Recurring Motifs in Star Trek
Star Trek has continually sought and found new life throughout the decades since the 1960s television debut of the Original Series. When a show would wane, then film productions would revive the Star Trek franchise, leading again to the development of more Star Trek television series.
Since the fizzling of Star Trek Enterprise in 2005, the franchise appeared to be flat lining, but then Star Trek spread it
wings and took flight again. A fresh take on Star Trek will be out in theaters on Christmas Day 2008 with the release of the 11th Star Trek movie, daringly titled Star Trek.
After eleven films and five television series not counting the animated one Star Trek possesses a distinct style and scripts often draw from recurring elements or motifs. Let's take a look at a few that I have identified during my lifelong service to Starfleet.
Sexiness Star Trek has never been afraid to be sexy. As the captain in the Original Series, Kirk unbuckled his swash in numerous systems, and other characters in all the series were allowed shore leave romps on Rysa, serious romances, and, yes, Data does have all the equipment.
Double Kirk Action This is my term for the recurring use in the Original Series of two Captain Kirks in a story line. From the android duplicate of Kirk in "What Are Little Girls Made Of" to a changeling creature's version of Kirk in the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the employment of double Kirks has occurred in several scripts. More examples are "Mirror, Mirror" that had an alternative universe evil Kirk and the episode "The Enemy Within" in which Kirk is separated into his passive and aggressive selves. Of course, the double Kirks usually get to fight each other.
Time travel All of the Star Trek television series have used time travel many times. Starfleet even has a temporal prime directive.
Stinker Series Finales I have yet to see a series finale for a Star Trek show that was not either annoying, abominable or both. Of course, being canceled as it was, the Original Series did not really have a formal series finale, which spared it this unpleasantness, but all the other series had to suffer this fate. I disliked seeing Jean Luc Picard in the Next Generation revealed to be a dottering old man in the future, and the end of Star Trek Voyager annoyed me because I did not want them to get back to Earth. I wanted them to stay in the Delta Quadrant and then shift into making movies, just as the Next Generation did. I can't claim to have seen the series finale of Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Did anybody? Was anybody watching at that point? I wasn't. As for Star Trek Enterprise, it was cruelly put down like a stray dog. That series had merit and was never really given a chance. Its series finale was an insult to the actors because it allowed the episode to be botched by the unwelcome addition of the characters Wil Ryker and Deanna Troi who stole the story and ruined it. I had to stop watching halfway through.
Cross Series Actor Intrusions This started in the Next Generation with appearances from Deforest Kelley, James Doohan, and Leonard Nimoy. Most of these were all right. The episode with James Doohan is even rather charming, but I always felt some discomfort seeing actors from one series pushing their way onto the set of a new cast. This recurring problem plagued Star Trek Voyager in its last season. Lieutenant Reginald Barclay was a quirky and humorous side character in the Next Generation, but he did not deserve so much play in the last season of Voyager. And of course more counseling sessions with Deanna Troi had to be thrown in.
This cross series pollination happens in the Star Trek films as well. I never felt that the dual Kirk and Picard story of Star Trek: Generations was the least bit necessary. I call it the passing of the torch movie. It was a decent film, but I did not need the mingling of captains. Reportedly, Star Trek XI is going to have Leonard Nimoy in it. I hope this is kept to a minimum.
Lax Shuttle Security Why do bridge crews even monitor the shuttle bay? I can't think of one instance of a shuttle theft ever being prevented. This is definitely a cross-series motif. Anybody can steal a shuttle. Shuttle insurance must be expensive!
I'm sure that more Star Trek motifs exist. The Star Trek writers have never been shy about tossing a bucket in the same well over and over. Other Trekkies have surely noticed common elements not mentioned here and discussed them at length. Examining and even over examining Star Trek are part of being a fan. Like all great sagas, Star Trek gives you plenty to think about.
This Star Trek commentary was written by Tracy Falbe, Trekkie and author of The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series.