Merry Christmas, fellow geeks!
According to the age-old, and long-held tradition of activities one should partake in during the 25th of December, I suppose “Christmas,” or “holiday” themed films should be on my list of things to watch (full disclaimer: I’ve been watching Hallmark Channel Christmas movies all month). I mean, I’m usually watching 24-hours of A Christmas Story on TBS, however, this year, I’ve decided to change it up a bit; catching up on some Star Trek seemed a more desirable use of my day-off. Enter “Calypso,” the second in CBS’s “Trek Shorts” series.
I’ll start by being completely honest with you guys – I actually got teary-eyed watching this. I don’t know if it’s the holidays, which usually cause one to reflect upon people and experiences of the past, or merely my inner “Scrooge” being deconstructed all month-long by the Hallmark Channel; or possibly it’s my love for well-crafted stories about relationships – or maybe it’s a combination of all three scenarios, I couldn’t tell you. The answer is as elusive and undetectable as a cloaked Klingon Bird-of-Prey. But, whatever the case, I really – REALLY – loved this one.
Before you continue, just know that there are spoilers contained down below, so, if you haven’t watched the episode yet (and I hope that you have), cease and desist, madam or sir! Kidding. But proceed with caution if you must (I also hope that you do).
Now, you’re probably wondering what it specifically was about this episode that pulled on my heartstrings. Well, quite simply, it was the connection between Craft and Discovery’s A.I. interface, Zora. In an alternate universe (not the “Mirror, Mirror” one, where Zora would have probably blasted Craft out of the airlock in a fit of jealous retribution), one where Craft didn’t have a wife and child to return home to, but one in which he was wholly available and willing to explore the spark that was obviously at the precipice of igniting between he and Zora, I think that there could have been something special to be held. What was heartbreaking was that this was never an option. Craft had to eventually return home, while Zora was confined within the ship, probably for all time, destined to roam the cosmos on orders from a captain and crew which had long since past. The last exchange between Craft and Zora was the emotional killing stroke which ultimately destroyed any semblance of composure I was maintaining up until this point (‘tis why I prefer to watch these types of stories all by my lonesome)….
Zora: Craft, on your world, if we….were lovers, would you tell me your name? Your true name.
Craft: If we were lovers, on my world, you would give me my true name.
Zora: Oh. Well….then I already did.
I had a feeling that Zora’s name for Craft was going to be “Funny Face,” but that still didn’t prevent the punch to my gut which ensued immediately after the shuttle’s doors closed and revealed it.
The episode pretty much had me, emotionally, in the palm of its hand at this juncture. But then, as if to top this proverbial cake off with a beautifully ripe cherry, it ends with Zora playing a holographic recording of the dance she shared with Craft, his shuttle gliding away in the distance before its warp drive is ignited, and he’s gone. Cue human waterworks….like, seriously.
I know that we’ve already been treated to varying versions of this idea in television and film (the human-nonhuman A.I. relationship) throughout the ages, most recently with Ryan Gosling’s “K” and Ana de Armas’ “Joi” in Blade Runner 2049. And before this, the list goes on and on. A few that have stuck with me over the years, in no specific order, are: Blade Runner (1982) – if you believe Deckard wasn’t a “replicant” (of course), The Outer Limits’ 1995 episode, “Valerie 23,” Spike Jonze’s Her, Vision’s and Wanda’s relationship in comics and film (Avengers: Infinity War), Ultimate Vision’s and Falcon’s love affair (in comics), and, of course, who can forget the tryst between Data and Tasha Yar (as hot as it gets for Trek nerds like myself). But, these examples notwithstanding, I think “Calypso” ranks right up there with the very best, in my humble opinion. In just under twenty minutes, the entire production team was able to create a believable love story between two different sentient beings, and in the process, stir up a strong emotional response to an ending which didn’t contain the word “happy” in it. That, my friends, is a successfully executed narrative.
I suppose the only thing left to discuss is the “elephant” in the room: what happened to the crew of Discovery, and why has the ship been sitting idle for almost a thousand years? Maybe the forthcoming season will give us some insight into this riddle. I don’t think that “Calypso” was an isolated story. If season one has taught me anything, it’s that nothing within the show is arbitrary. Everything is purposeful, and part of a larger whole (even if writer Michael Chabon says otherwise regarding this particular installment). I’m definitely looking forward to having my heartstrings played with some more in less than a month’s time. I got loads of tissues, so bring it on, suckas.