I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but this year marks the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek. I know, they’re keeping it pretty quiet. One of the many celebrations of this golden jubilee is (was?) Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage, a six-month, hundred-city concert tour of the US and Canada that wrapped up in July but made its way to my home city of Melbourne, Australia this past weekend for some reason.
Well, the audiovisual presentation made its way here, at any rate. The musicians were supplied courtesy of the truly excellent Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Yes, this was a symphonic tribute to all things Trek, which means marveling at the hours of rehearsal that must have gone into making fifty years worth of theme song and score sound… well, kind of like the theme songs and scores from the television, really. But live, people. LIVE. And, in the case of this most recent concert, played on a clear but somewhat chilly evening in an outdoor venue, which for spring in Melbourne is an bold scheduling choice. (We had hail here two days before, and gale force winds two days after.) Guess they really wanted to have it under the stars.
And under the stars was actually a delightful way to experience this paean of praise to five decades of Star Trek: a two-hour clip show narrated by Michael Dorn, and accompanied by some of the orchestral highlights of a franchise well known for dramatic reveals and equally dramatic instrumentation. Of drama there was certainly much — it’s possible the MSO’s percussion section has never been quite so busy.
But there were also many lighthearted moments peppered throughout, often supplied by Data, as we explored the nature of humanity, of love and loss, of family, of war and peace and our shared virtues and flaws. We visited with each series in sequence — though with much shorter shrift given to Enterprise, understandably — and spent some time with the movies in both the original and Abrams-ified timelines. An audible sigh riffled the crowd when we caught sight of Tasha Yar, gone too soon; just one instance of many that unified a couple of thousand strangers with just a single image, or a single sound.
Even without the orchestra, The Ultimate Voyage would have been fun to watch, because of the well-constructed show reel of Star Trek high (and low-) lights presented, clearly put together by a well-versed team. Personally, I’d have liked to see more Geordi, more Garak, more Kes. (Or, indeed, any.) Not sure we needed quite so much Q. But overall, as a celebration of a half-century of ground-breaking, mind-expanding television and film — and books, and comics, and video games, and reference works, and entirely constructed languages, and so very much more — this was, if not the ultimate voyage through the Star Trek universe, then pretty close to it.
I came away from the event feeling more in touch with Star Trek, with the legions of my fellow fans and with science fiction in general than I have in a long time, maybe years. I may have been cold in body — and it did get quite bitterly cold, out there on the lawn — but my heart was very much warmed. It is sometimes easy to forget just how much of our worldview can be, and has been, shaped by our exposure to grand ideas like the ones Star Trek has always espoused — and I realized for perhaps the first time, as I watched it unfold on screen, just how much of the person I am today was influenced by the founding principles of generosity, decency and justice for which the Federation stands.
[Enter Dramatic Epiphany Music Here.]
This is one of the reasons to attend a show like this, when it would be so much easier to sit at home and scan through Netflix. You go not only to celebrate your love of something — and share that love with others of a similar mind — but also to have that love reinvigorated and renewed. It may be too late for you to appreciate this particular convocation, but there are so many other ways to capture that feeling. Whatever your equivalent of Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage may be, whether its an anime convention or a Quidditch match or a midnight showing of Rocky Horror, I urge you to just… go. Boldly.
Live long and prosper. Hopefully with a full orchestra.
* My gratitude to the Virgin Voyagers for their company — and to whom I will hopefully never again have to explain that no, lightsabers are Star Wars. (Also: thanks, Austen.)