Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Michael Chabon's far-future Star Trek short takes some intriguing cues from WALL-E

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Photo: CBS All Access

As the reinvigorated Star Trek franchise prepares for the launch of its Next Generation continuation series, CBS All Access is whetting appetites with a series of short films based around Star Trek: Discovery. While three of the four shorts focus on established Discovery characters, the one written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon has piqued interest by carving out a new corner in the Trek timeline. Set 1,000 years after the events of Discovery, “Calypso” follows a lone soldier on an abandoned starship with only a HAL 9000-like computer for company. And, as of last night, it’s currently streaming on CBS All Access.

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That time jump—the biggest in Star Trek history, from what we can gather—is discussed in a new interview IndieWire conducted with Chabon. When asked why he made the leap, Chabon says it was to conjure an atmosphere of loneliness. “If it’s 1,000 years, you know the crew’s not coming back,” he says. “I tried to do a draft where it was less time, or it was a much more reasonable period of time. All of the pathos went away as soon as I shortened the time into something that you could somehow, maybe, account for in a 50-minute episode… I just put it back and I went with 1,000.”

That loneliness already evokes another story of the far-future: Pixar’s WALL-E. And the similarities, Chabon says, don’t end there. The 1957 comedy Funny Face plays a large factor in the short, just as Hello, Dolly! features prominently in WALL-E’s adventure. For Chabon, the use of these familiar cultural touchstones establishes that “this Star Trek universe is actually our universe that we live in, with the same movies in its past that we have in our past.” He adds, “Simply by making that implied assertion, I think that there is something powerful in that area. It reminds you: Look, this is still all possible. We can still go into the future. It will be our world, just like the world we’re living in now.”

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Does that mean we’ll see clips from Singin’ In The Rain on Next Generation? Chabon, after all, is writing on that show, too. Well, it likely depends on whether Patrick Stewart, thinks it’s a good idea. Chabon says Captain Picard’s been an integral part of the writers’ room, and is “one of the reasons it’s going to be as good as it is going to be.”

Subscribers of CBS All Access can watch “Calypso” here. The rest of us must content ourselves with gazing longingly at the trailer below.

 

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Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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