September 22, 2008

Critique of Journey's End

“A Cuchi Moya!”—Star Trek’s Native AmericansLooking more closely at the role in which the episode thus casts Native Americans reveals a highly interesting colonial narrative. “Journey’s End” is able to address colonialism directly—an issue it uneasily strives to reject in the subplot concerning Capt. Picard—only in a narrative that, first, draws on the Native Americans’ role in a historical colonial encounter, and that then imagines a scenario in which it reverses that role. More specifically, the episode can only develop a convincing narrative of a colonizer who refuses to give up the land of which he has taken possession by casting a group in the role of colonizer which has previously undergone the experience of being colonized. Within Star Trek’s multicultural framework, Native Americans emerge as (possibly) the only group who can explicitly act as colonizer and still motivate audience sympathies.

There is another subplot in “Journey’s End” that points to a second narrative function Native Americans serve in Star Trek’s contemporary multicultural economy. When the Enterprise becomes involved in the business of re-locating the tribe, Wesley Crusher, the son of the ship’s doctor, happens to be on board. Currently training to become a Starfleet officer, Wesley is in a deep personal crisis concerning what he wants to do with his life, a crisis that manifests itself in rebellious behavior against authorities as well as against his friends. A member of the Native American tribe takes interest in him, who later turns out to be the alien “the traveler” who had predicted for Wesley an extraordinary future several years ago and who had now returned to take Wesley with him on a search for new levels of existence. Significantly, then, this alien, who represents one of Star Trek’s most esoteric storylines, chooses a Native American identity to motivate the discontent White teenager Wesley Crusher to pay attention to his spiritual self. Even more so, once Wesley has made the decision to join the traveler in search for places “where thought and energy meet,” the alien instructs Wesley to begin his studies in the Native American community because they supposedly have special insights that could lead him on the right path.
Comment:  I haven't seen Journey's End yet. But based on the descriptions, I don't get the sense that it was criticizing or blaming the Indians for colonizing Dorvan V. So I don't necessarily buy the first part of this critique.

For more on the subject, see The Indian-Star Trek Connection.

1 comment:

gaZelbe said...

i have seen that Star Trek episode a few times. I feel that i would need to watch it again to give it a proper analysis, but from what i remember, I don't believe that the planet on which the Indians settled had inhabitants. Without conquest, murder and removal, the whole colonization issue becomes a very different discussion...

mark anquoe