Thursday, December 17, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Muse

Yep. I'm still going along. Basically, while I was sick I couldn't do anything--anything. And now that I've been back I've had about a million things to catch up on. Also Christmas is about to happen. Also I had to go to a Holiday Party last night. While it was fine and everyone was very pleasant I've pretty much filled my in-person social quota for the year--and Christmas (the season of speaking to other human beings) is only just beginning. Oh, also, I've been working on this weird sort of project since I got well. A friend suggested I do a coloring book for grown-ups and I played with a few ideas until I came up with "Dogs in Sweaters" (likely to be followed with Cats, Mythological Creatures, and Jane Austen in Sweaters) and if you're a coloring enthusiast you're more than welcome to check it out over on Etsy or Gumroad.

Ok so here's what I'm really here to talk about today: 
Though it looks like Antigone or Prometheus Bound, it's not a classical Greek play. It's Voyager's Muse. I love this one. I was telling Scott last night that it might actually be my favorite episode even though it always seems to fly under my radar and doesn't possess any of the stuff that usually goes into a recipe for AR's fav ST episodes. No Doctor, really. No Seven. No crazy rompy elements. 

In Muse, B'Elanna crashlands on a bronze age planet and finds herself the subject of a play about "The Immortals" thanks to the playwright's fairly logical assumption that she must be one of their gods. The entire story is about the basics and nuances of a story and, ultimately, the importance of storytelling. In this way it's very much like my favorite TNG (and possibly all-time fav Trek) episode, Darmok. Storytelling is entertainment. Stories evoke emotion. They make us cry; they make us laugh. We hand them down. We learn from them. We get our morals and our values from them. We cherish them. And they're completely intangible. We can't set hands on a story--not really. It exists as part of a shared cultural experience and that's where its value lies. I've thought a lot about this lately. Mostly because tonight I'm going to a (slightly) advance screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I've always been more into Star Trek than Star Wars. This is primarily a function of my childhood--my dad loved Star Wars but he grew up with Trek and was primarily a Trekkie. Same with my mom. Trekkie parents=Trekkie kids. It's all indoctrination. Still, I remember the day my dad brought out the Star Wars VHS tapes and I learned about Luke and Leia. I still remember freaking out over the revelation of Vader as Luke's father. I still remember the dreams I had about the forest moon of Endor. When the prequels came out we watched all the originals again, and all their commentaries and we loved the prequels in spite of their missteps.

Scott and I were dating when Revenge of the Sith was released. We saw it together on opening night and then the next night at our small town drive-in and six more times (and would've seen it more if we'd had the money.) Scott grew up a Star Wars kid. He loves Trek mightily (which contributed to our getting together) but he's a Star Wars super fan. So of course we were thrilled to get tickets to a local advance screening.

And then I got an email from the organizer which said: Due to recent events, there will be no masks or toy/replica weapons of any kind allowed in the theater.

"Recent events" weren't specified but we all know what they're talking about. When the "recent event" happened in a Batman showing, I was stunned. I couldn't even go about my day. I fell into despondency. It totally knocked me off course. Why?

Batman is a story. It's meant to entertain but also to inspire. To teach kids that you can change the world for the better even if you don't have superpowers. That you can stand up for people who can't stand up for themselves. That you can make a difference. As a kid, I loved Batman. I believed in him. The same way I believe in Trek. The same way I believe in Star Wars.

These stories are modern mythology. They're larger than life. Their plots are simple and their heroes and villains fall on one side or the other with little gray area. They're enjoyable and exciting and memorable and we show them to our kids not only because they're fun to watch, not only because they're part of our culture, part of our shared history, part of our greater human legacy, but also because we want our kids to be more like the heroes in these films. We want to give them good role models. We want them to grow up conscientious, caring people who would stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves, etc.

So, I guess the whole point of this is that it makes me really sad that there even has to be an email. That there have been any "recent events" at all. That the ideals--the rules--of these stories were so horrifyingly broken and that we all have to be nervous about sitting in a theater now. It makes me sad.

Still, I'm not giving up on the idea that stories can change lives, hearts, cultures. I believe in their power. I believe in the message that is so clearly spelled out in Voyager's Muse:
Kelis: Anger is like fire. Love can be the rain that extinguishes it. My patron is filled with hatred for his rival. So our play should be filled with love.
B'Elanna: You can't change somebody's way of life with a few lines of dialogue. 
Kelis: Yes, you can! It's been done before. Do you know what this place used to be, a hundred years ago? A temple. And this was the altar stone. Every year, a victim would be sacrificed on it, in honor of winter. And then, one year - nobody remembers exactly when or why - a play took the place of the ritual. And no one had to die here again. Why can't my play take the place of a war?


  1. Excellent post, especially on the Star Trek belief that “stories can change lives, hearts, cultures” and that you can make a difference for the better. My generation has failed to make even the smallest difference with a calcified Congress that protects guns instead of people. Maybe your generation will do better. I hope so.

  2. This was a good, good post. I'd forgotten just what "Muse" did with its story, a story about the power of storytelling, which is right up my alley.

  3. Cool, this looks like a very unique Star Trek episode. I actually just finished a short story on my blog that merges Star Trek with the Fantasy genre.


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