Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Is Well In the Nexus

Reality is a tricky little animal. In fact, I’m not even sure if there is such a thing. I'm pretty convinced at this point in my life that there is something called perceived reality, but to know if something is actual apart from how a sentient being perceives it is something I’m not sure can ever be fully known or understood. A good case in point are the events in the life of Captain Jean Luc Picard from the time he entered into the Nexus in the film Star Trek VII: Generations until the end of the movie Star Trek X: Nemesis.

There has been much debate over the years since the release of these films as to the validity of the events and if they really happened in the lives of these fictional characters or were they simply the created perceived reality of Picard, now residing within the Nexus. For those unfamiliar with the stories I recommend viewing Star Trek films VII through X for a better understanding of what follows.

The Nexus was first introduced in Generations, the seventh film in the Star Trek franchise in which the crew from The Next Generation television series entered the world of big screen motion picture status. This Nexus was described as an energy ribbon traveling through space that once it comes into contact with living matter (such as a human being) that person is somehow transported within the “tissue” of this ribbon and their reality becomes whatever they perceive or can comprehend it to be. They soon become so engrossed in the reality they are experiencing within the Nexus they can no longer distinguish between the reality from which they were pulled, from the reality they are now encountering.

In the case of Picard and his foe, a Dr. Soran (played by actor Malcolm McDowell) they are swept up into this Nexus while Picard’s ship and crew aboard the Enterprise D are being utterly destroyed as the planet they crash-landed on is annihilated from the shockwave of that planet’s imploding sun. However, Picard finds himself suddenly surrounded by a wife and children he never had but always dreamed of. Soran’s whereabouts are unknown but it is believed that in his reality he is reunited with his own family who were killed centuries earlier by a Borg attack on their home world. Just as Picard is about to give himself over to this new reality he is pulled back into memory of his duty as a Starfleet officer and the captain of the Enterprise. This is where the whole concept of reality vs. perceived reality takes shape. It is my contention that all reality is perceived and this film, along with the next three that follow are a great example of that premise.

In order to hold on to the reality he previously knew as his truth Picard conjures up an image of his most trusted confidant, the El Aurian survivor of the Nexus 85 years earlier, Guinan (portrayed by actress Whoopi Goldberg). She claims to be an “echo” of her true self that was left behind when Captain Scott pulled her, Soran and several other of her people from the jaws of the Nexus eight decades earlier just before they were completely taken in by the phenomena. However, what gave me the clue that this wasn’t really Guinan, or even an echo, was the fact they she seemed aware that she also existed in Picard’s timeline aboard the Enterprise D, something an echo could not know but was known by Picard. Therefore, it is at this point that Picard, well within the confines of the Nexus, is beginning to create a new reality for himself, one that he can accept and deal with mentally that would not leave him psychologically debilitated. He convinces himself upon Guinan’s advice that he can leave the Nexus, go back to the planet he just left and stop Soran from destroying the sun, thus saving him from entering the Nexus and stop the destruction of this solar system, including his ship and crew. He realizes he will need help or Soran will likely get the upper hand again so he employs the help of his greatest Starfleet hero who was also swallowed up by the Nexus eight decades ago, none other than Captain James T. Kirk, the most notable leader in Starfleet’s history. The two of them ride off into the Nexus sunset and face Soran back on the planet face to face, are successful in destroying both the rocket that would implode the sun and get Soran killed in the process. Sadly, while saving the day one more time and in true hero fashion, Captain Kirk also meets his final demise with two words, “Oh my!” Picard is rescued by Starfleet ships, his crew is also saved while Picard reminds everyone viewing the film that there will be a new Enterprise and more adventures to be had.

What was experienced in “Generations” from the moment Picard entered the Nexus was a reality totally created by Picard from the whole cloth of his own psyche. If we were living on the planet he and Soran were on at the time of the ribbon’s arrival and had not been swept up as they were, what we would have witnessed would have been the disappearance of them both and soon after the destruction of the planet, as well as the entire solar system of planets that existed around that imploding star. That would include the destruction of the Enterprise D, the death of its entire surviving crew, including Riker, Data, LaForge, Beverly, Troi and Worf. That would be our reality. However, what we experienced was reality, not from our perspective but from Picard’s. And, everything we saw after Generations, in films VIII through X were three struggles Picard had to face in his new Nexus reality, which to him, is reality.

In film number VIII — First Contact — Picard must take on his most outwardly visceral foe, The Borg. Before he can find the peace promised for those inhabiting the Nexus enemies both outward and inner must be met, combated and defeated. Once this is completed then the life alluded to by both Soran and Guinan, a life in which one feels like they are engulfed “in joy” can become the perceived reality for the individual. In First Contact Picard does meet not only The Borg, but the very queen of the continuum that had abducted him and made him do things he forever regrets and after much conflict, loss of life and sideshows such as the Phoenix launch, he is victorious in destroying the Borg Queen and her minions allowing him to move on to his next great enemy in film IX.

Star Trek IX: Insurrection is considered by many to be one of the worst films in the franchise. I disagree. Why? Because it is part of the hierarchal trilogy necessary for Picard’s complete transformation of peace within the Nexus. In film VIII he met and defeated his most obvious foe, the Borg. However, in this movie he must meet and undermine a slightly more devious foe, one that was hinted at in a couple of the earlier episodes of the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series. Members of the high command at Starfleet. In at least two episodes of the show this internal threat was alluded to, once in Season One episode “Coming of Age” and again in the same season the episode titled “Conspiracy” leaves little doubt about problems within the upper echelon of Starfleet Command. This finally comes to a head in the ninth film where members of the command with ranks of Admiral and higher plot against an entire planet of people after siding with a group of renegades who are seeking to rape the planet of is revitalizing effects by completely destroying the planet’s atmosphere. This is all being done in secret without the knowledge of the President of the United Federation of Planets and some of those in leadership within Starfleet. While on this planet Picard meets a new love, someone he could have a future with, and with the mutagenic properties on the planet they could literally spend an eternity together in contemplative bliss. However, first Picard, after defeating the plot and those behind it, must return to Earth and bring restoration to the Starfleet we all know and love. With this enemy now vanquished Picard only has one more obstacle in his path to experiencing the peace and joy of the Nexus. And this would prove to be his greatest enemy of all time, costing him the highest price of all.

In Star Trek X: Nemesis, railed as the worst film since Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Picard comes face to face with his greatest and final “nemesis” — Himself, reflected in the face of his clone. If these four films can be viewed as the culmination of Picard’s journey in the Nexus then they make perfect sense and can be seen for the masterpieces they were instead of as failures. The failure is not in the stories told in these films but in our lack of understanding that they are an interwoven psychological tale of the captain’s psychical journey into his inner Nexus peace. He can have no joy until the last dark shadow chasing him can be dispelled and these last four films in the Next Generation franchise are just that — Picard’s road to salvation.

This final battle of the mind costs Picard his most needed commodity — his dictatorial demands from reason and rationale, symbolized by the ever present Data. The android has always represented Picard’s walk on that fine line between doing what is rational and following his emotional humanity and like Data, he wasn’t always successful. With the death of Data, Picard did not lose his reason but he was finally able to harmonize it into something beautiful. He didn’t give up rational thinking but in the guise of Data’s brother, B4, was able to see his reality anew with the reason and wonder of a developing child. Other trinkets gave Picard closure as well: Riker and Troi finally married, something quite frankly would probably have never happened apart from Picard’s Nexus experience. Riker also, after two decades accepts his own command as Captain of the USS Titan and Wesley Crusher unbelievably returns to Starfleet as a Lieutenant. I find it hard to believe that Wesley, after his broad and unimaginable experiences as a time traveler would return to the confines of a stiff Starfleet uniform taking orders from, well, anyone. But that is my perceived reality, not Picard’s.

After the events of the final film we are left to wonder what became of Captain Picard. We last see him walking the halls of his retrofitted Enterprise E, nodding at new and old faces and life going on as life always does. In my perceived reality I surmised that after Picard had acknowledged himself to be of a certain age, after having never accepted promotion to Admiral (as advised by Kirk in Generations) he quietly retired from Starfleet, hopped on the first transport ship he could find heading for the briar-patch, beamed down to Ba’ku and spent the rest of his eternal, ageless days with his beloved Anij spending their days together admiring the arts and rising to new planes of spiritual awareness.

Yes … All is well in the Nexus.

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