Nov 03, 2016, 09:45AM

Across the Universe

52 Weeks of Elizabeth Veldon, Week 44: “so krishna, as when he admonished arjuna on the field of battle” (11/21/15).

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Some of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation were those where creators and characters remembered that this was a television program about a high-tech craft zooming endlessly through the frozen, airless infinity of outer space, and sought to distract themselves from this reality. For Starfleet officers, benign diversion amounted to holodeck simulations that permitted the adventurous to explore myriad eras and cultures. (Didn’t Data basically self-style as Sherlock Holmes once, even wandering around with a pipe?) For every startlingly real scenario audiences saw, it follows that the Enterprise’s programming likely allowed for hundreds or thousands more that we’d never, ever see, familiar and bewildering, craven and banal. I like to imagine, say, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Wesley Crusher spending an idle, male-bonding afternoon as bystanders within Predator 2’s bullshit art deco 1997.

But surely costumes, swordplay, palace intrigue, and mysteries weren’t it, right? There had to be variation. There had to be sims where one could pretend to be a bluejay, or Galactus, or a live volcano. There had to be sims were one played the role of a red dwarf or rode a comet. There had to be sims where one might observe the Milky Way from a distance in some pre-Star Trek, pre-humanity epoch, drifting without care through vacuum and stray asteroids, comprehension expanded temporarily to a celestial extreme. “so krishna, as when he admonished arjuna on the field of battle” might serve as suitable musical accompaniment for this last, otherwise sound-free excursion. Cosmic ambient and space rock tend to lean hard on recognizable synthesizer fireworks and effects-roiled guitar, as though it were necessarily, always, to represent limitlessness by pretending to flood it. “so krishna” is more of a slowly approaching black hole, or an advancing, inconceivable something just beyond a mountain range: no one knows what it is, exactly, but it sounds massive, malevolent, an inexorable, ectoplasmic hum.


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