Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The final scene has Riker and Picard searching the wreckage of the bridge and Picard’s ready room. Riker finds Picard’s family scrapbook, which is apparently what they were looking for. So even after the deaths in his family and his own realizations, Picard retains a connection.

Captain Kirk and members of Picard's family are dead, and so is the Enterprise D. “I’m going to miss this ship,” Riker says. “She went before her time.” The Enterprise has always been a character in Star Trek, and in TNG has almost literally become alive, creating its own offspring. In any case, this is a death to be mourned (and in fact, Moore noted in the commentary, this scene did seem to be the cast and crew’s real farewell to the series, since this wreckage was actually the wrecked Enterprise set from the TNG series. When it ended, there were real tears all around.) But as a death, it acknowledges its life and all that happened in it.

Riker’s comment inspires a response from Picard that draws upon his conversations with Soran. “Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalks us all our lives. But I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey—reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again.”

Picard has said something similar before, notably when he was living another man’s life in “The Inner Light” episode. But now it is reaffirmed by his own experience. He then adds a new conclusion: “What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived.”

Life is only itself, the living of it. The prospect of death is there to remind us, as Picard says: “After all, Number One, we’re only mortal.”

But playing the brash younger man again, but with irony, Riker says, “Speak for yourself, sir. I plan to live forever.” Don’t we all?

There’s a hint of a kind of bridge to the next movie, to the continuing adventures, when Riker approaches the command chair so important to Captain Kirk and observes he’d always thought he’d get a shot at it one day. “Perhaps you still will,” Picard observes. “Somehow I don’t think this will be the last ship to carry the name, Enterprise.”

The two men stand together, on either side of that Captain's chair, and are beamed up. The last shot is the traditional one, that's absolutely crucial to Star Trek films--the starships getting underway, warping to the next adventure. It tells us there will be more adventures, invites us to imagine what they could be, and to wonder what they will be. It whets our appetite for the next movie. Things change, people die, but the human adventure continues.

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