CBS-All Access has just released the 2nd of four planned Star Trek: Discovery “Short Trek” vignettes; the first was the Ensign Tilly-as-diplomat offering “Runaway,” and now we have “Calypso”, another two-character piece which uses none of the regular Discovery cast. “Calypso” runs only 18 minutes, but manages to raise a TON of questions about the future of “Discovery” in that short running time.
Aldis Hodge plays “Craft”, a soldier in an escape pod returning home when he awakens to find himself aboard a mysteriously abandoned USS Discovery in what seems to be the 33rd century (1,000 years into the series’ future). His only companion is a fully automated sentient computer system named Zora (voiced by Annabelle Wallis), which was not standard ship’s equipment last time I checked. Zora rescued his drifting escape pod, healed his injuries, and now seeks companionship from the recovered soldier, who misses his family.
The two of them, human and artificial intelligence, form something of a relationship; even enjoying Taco Tuesdays and old movies together on the bridge (the Hepburn/Astaire classic “Funny Face” plays a part in their story). Eventually Craft, worried about becoming too close to Zora at the expense of his family, leaves the still-curiously abandoned Discovery aboard a never-used warp capable shuttle renamed “Funny Face” by the mournful Zora…who loves him enough to let him go.
Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon (“John Carter,” “SpiderMan 2”) and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, the story is a cross between Homer’s “The Odyssey” (the returning warrior just trying to get home) and the Spike Jonze sci-fi drama “Her” (2013), about a lonely man developing a very real relationship with an operating system.
I enjoyed the duet of actors Aldis Hodge and Annabelle Wallis, especially their holographic recreation (costumes and all) of the climactic Hepburn/Astaire dance from “Funny Face.” Despite the short running time, their two characters manage to pull off a truncated, yet nicely drawn relationship. I enjoyed both very much, despite the short time in which we get to know them. Theirs is a poignant relationship.
Unfortunately, “Calypso” commits a bit of self-sabotage by raising too many intriguing questions without the slightest attempts to answer them. Why was Discovery abandoned? Where is the crew? Is it the crew of this series or some ‘future’ crew? Is this how the series ultimately ends?
The leads and love story are very enjoyable in the short term, but ultimately the story feels frustrating and incomplete. I wish this story hadn’t been married to the Star Trek format. Perhaps it could’ve been made as an episode of the forthcoming CBS-AA version of “The Twilight Zone” (currently being produced by “Get Out”‘s Jordan Peele).
Here’s hoping season 2 of “Star Trek: Discovery” will answer at least some of the questions raised by this otherwise moving vignette.