the story: A thousand years in the future, Discovery's AI makes a startling new friend.
review: The first Short Treks was ultimately a disappointment, a crude narrative that suggested the whole concept was a mistake. "Calypso" is the complete opposite. It's also basically the same exact story, and that's how you can tell that it's the strength of the storytelling that's always key. You can probably pin the victory on Michael Chabon, the celebrated novelist who helped come up with the idea and wrote the teleplay.
Like "Runaway," "Calypso" features a single character visiting Discovery and interacting with a single character, and both visitors ultimately leave, and there's personal discoveries (ah) learned along the way. But where "Runaway" feels forced, "Calypso" is a rich and rewarding experience. It maybe doesn't hurt if you're an Odyssey nerd like I am, and realize that the title and arc of "Calypso" are drawn from Homer's ancient epic poem about Odysseus's ten-year journey homeward after the Trojan War.
That's actually a lot of what I love about the story, what it says about The Odyssey itself. Calypso the Homeric character might be said to be a villain, who sidelines Odysseus for an extended period, keeping him from his mission, but as a commentary, "Calypso" helps explain how the experience might have been beneficial to him, therapeutic. Too often, especially in our present age, we reduce everything to the most negative, simplistic interpretations possible.
"Calypso," on a more superficial level, also revels in Star Trek's frequent indulgences in old Hollywood footage, in this instance Betty Boop and the Audrey Hepburn film Funny Face (1957). Footage like that will always be cost-effective, but "Calypso" particularly uses it effectively, involving it directly in the plot.
No familiar faces appear, but the storytelling is strong enough where you become drawn into it anyway, and the concept of Short Treks suddenly awakens, as "Runaway" didn't manage to accomplish, a whole new world of possibilities in a more than fifty-year-old franchise.
- franchise - There's something that just feels right about an old Starfleet ship still doing good for the universe well after its crew has departed.
- series - If that ship isn't named Enterprise, then a story like this almost does more to solidify Discovery's bid for an enduring legacy than anything in the first season.
- character - Easily draws you in with previously unknown characters.
- essential - This is Star Trek in a nutshell: evocative storytelling on every level.