn’t have his courage or his convictions. He called me irrepressible. This was a man who was truly irrepressible. I only hope I make a worthy student.

–Star Trek Voyager, Death Wish

Death Wish is an interesting episode. It takes issues of suicide and euthanasia and turns them on their head. Quinn isn’t suffering in the traditional sense, but life has become so banal that it isn’t worth living anymore. It’s hard to fault Janeway’s decision to grant him asylum even if we all know what the ultimate result will be. And I absolutely adore how Q ultimately learns from this entire thing. He isn’t going to toe the Continuum’s proverbial line anymore. A life without adventure and excitement isn’t one worth living.

And that’s not a bad lesson to learn. Anyways, season 2 of Voyager…

The Good:

  • Prototype
  • Death Wish
  • Lifesigns 

The Bad:

  • Elogium
  • Partrurition
  • Threshold
  • Innocence

The Characters:

Season 2 starts with an episode that shows the crew choosing to stay with Captain Janeway and Voyager. From day one, the decision she made to destroy the Caretaker’s array weighed heavily on the Captain, and although the show doesn’t always take the time to focus on it, the conflict between the Starfleet and Maquis portions of the crew must certainly bubble just beneath the surface of any interaction. So, seeing the crew choose to stay with Janeway is powerful.

Additionally, we get to see the development of the Janeway and Chakotay relationship in Resolutions. I actually really love how the writers developed the relationship throughout the series. Having a female Captain was a huge challenge, and I definitely understand why they shied away from having her enter into a relationship with a man (especially her First Officer). So, it’s nice when we get moments like this.

Season 2 shows us more of the annoying Kes and Neelix. When I was watching these early seasons, every episode I finished felt like a huge accomplishment. One less episode until Seven shows up! I wish I would have a better attitude about both Kes and Neelix. I know there are folks out there who really enjoy these characters, but they both just feel so pointless to the entire story.

Final Thoughts:

Season 2 was a 5.92. A solid but not groundbreaking rating which seems fitting for a solid but not groundbreaking season of Star Trek. The show grows by leaps and bounds as it moves along, and one thing I’ve noticed is that I enjoy watching Voyager more than I’ve enjoyed watching any of the other series during The Prolific Trek. It may not be better than TNG or DS9, but I look forward to watching new episodes even more.

#LLAP

The One With Starfleet in the Delta Quadrant and the Voyager Season 1 Review…

John Wooden once said that “the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” I’ve always appreciated this quote, and I do think it’s true. It’s easy, or easier, to be on your best behavior when you’re being closely watched. It’s harder to do what’s right simply because it’s right.

As I was thinking about what I would talk about for my first post on Voyager, this quote kept coming back to me. After all, being stuck in the Delta Quadrant is the ultimate test of Starfleet character because there is truly no one there to watch. Stranded 75 years from home and far away from Federation space, I don’t think anyone could blame Voyager for abandoning Starfleet ideals and doing whatever it takes to get home, but Janeway shows her character. She merges her crew with a Maquis crew and boldly declares:

We’re alone in an uncharted part of the galaxy. We have already made some friends here, and some enemies. We have no idea of the dangers we’re going to face, but one thing is clear. Both crews are going to have to work together if we’re to survive. That’s why Commander Chakotay and I have agreed that this should be one crew. A Starfleet crew. And as the only Starfleet vessel assigned to the Delta Quadrant, we’ll continue to follow our directive to seek out new worlds and explore space. But our primary goal is clear. Even at maximum speeds, it would take seventy five years to reach the Federation, but I’m not willing to settle for that. There’s another entity like the Caretaker out there somewhere who has the ability to get us there a lot faster. We’ll be looking for her, and we’ll be looking for wormholes, spatial rifts, or new technologies to help us. Somewhere along this journey, we’ll find a way back. Mister Paris, set a course for home.

–Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek Voyager, Caretaker

Of course, the actual reason for Janeway’s decision to make her patchwork Starfleet/Maquis crew is that the show is called Star Trek. It probably wouldn’t go over well with the fandom if the crew wasn’t in Starfleet uniforms and there was no Federation presence. But in universe, this is pretty powerful. Their goal is to get home, but they won’t forget their mission.

Janeway uses this speech to finish out the first episode of Voyager, but frankly, we don’t know how Voyager and her Captain will adapt to being stranded in the Delta Quadrant. It’s easy to say you will abide by your guiding principles before you face any sort of challenge. The difficulty comes when your back is up against the wall and you’re faced with real life or death challenges along the way.

The first time we see a test of Janeway’s character is in the fourth episode of Season 1, Phage. In Phage, the Voyager meets the Vidians for the first time. The Vidian race has been taken over by a brutal and deadly disease called the Phage, and they are forced to harvest organs from other species in order to survive. Generally, they try to harvest the organs from the deceased, but when the need is great, they’ll use living beings. Neelix’s lungs are literally stolen from his body, and Janeway must face her helplessness at her inability to help Neelix:

Janeway: So now I am left with the same choice you made. Whether to commit murder to save a life, or to allow my own crewman to die while you breath air through his lungs.

Motura: It must be impossible for you to understand how any civilized people could come to this. Before the phage began, we were known as educators and explorers, a people whose greatest achievements were artistic. I myself am a sculptor of note on my world. All I can say is that when your entire existence is at stake

Dereth: You don’t have to explain yourself, Motura.

Motura: If the consequence of this act is a death sentence, so be it. At least it will put an end to my suffering.

Janeway: I can’t begin to understand what your people have gone through. They may have found a way to ignore the moral implications of what you are doing, but I have no such luxury. I don’t have the freedom to kill you to save another. My culture finds that to be a reprehensible and entirely unacceptable act. If we were closer to home I would lock you up and turn you over to my authorities for trial, but I don’t even have that ability here, and I am not prepared to carry you forever in our brig. So I see no other alternative but to let you go. Take a message to your people. If I ever encounter your kind again, I will do whatever is necessary to protect my people from this harvesting of yours. Any aggressive actions against this ship or it’s crew will be met by the deadliest force. Is that clear?

Dereth: Quite.

–Star Trek Voyager, Phage

These specific Vidians have committed an absolutely heinous crime against one of her crew members. There is simply no excuse for stealing a vital organ directly out of the body of a living being. Thus, in some ways, Janeway might be justified to kill the Vidian or enact some other form of punishment. But she doesn’t. Janeway holds to her ideals even in the face of a horrendous crime and the almost certain death of her crew member.

It’s a little later in the season that we get to see a true struggle between Janeway’s principles and the crew’s desire to get home. In Prime Factors, Voyager finds itself on the other side of a species’ Prime Directive. They have met a technologically advanced race, the Sikarians, who can fold space (or some other Treknobabble) and travel thousands of light years instantaneously.

Obviously, this would solve a lot of problems for the Voyager crew, but the Sikarians have their own Prime Directive. They will not share the technology with Voyager because of the risk it could fall into the wrong hands. It’s a devastating blow to Voyager, and Janeway laments how hard it is to be on the other side:

“It’s the first time we’ve been on the other side of the fence. How many times have we been in the position of refusing to interfere when some kind of disaster threatened an alien culture? It’s all very well to say we do it on the basis of an enlightened principle. But how does that feel to the aliens?”

–Voyager, Prime Factors

Janeway stays true to her principles. While she does try to convince the Sikarians to change their minds by offering to make a trade for the technology, Janeway is steadfast. She will not force another culture to violate their laws, and she will not steal the technology.

But the Voyager crew, including B’Elanna, Harry, Seska, and Tuvok have other ideas. The Maquis tendency for anarchy shines through, and the crew of the Voyager obtains the technology behind Janeway’s back. It’s mutiny plain and simple. Of course, it would make for a very boring show if Voyager made it back to the Alpha Quadrant less than 15 episodes in. So the technology doesn’t work because it’s incompatible with Voyager’s technology, and there’s nearly a warp core breach.

Janeway is shaken by the betrayal of her crew, especially Tuvok, her closest advisor. Their exchange is wonderful:

Janeway: I don’t even know where to start. I want you to explain how you, of all people, could be involved in this.

Tuvok: It’s quite simple, captain. You have made it quite clear, on many occasions, that your highest goal is to get the crew home. But in this instance, your standards would not allow you to violate Sikarian law. Someone had to spare you the ethical dilemma. I was the logical choice. And so I chose to act.

–Voyager, Prime Factors

Janeway will later tell Tuvok that logic can be used to justify anything, and that is its “power and its flaw.” This episode is one of those that really lets the audience understand who the characters are. Janeway is principled, and though she desperately wants to get her crew home, she won’t violate her standards to do so. Tuvok sees that his biggest role is to serve as counselor and friend to Janeway. And B’Elanna owns up to her bad decisions.

All of this isn’t to suggest that I’m holding Janeway up as the paragon of the Prime Directive or Starfleet values. She’s definitely a Captain who will get things done when they need to be (although I don’t think she’d go all Sisko in In The Pale Moonlight… to win a war or anything), but being in the Delta Quadrant is definitely the greatest test of Janeway’s character. It’s what makes Voyager the most intriguing of all the shows. The crew is facing trials that are foreign to Starfleet because Starfleet isn’t around, and it’s wonderful to watch them deal with it.

The Good:

  • Eye of the Needle
  • Prime Factors
  • Faces

The Bad:

  • Heroes and Demons
  • Emanations
  • Jetrel

The Characters:

I spent a lot of time in this section gushing about how wonderfully developed the characters were on DS9. Character development is almost certainly one of the things DS9 is most known for and rightly so. Characters like Kira and Odo were wonderfully deep and complex. But for all the credit DS9 gets for creating great characters, Voyager seems to be denied credit it rightly deserves for creating good characters as well.

Captain Janeway is a nice change of pace. I’m not sure I can put my finger specifically on what makes Janeway different from the other Captains (besides the lack of a Y chromosome), but she is still an absolute breath of fresh air. Of course, it’s wonderful to see a woman sitting in the Captain’s seat, but there’s more to it than that. I’m not sure Kirk, Picard, or Sisko could have managed to handle the difficult situation that Janeway finds herself in. Not only is she stranded in the Delta Quadrant 75 years from home, her crew is absolutely decimated. So she must lead a patchwork crew that is a mix of Starfleet Officers and Maquis terrorists, and she really does manage it.

B’Elanna Torres, too, is a delightful character. In many ways, she reminds me of Kira. She is brash. She is judgmental. She is a terrorist, but it doesn’t take long into Season 1 to realize that she is also amazingly principled. She takes her job seriously, and she commands the respect of her superiors. I was amazed by her character turn at the end of Prime Factors. After essentially committing mutiny, she owns up to her role in the crime, and she declares that she will “take full responsibility for what happened.” It’s a big step, and it certainly shows why Janeway was justified in choosing her as the Chief Engineer. Faces allows us to see the insecurities that B’Elanna hides beneath her surly exterior. Growing up half-Klingon was obviously a huge struggle for her, and it’s nice that the Voyager writers take the time to let us see that.

The Doctor deftly fills the role of the non-human who will explore his humanity and identity throughout the course of the series. Spock, Data, and Odo have left big shoes for The Doctor to fill, but he proves quite quickly in Season 1 that he is more than up to the task. In fact, I might enjoy The Doctor more than any of those characters combined.

For the most part, Voyager actually puts together a pretty good cast of characters. Chakotay and Tom Paris also provide some depth and character to the show, but that’s not to say all of the characters on the show are enjoyable or well-written. Even with Jetrel, an episode designed to show us a depth to Neelix’s character, I can’t find anything redeeming in the characters of Neelix or Kes… I guess it’s time to start my countdown to Seven of Nine’s appearance.

Favorite Quote:

I forgot this section in my DS9 Season 7 review, but I kind of enjoy this part of my season review. It was hard to pick just one quote out of this season until I realized I could use this to pinpoint the exact moment I began “shipping” Janeway and Chakotay:

B’Elanna: Who does she think she is to make a decision like that for all of us?

Chakotay: She’s the captain.

–Voyager, The Caretaker

Final Thoughts:

It was a bit of a culture shock to switch gears from the final arc of DS9 to the first episodes of Voyager. Voyager is episodic. Voyager is hopeful. In every way that DS9 creates great television and great characters but sacrifices some of the innate “Star Trek”-ness of the series, Voyager embraces those Star Trek qualities. I don’t mention this to be negative about either DS9 or Voyager but simply to recognize that Star Trek doesn’t have to fit into a single mold. Good television can come in a variety of fashions. The first season of Voyager was solid, coming in at a 5.73, and I know it will improve from there. I’m ready to keep traveling the Delta Quadrant.

#LLAP

The One Where The Dominion War Ends…

When I finished TNG, I dedicated my season review post to a discussion about the wonderful finale that is All Good Things. Thus, it is no secret to anyone reading this blog that I consider TNG’s finale to be the pinnacle of television (or at least Star Trek) finales. TNG managed to finish its show by providing a little fan service, telling a compelling story that book ends the series, and showing the audience how far the characters have come by the time the seventh season concludes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ending of DS9 couldn’t be more different from the ending of TNG. Instead of a series of stand alone episodes leading up to a “double episode” finale, DS9 literally has a series of episodes that create an entire 10-part finale. Episode 17, Penumbra, is labeled “Part 1” on Netflix, and it begins the story of the struggle for the end of the Dominion War and the conclusion of the series. It works it’s way to episode 25, the “double episode” finale, What You Leave Behind.

It’s an interesting conceit, and it actually reminds me of the way television is created today. It was actually really hard to rate these episodes on The Progress, and I ended up giving the entire run up to the finale a series of six ratings because the episodes themselves run together so thoroughly that it’s nearly impossible to separate one from the other. This final series was almost designed  to be binge watched.

This entire arc is extremely well-written. It is well-acted. But, ultimately, it just doesn’t quite feel like Star Trek. After finishing DS9 and starting straight in on Voyager, I actually felt quite a bit of culture shock. There is no beauty of exploration. There are no new alien species. Instead, the arc deals with a serialized tale of everyone we already know and the tactical decisions that lead them into the victory against the Dominion.

While it may feel a little “not Star Trek” for me, there are some things that this storytelling style really brings to light.

Specifically, one of my favorite arcs in all of Star Trek is when Kira joins forces with the Cardassian rebels (including Leget Damar) and works with them as ground forces to overcome the Cardassian-Dominion alliance for the good of Cardassia. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a character on television undergo the kind of growth that Kira does throughout the seven seasons of DS9. By the end of the series, Kira is working alongside the Cardassians she hated with abandon at the beginning of the series.

In fact, I think one of the most powerful scenes in the entire series is when Garak, Damar, Kira, and another Cardassian are waiting to storm the Cardassian-Dominion headquarters and Garak begins to laugh at how hopeless their situation is:

Garak: We have a problem.

Kira: Just one?

Garak: I’m afraid it’s a rather large problem. The cargo door is made of neutronium.

Kira: Then the explosives we brought aren’t even going to make a dent.

Garak: You see the problem.

Ekoor: What do we do?

Damar: I don’t know, but I’m through hiding in basements… I fail to see what is so funny, Garak.

Garak: Isn’t it obvious? Here we are, ready to storm the castle and willing to sacrifice our lives in a Nobel effort to slay the Dominion beast in its lair, and we can’t even get inside the gate.

*everyone begins to laugh*

Kira: Maybe we could go to the door and ask the Jem’Hadar to let us in.

Damar: OR just have them send the shape-shifter out to us.

Garak: As I said, we have a problem.

–Deep Space Nine, What You Leave Behind

I’ve never been in battle. I don’t know much about the military. But there is something so real about this moment. There must be something about facing death for a cause you truly believe in to bring people of all different perspectives and cultures together. When he was on stage for his panel in Chicago, Rene Auberjonois described DS9 as the most “truthful” of all the Star Trek series. He noted that it wasn’t necessarily realistic, but it told stories truthfully. And that’s what people want. Moments like this, with Kira and a bunch of Cardassians laughing as they fight a seemingly hopeless battle together, are about as truthful as it gets.

In addition to beautiful moments like this one with Kira, What You Leave Behind also delivers the most genuinely satisfying comeuppance a villain has ever gotten on television. Without me saying anything more, I’m pretty sure any person who has ever watched DS9 knows what I’m talking about. It’s hokey because the idea of the prophets and pah-wraiths is just patently ridiculous, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been more satisfied than watching Kai Winn burn to death at Gul Dukat’s hands in the Fire Caves.

But for every wonderful moment like Kira and the Cardassians and Winn and her death, the final arc of DS9 also has moments that just don’t seem to quite fit. After seven seasons of watching the series, the Prophets (or “wormhole aliens”) shouldn’t still bother me, but the role that they play in Sisko’s final arc is simply disappointing. Sisko is a strong character who has grown on me throughout the series. He is brave. He stands by his beliefs. I’m not sure there is any other character in all of Star Trek who could have helped Bajor get over the occupation while simultaneously leading the Alpha Quadrant in a galactic war against a nearly insurmountable enemy.

Making Sisko the Emissary cheapens all of the strength his character has shown over the series. Suddenly, it isn’t really a reflection on his personal character that he has accomplished all those things. He was simply meant to do those things because these celestial beings meddled in the corporeal world and built him to be the Emissary. Then, Sisko abandons his son, wife, and unborn child in favor of the Celestial Temple because… Reasons:

Sisko: It is difficult to explain. It’s not linear.

Kasidy: What isn’t?

Sisko: My life. My destiny. The prophets saved me, Kasidy. I’m their Emissary, and they still have a great deal for me to do. But first, there is much to learn: things only the Prophets can teach me.

Kasidy: When will you be back?

Sisko: It’s hard to say. Maybe a year, maybe… Yesterday. But I will be back.

–Deep Space Nine, What You Leave Behind

This absolutely feels like it is just crapping over seven seasons of character development and wonderful acting by Avery Brooks in order to make the story seem deeper than it actually is.

But for as awful and pointless as the goodbye between Sisko and his pregnant wife is, the goodbye between Odo and Kira is painful and poignant.

I confess, I haven’t always appreciated the goodbye between Odo and Kira. It has always felt like such a waste that Odo leaves Kira to be with the Founders, but it seems clear that their relationship was always headed this way from the moment they get together. Odo, as a Changeling, can live forever. He has been an outsider his entire life, and it is clear that he wants to make a connection with his people from the second he meets them. But the Dominion are aggressive and judgmental towards “solids,” so Odo is caught in between two worlds that he doesn’t quite fit into.

So, it is only fitting that Odo would return to his people at the end in order to advocate for a relationship between the Changelings and the  Solids. And, as Nana Visitor mused at the Chicago Convention, Kira “loved Odo enough to let him go.”

All in all, though? DS9 has a damn good finale. It’s satisfying to see a conflict developed over the course of multiple seasons find its resultion over the final few hours of the series. And it’s a mostly satisfying resolution, too. The Cardassians, Federation, Romulans, and Klingons working together to maintain the sanctity of the Alpha Quadrant actually feels VERY Star Trek…

Anyways…

The Good:

  • Take Me Out To The Holo-Suite
  • The Siege of AR-558
  • It’s Only a Paper Moon
  • What You Leave Behind

The Bad:

  • Afterimage
  • Prodigal Daughter
  • Field of Fire
  • Chimera

The Characters:

So… Jadzia is dead. I’ve covered my feelings about that pretty thoroughly. Jadzia’s untimely and awful death means that we’re treated to a new main character and a new host for Dax. Obviously, as a Jadzia fan, I struggle with the idea that she can be replaced by any character, but part of The Prolific Trek has been expanding my horizons and finding new perspectives on the franchise I love above all else. Plus, I met Nicole DeBoer earlier this year, and she was a kind and generous human being. So, my goal for Season 7 was to have an open mind about Ezri. I knew I was never going to love her, but maybe, just maybe, by the end of the season I could like her? Yeah. No. I’d love to hear from anyone who enjoys the Ezri character because I just don’t understand. She’s bland. She never stops talking. She doesn’t have a single original thought, and she spends most of the season whining about everything under the sun.

Well, I think I addressed most of my thoughts about the characters in my discussion about the finale above. I think the only thing I haven’t covered was that I adore that Rom becomes the new Grand Negus. The arc of the Ferengi culture throughout DS9 and the ultimate resolution at the end makes me wonder if any novels have been written about how Rom’s turn as Grand Negus changes the way Ferengi culture operates… Anyone have any idea?

Final Thoughts:

Season 7 scored a 6.08. It had some really great episodes, and it managed to show the harsh realities of war in a deep and intelligent manner. Plus, there was an entire episode devoted to baseball, and Worf coins the best cheer anyone will ever need: “Death to the Opposition.” But this rating also reflects quite a drop off from the seasons leading up to it. In my view, the loss of Jadzia really hurt the show, and there were plenty of episodes where the mere presence of Ezri in the storyline nearly ruined the entire thing. As addressed above, the final arc leading to the end had its strengths, but because it was such a long and drawn out storyline, the episodes began to run together. I couldn’t rate any of them above a 6 because, frankly, I couldn’t identify one episode from another. DS9 was a really fun journey, though. It was a worthwhile departure from the more traditional Star Trek that define the other series.

Voyager is next, though. And you can bet I’m ready for Captain Janeway.

#LLAP

The One With A Relationship Of Equals, Or How The Trill Married The Klingon (and my long overdue season 6 review)…

Heading into the Prolific Trek, I knew that, of all of Star Trek’s 30 seasons, the ending of Season 6 of DS9 would hit me the hardest. Losing Jadzia Dax, one of my all time favorite characters, is absolutely devastating. I knew I wouldn’t be up for writing much of a season review post after the conclusion of the season, but, as they say, the show must go on.

I’ve been meaning to write a post discussing the Jadzia/Worf relationship for some time now. What better time to do so than while lamenting Jadzia’s death?

Star Trek has never been about the romantic relationships between its characters. That is, Star Trek is not Grey’s Anatomy where the entire show is unilaterally focused on whether Meredith and McDreamy will finally get together. However, throughout the course of the multiple series, the shows do place their main characters into romantic relationships. Some of them are fantastic and well-developed (B’Elanna/Tom, Kira/Odo) others are, perhaps, less so (Miles/Keiko, Tripp/T’Pol). With all due respect to Troi/Riker, my favorite romantic relationship on all of Star Trek is almost certainly Worf and Jadzia.


Terry Farrell and Michael Dorn showing they have just as much chemistry in April 2016 as they did when their show was on the air in the 90s.

Looking back, a relationship between Worf and Jadzia seems inevitable. As the host of the Dax Symbiont, Jadzia has significant influences from Curzon, and there probably hasn’t been a non-Klingon in all of Federation history more steeped in Klingon culture and lore than Curzon Dax. By the time Worf comes onto the Station, the audience has also seen that Jadzia, too, respects and understands Klingon culture and traditions. In fact, in Worf’s first episode, Jadzia greets him by speaking in Klingon (telling him that she is better looking than Curzon), and then, Worf finds Jadzia’s Skeletor/Klingon workout program:

Jadzia: So, how did you like the program?

Worf: I found it adequate. Although I was surprised to find a Klingon exercise program on the holo-suite.

Jadzia: It’s mine.

Worf: You mean Curzon’s.

Jadzia: No, I mean it’s mine. Computer, Bat’leth. I thought you might be tired of fighting holograms.

Worf: It would not be a fair match.

Jadzia: I’ll go easy on you.

Worf: Very well. Defend yourself.

[They begin fighting]

Jadzia: I hope you’re not holding back because I’m a woman. If it makes things any better, think of me as a man. I’ve been one several times.

–Deep Space Nine, The Way of the Warrior

Jadzia is, in many ways, a Klingon with Klingon abilities and strength, but she is, admittedly, unconventional. She is a Trill, and she is in Starfleet. She’s like Worf in that sense, as Jadzia observes when they are discussing Klingon opera:

Worf: It is the power of his voice, the strength of his intonation that makes Barak-Kadan a great singer. There are none like him.

Jadzia: None as boring anyway. He never varies his performance… Not even a half-tone.

Worf: I prefer traditional opera performed in the traditional manner.

Jadzia: You know, for a Klingon who was raised by humans, wears a Starfleet uniform, and drinks prune juice, you’re pretty attached to tradition. But that’s okay, I like a man riddled with contradictions.

–Deep Space Nine, Looking for Par’Mach in all the Wrong Places

Jadzia and Worf are a both riddled with contradictions. They reflect each other in this aspect. Worf clings to tradition because he is a Klingon who was raised to be an outsider. Jadzia has come to tradition because one of her previous hosts respected and learned Klingon traditions, but as Sisko does eventually remind her, she isn’t Curzon.

I love that the writers created these two as near mirror images of each other: outsiders who want to fit in. But I also love how they develop the relationship. Long before we see the two characters developing a romantic relationship, there is a friendship between the two. At one point, Worf and Jadzia join the Klingon Kor on a search for the legendary Sword of Kahless, and then later we see that they spend time training together in the Holo-suite and debating the various merits of different Klingon weapons:

Jadzia: So you think I was overconfident?

Worf: You were overconfident. You thought distracting me with your outfit would gain an advantage.

Jadzia: My outfit?

Worf: Um, I thought that. I mean… I only assumed that…

Jadzia: You thought I wore this for you? Talk about overconfidence…. Worf? Gotcha…

Worf: Movek.

Jadzia: But in my defense, you do try your own tactics of distraction, what with all that shouting and growling you do.

–Deep Space Nine, Sons of Mogh

This is one of my favorite moments in their entire relationship. It isn’t anything special, and it certainly isn’t remarkable as far as their overall storyline. In fact, I find the episode Sons of Mogh to generally be pretty forgettable outside of that singular moment. That said, this moment is nice because it really lends credence to the friendship that the two developed before becoming romantically involved. Although it is clear that Jadzia is interested in more of a relationship from Worf by the time Looking for Par’Mach comes around, there is no unrequited love like the Odo and Kira relationship.

Instead, they are equals. They challenge each other, and they can both tease each other. It’s also a relationship where each is secure enough in himself/herself that they can tease each other about personality quirks and even Become a bit exasperated by the stubbornness of the other:

Worf: I have a sense of humour. On the Enterprise, I was considered to be quite amusing.

Jadzia: That must’ve been one dull ship.

Worf: That is a joke. I get it. It is not funny, but I get it.

Jadzia: I don’t know if I can get used to the new you. It’s kind of eerie.

Worf: Your problem is you cannot accept change.

Jadzia: I can’t accept change?

Worf: That is correct.

Jadzia: Oh, you’ve got to be kidding. I’ve changed bodies six times, Worf.

Worf: Yes, but you are still very set in your ways.

Jadzia: And look who’s talking.

Worf: Well, I do not have to sleep on the same side of the bed every night, or brush my hair exactly fifty strokes every night, or eat the same thing for breakfast every day, or read the last page of a book before the beginning, or lift up the

Jadzia: I get the point. I don’t know how you can live with someone so monotonous.

Worf: It is not easy. That was a joke.

Jadzia: This is going to be a very, very long trip.

–Deep Space Nine, Change of Heart

But it’s not teasing and good-natured ribbing. Being with Jadzia changes Worf. When he is with his Par’Mach’kai, bravery means something different. When he is on a mission that is vital for the Federation’s success in the Dominion War, Worf chooses to put his wife’s life ahead of his duty as a federation officer:

Sisko: Could you have made the rendezvous?
Worf: Yes.

Sisko: Yet you turned back to save Jadzia?

Worf: Yes.

Sisko: Were you aware that the information that man had could have saved millions of lives?

Worf: Yes.

Sisko: So what happened?

Worf: You may not understand.

Sisko: Try me.

Worf: You were at my wedding. You heard the story of the first two Klingon hearts and how nothing could stand against them, and how they even destroyed the gods that created them. I have heard that story since I was a boy but I never understood it, I mean really understood it, until I was standing in the jungle with my heart pounding in my chest and I found that even I could not stand against my own heart. I had to go back and it did not matter what Starfleet thought or what the consequences were. She was my wife and I could not leave her.

–Deep Space Nine, Change of Heart

The Worf who first stood on the bridge of the Enterprise in TNG’s pilot episode would not have sacrificed his duty to the Federation for anything, but our favorite Klingon has finally learned what it means to love wholly and completely. This is a huge step for someone as duty bound as Worf. Thus, it is clear what Jadzia means to him.

Looking back on moments like these are what make Jadzia’s ultimate death seem all the more pointless. I could go on and on about what this relationship has meant to Star Trek and how the writers managed to develop it. Instead, I’ll just leave it with Jadzia’s final words that show the potential we lost:

“Our baby would have been so beautiful.”

–Jadzia Dax, Deep Space Nine, Tears of the Prophets

The Good:

  • Sacrifice of Angels
  • You Are Cordially Invited
  • Change of Heart
  • In The Pale Moonlight
  • The Sound of Her Voice

The Bad:

  • Resurrection
  • Statistical Probabilities
  • Valiant
  • Tears of the Prophets

The Characters:

Man. Talk about a punch in the gut. Of all the character deaths on Star Trek (admittedly, there aren’t many), Jadzia’s is the cheapest and most infuriating. She doesn’t even get to go out in a blaze of glory worthy of her bravery and intelligence. It’s an insult to the wonderful character that they developed over six seasons that she’s dropped senselessly in the Bajoran temple because Rick Berman got irritated.

That being said, Season 6 is once again a triumph of character development. In my Season 5 review, I made the case that Sisko is a Slytherin because he’ll probably do more to achieve his ends than any character on the show, and he’ll certainly do more than any of the Captains. We see this in full force in In the Pale Moonlight when Sisko metaphorically gets into bed with Garak in order to get the Romulans on the side of the Federation in the Dominion War. It’s a powerful character moment, and ultimately Sisko did the right thing for the entire Alpha Quadrant. But man, he sure as hell didn’t do it the right way. If you haven’t seen In the Pale Moonlight but have any passing familiarity with Star Trek, I highly recommend that episode above most others.

In addition to the marriage of Worf and Jadzia, Kira and Odo finally consummate their relationship. When I was at the Chicago convention, Nana Visitor and Rene Auberjonois took some time to discuss the development of that relationship. Nana was pretty opposed to the relationship at the time, and she was certainly opposed when it was originally proposed way back in the early seasons. Nana wanted Odo and Kira to remain just friends in order to show that:

“There can be deep and loving friendships between men and women that don’t go the romantic route.”

–Nana Visitor on her initial opposition to the Odo and Kira relationship

As an actress, Nana clearly thought that they could show something more than a romantic relationship. However, Nana is currently binge watching DS9 with her husband who has never seen the show, and she admitted that, as a viewer, she realizes that the writers really had no choice. The chemistry between Nana and Rene was so obvious and fantastic that you can’t help but root for the characters to get together. It’s a good reminder of how our perspective on certain things is shaped on our experiences.

Favorite Quote:

Jadzia: A traditional Klingon wedding with all the trimmings is something Worf’s been thinking about since he was a boy. It probably has something to do with being raised by human parents. In any case, when it comes to Klingon tradition, Worf is very sentimental.

Kira: Worf?

Jadzia: All men are sentimental. They just cover it up with scowls and clenched jaws.

–Deep Space Nine, You Are Cordially Invited

Final Thoughts:

It really sucks that Season 6 ends with a cheap and unnecessary death because its 6.77 rating doesn’t do its brilliance justice. By season 6, DS9 has become very serialized, and I submit that this is probably some of the best writing in all of television. The development of The Dominion War is always intriguing, but the show manages to include character development and lighter moments at well. In many ways, it doesn’t feel very “Star Trek” (a fact that has been highlighted as I’ve begun Voyager), but I enjoy the storytelling overall.

#LLAP

(Featured/Header image from You Are Cordially Invited, credit to startrek.com)