Second Union

Second Union

STAR TREK REWIND: “Dream Catcher”

“We have the ability to see what you want and give it to you.”

Getting into the swing of things, Dal (promoting himself to captain) decides to land the Protostar on a mysterious, unidentified planet swimming in unusual, root-like tendrils that ultimately capture the ship and strand the small crew. The holographic Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) recommends a survey team be dispatched to study unusual thoron emissions. Gwyn (Ella Purnell), confined to the brig, escapes when she is left unsupervised.

She tries to steal the ship and bring it back to her father, the Diviner (John Noble), but the planet’s tendrils latch onto the ship and keep it from moving. Gwyn (and Dal) shortly discover that this is a planet of illusion; the “dreamcatcher” of the title. In Native American mythology, the dreamcatcher is a hoop of willow, decorated with feathers, arrowheads, or beads that catch bad dreams in its webs of string while good dreams pass safely through.

I don’t know how much of what Dal or Gwyn wants is truly dreams or simply wishes. There is a difference between the two concepts. Dreams may be unattainable while wishes are plausible. I don’t think this is a planet of lost dreams or broadcasts of wishes, but what I called a “planet of illusion.” In 1961, Russian science fiction author Stanislaw Lem published Solaris (since made into a television movie in 1968, a film by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972, and a Steven Soderbergh film starring George Clooney in 2002).

“Dream Catcher” plays (at least for its first part) like an homage to Solaris. Gwyn sees her father. Dal sees his parents. There is something more malevolent at work here than in Solaris, in which a living planet provides illusions (or copies) of people to keep their wayward astronauts company. One such illusion in “Dream Catcher” provides the image of Janeway, only for the image to be consumed in tendrils and demand that Gwyn stays on the planet forever.

Solaris was a passive force that sought to seduce, whereas this planet seems like a monster. A lonely monster to be sure, but still a monster. This is heavy stuff for an animated series aimed at kids. Solaris was one of my favorite books (as well as both movie adaptations) and I always wondered if the living planet wasn’t simply a stand-in for the afterlife.

It was obvious a wholly inappropriate Nexus from Star Trek Generations was a variation of Solaris, but there was less an air of ambiguity and more a repetition of the unreal in that construct. Additionally, the Nexus seemed more like a drug than anything else. When we wrap this episode, Dal, Gwyn, and the others realize they are trapped on this strange planet. This is everything Star Trek should be, and Prodigy continues to impress me.

Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

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