Josh Reviews the Star Trek Short Film “Calypso,” Written by Michael Chabon!
Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, has written a Star Trek short film! It’s called “Calypso,” and I loved it.
“Calypso” is the second of four Star Trek shorts, called Short Treks, being released in the lead-up to Star Trek: Discovery’s second season. The first, “Runaways,” focused on Discovery’s Cadet Tilly, and the other two also look to focus on Discovery characters. But “Calypso,” although taking place on-board the Discovery, seems to be its own thing altogether. Set a millennium further in the future than the 23rd-century-set Discovery, far beyond the future of any other Trek story we’ve seen before, “Calypso” tells the story of a man called Craft who is rescued from his battered escape pod by the Discovery’s now-sentient computer, who calls herself Zora. The Discovery is empty of all life, and apparently has been for a thousand years. Craft is fleeing a war and attempting to return home to his family. “Calypso” tells the story of the bond this lonely refugee and the A.I. Zora form with one another.
I loved this short. It’s a beautiful tale with two complex, interesting characters, a fascinating mystery backdrop, and intriguing mythological undertones.
It’s hugely exciting to see such an enormous talent as Michael Chabon writing for Star Trek. In addition to writing this short, Mr. Chabon is apparently also on the writing staff of the recently-announced Captain Picard show, which will see Patrick Stewart reprise his iconic role! This is very, very exciting. As a Star Trek fan, I love seeing writers of this caliber involved with the franchise. And “Calypso” shows that Mr. Chabon’s skills as a storyteller make him a great fit for Star Trek. (The story credit for the short film is given to Michael Chabon and Sean Cochran.)
In less than eighteen minutes, “Calypso” does a great job of introducing and developing two entirely new characters. Aldis Hodge plays the main character, Craft. Mr. Hodge is fantastic. He’s alone on-screen for most of the short’s run-time, but he easily commands the viewer’s attention. Annabelle Wallis voices Zora, and she is equally great, bringing life and humanity to the (mostly) disembodied voice of this sentient computer. Mr. Chabon skillfully brings these two characters to life, and makes us care deeply about them, in just the short eighteen-ish minutes of the short.
By setting “Calypso” a thousand years in Trek’s future, this short is pleasingly unburdened with any continuity, and thus is free to tell it’s own stand-alone story. This works very well for this short film. This is a character-study that can easily be enjoyed no matter one’s knowledge of Trek lore. (This is what Discovery should have been — able to be appreciated and enjoyed by newbies and hard-core Trek fans alike.)
Of course, that future-setting also raises a number of intriguing mysteries! What happened to the Discovery’s crew? Why has the Discovery been holding the same position for a thousand years? (And how has the ship help up so well after a millennia??) These are intriguing questions, and I hope that eventually the main Discovery show catches up to the events of this short and answers these questions. But for now, I am completely satisifed that this short itself did not answer any of these questions. I don’t yet need to know these answers. But this mysterious far-future setting provided a great catalyst for the events of “Calypso.”
I love the short’s title, “Calypso,” which is a clever reference to the story from The Odyssey of the immortal Calypso, cursed to live forever alone on an island where every 1,000 years, a mortal would wash up on shore. Again and again, every millennia, Calypso would fall in love with that mortal, but then he would leave her behind. I love that the short itself does not ever directly reference The Odyssey or Calypso. That would have been too obvious and on-the-nose. By leaving this mythological connection solely in the short’s title, Mr. Chabon allows those who understand the reference to appreciate it as a sort of “easter egg”. For me, this gave the short story a grander, mythological feel. I loved it.
“Calypso” was a delight. So far I am quite pleased with these Short Treks. I look forward to more. (And to Mr. Chabon’s future Star Trek work!!)