In five decades of ‘Star Trek’ fandom, people have written volumes about the idea that Captain Kirk is on some level in love with the Enterprise. But even the most overzealous reading of that characterization never took things quite this far!
All joking aside, ‘Calypso’ is easily the best of the ‘Short Treks’. That’s partly, as I hinted earlier, because it comes the closest out of all of them to taking full advantage of the possibilities the format opens up, but it’s also because this is just a damn good story. It’s heartfelt, moving, and it deals with some very big ideas (AI, personhood, love). In short, ‘Calypso’ is VERY ‘Star Trek’. And in the finest ‘Star Trek’ tradition, the short is laden with nods to classical literature. In this case, ‘The Odyssey’. In fact, it’s basically one big, fifteen minute allusion to Homer’s epic, with Zora standing in for the nymph Calypso and Craft, of course, for Odysseus. All in all, that’s pretty good for fifteen minutes. To say nothing of the fact that those fifteen minutes represent Chabon’s first crack at writing ‘Star Trek’.
It also, notably, represents the farthest ‘Star Trek’ has ventured into its own future. Upon its original broadcast, the short was stated in both promotional materials and on-screen dialog to take place a thousand years after ‘Discovery’. This seemingly placed it sometime in the thirty-third century, but given the nine hundred year time jump that Discovery and her crew undertake at conclusion of ‘Such Sweet Sorrow’? That combined with the fact that the actual dialog is that Discovery had been abandoned (and its computer evolving) for a thousand years likely places it closer to the forty-second century.
The point I’m getting at, in my typically long-winded fashion, is that this far-future setting has the effect of totally unmooring the audience from the familiar in a way that ‘Star Trek’ doesn’t usually indulge. In doing so, the short places us on more or less even footing with Craft, who (particularly in the early scenes) often seems to have little more sense of what’s going on than we do. It’s an unusual and effective way of making the focal character even more of a point of view character.
But that’s not to say everything is sunshine and kittens. Chabon stated in an Instagram post that “V’draysh” is meant to be a syncope (or, if you prefer, “distorted version”) of “Federation”. Now, it should be pointed out that whatever the authorial intent might be, it’s not official until it’s official, and it’s not official until it’s confirmed on screen. But that being said? While it is clever, at least at first blush, I’m not crazy about what it implies. That’s because the implication is that the Federation – which for all its faults serves as an embodiment of all the ideals that ‘Star Trek’ professes – eventually evolves into a hostile galactic power pathologically obsessed with its own past (and I’ll just sidestep the real world parallels there because I’d like to avoid depressing myself at the start of a long weekend). But for now at least, that’s a purely academic concern. And frankly, if I had to dig through the writer’s social media for blink-and-you’ll-miss-it trivia in order to find something to complain about, that is high praise to the story.
What do you think of ‘Calypso’? Let me know in the comments, and as always, be sure to check back in two weeks for the next ‘Final Frontier Friday’!