March 16, 2016

MILWAUKEE, WI Review

For a 549-hour, 50-year long, historically influential, humanity driven, mostly optimistic, universe called Star Trek you love so much you want to keep it to your self, this is a universe worth sharing. So, too, is the Ultimate Voyage concert. 

What I enjoyed most from the show was seeing how accessible it was to the casual viewer of Star Trek. If you’ve only seen a few movies or episodes, this is exactly the event you want to attend. Everything was appealing to the average person. Yes, beneath the façade of alien costumes, technologies, planets, ships, techno-babble, and all else that is fiction, is a series of stories about the human condition. That truth is presented well here. The clips shown during the concert were arguably a greatest hits teaser reel with a lot of suspenseful cliffhangers and practically no spoilers. It’s an excellent way to get back into Star Trek to see what you missed or to go enjoy the upcoming film in July this year or the new streaming episodic series in January. 

Even a casual watcher of Star Trek like my mom, whom I dragged along to the show, enjoyed it immensely, and kept commenting on how impressed she was that an orchestra seemingly so young could play so perfectly. It’s true. The music seemed so exceptionally performed that I forgot there was a live orchestra playing in front of me. To my ears it sounded exactly like it was supposed to from the episodes and movies, but at times sounded even better! That’s the effect of hearing it live. The video montage was well-edited, with most of the best lines or speeches picked from over 500 hours of Star Trek’s films and television. It covered every major theme in Star Trek that I could think of, and at times was even humorous, a relief to those holding their breath during most of the concert. 

As a mostly unemotional, Spock-like 32-year-old male and fan of Star Trek, I found my eyes welling up a bit 10 minutes into the two-hour concert—but not because of any particular scene or clip shown on the massive video screen above the heads of the orchestra and flashy, dismantled Enterprise set. Nor was it any particular peak or valley in the thematic rollercoaster of the music of Star Trek’s vast 50-year career. It was because I realized that what I was watching was a celebration of all my favorite bedtime stories of my late childhood and early adulthood.

All of it played to some of the greatest music I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing, written by some of the greatest composers of the last 50 years like Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner. It was like a massive lullaby, reminding me of how Star Trek put me to bed over the years after the rough days, with its often optimistic view of exploration. It was an escape to a universe with higher standards, that sought to better understand a problem for what it is, and boldly seek out knowledge for its own sake. While exploring the universe, it never was far from home, teaching timeless lessons on humanity.

It’s the ethereal element of the music that parallels the journey of the human condition. It’s the idea that despite our development of new technologies, the human condition remains the same. As we evolve, in the sense that Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, hoped we will, we learn to deal with our human condition by making changes in our societies and in our technologies.

At times we tread lightly to the unknown, where we have a sense of wonder, and revelations of who we are. Instead, Star Trek teaches us to tread boldly. While the characters on screen go boldly into exploration amongst vast diversity, the music accompanying it provides the viewer with a diverse sense of drama, tension, hope, optimism, and a natural fear of the unknown; which upon the reveal provides a sense of danger and a sense of wonder. These are the paths of the explorer, the adventurer, the hunger for knowledge, the swashbuckling philosopher.

And then there is the knowledge of others, unlike ourselves or those who qualify as alien humanoids in Star Trek. When understood, these others, like the Klingons, Vulcans, Romulans, and more, give us a clearer idea of who we are. It reminds us of our limits, and in doing so, our strengths. We embellish our existence with technologies to reach beyond the limits of our existence in the way a musical piece’s chorus or theme is elaborated to disguise its repetitive nature. We have failures and successes like decrescendos and crescendos. We come together in our diversity and come apart as well like harmony and dissonance.
We too are a diverse ensemble, learning to work together, as we continue on… The Ultimate Voyage.