Thursday, January 22, 2004

And now we’ve come to the farewells. There are two, both elegantly done. We see the Enterprise and the Excelsior return together. Captain Sulu is seen on screen with his bridge crew behind him. George Takei’s voice again gives weight to the words, “Nice to see you in action one more time, Captain Kirk. Take care.”

Although everyone knew that this would be the last original crew movie, Nichelle Nichols wrote that once again because filming had gone so well, several hints were dropped in that might enable another film, and these probably had to do with establishing Captain Sulu and the Excelsior. (Indeed, there’s been some fan agitation for such a film or series ever since.) After Sulu departs, McCoy observes that the Excelsior is a big ship. “Not so as big as its Captain, I think, “Scotty replies.

Kirk suggests it’s time they got underway, but Uhura tells him that Starfleet has ordered them back to space dock, to be decommissioned. Her voice drops on the last words---it’s the voice of doom, and a series of reaction shots shows how the finality of it is sinking in. When the film began they were all weary and ready for retirement, but this adventure renewed them, and the hope in the future it represents rekindled their enthusiasm. So might the wisdom they’ve attained.

Then in a classic Spock maneuver (a function Data would fulfill in similar moments for the TNG crew), he says that “If I were human, I believe my response would be, go to hell. If I were human.” Of course, not only is this another of the accustomed repartee of this crew, but it is a sly reference to Kirk’s earlier pronouncement that everybody’s human.

Then the last moment comes. “Course heading, Captain?” Chekov asks.

Kirk looks deep into space. The line, which Nick Meyer apparently added at the last minute, is taken from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. “Second star to the right, and straight on till morning.”

It’s the directions to Neverland, where boys remain boys forever, engaged in adventures. The name (which Disney changed to Never-Never-land in his animated version, familiar to the baby boomers of the initial Star Trek audience) was not yet associated with Michael Jackson and his dubious activities. It still has some odd associations, but in this context it seems something the irrespressibly boyish Kirk might say, especially when he is feeling renewed.

It is also a transformative moment, as the original crew passes into myth and legend, further symbolized by the disappearance of the Enterprise itself in the corona of a star. Not having gone anywhere in particular, the Enterprise has simply faded into everywhere.

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