Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage brought together three of my favorite things in life: family, music, and Star Trek. It's up there with Star Trek: The Exhibition as one of my favorite family excursions in recent memory, and I still get a big dumb grin anytime I start thinking about it. Fifty years of Star Trek history expressed through live music, with thematically arranged video clips and narration by Michael Dorn to tie it all together. A lifetime's worth of fond memories with the people sitting next to me. And we all had homemade pizza together before we left for the concert. Jeez, I'm tearing up already.
I came prepared, of course, wearing my Original Series crew tie with my concert-appropriate attire. At least two others in the audience had me beat, though: one man was dressed to report for duty in engineering on the original Enterprise, and one woman looked like she'd just come back to Starfleet Command from the Khitomer conference. Even among the people in plain clothes (no doubt time-travelers from the 24th century trying to blend in), there was was an air of comfort and kinship, almost like you get from being at a convention. Even after the concert started, no one tried to hush any of the respectfully quiet (and relevant) side conversations among my family, because Star Trek is something you're supposed to talk about. People laughed and cheered in all the right places throughout the performance (and you could tell where the Voyager [VOY] fans and the Spock-ophiles were sitting by the unusually large reactions they gave to certain video clips and pieces of narration). Everyone in that auditorium was family, in a way. What a great feeling.
The first piece the orchestra played was a smart place to start: the closing theme to The Motion Picture, which mostly doubles as the opening theme for The Next Generation (TNG). Everyone has their favorites, but the majority of fans can agree on liking The Original Series (TOS) or TNG, so this was a good attempt to please everyone. The next piece was equally equitable: the sweeping overture from Generations, the movie that brings together TOS and TNG. At least, that's what my brain registered it as—you'll have to forgive any lapses in memory or music recognition, given that we didn't have a concert program to take home for reference. I kind of preferred it that way, though; there was a certain joy in playing "name that tune" and making predictions about what the orchestra would play, and I loved some of the surprises along the way.
As the overture from Generations was played, the screen behind the orchestra came to life with scenes from the beginning of Star Trek V, where Kirk is slowly climbing the mountain. It took me a few moments to wrap my head around this seemingly out-of-nowhere clip selection, but it fit well with the music—a sort of metaphor for Star Trek's long climb to this milestone anniversary. The gorgeous vistas and sumptuous swells of the music drove home the scope of this adventure that we've been on for generations. Whoo, I'm tearing up again.
The first half of the concert was fairly heavy on TOS and TNG, both in terms of music and video footage. The second half was pretty balanced among the different series, though still a bit light on footage from Deep Space 9 (DS9). Unsurprisingly, The Animated Series was nowhere to be found, but we did get some music from the Starfleet Academy video game at the end of the intermission. We were also treated to the iconic Klingon theme, the sinister Borg theme (which loses a little bit of its oomph when played without that otherworldly synthesizer twang), and the overtures or main themes from most of the films and TV series.
When my wife and I were watching through DS9 at home, I liked to have fun with the opening music. There's a part at the beginning where the orchestra holds on a note, and an asteroid comes hurtling past the camera. I would always fill the space by singing a complimentary low note and the word "ROOOOOOCK" as grandly as possible, sweeping out my hand for greater dramatic effect. When the live orchestra played the DS9 theme at the concert, I waited for the appropriate moment and then asked the family member next to me to pass down a "rock" to my wife. It took a few moments for the gag to register, but I got a smile. Or maybe a shake of the head and a roll of the eyes; it's hard to remember without a program to refer back to.
Interestingly, Star Trek (2009) and Into Darkness were treated less like the new face of the franchise and more like films 11 and 12. Every other major part of Star Trek history got a proper voiceover introduction and a title card with the relevant air dates listed, but the one piece of music from the reboot films received no such treatment. The few video clips used elsewhere in the program were practically all from the good parts that don't make me cringe. I smiled at the thought of the concert organizers deliberately downplaying the divisive impact of the reboot and focusing on the Trek-worthy parts. This was my kind of concert.
Still, what I liked about the video selection was that it embraced all of Star Trek, including things that some of us might like to forget. There was a segment celebrating some of the franchise's biggest villains, and Shinzon was right there alongside Khan and Dukat. There was a touching montage about friends, family, and the loved ones these characters have lost, and suddenly a brief clip from "These Are the Voyages..." kicked us in the gut again. Star Trek isn't just the parts that everyone likes, and the low points have united fans just as much as the high points. A lesser concert would have excluded entire films and episodes from the program on the basis of popular opinion. I think it's a mark of integrity to tactfully acknowledge the whole canon and let the fans exercise selective memory if they want to.
One of the best surprises of the concert was getting to see whole episode clips where the music track was replaced with live music from the orchestra. We got to relive the excitement of Spock and Kirk's fight to the death from "Amok Time" as well as the pivotal space battle with the Dominion in "The Changing Face of Evil." We were swept up in the emotionality of Janeway's sendoff at the end of "Year of Hell," the null-gravity scene between Archer and Mayweather at the beginning of "Horizon," and the conclusion of "Encounter at Farpoint." We got chills (well, I got chills, anyhow) from Sisko's final log entry of "In the Pale Moonlight" and Archer's speech to the assembly in "Terra Prime" (which, as far as I'm concerned, is one of the best monologues in the whole franchise, and perfectly sums up what Star Trek is all about). The orchestra did a spectacular job of bringing the music to life and heightening our appreciation of these scenes that were already pretty darn appreciated.
Of course, my absolute favorite moment in the concert was the re-orchestrated cliffhanger scene from "The Best of Both Worlds, Part I":
"I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is futile. Your life as it has been is over. From this time forward, you will service... us." Slow camera close-up on Riker's face. Music so tense it feels like the universe is about to snap. "Mister Worf... FIRE."
BUM BUM BUM! BUM BUM BUM! BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm more sentimental than I might let on, and things that are exceptionally cool have been known to get me misty-eyed. It's the extremes—the best and the worst—that crack my semi-stoic exterior. Before the end of the concert, I had simply run out of tears. The emotional music from First Contact got me. Kirk's brilliant "risk is our business" speech from "Return to Tomorrow" got me. All the funny moments, like Data scanning for those precious little lifeforms in Generations, got me. The exciting suite from Wrath of Khan, concluding with the iconic final scenes of the film, got me. The amount of love the concert gave to Undiscovered Country, my favorite film in the franchise, got me. Being surrounded by family and by friends I've never met, listening to a dynamite performance by a dynamite orchestra, got me. Everything was right with the world. It's been a very long time since all was right with the world, and that got me, too.
But, as they say, all good things...
After about 2-1/2 hours, it was time to return to my own century. The orchestra took a bow and shuffled offstage. But we knew they had to come back, because there was one more theme the concert would have been incomplete without.
The orchestra returned, and a single note was all it took to eke out one more tear from me before the end. "Faith of the Heart," the opening theme to Enterprise—was nowhere to be found, just kidding. No need to cause a riot.
The concert ended where it all began, with the theme to the original Star Trek. Whereas the rest of the music had been accompanied by clips from the shows and movies, the encore was filled with candid photographs of the cast and crew, the kind of things you'd see in a behind-the-scenes featurette. People getting into makeup and laughing on set, and the grinning countenance of Gene Roddenberry. There was no high soprano with the orchestra to drive the melody, but the conductor helped maintain the buoyancy of the piece by bouncing along with every swipe of his baton. When the music ended, the orchestra took their final bows to a standing ovation, and several musicians raised their hands in the Vulcan salute. What a fun way to end the concert.
Filled with such great joy and gratitude, I almost floated away after we left the theater. You had to tractor beam me back to earth. This was how I was supposed to feel about my favorite entertainment franchise. This was what a family outing to a professional concert could be like. This was a 50th anniversary celebration done right.