As a longtime fan of Star Trek, it was riveting to see the Old National Center filled to capacity this past Friday for Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year – a monumental achievement for any franchise – it is not hyperbole to say that Star Trek is the most popular science fiction property of all time, and its fans are among the most dedicated. (Editor's note: Don't miss this author's bio.) Announcement of a new television series in production, as well as this summer’s much anticipated third installment in the series of reboot films, Star Trek Beyond, only add to the frenetic energy of the fanbase.
The Ultimate Voyage brought together all of the Star Trek television incarnations: The Original Series, The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise, as well as all of the franchise forays to the big screen, for an unprecedented multi-media experience. Helmed by charismatic associate conductor Nicholas Buc, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra took to the stage this past Friday evening to pay homage to the late Gene Roddenberry’s inspiring vision of the future. Through the course of the two-hour production, they wove together innovatively arranged pieces of music, running the gamut from the original theme composed by Alexander Courage to score contributions from Jerry Goldsmith, Dennis McCarthy, James Horner and others. Each piece was synched to video clips from the episodes and films, and incorporated snatches of dialogue to heighten the proceedings. Michael Dorn, the actor who portrayed Klingon security officer Lt. Worf in The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine (and who has appeared in more episodes of Trek that any other actor to date), pre-recorded narration linking the visual and musical components, which helped to tie the presentation together very effectively.
An early high point was Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock’s iconic battle from the TOS episode “Amok Time.” The scene’s turbulent fight between the two leads was heightened by the full orchestra’s exuberant rendition of composer Gerald Fried’s “Ancient Combat/2nd Kroykah.”
While presented in roughly chronological order by series year, the music of The Ultimate Voyage ebbed and flowed, balancing scenes from all of the respective series and giving many of its beloved characters their moments to shine. Kirk’s standout “risk is our business” speech sat comfortably alongside amusing anecdotes from the many Doctor McCoy/Mr. Spock squabbles. Composer Jay Chattaway’s “The Inner Light Suite” brought Captain Picard to the fore, while other entries in Act II supplied poignant moments paying tribute to each of the later series captains.
Star Trek has occasionally been accused of being overly analytical and inclined to sacrifice artistry and touching human appeal in favor of philosophy. The Ultimate Voyage stands in defiance of this criticism, presenting Trek at its artistic best and bringing a new accessibility that even laypersons will find enjoyable. Distilling standout elements and notable characters from a 50-year franchise into a single two-hour presentation is quite an undertaking, but one at which The Ultimate Voyage succeeds admirably along its journey to the final frontier. The uninitiated may have an inkling of how Captain Kirk felt while being pelted with the fuzzy and lovable yet incrementally more prodigious tribbles of the original series during the course of this production. For everyone else, however, The Ultimate Voyage is both a fully realized summation and an enticing gateway on the path to another 50 years of Trek: Live long and prosper!
Patrick is a longtime Trekker, as well as singer/guitarist/songwriter with the Indianapolis-based Star Trek tribute band, Five Year Mission.