01 January 2012

On the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" Movies

I began using Swagbucks little more than a year ago and in that time I have racked up a decent amount of $5 gift certificates to use on Amazon. The week of Thanksgiving, I seized on a sale on the Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Pictures Collection Blu-ray box set. It lists for $69.99 but was on sale for less than half that. It wiped out my credit, but I only paid 32¢ out of pocket. Hard to complain. I live-tweeted my viewings of the four movies, which was a lot of fun.

There is a correlation between the number of costume changes for Captain Picard and the quality of the film. To wit:
  • Star Trek Generations - 3 costumes: 19th Century ship captain; Star Trek: The Next Generation-style Starfleet duty uniform; Deep Space Nine-style Starfleet duty uniform
  • Star Trek: First Contact - 8 costumes: Star Trek: The Next Generation-style Starfleet duty uniform; Locutus; Starfleet duty uniform; 21st Century civilian; commando vest; Dixon Hill white tuxedo; Starfleet space suit; muscle shirt
  • Star Trek: Insurrection - 3 costumes: Starfleet dress uniform; Starfleet duty uniform; rebellious civilian attire
  • Star Trek: Nemesis - 2 costumes: Starfleet dress uniform; Starfleet duty uniform
I think we can all agree First Contact was the best of the four (by this system, it's as good as the other three combined) and that Nemesis was the weakest. Generations and Insurrection are fairly comparable, I think, for a lot of fans. There is a deleted scene from Insurrection in which Picard would have been seen wearing his commando vest in his quarters. That would have cemented its superiority over Generations.

As with The Sopranos, I found various moments and plot points resonated with me differently this time through in light of my recent experiences with depression and suicidal urges. Here are some of the key instances that struck me.

Star Trek Generations
One of the patients at Our Lady of Peace expressed frustration during one group session that no matter how well he reconstructed himself there, once he left he was at the mercy of the outside world that did not respect his struggle or offer the kind of environment that allowed him to be at peace with himself. I knew instantly what he meant, of course, so I can't say this viewing made anything click that hadn't already. But I was more sensitive this time to Dr. Soran, who is overwhelmed by the anguish of having lost his family and is desperate to return to the Nexus where he can escape the pain.

The Nexus, much like addiction and depression, works by tempting a person into withdrawing from reality into its world. Like addiction, it can appear at first to offer an understandable (even healthy) escape from the misery of life but there comes a point where the reprieve becomes the objective and that's not healthy at all. Soran fell prey to it, withdrawing from everyone for eighty years.

Fans have never really liked the Nexus because it was obviously little more than a plot contrivance to explain how Captain Kirk wound up interacting with Picard and I still see it as such. But I do concede that, as plot contrivances go, there's more to this one than many others.
Star Trek: First Contact
For me, the key moment here is Picard's explanation of his "unique perspective" on the Borg to Lily. I feel that way about depression (though I'm not so obsessed that I'll likely begin smashing things). I honestly do feel that I was assimilated by depression but that I've escaped it and can fight it now--and I can help others fight it, too.

Of course, Picard outright shot the one guy who actually asked him for help. It's not a perfect allegory.

Star Trek: Insurrection
The way the Ba'ku have rejected the hustle and bustle of life in the 24th Century for the contentment of simplicity holds an obvious appeal; unlike the artificial Nexus, these people have made a functioning, real life out of finding peace. It would be very nice to belong to such a community, I would imagine. It may not be practical, but that's no reason not to strive to make the idea of being contented practical.

Specifically, there is that moment where Anij shows Picard how to change the perspective of the passage of time; to be able to live in a moment. It's somewhat clumsy in the film but I still love the idea. I felt a moment like that in 2006 when my wife and I hit a deer on I-71. I'm sure it all happened in an instant, but I was conscious of everything that happened. Before we even hit the deer, I had the conscious thought, "This is going to suck." I can still remember vividly the sounds, the sensation of spinning, the impact... What I want to do is find a way to have that kind of experience for the enjoyable moments in life. That would be quite a weapon against depression.
Star Trek: Nemesis
There is a discussion between Picard and Data concerning Shinzon and B-4. Picard is deflated to think that he's ultimately no better than Shinzon (the imperfect clone of himself). Data counters that he and B-4 are almost entirely identical but that they're still different beings. Data argues the point of divergence is that he aspires to be something better than he is, whereas B-4 does not. I feel that there are two Travises: Healthy Travis and Depressed Travis. The latter does not aspire to be something better than he is. Each day will bring me countless opportunities to choose which to be; whether to aspire, or not. I won't always make the right choice, but I will know I have the choice to make.

The interesting thing about allegories is that they can be construed from nearly anything if the mind is creative (or sensitive) enough to find the parallels. There were other moments in these four movies that touched a nerve with me, but these are the most noteworthy ones from each.

As I write this, I have spent a while contemplating New Year's resolutions. I've never made them in the past, but I feel compelled to at least consider it this year in light of the state in which 2011 left me. It may be geeky, but I think in 2012 I'm going to resolve to be more Picard-esque when it comes to confronting depression. I will resist artificial escapism, but will make a real effort to find contentment that does not originate with society. I will remember that I am not Depressed Travis and that even though he's a version of me, he is not who I am. And I will not sacrifice the Enterprise!

No comments:

Post a Comment