Friday
Mar292013

M E N A G E R I E : THE TRIAL OF SPOCK

TOMMERVIK. ‘DECO SPOCK.’ OIL ON 16” X 20” CANVAS.

AN OPERA IN THREE ACTS

Music by Ben Leeds Carson

Libretto by Lincoln Taiz, Lee Taiz, and Ben Leeds Carson

Based on Star Trek teleplays “Menagerie Parts 1 & 2” (1966), and “The Cage” (1965) by Gene Roddenberry.

The story: Lieutenant Spock, a half-human, half-Vulcan Federation Starfleet officer, deceives his captain and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, leading them to a remote starbase where an accident has left his former commanding officer Christopher Pike gravely injured. When they arrive, Spock conspires to abduct Pike and commit mutiny, setting a course for a forbidden region of the galaxy. His prisoner, a former captain of the Enterprise, is paralyzed and unable to communicate, but fully conscious, and aware of his surroundings. Though he cannot resist, brain imaging technology reveals Pike’s deep anxiety at what lies ahead: mixtures of loathing, desire, hope, and fear—the workings of an active mind, contrasted with his still body.

Commander Tor, a Vulcan officer at the starbase, is distraught at Pike’s disappearance, and suspects Spock of treasonous intentions. She joins James T. Kirk—Spock’s current captain, and a flame from her past—to chase the Enterprise in a smaller craft. When other Enterprise officers learn of the mutiny, Spock submits himself for arrest, and allows Kirk and Tor aboard, but he will not release the ship from its locked guidance system. While they speed toward an uncertain fate, Spock refuses to speak until Kirk and Tor agree to put him on trial immediately, for crimes of mutiny and high treason.

In his own defense, Spock tells of Pike’s attempts, long ago, to rescue a band of humans lost on Talos IV, a planet in an unknown region of the galaxy. The planet’s inhabitants are longtime enemies of the Federation, able to produce powerful illusions drawn from an adversary’s own psyche. Spock supports his story with a strange and dubious holographic record of Pike as a younger man on the planet, lured into conflict against his own inner drives, nightmares, and delusions. At the core of Pike’s struggle is Vina: a woman who might be a concoction of his dreams, or a figment of blurred memories—a Eurydice to his Orpheus, awaiting rescue from this surreal underworld. Or maybe she is real—a woman whose initiative and determination, obscured at first by Pike’s fantasies, could restore Pike to a virtual body and renewed life.

As Spock’s testimony intensifies, he entangles his jury in mixtures of past and present, fiction and truth, frustration and hope. Captain Pike experiences his own past anew, while Kirk and Tor, aware of the peril that awaits them aboard a vessel they can’t control, struggle to make sense of their slowly unfolding fate.

TOMMERVIK. ‘SPOCK KIRK WRESTLING.’ OIL ON 16”x20” CANVAS. —BLC

***

Composer’s note: Our story differs a little from the 1966 double-episode “Menagerie”. Most significantly: to create prominent soprano, mezzo, and alto roles, the role of Vina is made more central to the plot, and two male characters are remade as women: Dr. Boyce and Commodore Mendez (now Zuna Tor). The original character of Captain Pike, who expressed himself exclusively through lights indicating yes and no, now communicates ambiguously, but passionately, through visible neural activity—foregrounding the episode’s overarching message about the mental union of virtual and actual life. Behind those developments, however, we maintain one of Star Trek’s most compelling emotional landscapes: that of Spock’s evolving sense of self and purpose in his mostly human surroundings.


H I G H L I G H T S

The following recordings are MIDI-approximations of the fully orchestrated score, with Vienna Symphonic Library sample instruments. For the sung voices, saxophones and basset horns “stand in” (there are no saxophones or basset horns in the opera score). On each soundcloud page, click “Show more” (under “Track info” to reveal the scene texts.

 

Act I, Scene 3: Conversation around the hospital bed of Spock’s former Captain Pike; at 4’00”, Spock and Pike are alone, Spock announces his plans for mutiny: <bit.ly/act1sc3-spock-pike>

 

Act III, Scene 1: “virtual reality” scene transporting us to a Montana Wilderness. A hopeful love song, at 1’20”— <bit.ly/act3sc1-montana>

 

Act II, Scene 4: Spock, Sulu, and Dr. Katherine Boyce debate how to rescue their lost Captain Pike: <bit.ly/act2sc4-whatwewanted>

 

Act III, Scene 3: Captain Pike endures an insulting conversation in an Orion colony nightclub, as his love Vina is forced to dance on a nearby stage: <bit.ly/act2sc4-orion>

Saturday
Jan312015

Act I, Scene 1—Spock: "We stand before an abyss."

STARBASE M-11
Space. All before me is void. My past let go, my future …. forgotten.” Lieutenant Commander Spock, first officer of the Starship Enterprise, contemplates a perilous choice before him, in which he will deceive those who most trust him, and defy his duty for a perceived greater good. As he ponders his choices, Spock is urged forward by a mysterious woman, Vina, mourning lost love.

He is joined by his Captain, James T. Kirk, and the physician Leonard McCoy, on a visit to M-11, a remote medical starbase. When they arrive, Kirk tells M-11’s Vulcan commander, Zuna Tor—a flame from his past—that Spock’s former Captain, Christopher Pike has summoned them there. Tor is confused by the news, saying that it must be a mistake.

[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]

Sunday
Feb012015

Act I, Scene 2—Tor explains Pike's accident 

Context: In Scene 1, Zuna Tor, commander of medical Starbase M-11, greets the captain and crew of the Enterprise with some confusion; they claim to have been summoned there by one of her residents, the gravely injured Captain Pike. She informs them that Pike couldn’t have sent them a message. When they ask why, she deduces they haven’t heard news of his accident. In this scene, she tells them what has happened, as she leads them toward his quarters. [Download the score.]

[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]


After Tor has shared her news and prepared her guests for they will see, lights and set shift to reveal Pike’s quarters. Pike’s body is surrounded by wires, prosthetics, and life-support. Tor adjusts equipment and shifts our attention to a large nearby screen. Contrasting the tragic environment around his body, a radiant window emerges, showing imagery and other neurological readings on Pike’s brain activity. It pulses rhythmically, and the sense of Pike’s brain is subtle and complex. Spock is in awe. Tor remains distraught and searches the screen for meaning.

Monday
Feb022015

Act I, Scene 3—Spock: "You Know Why I've Come."

Prior to this scene: Lights and set shifted to reveal Pike’s quarters. Pike’s body is surrounded by wires, prosthetics, and life-support, including a brain-scan revealing imagery and other neurological readings on Pike’s brain activity. While Kirk, and McCoy regard the array of technology with awe, Vina sings telepathically to Spock about an unknown peril ahead, and Spock replies both with doubts and reassurances.

Now we return to Pike’s quarters, where Spock requests permission to speak privately with him, and declares a plan that Pike clearly abhors.  [Download the score.]

[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]

Tuesday
Feb032015

Act I, Scene 4—False Entry

Tor and Kirk argue about the conflicts in their information about Pike, and can come to no understanding. McCoy arrives, and maintains that it is impossible for Spock to have lied, or committed so serious an error; Kirk is caught between them. Tor wonders if a deception may have something to do with Talos IV, a planet once visited by Spock and Pike and now forbidden from Federation contact, on penalty of death for treason. Kirk is incredulous, but Tor reminds Kirk of a profound connection between Spock and his former captain.

Visible upstage in the M-11 hospital foyer (without dialogue) Spock conspires to kidnap Pike, paralyzing members of the M-11 staff, and deceiving McCoy to lure him to the Enterprise. M-11 transport crew sound an alarm alerting Kirk and Tor that inexplicably, the Enterprise has departed with Spock at the helm.

 

Act I, Scene 5 (attacca)—Mutiny (Scene change reveals the bridge of the Enterprise at 6:35.) Having learned of Spock’s inexplicable departure, Kirk and Tor board a shuttlecraft in pursuit. Third Officer Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu is increasingly suspicious of the vessel’s auto-pilot status, but is unaware that Spock’s command of the ship is unauthorized. His questions intensify as McCoy comes to the bridge demanding to know why Pike is aboard. Lieutenant Nyota U’penda Uhura, the ship’s communications officer, announces the shuttlecraft’s approach, and Spock relents, inviting their pursuers aboard the Enterprise and submitting himself to McCoy for arrest. When Kirk and Tor arrive on the bridge, they learn from Sulu that auto-pilot cannot be suspended, and the computer reports their course is set for the forbidden planet Talos IV.
Wednesday
Feb042015

Act II, Scene 1—Spock's court martial

Kirk and Tor enter a carefully guarded conference room where Spock is seated in an interrogation chair. Pike is also present via a brain image on screen. A hearing is convened and Spock reveals his intention to waive his right to counsel, and demands a full trial immediately, allowing the paralyzed Pike to serve as a requite third member of a jury. Initially skeptical, Kirk probes the possibilities by interacting with Pike through his thoughts rendered vivid on a screen display of his brain images. Finding the Pike can answer questions, the trial is allowed to proceed.

[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]

Thursday
Feb052015

Act II, Scene 2—A distress signal

After a conflict with his crew, Pike summons Dr. Katharine Boyce to his office, to discuss his dilemma about a distress signal for Talos IV. In what follows, he reveals his anxieties about loss of life under his command, and about a forsaken path, a life he might have led if not for his command of a Federation ship. As he’s discovering a new acceptance of risk, Spock announces new information about the distress signal, and he announces a change of plan.

[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]

Friday
Feb062015

Act II, Scene 2b—Kirk: "Accept some risk"

Pike’s brain image disconnects and its screen reveals data about the course for Talos IV. Lights shift to Tor’s and Kirk’s proximity to one another. Spock exits with guards and others as Kirk and Tor prepare to adjourn.

[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]

Saturday
Feb072015

Act II, Scene 3—In a Survivors' Camp on Talos IV; Vina: "The Thought of You..."

A group of humans in tattered clothing are gathered in a circle, and begin to sing a hymn exalting the earth, from which they have long been cast away. Following the source of the distant beacon, Pike, Boyce, and Spock arrive near the site of this ritual, interrupting the singing of the suddenly overjoyed survivors. During introductions Boyce is alarmed at the perfect health of the humans living so long in these conditions. Pike is struck by the sight of Vina, who is likewise in rapture at the sight of her rescuer. [Download the score.]

 

[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]

Sunday
Feb082015

Act II, Scene 4a—A trap

Survivor 1 reveals new detail about Vina’s lonely past as a child on this planet. Pike is invited to follow Vina up a ridge to learn one of the planet’s unusual features. Before he can be aware of it, his experience of what promises to be a remarkable plant renders him unconscious. Vina vanishes, along with the remainder of the survivors, as Pike’s body is apprehended by strange creatures. Spock and Boyce are immediately aware that they have been deceived by an illusion, and that their captain has been captured.

[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]

Monday
Feb092015

Act II, Scene 4b—Pike and Vina battle a Kalar warrior

The holovision opens again. Pike finds himself standing among rocks and vegetation, with a medieval-looking fortress in the background. Vina is hidden but visible to the audience, and visible to Pike when he hears her. She warns him of an approaching warrior, who intends harm. Though he’s initially concerned with the nature of the illusion, she informs him that Talosian illusions produce pain. He is compelled to fight, and together they prevail. Exhausted and fallen from the battle, they seek refuge under a tree, where Pike asks simply “Who are we? Why are we here?”

[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]

Tuesday
Feb102015

Act II, Scene 4c—Vina: "Perhaps They Made Me from Dreams You've Forgotten."

Vina and Pike discuss their purpose for being in the Cage.


[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]

Wednesday
Feb112015

Act II, Scene 5b—Boyce: "We Saw What We Wanted To See."

A conference room on the Enterprise. Chief Medical Officer Katherine Boyce, Sulu, and science officer Spock discuss an illusion they experienced right before their captain, Christopher Pike, was abducted.

[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]

Thursday
Feb122015

Act III, Scene 1—In a Montana Wilderness

Pike finds himself in an illusory landscape—the valley of his home in Montana. Vina appears with him, as Vivian, his fiancée who perished years ago. Pike hesitates, and then seems to warm slightly to the idea of living out the illusion. Just as Vina’s hopes seem to rise, he scorns her, and demands that she recognize the futility of it all—a life and a fantasy partner constructed from his desires rather than from reality. But Vina insists that she is real, and that he is as much a part of her fantasy, as she is of his: “They read my thoughts… my dreams of what would be the perfect man. That’s why they picked you.”

[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]

Friday
Feb132015

Act III, Scene 1d—Vina: "Don't You Have a Dream?"

Vina and Pike return to the cage, and she tries to change his perspective about the possibilities of Talosian illusion.

[To follow along with the libretto, click on the “soundcloud” logo to the right. The soundcloud page includes a track description with the full text.]

Additional sketch for development / foreshadowing:

SCORE